How To Tell A Tattoo Artist What You Want

  • Written By Dan Hunter on August 17, 2019
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

Hopefully, by now, you’ve got a few ideas about what your tattoo will look like. So how do you properly convey these ideas to an artist? We’ve got you covered.

With our top tips, you’ll soon be able to turn those inspirational ideas into the perfect tattoo by communicating and handing over every important aspect of your design to your artist, so they can get straight to work, and you can move ever closer to receiving your dream ink.


Tell a tattoo artist what you want by following these steps:

  • Prepare thoroughly
  • Bring references
  • Be confident
  • Listen to your artist
  • Ask questions
  • Voice your concerns

What Should You Do?

It’s not always easy to put the thoughts in your head onto pen and paper. Luckily, your tattoo artist will do the hard part and assemble your ideas into a design — you have to ensure they understand what you want.

Think About What You Want

Your artist will never tell you exactly what tattoo you should get. This isn’t to say you need to book your tattoo appointment and turn up to your sitting knowing 100 percent what you want. Your tattoo artist is there to advise you and help you develop your ideas. However, there are some simple questions you’ll be asked, and it’s helpful to have the answers ready.

  1. Where do you want your tattoo?
  2. What size do you want your tattoo to be?
  3. Do you want your tattoo to be colored, or will it be black and grey?

There’s always a chance to change your mind after discussing ideas with your tattoo artist; nothing’s set in stone. It’s preferable, though, that you’ve thought about these questions to provide your artist with a starting point.

Bring References

Have you ever been in a situation where you know exactly what you want to say, but you just can’t find the right words? It’s frustrating, right? Unfortunately, your tattoo artist can’t read your mind. This means you might not be able to portray exactly what you want by just describing it. 

To avoid this, take a visual aid with you. This doesn’t mean going on Google images and finding an exact picture of the tattoo you want. Instead, take:

  1. A picture of a theme that you want to include
  2. An object that gives you inspiration
  3. A photo of a color scheme that you like
  4. Your drawing, if you feel creative

Tattoos are art, and artwork needs inspiration. Find yours and then bring a reference so your artist can understand what you’re thinking.

Say What You Want

Don’t feel shy to be assertive when it comes to what you want. Your tattoo artist is there to advise you, and it’s good to listen to them. However, if you know what you want, that’s okay. Getting a tattoo is a permanent decision, so you have to be completely happy with it. 

Listen to Your Tattoo Artist

It’s always wise to listen to someone with experience. In this case, it’s your tattoo artist. It’s great to know exactly what you want, but it doesn’t hurt to discuss it with your artist. Flexibility toward new ideas is good. You never know; they might come up with something that suits you even better.

There’s No Such Thing as a Silly Question

Getting a tattoo can be scary, especially if it’s your first time. You’ll probably have hundreds of questions buzzing around your head.

Perhaps you’re unsure whether certain colors will match? Or whether you can get a vegan-friendly tattoo? It’s perfectly fine to ask your artist. Don’t feel like you’re being silly. It’s important to decide on a tattoo that you’re completely comfortable with. 

Voice Your Concerns

Remember that time you went to the hairdressers and got a completely different haircut to what you wanted. It’s disappointing, isn’t it? Don’t let this happen with your tattoo. It’s going to be with you for a lot longer than a haircut. Tell your artist what it is you’re thinking. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you see something you don’t like.

What Should You Avoid? 

There are a few things to stay away from when telling a tattoo artist what you want. Sometimes it’s common courtesy; other times, it’s specifically related to tattoos.

Don’t Ask an Artist to Copy Someone Else’s Work

Every tattoo artist has their style that’s unique to them. It takes hard work and experience to obtain and is something they’re proud of. 

If you arrive at your appointment asking for a replica of someone else’s work, it could be deemed a bit inappropriate. You’ve probably chosen this artist because you like the work they produce, so allow them the freedom to add a little of their technique to your tattoo.

Don’t Over-Communicate

It’s perfectly acceptable to communicate with your artist and discuss your tattoo. Continuously bothering them with emails, phone calls or messages isn’t okay. Make sure you’ve thought about what you want — and don’t want — so you can have a productive discussion with your artist.

Failing to prepare beforehand means you’ll be left with unanswered questions after your appointment, and you’ll have to keep contacting your artist repeatedly.

Try Not to Keep Changing Your Mind

It’s good to be flexible and open to new ideas when it comes to designing a tattoo. Changing your mind often, especially over small details, can frustrate your artist, though. They’ll put a lot of time and effort into designing a unique tattoo for you. If you keep panicking about small details, it’ll put a lot of extra workload on your artist.

Getting What You Want

It’s important to have an idea of how you want your tattoo to look when you initially visit or email your tattoo artist. Try to convey your ideas as clearly and concisely as possible. If you need some assistance when it comes to expressing your ideas, it’s a good idea to include references. This could be an image or an object.

While it’s great to know what you want, remember your tattoo artist is a professional. They’re highly skilled at what they do. You can trust they’ll do their best to make you happy. If you combine your ideas with your artist’s advice, you’ll have a perfect tattoo in no time.

When you eventually go ahead with getting your dream tattoo, it’s imperative that you always follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare advice closely, and be sure to invest in a high-quality tattoo healing lotion to aid recovery.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated, but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times, and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.