How To Prepare For Your Tattoo Consultation

  • Written By Dan Hunter on July 15, 2019
    Last Updated: February 16, 2023

A sitdown with your tattoo artist isn’t only an opportunity for you to prepare for your upcoming appointment — they’ll get the same chance to make an assessment, too. After all, you both want to be clear on all the details before your artist permanently etches lots of ink into your skin. 

Whether this is your debut tattoo or your fifth, we share our best consultation advice to ensure you get the tattoo of your dreams.

These are our top tattoo consultation tips:

  • Understand what the consultation entails
  • Respect your artist and show up on time
  • Go the extra mile when it comes to preparation
  • Try to be certain about the key aspects of your tattoo
  • Don’t argue; your artist knows what they’re talking about

What Happens at a Tattoo Consultation?

Before we start giving advice, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what a tattoo consultation is.

After booking your appointment, you and your artist will meet up before your tattoo sitting to discuss various aspects of your future tattoo. This can include:

  • How much it will cost based on your preferences
  • Placement — where the tattoo will go on your body
  • What timeframes and scheduling constraints there may be
  • How the tattooing process works
  • Design features, including color and size

Can You Get a Tattoo Without a Consultation?

Not all shops demand a consultation in advance. You may not need a consultation if your design is simple or if you know your artist well. However, many tattoo artists insist upon one before the big event to guarantee a successful end to the process. 

For one, if you’re not picking a standard design, your tattooist needs time to design or draw it. They can’t sketch out that elaborate dragon or a photo of your favorite pet moments before tattooing you. 

Secondly, the consultation allows you to think things through about the artwork you’ll keep for a lifetime. A study of 500 tattooed individuals revealed that roughly 16 percent regretted their decision — you don’t want to fall into that category.

Finally, a consultation is the perfect time to ask any questions your may have about your future tattoo..

Tattoo Consultation Tips 

If you’re nervous about your consultation, you might not be sure where to start. Read through our tips and meet your artist with confidence:

Understand the Consultation Terms

When you book your consultation, ask questions. Is there a fee for the consultation? How long will it last for? 

Choose Your Artist Carefully

If you haven’t settled on an artist, take your time going through their portfolio and reading reviews of their work before you pick one at random. 

You can always ask the parlor owner or staff for advice. They’ll know who to recommend based on your needs and preferred style. 

Prepare the Basics 

You should enter the consultation with the groundwork already done. That means you should already have an idea of:

  • What your tattoo is, for example, the general theme
  • The style you want it in — traditional, old school and realism are just some of the styles you may decide upon
  • Black and grey or colored?
  • Sizing
  • Placement on the body

It’s fine to be uncertain about the little details, such as shading or specific colors. Having said that, going in with no idea of what type of tattoo you want is bad etiquette. Your artist is there to support you in creating your ultimate tattoo, not to tell you what to get. 

If you have a design drawn out already, bring it in with you. Otherwise, it’s always helpful to have images to show your artist so they can create one. Descriptions alone can only be so helpful.

Don’t Be Late

It may not affect you to come in five or 10 minutes late, but it can spoil your artist’s schedule for the day. Start your relationship with the person inking you on a positive note by turning up on time.

Bring Up Health Issues and Concerns

Despite what you may think, your tattoo artist won’t judge you if you’re worried about your upcoming appointment. Now is the moment to ask how much it will hurt and what will happen if you feel faint.

The consultation is a great time to mention any health conditions. For example, if you’re allergy-prone, your artist may recommend avoiding red ink. This color is a common culprit behind tattoo-related allergic reactions. 

Don’t neglect to mention if you’re on any medications. For example, blood thinners can cause you to bleed more, which can be dangerous as well as messy and unpleasant for your artist. 

You can also ask questions about tattoo aftercare, identifying the telltale signs of infection, and how long it will take to heal

Ask What You Should and Shouldn’t Do

Your artist may tell you a few obvious mistakes to avoid, like turning up to your appointment drunk or with an entourage of friends.

If there are other things you aren’t sure about, ask. Can you bring a buddy with you to the appointment, or does your artist prefer you enter alone? What’s a good meal to eat before the appointment?

How Long Does a Tattoo Consultation Usually Take?

The duration of a tattoo consultation can vary depending on the complexity of the design, the experience of the artist, and the questions that the client may have. However, in general, a tattoo consultation usually lasts between 15 minutes to an hour.

The length of the consultation will depend on the amount of detail that needs to be discussed. For instance, if the client has a simple design that requires little modification, the consultation may only last 15-20 minutes. On the other hand, if the client has a more complex design that requires extensive discussion on placement, size, and style, the consultation may take up to an hour.

It’s essential to remember that a tattoo consultation is a valuable opportunity for the client and artist to communicate and establish trust. Therefore, it’s essential to take the time necessary to discuss all aspects of the tattoo design and process thoroughly. It’s also important to ask questions and clarify any doubts or concerns you may have during the consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

You may still have various questions about your upcoming tattoo consultation, especially if you’re a newbie to the wonderful world of body art. 

Do You Tip for a Tattoo Consultation?

You’re not obliged to tip your tattoo artist for a consultation. You may have to pay for it, though, depending on studio policies. You may also have to pay your tattoo deposit at the consultation if you and your artist agree to go ahead with the work.

Don’t forget to save up extra cash for a tip once your artist finishes tattooing you, though. 

How Long Does a Tattoo Consultation Take?

How much time you get with your artist will vary based on their schedule and what you’re asking for. The larger and more complicated your desired tattoo, the longer it will take to work out the details. However, most consultation will last between 30-60 minutes.

Can You Book More Than One Consultation?

Yes, and you should if you still feel you need to hash out more issues with your artist. Bear in mind that if the first consultation was free, the second one might not be.

Also remember that if your tattoo requires multiple sessions, this doesn’t mean you’ll need extra consultations. One should still be enough.

What If You Change Your Mind About the Design?

Your artist will have put effort into crafting your design based on the first consultation. If you want something entirely different, you might have to pay for the unforeseen editing, regardless. 

If compensation isn’t required, you should still consider offering your artist something for the first design, especially if it was huge or intricate.


Remember, preparation is critical: you don’t want to waste your own time, or that of your artist. Make sure you’re clear on the terms of the appointment to avoid awkwardness or disappointment.

Tattoo consultations are usually critical to ensuring your body art comes out exactly the way you want it to, so don’t miss this opportunity to get every intricate thought of yours out into the open.

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.​

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