Tattoo Conventions: Everything You Need to Know

  • Written By Dan Hunter on January 17, 2022
    Last Updated: January 17, 2022

Tattoo conventions are a way for tattoo enthusiasts and tattoo artists alike to meet up and revel in the tattoo community and enjoy each other’s interests in the art. 

It is an excellent opportunity for people to meet and interact with other enthusiasts in the community, buy tattoo-related merchandise from vendors, and even get tattooed by their favorite artists on-site. It is also an excellent way for tattoo artists to network with fellow artists in the industry and learn from them. 

All in all, tattoo conventions, though relatively new, have become something people in the tattoo industry look forward to. As fun and as exciting as they may sound, newbies may need pointers to help you navigate it. 

In this article, we give you the ultimate guide to attending a tattoo convention. Everything from what a tattoo convention is, to what to wear, to how to get tattooed at a convention and tattoo etiquette.


What Do Tattoo Conventions Comprise?

Tattoo conventions have become a staple in the tattoo world, and more events are happening now more than ever. However, it can be rather daunting for enthusiasts and artists who have never attended a convention before.

A Brief History of Tattoo Conventions 

The first tattoo convention was hosted by world-renowned tattoo artists Lyle Tuttle and Dave Yurkew on January 24th and 25th, 1976, in Houston, Texas. 

A combined total of 130 or so artists showed up with a couple of common objectives: to learn from other artists, see other artists’ work and display their work as a means of advertising.

Tattoo conventions caught on like a forest fire. Soon after, tattoo conventions popped up in Germany and Spain. And since then, they have taken a life of their own. Tattoo conventions have greatly assisted in accepting tattoos and tattooing as a viable career and a deeper appreciation of the craft. 

What Is a Tattoo Convention? 

A tattoo convention is an event and gathering of tattoo artists, businesses, and enthusiasts alike and can take 2-3 days. 

In these events, people get to experience activities such as live tattooing, tattoo educational seminars, i.e., how to start tattooing or tattooing techniques for the up-and-coming artists or tattoo aftercare for the visitors and enthusiasts. 

These conventions are made for people in the tattoo world to meet up and interact in several ways. 

What Happens at Tattoo Conventions? 

A common misconception is that tattoo conventions are just places to watch people get tattooed by their favorite tattoo artists. There is a lot that happens at tattoo conventions, and it is an equally fun and educational place to be. 

A standard tattoo convention entails the components listed below.

Tattoo Exhibitions

Tattoo artists have an opportunity to showcase their work to visitors and other artists, making it the perfect opportunity to gain some publicity for their work. Exhibited work often serves as entertainment throughout the convention, but they can often be used as part of tattoo contests.

Contests

Contests are a staple of tattoo conventions and perhaps the event that people look forward to the most. Contests allow artists and collectors to compete and win an award or merchandise. 

The most common categories of tattoos include:

  • Best black and grey tattoos
  • Best small color tattoos
  • Best neo-traditional
  • Best color realism
  • Best tattoo of the day

These contests are highly competitive and high-pressure as they are sometimes done in front of live audiences on a grand stage, with a panel of all-star judges presiding over them. Often, these judges have been in the industry for more than 20 years.

Vendors 

Every tattoo convention is guaranteed to have a plethora of vendors for both visitors and artists. Vendors sell everything from t-shirts to art, tattoo guns, needles, inks, etc. Prominent tattoo artists may even sell their merchandise to fans. 

How to Get Tattooed at a Convention 

Getting tattooed at a convention is an exciting experience for many tattoo enthusiasts. One of the main attractions is you may be lucky to be tattooed by one of your favorite artists. Getting tattooed in front of fans also adds to the appeal. 

There are numerous ways to get tattooed at a convention, but here is what we recommend.

  • Research and contact the tattoo artist in advance. Check their Instagram and other social media pages or their website to see if their work fits your style. 
  • If you miss the opportunity to contact your preferred artist, we highly recommend arriving at the convention first thing in the morning and try to book a slot with them in person. It is crucial that you arrive early as most artists end up fully booked within the first 30 minutes of the show. 
  • If you have no artist in mind, we recommend taking your time to explore each booth at the event and browse the artists’ portfolios. After finding an artist that suits your style best, book a slot and wait your turn. 
  • Always be prepared to leave a deposit to reserve your slot. Additionally, the deposit serves as a payment for preliminary work because the artist has to prepare the design. 
  • It’s best not to haggle for prices, both for the deposit and final price. Tattoo artists are not salespeople who can cut you a deal, and neither is a convention or marketplace. Tattoo artists incur heavy expenses, including traveling, paying for rental spaces, equipment, and accommodation. If their prices are not favorable, look for one that meets your price point. 
  • Be on time for your appointment. The convention is packed with fun activities and exhibitions that may get you distracted. However, it is essential to respect your artist and get your money’s worth on the deposit. 

Tickets 

Gone are the days when tattoo conventions were free. These days, they mostly charge an entry fee. This is usually a small fee that permits visitors to walk around the convention venue. 

If you want to buy some merchandise or get a tattoo done, it will cost you an extra buck. The ticket price may be higher for vendors and artists looking to rent a booth to work from. Different spaces cost different amounts according to size, and sometimes, the value depends on proximity to the stage, aka human traffic path.

Conventions and Tattoo Etiquette 

Artists are often out of their element, from the quiet and comfort of their shops to a gathering with thousands of people constantly passing by, as well as working with hundreds of artists side by side. 

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Do not hog an artist or vendor’s table. It may be a convention, but it is also a place of business. Standing in front of a table for long periods without buying anything or setting an appointment is rude. 
  • Do not haggle for prices because tattoo artists run a business like any other, and haggling is quite disrespectful to their crafts. 
  • Do not interrupt a tattoo session because it is very disrespectful to the client and the art. There is usually an artist placed at the station ready to take any inquiries you may have instead of interrupting someone else’s session.  
  • Staring is rather rude, whether at a convention or elsewhere. While it is normal to be starstruck, we recommend saying hello, giving a brief compliment on the work, and moving on.

Get Ready for the Next Convention! 

Tattoos conventions have become quite popular as tattoo enthusiasts increase and more people get into the industry. These conventions are used as an avenue to network, get tattooed, or sell and buy merchandise. They get bigger and bigger each year, and first-time goers may find the experience rather daunting initially.

But with this helpful guide, you should easily blend in and have a fantastic time at the next convention.