Tattoo Etiquette

  • Written By Dan Hunter on April 07, 2023
    Last Updated: April 7, 2023

Tattoo etiquette is an essential aspect of the tattooing process that is often overlooked. When you decide to get a tattoo, you’re not only making a commitment to the design you choose but also to the tattoo artist and the tattoo shop.

By following proper tattoo etiquette, you ensure a positive experience for both you and the artist, making the whole process more enjoyable and stress-free. In this article, we’ll discuss the do’s and don’ts of tattoo etiquette, so you’re well-prepared for your next tattoo appointment.

Doing Your Homework

Research the Tattoo Artist

One of the most important aspects of getting a tattoo is finding the right artist for your desired style. Most tattoo artists have a specific style they excel in, so it’s crucial to do a little research and find an artist whose work aligns with your vision. Browse through their portfolio, read reviews, and visit the tattoo shop to get a feel for the atmosphere. Taking the time to choose the right artist will ensure a better experience and a tattoo you’ll be proud of.

Prepare Your Reference Images

Before your tattoo appointment, gather reference images that will help communicate your vision to the artist. While most artists appreciate creative freedom, it’s essential to provide a starting point for the design. Your reference images should be clear and high quality, giving the artist a solid foundation to work with. Keep in mind that your artist may make suggestions or modifications to the design to ensure the best final result.

Exercise Patience

In recent times, tattoo shops have experienced a surge in inquiries. The lockdowns due to Covid-19 left many people feeling restless, leading them to seek therapeutic release through tattooing. For some, getting a tattoo serves as a way to memorialize lost loved ones or pets. Consequently, many tattoo shops now have longer waitlists than ever before. Practice patience when necessary and be understanding of the shop or artist’s terms and time frames.

Embrace Flexibility in Design

When discussing your tattoo design with an artist, be open to compromise. A skilled tattoo artist will prioritize creating a design that not only looks good initially but also stands the test of time and suits the body part where it’s placed. It’s common for artists to suggest alternative placements, sizes, fonts, or colors to achieve the best outcome.

Remember, the artist isn’t trying to dismantle your long-considered design; they simply want to ensure that the final result looks great and remains that way for years to come. Additionally, if you provide a reference photo of someone else’s tattoo, your artist may request some tweaks to the design to avoid an exact copy and maintain originality.

The Tattoo Appointment

Arrive On Time and Be Prepared

Punctuality and preparedness are crucial when it comes to your tattoo appointment. Most tattoo shops operate on a tight schedule, and arriving late can disrupt the entire day. Be sure to eat a good meal before your appointment, as getting tattooed on an empty stomach can cause dizziness or even fainting. Bring a valid ID and cash for payment, as most tattoo shops prefer cash transactions.

Communicate With Your Artist

During the design phase, communication is key. Be open and honest with your artist about your expectations and preferences. If you’re unsure about any aspect of the design or the tattooing process, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Remember that your artist wants you to be happy with your new tattoo, so don’t be afraid to speak up if something doesn’t feel right.

Don’t Change Your Idea on Appointment Day

Once you’ve shared your tattoo idea with the shop and set an appointment, refrain from making last-minute changes to your concept. This can be extremely frustrating for artists for several reasons. Appointments are typically scheduled based on the estimated time required to complete the initial idea, and changing it may disrupt the planned duration or number of sessions. Moreover, artists often prepare the tattoo design before the appointment, meaning a sudden change would waste the time they spent on your original concept. Consequently, some shops have policies prohibiting design alterations once appointments are confirmed, with violations potentially resulting in cancellation and loss of deposit.

Stay Sober

Refrain from consuming alcohol or using substances within 48 hours of your tattoo appointment. Alcohol and certain substances act as blood thinners, causing increased bleeding during the tattooing process. Excessive bleeding can make it difficult for the ink to penetrate and stay in the skin, potentially compromising the final appearance. It also makes the artist’s job more challenging, as they may have to go over the tattoo repeatedly or reschedule the appointment altogether. Arriving at some shops under the influence could result in immediate cancellation and loss of deposit. Consult your artist before your appointment if you’re considering over-the-counter pain relievers or topical numbing agents.

Limit Your Guests

In response to Covid-19, most tattoo shops had to follow strict guidelines to remain open, including limiting the number of people inside. While some shops still prohibit guests, others have relaxed these restrictions. If you plan to bring a friend, confirm the shop’s policy beforehand and consider limiting your entourage to one person. Too many guests can distract your artist and overcrowd the shop. Additionally, guests may be overly opinionated about your tattoo, causing unnecessary stress. For lengthy appointments, it’s best to attend alone, as friends may become bored after several hours. Note that children are usually not allowed in tattoo shops.

Maintain Personal Hygiene

Getting tattooed requires close contact with another person, so practicing good hygiene is essential. Arrive at your appointment freshly bathed and clean. Feeling clean can also help alleviate nerves or anxiety. Keep in mind that increased perspiration is common during tattooing due to the body’s stress response. If needed, don’t hesitate to bring deodorant to your appointment.

Respecting Your Artist’s Time and Space

Trust Your Artist’s Expertise

While it’s essential to communicate your preferences, it’s also important to trust your artist’s expertise. They have years of experience and know what will work best for your tattoo design. Be open to their suggestions and allow them to make adjustments that will ensure the best final result.

Be Mindful of Your Behavior

During your tattoo appointment, it’s important to be mindful of your behavior. Keep your phone on silent and avoid excessive movement, as this can make it difficult for the artist to work. If you have a low pain tolerance, inform your artist beforehand, and they may be able to accommodate you with a quick break or other coping strategies.

Aftercare and Follow-Up

Follow Aftercare Instructions

After getting a tattoo, it’s crucial to follow the aftercare instructions provided by your artist. Proper aftercare is essential for the healing process and the overall appearance of your new tattoo. Most artists will give you a detailed aftercare sheet, which may include instructions on cleaning, moisturizing, and protecting your tattoo from the sun. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully to ensure the best possible outcome.

Be Patient and Allow Time for Healing

The healing process for most tattoos takes several weeks, and it’s important to be patient during this time. Your tattoo may become itchy, scab, or peel, but resist the urge to pick at it, as this can cause damage to the ink and your skin. Keep your tattoo clean and moisturized, and avoid submerging it in water for extended periods.

Tips for a Great Tattoo Experience

Tip Your Artist

Tipping your tattoo artist is a standard practice and shows your appreciation for their hard work and dedication. A small tip of 15-20% of the total cost is a general guideline, but feel free to tip more if you’re particularly happy with their service.

Schedule Touch-Ups If Needed

Over time, your tattoo ink may fade or need a touch-up. Most tattoo artists offer touch-ups for their work, often at a reduced rate or even for free. If you notice any issues with your tattoo, such as patchy color or uneven lines, reach out to your artist to schedule a touch-up appointment. Keep in mind that touch-ups should be done after the healing process is complete.

Build a Relationship

Building a positive relationship with your tattoo artist can lead to a more enjoyable experience for both parties. Be respectful, courteous, and appreciative of their time and effort. If you plan on getting more tattoos in the future, having a good rapport with your artist can make the process smoother and more enjoyable.


Following these do’s and don’ts of tattoo etiquette will ensure a positive, enjoyable experience for both you and your tattoo artist. By showing respect and consideration, you’ll be well on your way to a successful tattoo appointment and a beautiful piece of body art.

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