Tattoo Shop Etiquette: How to Behave at The Studio

  • Written By Dan Hunter on June 19, 2018
    Last Updated: April 7, 2023

While thousands of people get tattoos every single day, not many realize there is an unwritten code in the majority of tattoo studios.

By following some of our insightful tattoo etiquette tips, you will be able to enjoy your experience as much as possible while keeping your artist happy, which is somewhat helpful when they’re jabbing needles in and out of your skin thousands of times a minute.

Tattoo Shop Etiquette – Do’s & Don’ts

From a customer/client perspective, entering a tattoo shop is much the same as setting foot into any other shop, restaurant or salon.

You as the paying customer would welcome a friendly and polite demeanor from members of staff. Likewise, staff members like to be treated with the same respect, which results in a pleasant encounter for all.

Good etiquette goes a very long way. There are things that tattoo artists love, and also plenty of things they hate, so knowing what these things are will come in very handy.

DO NOT try to sneak into a tattoo studio and get inked if you’re underage. You may feel cool by pulling something like this off, but if the artist gets found out, it could cost them their license. Ensure you know the legal minimum age for getting a tattoo in your country/state.

DO take the time to plan your tattoo carefully. Walking into the tattoo shop with a fresh, new idea you glanced at yesterday is never a good idea. Ponder over your design/s of choice, brainstorm different variations, then ponder some more.

The more specific you can be, the easier your artist can understand what you are expecting. Therefore, the quicker the design can be drawn up for you.

Don’t do anything that you might regret in the future…

If you are accessing the tattoo studio for the first time, looking for inspiration and advice, it is still a good idea to have a rough idea of where you would like the tattoo, size and the genre of the design.

The more specific you can be, the easier your artist can understand what you are expecting, and the quicker the design can be drawn up for you.

However, DO NOT ask for their inspirations and professional advice and completely ignore it. An artist tends not to like it when the customer fails to trust their professional views.

DO take any pictures, designs or accompanying notes that you may have to your initial tattoo consultation. These will be very helpful for your artist, as would any other necessary referencing material.

DO NOT get offended if your artist requests that you change certain aspects of your desired tattoo design. Most experienced artists are able to make good judgment as to whether a certain design will or will not work when transformed into ink on the body.

DO ensure you’re nice and clean before entering the studio. Not only will your skin be easier to tattoo if it’s free from oils and dirt, but your artist will also appreciate that you smell at least a little nicer than an old sock – especially if they’re tattooing around your armpit!

Don’t walk into the studio stinking of weed if you decide a quick pre-tattoo smoke will help to make the session feel a bit more comfortable.

DO NOT get a tattoo if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Not only will it be an unpleasant experience for the tattooist, but you are much more likely to bleed heavily, which in return will affect the end result of the tattoo. Not to mention, your own judgment will be clouded.

Not only this, but getting tattooed while under the influence is actually against the law in most areas.

DO tip your tattoo artist if it is in your countries culture to do so. Some tattooists do not get paid an hourly rate; they earn a commission from the tattoos they perform.

By tipping, you are showing your appreciation for the customer service you have received. The little extras, the non-mandatory stuff, such as comfort in times of pain, rather than just basic work.

Researching and drawing up intricately detailed designs can take up hours of the artist’s time, which is often continued long after the shop has closed. In spite of this, if you can’t afford to tip, perhaps a little gift may suffice to show your gratitude. Your artist will appreciate the thought behind the gift.

However, if you live in a country where tipping isn’t customary, then you may not have to feel too bad about not giving your artist a little extra.

DO NOT be late for your appointment without notifying your tattoo artist. If you’re traveling a large distance for your tattoo, make sure to let your artist know if you’ll be delayed at all so they can rearrange their schedule.

DO tell your artist about any medical conditions you have. Your artist should also know if you are taking any medications that may react badly to the procedure. The tattooist will need to ensure the process is as safe as possible. Likewise, do not turn up to your appointment if you are sick and at risk of spreading illness.

DO communicate with your artist if you are feeling unwell straight away! Powering through could result in you passing out, which isn’t safe when you have needles pumping in and out of your skin a thousand times a minute.

Your artist would much prefer to stop for a while and handle the situation in a calm and collected manner, before restarting when the time is right.

DO NOT ask your artist to draw you up a design so you can simply admire their creative skills. Unfortunately, there are people who go into tattoo studios, without the intent of commitment and ask for numerous tattoo designs to be created, inevitably, wasting the artists time.

If you are serious about having one, a tattooist will happily work with you, making amendments until you are completely satisfied.

As you are already aware, concentration is key when it comes to applying permanent ink to skin, therefore, it is important to identify promptly whether your artist is a ‘talker’ / confident multi-tasker, or someone who is in need of peace and quiet when creating their masterpiece.

If the latter, DO NOT attempt to pressure the tattooist into engaging in general ‘chit-chat’ if they seem like they would prefer to work in concentrated silence.

DO come alone, or with just one person for support. Having said that, a few tattoo studios may not allow anybody to keep you company.

It is definitely worth asking though, as your artist would like you to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible. However, they do not want an audience congregated around their work area.

Likewise, DO NOT enter the shop with children in tow. It really is best if children refrain from attending the procedure.

Tattoo studios are not the safest of places for children, with an abundance of dangerous equipment in reach. Children are renowned for their curious tendencies. It’s very difficult to watch them if they are wandering off and you are stuck in the chair.

It would also be worth bearing in mind, that explicit images may be displayed on the studio walls, and the frequent sight of blood and customers in varying amounts of pain could be quite traumatic for the children.

Children also tend to bore quickly, and consequently will try to gain yours or the tattooist’s attention.

This distraction could obviously have unsafe results, or affect your final piece. In addition, grumbling and restless children may upset other clients, which staff will not appreciate as this could potentially result in unsatisfactory reviews for the business.

DO speak to your tattoo artist confidentiality regarding any costings and initial deposits. Some tattoo artists may find it embarrassing if you try and negotiate the price in the presence of other customers. If you do not have the means to pay for the tattoo immediately, your tattooist may agree to establishing a monthly payment plan. Otherwise, it will be best to find a way to stay within your budget.

Similarly, DO NOT gloat to the artist regarding ‘what a bargain’ your last tattoo was. This will not impress your tattooist, but rather imply you are satisfied with a lower quality tattoo.

If you desire a polished tattoo from an experienced member of staff, be willing to pay for that quality.


While the points raised above may appear obvious, tattoo etiquette traditions are broken all over the world each and every day. A small amount of initiative and common sense can contribute to making your whole tattooing experience a pleasant one.

Although you may think that getting a tattoo is a free-for-all once you set foot into the studio, this is far from the truth.

Tattooing culture may seem ‘rock-and-roll’ from the outside, but at the heart of it is a selection of amazing, highly-experienced artists who take great pride in their work, and their working environments.

Once you understand the basis of good tattoo etiquette, you should have absolutely no problem when you finally take the plunge and head to the studio. 

Related Tattoo Articles