12 Things Your Tattoo Artist Wants You To Know

Disclaimer: I am not a tattoo artist, however, I spoke with several of them and these are some of the things they most often wish their clients were aware of.

1. If you want to bring a friend, go for it, but there’s no need to roll in with a massive posse like you’re on your death bed.

This is one of those things that many people feel intimidated to do alone, so bringing someone with is normal. However, I was told that it becomes an issue when people legitimately bring a basketball roster’s worth of people in their entourage, especially when it’s a group of teenagers who interact on the highest of volumes while horsing around and touching things the entire time. A friend or two in attendance makes sense, but 5+ are excessive for anything but Applebee’s happy hour or your funeral.

2. You’re not going to be able to get an entire, massive piece on your back or full arm sleeve in a half hour.

Apparently it isn’t uncommon for people to walk in tattoo shops without making an appointment and expect to be able, not only to get a large tattoo, but to have it completed absurdly hastily. Larger works typically require multiple sessions that are scheduled out over time.

3. You’ve absolutely got to control any fidgety, squirmy, jerky, convulsiveness.

If your pain tolerance won’t allow you to remain still throughout the process, you may not be tattoo-able. You’re putting the aesthetics of your permanent body art at risk and one artist siad, “There’s no room for error on my part. When it comes to mistakes, even if it’s your fault, it’s my fault. The artist takes the fall for 100% of screw-ups.” The video below is a prime example of a person who can’t help but scream and wriggle her way to annoying the artist, though it appears that she isn’t necessarily trying to be obnoxious, she’s just not capable of handling the pain.

4. Be prepared to spend some money.

Larger sized tattoos (at least quality ones) aren’t cheap. Much like dining out, if you can’t really afford it then you should just not do it. It’ll cost you a little cash and there are shop minimums that some people are surprised by because, for some unexplainable reason, they anticipated spending $20 on multiple hours worth of extremely careful work. If you want a large piece it’ll likely be charged by the hour, which can make it somewhat difficult for the artist to give a super accurate estimate. It’s also alarming when a potential customer says things like, I was hoping not to spend more than $50” because then it’s a safe bet that they also don’t intend to tip.

5. Tattoo shops aren’t yard sales or sketchy flea markets, prices aren’t often negotiable.

To those wondering if they can talk down a tattoo shop’s prices, that’s the equivalent of going in a store and giving the cashier a pitch as to why they should give you your groceries for 40% less. As the last point said and was often reiterated to me — if your bank account can’t, don’t.

6. At least have some idea of what you want.

One person compared the levels of frustration felt when a customer asks “Do you have any ideas for what I should get?” to “waiting in line behind someone who has no idea what they want at Subway.” All those potential sandwich toppings don’t compare to the infinite tattoo possibilities. If you have even a ballpark idea of what you want it can be further discussed, brainstormed and drawn out — but requesting concepts out of thin air is a little absurd.

7. If you want something cliché, go for it.

While there are some artists who may act high-and-mighty, smug, and judgmental about your tattoo choice, they should be few and far between. It’s not the artist’s job to understand why you want something on your body, it’s their job to execute it as you desire. Even if they can’t grasp why you’d want a particular piece, every artist I spoke with said that they keep confusion to themselves and look at everything as an opportunity to make money and more importantly, a permanent decision being made by a client that deserves 100% effort.

8. Eat a meal in advance… also, bathe.

The food is so you don’t get lightheaded and/or faint, the bath is because you’d be surprised how many grown adults disregard hygiene despite knowing that they’ll be in close quarters, and perhaps even have parts of their funky body exposed. One artist said, “I had a client who reeked so bad he smelled like he’d glow neon green in the dark. He was that rancid.”

9. “We’re not roughneck jerks… Well, we’re not ALL roughneck jerks.”

This was reiterated by a few who reassured me that you shouldn’t be hesitant to go into a shop because of unapproachable appearances.

10. Don’t bring kids with no supervision.

You’ll be occupied and if the children are going to run free touching things it’s really an inconvenience for the shop employees. (This should really apply to all public places.)

11. “Seriously consider getting a significant other’s name permanently inked on your body…”

“… and if you still want it, reconsider until you’ve talked yourself out of it.” No judging, but they all said they’ve seen how much of a disaster it is for those who regret it.

12. Don’t overestimate your knowledge because you watch a tattoo reality show.

Those shows are entertaining and whatnot, sure, but don’t let them convince you you’re some type of expert who can condescendingly talk down to an artist because you caught a couple episodes of Ink Master the other day. TC Mark

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