Tattoo How To: Make Your Next One An Awesome Experience


Tattoo How To: Make Your Next One An Awesome Experience

by K. A. Kristmanson

Getting a tattoo is an intimidating decision, even if you’ve done it before. More so if you’ve had a negative experience in the past. Well, I’m here to help! With these tips, you should feel confident and comfortable. Hey, you might even become the shop’s favorite client.

Setting Up Your Consultation:

This is a preliminary appointment to discuss your ideas and get an estimated cost of the service. Come with reference photos and a budget for your tattoo—to let your artist know how much you can spend before they start drawing.

Be realistic. Tattoos are expensive.

Some artists charge an art fee, and though many shops don’t have this extra income security for their artists, I think it should be an industry standard. Artists depend on the reliability of their clients. The art fee is one way of compensating the artist for the time spent on your design.

Be certain about what you want before your consultation. Nothing is worse than an indecisive client. It’s extra work for the artist if you’re constantly changing your mind. Minor changes are doable—add some flowers, change colours—but whole concept changes are not. If the artist charges an up-front art fee, you may be required to put down another deposit for a complete design overhaul.

Waiting for Your Drawing:

Tattoo Nightmares is a television show, and unfortunately, not representative of the time it takes to create beautiful artwork. Your artist won’t finish your drawing fifteen minutes after your consultation, especially for a cover up. An artist needs time to work on your design, to make sure that you’ll love it. You’re excited, we’re excited, but a little patience is all we ask.

Prepare for Aftercare:

Consider aftercare before you’re tattooed. You will not be able to soak your new tattoo in water for at least two weeks. Direct sunlight is not recommended, and tanning is a definite no. You should keep your tattoo covered and clean until it is fully healed.

What to Bring:

For long sessions, bring a snack or drink to avoid dizziness. If you faint, the artist will stop, wait until you come to, and then decide whether to continue with the service.

Bring two pieces of ID with one piece of photo ID so the shop can keep you on file, and ensure you meet the age requirement set for their services.

Bring enough money to pay your artist, and a little extra in case the tattoo session runs longer than you anticipated.

The Morning of:

Eat a good breakfast, to avoid dizziness and fainting.

Don’t take pain killers or apply a topical numbing agent. These make you bleed more. Bleeding will push the ink out of your skin, which causes the tattoo to appear faded/dull after healing.

Don’t come in hung-over. It makes everything worse. It will hurt more, you will bleed more, and you won’t enjoy the experience.

Don’t forget personal hygiene. Artists get close to your body, and sometimes people forget little things like deodorant.

Dress in loose, comfortable clothing. Make sure the artist can access the placement—for example, if you’re getting an upper-arm tattoo, don’t wear a long-sleeved shirt.

Wear dark clothing. Tattoo ink and blood will stain clothes.


Politeness, patience, and respect go a long way. I’ve watched demanding, high-maintenance clients bounce from shop to shop because nobody wants to work with them. Artists are busy people, not robots.

Be honest. If the drawing is not working for you, tell them! A professional who takes pride in their work will want you to walk out of the shop happy, but mind the way you word things—this is a piece of art that they have put many hours of work into.

Be professional. There is an assumption that tattoo artists are alternative or counter-culture, and the rules of your doctor’s office don’t apply. On the flip side, if your artist is not behaving professionally, that’s a red flag telling you to take your business elsewhere.

The Do Not List:

Don’t bring kids. There are bio-hazardous materials around, and tattoos take time. The service requires a set up, stencil placement (and often re-placement), and paperwork before the actual tattoo even begins. Even if the shop has a waiting area out front, the desk manager is not a babysitter.

Bringing a friend might ease your nerves, but please don’t bring a group. Stations have room for two people because a tattoo is a one-on-one service. Tag-alongs can be distracting, to you and to the artist. You’re making a permanent change to your body. You want your artist focused, and they need you to sit still. It’s also nice to get to know you, especially if you’ll be working together on future pieces.

That’s about it!

If you have questions, leave them in the comment section below, or email