Your handy guide on what NOT to do when getting a tattoo.
During the day, I play a tattoo artist on TV. Okay, I really am a tattoo artist (not to be confused with my night job of a ninja assassin), and I love my job. There are certain things about my job that seriously make me want to head home and crawl back into bed, though.
And, it’s not just me; I’ve talked to the guys at the shop — they have the same pet peeves.
So, I’m going to help y’all out and give you the hook up from an insider source … me.
1. Be drunk or on pills.
Should go without saying, but you wouldn’t believe the number of people who do it. And we’ve heard everything. “It’s just pain pills to help because a tattoo hurts so much,” or “I’m sober, I swear, I just had a shot to take the edge off of getting this tattoo.”
If you don’t want your tattoo artist drunk or on pills, then we don’t want our customers drunk or on pills. And, while yes, you do bleed slightly more when drunk, the real reason we won’t tattoo you while you are intoxicated is because drunk people don’t sit still.
Want so see some awesome celebrity tattoos? Now’s your chance. (Post continues after gallery.)
And they are loud. And annoying. And have a tendency to not remember things in the morning … like going to a tattoo shop and getting Tweety Bird on your ass. We don’t want to put up with that crap.
2. Have no idea about the shop or the artists.
Please do your research before walking into a shop. Most places have websites or Facebook pages (if not, I wouldn’t go into it). Research the shop, look at artist’s portfolios, and go into the place educated, maybe even with an artist in mind. I have to say, I love the ego boost of “I was hoping to get tattooed by you because I saw your work online and really liked it.”
Hehehe, thanks. Flattery gets you places in the tattooing world sometimes. And, sit for a few minutes after you get to a shop and observe.
Does it look clean? Do the artist’s portfolios look good and up-to-date? Do the artists themselves look clean and healthy? Does it smell like green soap, a&d ointment and cleaning supplies? If not, then say, “Thank you” and walk out the door.
3. Haggle pricing.
We set our pricing according to how much time it will take us to do the tattoo; just like a lawyer prices, a mechanic, a psychiatrist … only guess what? We’re putting something on your body that will be there forever.
A lawyer’s work will one day be done, as will a mechanic’s, as will a psychiatrist’s, but our masterpiece (or screw-up, if you don’t do your research) is a lifelong commitment. So, why price shop?
And, if you go to one shop and they tell you $40, and you go to another shop and they tell you $250, please question why the first shop said $40. The reason is, your tattoo probably comes with free Hepatitis or AIDS. Now that’s a truly lifelong commitment, too. Two-for-one deal, huh?
4. Have no idea what you want.
This, personally, is one of my biggest pet peeves. When I hear, “Well, I want a tattoo, but I don’t know what I want,” it makes me want to shove the tattoo machine (it’s not a “gun,” by the way) right into my own jugular.
This is something that will be on your body forever, and you have no idea what you want? Why are you bothering me with this? Please come back when you have a clue.
And, we do work with anything as ideas — pictures from the internet, stick figure drawings, whatever. Give us an idea, let us create, and we’ll be more likely to price you lower and be more into the tattoo (another insider tip I just shared).
5. Expect to be tattooed immediately.
Good shops make appointments. And, if the artist is good, your appointment could be two weeks out, maybe a month, maybe three months.
And, they’ll require a deposit to hold your appointment. This is all standard of good tattoo shops.
If a shop is that busy, there’s a reason why. And, if you aren’t even greeted as soon as you walk in the door (by an artist, not a front counter person), believe it or not, that’s probably another sign of a good tattoo shop.
Think about it — if you are approached by an artist as soon as you walk in and smothered, that artist needs your money, which means they don’t have appointments. Question why.
If an artist is nonchalant about you (which yes, comes off as being a dick), then they don’t need your money, which means they are pretty booked, appointment-wise, which means they are good.
6. Take offence if an artist doesn’t want to do your tattoo.
It means their style of tattooing doesn’t fit your tattoo. Or, it could mean your tattoo idea sucks, honestly.
Tribal? I’m sure there isn’t a tattoo artist in the world that likes tribal. It’s 20 years ago, so please, don’t get any. You’ll be turned down by every decent shop you go into, because tribal sucks.
An entire song on your ribs? Probably going to get turned down, too. We are artists; we create art, not fill up our canvas with words. And yes, artists do specialise in a style of tattooing.
At my shop, for example, we have a traditional guy, a portrait guy, a realism guy (who also does neotraditional) and me — I’m, um, artsy-fartsy, I guess.
I do a lot of flowers and girly stuff, but I love to do coverups. So, if you want to be tattooed by me, but you want a traditional piece, I’m gonna send you to the traditional guy; it’s just how I am.
Here’s some beautiful tattoospiration for your weekend. Enjoy. (Post continues after gallery.)
7. Put time constraints on us.
“I have to be at work in an hour, can you get my tattoo done by then?” Large pet peeve right there.
We create art — don’t tell us when it has to be done. And, if we charge you for one hour of work, but we decide to get creative and tattoo you for two hours at no extra cost, do you really want to stop us from doing that?
Please don’t assume you know how long it takes for a tattoo to be done, either. I had a guy tell me the other day he wanted the entire Lord’s Prayer on his arm, and that shouldn’t take me a full hour, right?
Oh, you’re right. It will take me over an hour. So please, have your day open when you schedule your tattoo appointment.
And, as another insider tip — we tattoo artists have no concept of time once we are tattooing. How much longer will your tattoo take? Fifteen minutes. That usually means an hour.
8. Tell a tattoo artist how to do their job.
No one likes that, especially tattoo artists. Don’t assume you know how much something will cost, how long it will take, or tell us exactly how to do it.
And please don’t compare what you want to get to an existing tattoo you have. “Well, this one took an hour, and that guy only charged me $100, so I figured this one will take about an hour, and should cost me $100.”
I wouldn’t tell a mechanic how to fix my car, because I have no freaking idea how to fix cars. Don’t tell an artist how to do their job because you’ve gotten a tattoo before. It doesn’t make you an expert.
Hell, even me as an artist: I keep my mouth shut when I get tattoos done. Everyone does things differently, so who am I to judge that?
Do you want to see some bad ass senior tattoos? Of course you do! (Post continues after gallery.)
9. Bring an entourage with you to get your tattoo.
One person, maybe two tops, but please don’t bring your entire sorority to get that Alpha Gamma Gamma symbol on your ass cheek.
It creates confusion, raises the stress level in the shop, and there’s the possibility of bumping into your chair while you are getting it done — line straight across your ass cheek.
Think about other people getting their tattoos done, too. Do they want to remember how the shop was loud as hell and full of giggly girls when they were getting their tattoo done?
And, while I feel I shouldn’t have to write this, unfortunately I do … Don’t bring your kids. If you can’t get a tattoo until you are 18, why bring a three-year-old into the shop to sit there while you have your tattoo done? Please find a babysitter. We beg you.
10. Neglect yourself.
There’s nothing worse than having someone sit in our chair and they smell like three-day-old chicken noodle soup. Please shower before your tattoo appointment.
And, don’t overdo the cologne, either. I had to have a guy go take a sponge bath in the sink at a shop one time because his cologne brought on an instant migraine for me, and I almost couldn’t do his tattoo.
So, make sure you are clean and presentable, and please, for the love of everything that is good in the world, eat before your appointment.
No food in the system = greater risk of passing out during a tattoo, even if you are a seasoned pro at getting tattoos done. Eating keeps you grounded while your body rushes through endorphins and adrenaline during the tattoo process.
And please, please pay attention to the artist’s after-care instructions. If you don’t take care of our artwork, there’s a good chance we won’t tattoo you again.
And, don’t play us for a fool, either. We can look at a tattoo and tell whether or not it was taken care of, what was artist error in the process, what were natural healing hiccups, and what you didn’t do to help the process.
So don’t say, “Oh, I did everything you told me too, but the color just didn’t take in this section.” We can clearly see that you let it get too dry, it scabbed, and your dog ripped the scab out. (Okay, we may not know it was your dog, but you get my drift.)
I hope these tips are helpful for those venturing out to get a tattoo. Many of them artists won’t tell you. In fact, I might get beaten for letting some of these secrets out.
But, I figure, if I can educate the customers, the experience is more enjoyable for both artist and canvas. You’ll have peace of mind when getting tattooed, and we won’t want to kill you.
It’s a win-win situation!
A version of this article originally appeared on Blogher.com.
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