If you're looking to get a tattoo, you've probably thought long and hard about the design. You may not have taken as much consideration about the practicalities of what going to the tattoo studio will be like. Knowing tattoo shop etiquette will make both you and your artist happier, and ensure a pleasant experience for everyone.
Different tattoo studios have different cultures. So rules around music, number of friends, and other client requests will vary. But there are still a handful of general rules to follow when you make your visit. The etiquette basically follows the golden rule. "I believe you should treat everyone with respect and as you’d like to be treated," Jason Ackerman, Resident Artist at SOHO Ink, tells Bustle. Don't be rude, and don't disrespect your artist, above all else.
Moreover, the moments you share with your artist aren't just about getting a task done. There's a lot of interpersonal considerations to take into account. "Once you decide to get a tattoo, choosing the artist and the shop is more important than you may realize," Lisa Barretta, author of Conscious Ink: Mythical, Magical, And Transformative Art You Dare to Wear, tells Bustle. "[...] Getting inked is a very intimate experience. The tattooist understands that you are placing a permanent image onto, and into, your body." Being mindful of this will help the experience be more worthwhile for both you and the artist.
Here are seven interesting pieces of tattoo shop etiquette that everyone should know, according to experts.
Don't Go If You Aren't Ready
While it can be fun and soothing to bring some friends or family with you when you get your tattoo, it's important not to bring them to make any decisions for you.
"If you’re ready for a tattoo, be decisive," Weed says. "If you have to ask your mother, brother, cousin and friends what they think about your piece before you get it, you’re probably there for the wrong reasons and not ready for a tattoo." Being sure of your decision before you go in is another way to respect your tattoo artist.
Tip Your Artist
Tipping is an important way to support your tattoo artist, not a nicety only if they're completely exceptional.
"As far as tipping goes it’s a bit uncomfortable for some artists when you ask how much you should tip them," Weed says. "[...] It’s comparable to any service industry, if your experience was good but nothing special tip 10 percent of the total." From there, tip 15 to 20 percent for great service. Not doing so can send a bad message.
Make Sure Your Posse Is Polite
Bringing friends is not bad etiquette, but having friends who aren't also committed to being respectful of your artists is.
"We understand bringing a supportive person or two," Ackerman says. "[...] However, when you bring an entire entourage [of people] that try to tell us how to do our jobs, [...] we definitely don't appreciate that." If you have a friend who has a tendency to back seat drive, then maybe they aren't the right person to bring to the studio with you.
Helping your tattoo artist is possible in many ways. One way is to bring in references so that they don't have to struggle with what concept you're trying to bring to life.
"References are a plus," Ackerman says. "If you’re getting custom work bringing the artist a reference is so helpful." This little thing can help establish a good working relationship between you and your artist.
Be Aware Of The Issue Of Plagiarism
Tattoos, like other works of art, can be plagiarized. Many artists would find it disrespectful if you asked them to copy another artist's work, or even one of their existing custom designs. Plus, some tattoos are legally protected.
"Be careful with plagiarism," Barretta says. "In a sense, tattoos are considered intellectual property (as evidenced in the lawsuit against the movie The Hangover II, which featured the famous Mike Tyson face tattoo)." As you wouldn't expect a painter to rip off someone else, you shouldn't expect your tattoo artist to do so, either.
While drunken tattoos obviously happen, most tattoo artists consider coming into the studio inebriated a bad decision.
"A lot of tattooists will refuse to ink you if you are obviously under the influence," Barretta says. "[Plus,] alcohol actually can cause you to bleed and bruise more." For both your own sake, and the sake of the artist trying to do their job, keep the drinking for after your appointment.
Following simple etiquette that respects your artist and their work environment is important to getting a good tattoo and establishing a positive relationship with your tattoo studio, in case you end up coming back for more. While a lot of the reasoning behind this etiquette is intuitive, some of the rules may not seem so obvious, so doing your research is important.