When I was finally out of my parent’s house and in school at Bowling Green State University we got a coupon book at our campus fest for freshmen that included a discounted tattoo at Studio 14 Tattoo shop. Nose and lip-pierced, Vans Warped Tour-going, Converse-wearing, 18 year old Taylor couldn’t resist. A very close friend of mine always referred to me as ‘little butterfly,’ so that’s just what I got. A little butterfly (let the butterfly tramp stamp jokes roll in.) My love for tattoos has only grown since then. They’ve gone from something cute and fun to get, to something I save up for, collect, and take pride in. Maybe tattoos aren’t your cup of tea, but for others they can be tributes to lost loved ones, memories of the best times of their lives, reminders of their strength and what they’ve overcome, or…just tramp stamps.
I’m not a tattoo guru by any means, and at 24 years old I have a measly six total, and counting. But for those who may have been on the fence about getting one, or maybe want to bite the bullet to get your first bigger piece; this article is for you. Here’s what you should know before you get ink.
Consider your industry.
Not everyone is in a career where they can have visible tattoos. While it’s 2017 and times are changing, they can still be considered ‘job stoppers.’ Whether it means putting the tattoo in a place covered by your scrubs, business attire, what have you or not getting one at all; industry matters.
No pre-vacation ink!
You shouldn’t be in the sun or in water after your tattoo, so scheduling an appointment a week or two prior to a tropical getaway isn’t ideal. This goes for my college readers too, drunken spring break tattoos are a no no. Not to mention, most reputable shops won’t tattoo you if you’re drunk.
Sleep on it.
No tattoo should be on a whim. While I’m an advocate for meaningful tattoos and non-meaningful tattoos alike, give it a month or two to decide if it’s worth your time, money, and skin real estate.
I can’t stress this enough. Do not bring in a photo of a tattoo someone else has to your artist and expect them to duplicate it. Not only would any self-respecting artist deny the request, why would you want someone else’s tattoo on your skin? Find something similar to what you’re looking for and let your ideas and your artist make it beautiful and unique.
Depending on the size, assume it’s going to take a chunk of your day; and don’t assume it’s only going to take one day.
My most recent tattoo is not large by any means. Most of it was a lot of line work, a little bit of shading, and some subtle color. I was at the studio for about 4 hours. Time needs to be allotted to talk about your design, sketch out what you want, make potential changes, prepare the space, get you in a comfortable position, the tattooing itself, potential breaks, and clean up. If you have a bigger piece, plan on coming back more than once, with a few weeks to heal in between.
Creep on potential tattoo artists like you creep on the person you’re getting drinks with from Bumble this weekend. Artists have different styles, different techniques, and different pricing. Find someone who has past pieces that are similar to yours, reach out and ask for hourly costs, and show them what you’re looking for and see if they connect with it. I reached out to about 5 different artists for my most recent tattoo, and ended up going with the most expensive hourly rate because I knew she could give me exactly what I wanted. Also- she had a few month wait. Don’t expect talented artists to be available for a random walk-in.
Artists are not mind readers.
Going off of previous graphic design articles, don’t walk into a shop and say “you’re the expert”. Have an idea of what you want, give visuals, direction, and feedback.
Location, location, location.
Some spots hurt more than others. Awkward spots = awkward positions for extended time. Ladies itching for the under boob/rib piece, prepare to be in pain.
Be completely 100% transparent with your artist. If their draw up isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, tell them. You’re going to have to live with this on your body for the rest of your life, and although they’re the expert- you’re the customer. This also goes for if you’re in pain, nervous, not feeling well, have any medical issues, etc. Talk to your artist.
Shower, use the restroom, and eat before your appointment.
This should go without saying, but it’s still important. Want to earn extra brownie points? If you’re grabbing a snack before, ask your artist if they’d like anything, too.
You get what you pay for.
I’ve stressed this before in previous graphic design articles, but it goes for just about any artwork. Do not expect to get an incredible tattoo on the cheap. While college town parlors may have $25 minimums that seem appealing, if you want an incredible product, expect to pay money for it. Also- don’t haggle. Tattoos are a luxury.
Before I get my hair done I always budget in a tip. When you go out to eat, you know you’re going to be providing a tip to your server. Always, always factor in a tip for your tattoo artist. This may seem unreasonable on more expensive pieces, but artists are using their time, energy, and talent to give you something that will be with you for life. If they do an incredible job, tip them like they did an incredible job. 10% minimum, 15-20% is normal.
Listen to your artist for aftercare.
Aftercare varies from artist to artist. Some have specific product recommendations (aquaphor, tattoo goo) and others advise no products at all. Always listen to your artist before assuming, or you may end up ruining your tattoo. Reminder: Stay out of the sun/water.
This is obviously optional, as many tattoos may be private/intimate. If yours isn’t- show off your new ink! Post on social media and give credit to the artist and the shop. Referrals are a big compliment and if your artist did an incredible job, your marketing is invaluable.
What etiquette do you stand by when getting tattooed? How many tattoos do you have, and what plans do you have for future ink?