Getting a tattoo is something most people think about for months, while others walk into a tattoo shop on a whim when they come up with a cool idea. Whether you’re a first-timer with a carefully-planned tattoo or you’re the spontaneous type, you have to know how to behave in the tattoo shop.
There are some basic rules of tattoo etiquette that some people just don’t understand. It’s a shame, considering how hard artists work to get the look you want, and how much easier the whole process would be if customers were courteous.
Trust us, you don’t want to be that guy (or girl!) the next time you go into a tattoo shop.
Here’s a handful of bad habits that are top of the list of things tattoo artists hate.
1. Not Showering Beforehand
If you’re going on a date, you shower. If you’re headed to class for the day or a long shift at work, you shower. It’s common courtesy for the people you’re going to be in close quarters with and it’s good for your hygiene, too.
Think about your tattoo for a second. Whether you’re getting something on your forearm, thigh, or ribs, you don’t want to sit in the chair with bad body odor. It’s not a good look for you, and it’s going to annoy the artist more than you think.
2. Micromanaging the Process
Most artists can deal with a so-so smell, especially if you live in a particularly hot, humid area or if they can tell you’ve just gotten off work. What all artists absolutely hate, though, is being micromanaged.
No one cares if you’re a painter, a graphic designer, or just a stickler for accuracy and detail. When you choose a tattoo artist, you’re telling them you trust them. Then, when you start micromanaging, you’re saying you’re not so sure anymore.
Give them some common courtesy. You don’t tell a doctor how to diagnose you or a lawyer how to present your case. Tattoo artists are professionals, too, and they deserve the same level of respect.
3. Comparing an Artist’s Work to Someone Else’s
Sometimes, people disrespect a tattoo artist without even meaning to. They sit there and talk about the tattoos they already have or the work they’ve seen on other people for hours on end. Even worse, they start comparing what the tattoo artist is doing to what others have done.
Don’t be this person. Every artist has their own work process and their own style. This is something you should familiarize yourself with before you book them, then appreciate as they work.
4. Negotiating or Criticizing the Price
This one is at the top of the absolute worst tattoo shop etiquette. Don’t negotiate the price. Tattoo artists will always quote you beforehand based on their time and the size of the tattoo.
They want to make sure they get the design just right, so it’s better to pay for an extra half hour or so than to walk out with something that looks rushed and sub-par. It’s not a good look for you or for them, and it definitely doesn’t say anything good about you when you try to undercut the price.
5. Acting Like a Know-It-All
Maybe you know a bit about tattoos already and you have a few to show for yourself. Whoop-dee-doo. No one cares if you’re finishing your second sleeve or getting a first-time tattoo.
Well, they do. Artists are excited to work on their clients, but not to the point that they’ll let them boss them around or undermine their work. Sit in the chair and let the artist do their thing without trying to get street cred for how much you know (or think you know).
6. Bringing a Bunch of Friends
Speaking of street cred, don’t bring all the friends you have into the shop with you. It’s one thing to get matching tattoos with one or two people or to have a few friends join you. It’s another to crowd the artist’s space with five or six people gathered around them.
The less company you bring, the better.
7. Asking an Artist to Copy Someone’s Work
It’s one thing to compare and another to ask for a copy. Never, ever ask an artist to copy someone else’s work. It’s not fair to the original artist and it’s a shot at the person who’s about to tattoo you, too.
If there happens to be a piece that inspires you, work with the artist to put your own spin on it. They can redesign the look to fit your expectations without being a copy or you can put your heads together to collaborate on a fresh design.
8. Walking in Wasted
It doesn’t matter if you walk in to a tattoo shop alone or with just one person if you’re drunk. No tattoo shop is going to let you get a tattoo while under the influence, appointment or not.
It’s not good for you and it can really hurt the quality of their brand. Save the drinking for after your tattoo appointment if you really feel like getting a buzz.
9. Taking a Smoke Break Every 10 Minutes
What if your drug of choice is just a cigarette? That can’t be too bad, right? It’s fine if you walk in after just having had a smoke or if you’re going to be in the chair for hours and need a break or two.
But, taking a break every 10 or 15 minutes is going too far. This really cuts into the artist’s time and it gets old very fast.
10. Skipping the Tip
Although an artist is quoting you for their time and their work, it’s good tattoo etiquette to give them a little extra for their results. This goes for large, colored tattoos and small, minimal ones alike. It doesn’t matter what you’re getting, you have to leave a tip.
Think of this beforehand and make sure you bring enough cash or be prepared to add it onto your card. Also, give a fair tip – something between 20-25% will do.
11. Standing Up an Artist
This is another of the worst things you can do, right up there with negotiating the price. If a tattoo artist is taking time out of their day to squeeze you in and give you what you want, show up.
Otherwise, you’re wasting their time and hindering the amount of money they can make that day. It’s not cool, and it gets you started on the wrong foot when you have to actually show up and face them after standing them up.
The #1 Rule of Tattoo Shop Etiquette
It’s good to know all the things that can annoy tattoo artists, especially if you’re about to get your first one and don’t know what to expect. But, it’s also nice to brush up on tattoo etiquette before you go to a new artist or shop, since everyone does things a bit differently.
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