Tattoo Etiquette: What You Need To Do To Ensure A Good Tattoo Experience

Anatomical Heart And Flowers Tattoo @clealtattoo

Getting a tattoo is not simply about choosing a design, making an appointment, and showing up. There are certain dos and don’ts when it comes to getting inked that you should adhere to in order to have a great tattoo appointment. Here are tattoo etiquette tips you have got to know: 

What Is The Etiquette For Getting A Tattoo?

Turtle Arm Tattoo

Make An Appointment 

Do not just walk into a tattoo shop and expect to get inked immediately. Most reputable artists work by appointment only, so call ahead and schedule a time.

Making an appointment and getting to chat with your artist ahead of time is also a good way to increase your chances of walking out with a tattoo you love.

Take the time to explore different tattoo artists and their portfolios (Instagram is a great place to do this), chat with your chosen artist, and ask for their professional advice regarding style and tattoo placement.

Color Realistic Peony Wrist Tattoo @nok__ink

Arrive To Your Appointment Early

Being punctual can help get your appointment off to a good start. Arriving 10 minutes before your appointment not only shows your tattoo artist respect, but you also ensure that there is enough time to complete your tattoo.  

Realistic Daisy Bicep Tattoo @maiko.only

Communication Is Key 

Be open with your tattoo artist! If you do not explain exactly what you want for your tattoo, how is your artist supposed to know?

“Clearly express your tattoo ideas, preferences, and expectations to the artist. Effective communication ensures that both you and the artist are on the same page,”

Widow Tattoo
Mini Black Cat With Knife Tattoo @tattooist_meoru

Come Prepared

Getting a tattoo can be a long and painful experience. To make your appointment more comfortable, come prepared. Take these five steps:

1. Wear The Right Clothing

This will depend on the placement of your tattoo. If you are getting an arm tattoo, for example, opt for a lose top with sleeves you can roll up or no sleeves at all. Basically, choose an outfit that makes reaching your desired placement easy and does not disrupt your artist.

If you are getting a hip tattoo or a spine tattoo, you will walk out with clothing covering the fresh ink – make sure your pants or shirt is loose enough so that it will not rub up against your new tattoo. Wear clothes that you are not afraid to get ink on.

Mini Colorful Saturn Tattoo @youngchickentattoo

Tip: If your chosen tattoo placement is in a private area that you do not want to be on display during the process, make your boundaries with your tattoo artist clear before the appointment. They can then ensure there are screens around you while you are getting inked. 

Fine Line Doberman Tattoo

2. Bring Snacks 

Your body goes through a lot when you get inked. Your immune system is triggered and your fight or flight response is on high alert, so it is important to bring food and water to stabilize your blood sugar and give your body the energy it needs to deal with the pain.

“Sealed food and drink is more practical and more hygienic. So if you rock up with your favorite Starbucks in hand, you may be asked to dispose of it before going in,”

KTREW Tattoo

3. Choose Something To Distract You

To distract yourself from the pain and discomfort of getting inked, bring something that will keep your mind occupied. This can be an audiobook or podcast you can listen to or some calming music. Of course, listen via headphones. 

Black And Red Koi Fish Tattoo @misterch_

4. Moisturize 

Well hydrated skin is a way better canvas for a tattoo than dry skin. So, leading up to your tattoo appointment, drink lots of water and moisturize your skin often.

“But, it’s best not to moisturize immediately before a session, as any residue on your skin could interfere with the tattooing process,”

Stories and Ink

5. Come Well Rested

Getting a good night’s rest before your tattoo appointment is part of preparing for the experience. If you are tired, it is going to be more difficult to stay still and deal with the pain.

“Getting a tattoo can cause some anxiety in even those who have a fair share of tattoos, and that anxiety is only heightened when you’re feeling tired after a bad night’s sleep,”

Certified Tattoo Studios
Butterfly Wrist Tattoo @hktattoo_tina

Tip Your Artist 

It is customary to tip your tattoo artist after your appointment – it is part of showing that you appreciate their work. The amount you tip depends on the price of your tattoo.

“The general consensus in the tattoo community is that 20 percent is the typical amount to tip — just like at a restaurant or a hair salon. However, consider this number a baseline, as some tattoos require more or less work than others.”


The only reason not to tip your artist is if you have an objectively bad experience – this is the fault of the artist.

However, if you have a negative experience because you did not communicate what you want to your tattoo artist, that is on you. If there is something about your tattoo you do not like, ask your artist to correct it.

What Not To Do During A Tattoo 

Mini Flower Earlobe Tattoo @_tan_tattoo

Haggle Over The Price 

When you arrive for your tattoo, do not act surprised and disappointed when it comes to the cost. The price of your tattoo is decided before the day of your appointment, so do not try and haggle after the fact. 

There is a lot that goes into the price of a tattoo:

  • The number of details in your tattoo (the more details, the more expensive your design will be).
  • Its size (the bigger the higher the price).
  • The amount of experience the artist has. Generally speaking, the more experienced your chosen tattooist is, the more expensive getting tattooed by them will be. They have spent years honing their craft, so you are paying for these years of experience and the skills they have developed as well as your specific tattoo.
  • Not only that, but the price of your tattoo will also include the ink being used, the tattoo machine, and other equipment. 
Fine Line Eye Spine Tattoo @pollytatttoo

Bring A Group Of People With You

Having a friend with you can be a great source of support. However, too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing!

Tattoo shops are generally small spaces, and too many people can make it crowded and distracting for your tattoo artist and the other people in the shop. Check with your tattoo artist if they are okay with you bringing a friend to your appointment.

Smell Bad 

You are going to be extremely close to another person – your tattoo artist – for at least a few hours. So, do not forget to shower! It is essential to be clean and hygienic for your appointment. A freshly showered body is way more comfortable to work on and helps maintain a sterile environment.

Flower Hip Tattoo @seltatts

Hold Your Breath

For some people, an automatic response to dealing with discomfort or pain is to hold their breath. Do not do this during a tattoo appointment!

“During the tattoo process, sometimes clients hold their breath in hopes to not move. This is not good! We need our clients to continue breathing as normal. Holding your breath will lead to you passing out,”


What You Shouldn’t Do Before A Tattoo 

Tiger With Flowers Tattoo

Skip A Meal

You have got to eat a nutritious, high-calorie meal before your tattoo. Eating before your appointment can stabilize your blood sugar levels, boost your energy to better endure the process, reduce the chance of nausea, promote relaxation and focus, and support healing. 

Ink Eeze suggests choosing foods high in vitamin C to enhance skin firmness and protein to repair the skin,

“Protein also helps raise the energy levels, making it a bit more beneficial for the trauma that your body system shall be going through. It will also assist your skin in recovering quickly from the stress caused by the tattoo needle.”

Mini Color Sunflower Sternum Tattoo @rinktattooz

Drink Alcohol 

Think that having a few drinks before your appointment will ease your nerves and reduce the pain? Think again!

Alcohol thins the blood which will make your tattoo appointment a lot bloodier than it needs to be. This can lead to your tattoo artist struggling with your design as the blood impacts their vision, making for a lengthier and more painful experience. It also impairs your judgement and behavior,

“You will be asked to approve a tattoo design, the stencil, and where it will be placed. If you make a wrong decision, which you will do when drunk, a surprise will await for you once you sober up,”

Saved Tattoo

Also, if you show up to your tattoo appointment intoxicated, there is a high chance that your tattooist will turn you away. 

Sun And Moon Wolves Chest Tattoo

Overindulge In Caffeine

It may be a good idea to skip your morning cup of coffee on the day of your tattoo appointment. This is because caffeine, like alcohol, can thin the blood,

“…caffeine is known to thin the blood, which can increase bleeding and reduce healing,”

Authority Tattoo

Also, caffeine can make you jittery which will make it a challenge to sit still during your appointment. Remember, certain teas, sodas, and energy drinks contain caffeine, too!

Bandaid With Flower Hand Tattoo @earthalientattoo

Lay In The Sun

Sunburnt skin is not an optimal canvas for tattoo ink. Excessive sun exposure can dry out your skin and cause peeling – this will not lead to a good looking tattoo! Also, damaged skin can cause a lengthier healing process which makes infections more likely.

What Should You Do After A Tattoo

Minimalistic Moon And Stars Tattoo @amylowdontattoo

Relax And Recover

Remember, getting a tattoo is acquiring a wound. Your body has been through a lot! So, give yourself space to just relax so that your skin can heal. 

Stay In The Shade

You can’t put sunscreen on an unhealed tattoo as it disrupts the healing process. If you are outside, keep your fresh ink covered up in loose clothing. Getting sun damage on top of a new tattoo can wreak havoc on your design and cause it to not heal properly.

Sun And Moon Shoulder Tattoo @amin_molart

Follow Aftercare Instructions

Once your appointment is done, your tattoo artist will send you home with a list of aftercare instructions. This will include washing your tattoo with gentle soup and keeping it moisturized. Follow these steps! Taking good aftercare measures will reduce the risk of infection. 

Clam And Pearl Elbow Ditch Tattoo

Skip The Gym 

Your skin is super vulnerable to bacteria and infection after getting inked, so the gym is a no-go!

“Working out can expose the area to bacteria from sweat and gym equipment. You could also overstretch the healing skin and tear scabs with various exercises. Gym and workout clothes could cause rubbing and chaffing to the skin, which could cause more trauma to the area,”

Mad Rabbit Tattoo
Heart Emoji Sideboob Tattoo @rydelreib_tattoo

Tattoo etiquette is an important part of having a positive tattoo experience. When you are punctual, communicate well, know what you are committing to financially, and prepare beforehand, you are way more likely to have a great appointment and leave with a tattoo you love.

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