Friday, September 16, 2011

Tattoo Etiquette Lesson 1: Previewing designs

Some people aren't aware of proper tattoo etiquette so I figured I'd take a shot at informing the general public about reviewing designs. If you've sought out an artist and chose them to do your piece, you should trust them. If not, you should keep searching. The creative process is hindered by multiple emails asking about the progress of the design. In fact it's quite annoying, can inhibit motivation, or squash the excitement the artist had for the piece that was present during the consultation.

Another reason we don't like emailing in advance is because some people like to take that design and have someone else tattoo it on them. It's happened to me before, and it's a real kick in the ass. They think they're getting it done cheaper somewhere else. We try to take a deposit that will pay for our time for drawing, but often we put more time into it than expected. We'd make more by doing the tattoo than just the drawing.

Instead of being a buggaboo, make sure you're fully prepared for your initial consultation. This is a very important step of the process. Bring lots of reference pics with detailed descriptions if need be. These references don't need to be pictures of other peoples tattoos, but they can be to show a subject matter, composition, style, or color scheme you like. You can use the internet search illustrations, paintings, or whatever your heart desires. If it's a realistic tattoo, bring in a photo book or clear picture. Never ask an artist to copy someone else's tattoo. This isn't a position we want to be put in. You can also go through your artists portfolio and show them certain aspects of the designs that you like. Give the artist your email address and let them now that they're welcome to email the drawing in advance if they chose to. If you're confident with all of the information you provided and your artist, there shouldn't be a problem.

Most changes to a tattoo design can be made at the appointment. It's beneficial to have you there to make changes so we can work with you during each step. Believe me, it can save a lot of time. If you hate the design, then the appointment will be rescheduled. This is why I ask people NOT to take time off from their jobs unless they have an extrememly flexible schedule. You never know what can happen.

The only time you should email your artist, is if you change your design ideas since the consultation or have to reschedule. In that case, please let the artist know of your change of heart so they don't waste their time drawing up something that you don't want. In the case of rescheduling, if they decide not to work on your design until your next appointment gets closer, the may spend their time on other drawings that need to be done, relaxing or whatever their heart desires.

I've gotten most of my tattoos on the cuff. It's rare that the artist shows me the piece in advance, and I've never asked for it beforehand either. I specifically sought after this person and don't want to disturb them or their normal artistic process. Not to mention if they're that good, then I realize they're probably very busy and don't want me up their asses! I give them a lot of free reign because I want them to run with the minimal ideas that I give them. Hence, I've been extremely happy with all of my tattoo work except my very first tattoo that I walked in and picked off the wall and got done illegally since I was underage (but that's a whole different blog entirely).

Being a tattoo artist, I know the ins and outs of the studio. Don't think that by watching a tattoo show, you're given any insight into what actually happens at a shop. While it's called Reality TV, it's far away from reality. Those people or actors are specifically picked by story writers and producers and directed what to say on camera. Not to mention it's highly edited to further portray the story they want the public to see on TV. Don't be duped and walk into a studio like you know what to expect. Never call with 21 questions either. Come to the shop to ask questions, and the artists or desk person will give you answers.

Every artist works differently. It can be specific to the job at hand. One might chose to draw the design on paper and go directly to stencil on skin. Another method is to draw sections of the actual piece and put this together on your skin in conjunction with some pen to make the final design. Then there is the freehand method in which the artist applies pen to the skin and sketches the design on the skin itself. Pertaining to completed drawings on paper, the piece can look great on paper yet horrible when placed on the body. Even though a tracing of the area is made at the consultation, the artist might see you in person and changes might need to be arranged to fit and enhance the area where it's placed. Therefore, why get hooked on a design beforehand if in person it doesn't fit? Mostly it depends on what you're getting in regards to how the artist will apply it. Leave it up to the them on how they do their work.

Hopefully this wil give you a little insight into your next experience. Perhaps these are things you already know. Work with your artist instead of being arbitrary. You're more likely get a highly creative piece in which the artist will push the limits of their skill to the fullest.


  1. So true. Unless you and your clients have worked together for a long time. Teg you have taken good care of me and I would never do that to you. Thanks for my Tiki comedy and tragedy on top of other many great pieces. The latter done through email. You rock. Love SweetLou

  2. Yeah I did send you that one via email, right?! It's difficult to tell who you can trust and who you can't... Just stinks when you get burned. I think I'm going to send pics of the sketches in weird angles with a conpyright watermark on it from now on.

  3. I realize I'm reading this a year after the fact (almost) but had a quick question. I have been tattooed twice before, but both times walked in with exactly what I wanted and we just did it. (young, dumb, etc). I now want a piece of ART and already had a consultation to talk about it and today saw a "rough draft". My appointment is tomorrow, but of course we have to put the stencil on my skin and make sure I like it. I don't want to feel pressured to get inked if it's not the perfect fit, but I also don't want to waste her time/frustrate her. What's appropriate if the tattoo does NOT happen tomorrow? Should I offer to pay for her time the same it would cost if tattooing? I just want to be able to spend time playing with different placements but not be a waste of time/lack of making money for her. THANKS!