Webster’s dictionary defines etiquette as,” the forms or codes to be observed in social or official life; conventional decorum; the code of polite society.” Strip away all the fancy words and you’re left with ‘common decency’ and basic manners. For some reason there seems to be a belief that tattoo studio etiquette differs from the commonly accepted set of guidelines by which most people conduct themselves.
Just so that there isn’t any doubt: When you are in a tattoo studio you should conduct yourself with the sense of decorum that you do when you’re in any other business.
Your goal and our goal is the same: To get you the perfect tattoo in the most pleasant way possible. With a little etiquette, from everyone, it’s not hard to do. To help make your tattoo experience the best one it can be, here’s a list of some ‘Dos’ and some ‘Don’ts’ for your next visit to the tattoo studio:
- DO try to have some kind of idea what you’re looking for before you come to the studio- impulse buying isn’t, usually, a very good way to find a tattoo that you’ll be able to live with for the rest of your life. Of course, we understand that you may be coming in just to get some ideas; but you should have some kind of idea that led you to the decision to get tattooed in the first place. The more clearly you can describe what you want, the quicker and easier we’ll be able to find the design for you.
- DO tip your tattoo artist! This should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, it’s not. If you didn’t know that tipping a tattoo artist is customary, YOU DO NOW! Tattoo artists DO NOT get paid an hourly wage- they earn a percentage of the money you pay for your tattoo and that’s it. They depend, heavily, on tips to support themselves. You wouldn’t NOT tip a waiter unless the service was really bad, would you?
Your tattoo artist is marking you for life, something far more serious than even a fancy meal, so hasn’t he/she earned at least the recognition that a waitperson gets? If you receive exceptional service, show your appreciation by tipping. As a general rule, tipping 10% is a MINIMUM, 15-20% is normal and anything more is considered tipping heavily. If you don’t have the extra money to tip, at least explain that to your artist (they’ll understand and appreciate it)- if you can, bring them a tip the next time you have a few extra dollars. Clients who are known to tip always get a little extra ‘love’ from their artist.
- DO NOT go into a tattoo studio if you’ve been drinking or if you’re under the influence of something. Show your tattoo artist some respect and come sober- nobody likes dealing with drunks. If your breath smells of alcohol you’re not going to get a tattoo- not from anyone reputable, anyway. If you’re wasted, you won’t make a good decision on what to get and you’ll bleed so heavily your tattoo is likely to look like it’s done in pastel colors.
- DO NOT try to bargain with your tattoo artist like you’re some vendor in a Indonesian night market. You wouldn’t go to the grocery store or a restaurant and try to talk a clerk or a waiter into lowering the price. If all you have is a certain amount, ask the artist (preferably up front) if he can work with that budget- if he can’t, then wait and save up until you have the full amount. Bargaining in a tattoo shop is an exercise in bad taste; and the quickest way to tick you artist off. The last thing you want your tattoo artist being mad at you when he starts sticking you with needles. Some people act like it’s their responsibility to try and get a tattoo for some ‘rock bottom’ price and they’ll try and bargain an artist down $5 or $10 just to see if they can. That’s offensive. If you’re going to get something that you’re going to wear forever, do you want the “bargain” job or the “deluxe” job for $10 more? If you’re tempted to bargain, stop!
• Think about how much you want the artist to come down in his price
• Divide that amount by how many years you think you have left to live.
• Decide if those few quarters a year are worth being stuck with the “bargain” tattoo!
If you can’t afford the tattoo you want, talk to your artist and see if there’s a way to work out a payment plan (multi-session/pay-as-you-go) or wait and save up. If you settle for something else, or even a smaller version than you really want, you’ll (probably) end up regretting it. Remember: “Good Tattoos Aren’t Cheap And Cheap Tattoos Aren’t Good.” People who “price shop” for tattoos end up with inferior tattoos- don’t let that happen to you.
- DO NOT brag, to a tattoo artist, about how cheap you got your other tattoos. You will not earn any ‘brownie points’ and it SURE won’t get you a better deal on a tattoo from the artist you’re bragging to. If you are quoted a price, that IS the price- it’s probably been set by the owner and if the artist has any leeway to adjust the price, bragging won’t help. Most “cheap” tattoos are cheaply done- bragging about paying $20 for a tattoo is likely to elicit a critique of your tattoo that is less than flattering. If you want a professional tattoo, be prepared to pay a professional price.
- DO NOT ask your artist to draw something just to see if he can. There are people who come into the studio and ask for one thing to be drawn after another without every getting anything. Don’t be that guy!
If you want something drawn, an artist will be happy to work on one with you changing an re-drawing it until it’s just the way you want it; but make sure you’re ready to get it if the drawing comes out right.
- DO pay attention and maintain personal hygiene and physical decorum. Unfortunately, this has to be said for some people’s sake. There’s nothing more unpleasant than having to work on someone who smells. You wouldn’t go to the doctor without bathing, so do the same for your tattoo artist. If you just finished running and suddenly decide you just haveto get your feet tattooed, go home and wash them first!
The same goes for bodily functions. If you’re having some difficulties with your stomach (i.e. gas) it might NOT be a good day to get tattooed. You get the idea.
- DO tell your artist about:
• Feeling ‘green’ or ‘funny.’ Tell your artist right away (don’t try to tough it out) so that he/she can deal with it- your artist is prepared for it and knows how to handle it.
• Any concerns you might have about getting tattooed. Your artist is there to work with you and make the experience as easy as it can be.
• Any medical issues you have (i.e. pregnancy, diseases, medication).
- DO NOT try to force your artist to make social conversation if they don’t seem receptive to it. Some artists like to talk and others don’t. You want the best tattoo you can get so let your artist work in the way that he/she is comfortable. Your artist will appreciate the consideration and it’ll be reflected in the work.
- DO NOT bring a “cheering section” to the studio. Many shops will not let ANYONE accompany you into the tattoo area and it’s prohibited by many state laws. You’re always free to ask, but very few artists want 5 of your friends crowding the work area while he/she is trying to mark you for life.
- DO NOT bring children to the tattoo studio. Your tattoo artist will really appreciate it if you can find a ‘sitter’ for the kids so that you can come to the studio alone. Tattoo studios are not a place for children- there are too many hazards for children to be exposed to, it’s an adult environment and they can be very distracting to you, your artist, and and the other clients.
This may all seem to be common sense but the reality is that tattoo artists deal with breaches of this etiquette all day, every day. Unfortunately, as a result, many artists deal with it by becoming sarcastic, and sometimes surly. Do yourself, and your artist, a favor the next time you go into a tattoo studio and use your common sense. A little common courtesy and etiquette can go a long way towards making your entire tattoo experience much more rewarding and pleasant.