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Tattoo Shop Etiquette: Tipping, Pricing & Courtesy

Posted on January 06 2016

Tattoo culture is friendly and fun but it does come with its own set of expectations both on the tattoo artist and the customer. Knowing how to approach your tattoo appointment can set the right tone for both you and the artist to walk away satisfied.

Come Prepared

Let’s start with the design. Some artists don’t mind helping you come up with a design or tattoo idea in the shop. Some artists encourage you to pick from their flashes or enjoy mocking up a new piece using some of your feedback. Other artists legitimately don’t have the time to help you plan your own tattoos. If you have no clue what you want and come into a shop expecting the artist to plan out your piece for you, then expect to sometimes be told to come back when you’re better prepared.

Tattoos should not be treated like a new haircut that will just grow back in 6 weeks if you hate it. The problem with asking an artist to help you plan your piece is that if you are okay with the design until it is on your skin then it is far to easy to blame your dislike of the art on the artist and not on yourself. Also, you’re more than likely not paying that artist for the time they invested into helping you plan the design. This is time they are not being compensated for and that is not fair to them.

Prepping the area you’re going to have the tattoo done isn’t a requirement but it definitely helps. If you’re a dude with gorilla legs, then pre-shave the area to get it ready for the artist. This saves them time and saves you money if they charge by the hour.

Respect their rules

Every shop is different and some may have odd rules they expect you to follow. For example, some shops don’t allow scheduling sessions because they have experienced too many people that don’t show up for their appointment. Likewise, some shops expect you to schedule your appointment because they cannot accommodate walk-ins. Don’t get upset if you’re turned away when you walk in to the shop on a Friday afternoon and want a huge piece done on a whim without calling the shop ahead to see if they can fit you in.

Similarly, some shops don’t like having people lingering around their area while they are working. If they want your horde of friends to wait up front rather than hover over them chatting and chewing on potato chips, then you should respect that and understand where they are coming from.

Shops don’t set arbitrary rules. They develop restrictions and expectations over time and because of prior experience. Learn to respect that, or find some other shop to go to.

Good tattoos aren’t cheap



Just like respecting the shops rules, you should respect the artist’s rates. If a tattoo artist is asking $100/hr. it’s because he/she has the experience, expertise, and reputation to ask for that much. Don’t question his/her rates or insult them by suggesting they do a huge thigh piece for $100. A good tattoo artist will work as quickly as they can within their abilities while still providing a great looking, well-done tattoo.

If you want a cheap tattoo, it’s going to look cheap. That’s a fact. So, respect the artist’s rates and you’ll get the same respect from their work.

Know how to tip

If you have $80 to put toward a tattoo, don’t go in looking for an $80 tattoo. Go in looking for a $64 tattoo and tip about $12-16, which is about 15-20%.

Remember, the artist is paying to rent their space, for their ink, their sterilized tools, disposables and investing far more time into each piece than what you actually see. Factor in clean-up and prep work, and they’re often doing more work than just what you paid for.

The only time you’re excused to skip the tip is if the artist gave you a really shitty tattoo, even then, they might still deserve a small tip.

If you tip your artist well, then the artist will appreciate you more as a customer. Bad tippers don’t take priority to them because it implies that they don’t understand how their money is made. Very few artists work for the sake of the art. They need to upkeep their space and their home and that can’t be done on compliments alone.

Before you go in for your next tattoo, think about whether or not you’re practicing good tattoo shop etiquette. If you go to the same shop regularly, then they’ll probably let you know if you’re doing something that is offensive, but sometimes shops don’t feel comfortable enough to mention how you’re driving them absolutely nuts. Here’s some really basic things to consider. It can help put some perspective onto how you should act at your next tattoo appointment from showing up prepared, to showing respect, to tipping your tattoo artist correctly. Get it right and the artist will do right by you.

Want more tattoo-inspired news? Read related article: Top 10 Places Where it Hurts Like Hell to Get a Tattoo


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