12 Things You Should Know So You Avoid Pissing Your Tattoo Artist Off!

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Tattoo artists have to be some of the most patient people on the planet.  They have to deal with all kinds of antics from demanding and often annoying customers and onlookers.  Personally, I try really hard to do what I can to build a good relationship with the person that is going to permanently mark my body.   That being said, I do find myself asking myself how a lot of these artists are able to maintain their sanity due to the massive amount of bulls**t us clients often times throw their way.

Fortunately, there are several things that you can so that you can hopefully avoid pissing your tattoo artist off.  Some of these things I’ll talk about are lessons I’ve learned through my own mistakes with artists, some are things I’ve heard different artists mention that frustrate them, and some are stories I’ve heard other collectors tell me that caused problems either during the appointment or during communication via email and what not prior to the appointment.

1.)  You’ll get what you pay for. One thing to know about great artists is that they almost always know their worth, and will usually price accordingly. Don’t be surprised when you find out you will ballpark be paying $150-300 per hour when going to world class artists. This may sound like a lot, but when you take into account how many thousands and thousands of hours they have spent mastering their craft, how many times they’ve failed in order to reach the level they’re at today, etc,  it’s really quite reasonable and fair. Avoid pissing them off by not reacting unpleasantly surprised when hearing what you’ll be paying for your piece. They have the right to charge what they charge and have paid their dues, so do your best to show respect when hearing their rates (even if you find out you can’t afford the work for the time being), and you will keep them happy.

2.) Tattoos can be painful.  You have to understand this and be prepared.  Numbing cream and spray can help, but it is a pain for the artist because it is time consuming if you do it correctly, and can also cause weird reactions sometimes. I’ve had a few artists get a bit irritated with me for requesting it, and eventually I was able to comprehend why once I put some thought into it and after hearing their side of the numbing story haha. Also, some people say the pain is worse when using it because after the numbness wears off you may feel the needle more so it could be in your own best interest to get used to not having it.  Try your best to get through sessions without needing it- it’s a lot more convenient for the artist. Come prepared for the pain, and just know it will most likely be beyond worth it in the end. Here is a link to my video going in depth on this exact subject (how to deal with tattoo pain) 10 Ways to Deal With Tattoo Pain 

 It will be more of a mental challenge more so than a physical challenge.  Come in with the mindset that you are going to get through this no matter what, and that you aren’t walking out with an unfinished piece (unless it’s a large project requiring multiple sessions until completion, but at least finish whatever part of it you came for).  You are investing too much of your own time (as well as the artist’s) to let your mind be the reason you sell yourself short.

Many artists do get pretty frustrated when clients come in with a weak mindset, and when they don’t have the mental discipline to do what it takes to get through the pain.  They do not want their day or time to be wasted by someone who isn’t fully committed to the tattoo collecting process and the things that come with it.

 People do have different pain tolerances, but I am a strong believer that if you are committed to the piece you will prepare your mind to get through the challenge no matter what.  If you are  however really worried or anxious about the pain, it is definitely not a smart plan to book a full 8-10 hour session as your first tattoo.  I’d recommend trying a couple hour  session (or less) so you can get a good idea of what you’re signing up for so that you avoid wasting your and the artists time.

3.)  Can I bring my friends/family/pets?  I get it… getting a tattoo can be a little stressful and having someone by your side might seem like a good way to reduce your stress level and make the time go by faster.  And for the most part your artist will most likely be fine with you bringing one person to your appointment for moral support.  But bringing a whole group of buddies, your child that you couldn’t find a sitter for or your 4 siblings is not a good look.  

There is most likely not enough room in the shop, and the distractions and constant questions are defintely going to be a distraction to your artist.  The last thing you want during your session is for the artist to be distracted and annoyed.   If possible, it’s best to spend the majority of the time in the chair solo or with one person that is capable of being quiet and respectful during your session.

4.) You should be trusting of the artist you have selected. There are thousands and thousands of artists out there. You have the power to choose from plenty of people, so do your research and think long and hard before selecting.  It makes the artist happy when you show them and let them know that you chose them because you feel safe under their needle, you love their style of tattooing, and you trust their vision.

Artists will usually do their best work when you allow them to collaborate with you on ideas, and have a say in the piece or when you let them tattoo their own ideas/help choose references because they usually know what’s going to translate best from reference to skin.  When you are untrusting of them it may stress them out a bit, because their main goal is probably simply to put the best piece of work on you they possibly can, and if you restrict them too much that’s a lot more challenging for them to do.

5.) Sit still, and stop fidgeting (please!)  They’re begging you. I know the pain can be brutal sometimes, and it’s a natural reaction to want to fidget and move around…but think about how much harder it is to shoot a moving target, especially accurately and precisely.  You are doing the artist and especially yourself a huge favor by sucking it up and trying to remain as still as possible so that they can keep their rhythm and dont have to worry about you jolting left or right, and them having to pull their tattoo gun back to avoid a mis-stroke or some other accident (highly HIGHLY unlikely, but still a reason to stay still)

6.)  Dont’ Ask Your Artist To Copy Another Artist’s Work.  So you found an image of a tattoo that you absolutely love.  We’ve all been there.  But it’s important to remember that another artist worked hard creating an original piece of art.

 The last thing an artist wants to do is copy someone else’s work.   It’s perfectly fine to show your artist a few images that you like for inspiration, but I highly recommend working with your artist to come up with something original.   You will be far happier in the long run if you put the effort in to create something that is uniquely yours.

7.) Don’t Drink!   Turning up is probably (definitely!) not a good idea before an appointment. Trust me. I’ve done it, and nothing good comes from it.  I will never do that again.  It sounds like a good idea to help with the anxiousness and the pain, but it can hurt you far more than it can help you.  It makes you fidget more, and it thins your blood causing you to bleed more.

 Obviously, I just talked about the importance of sitting still in the last bullet point, but let me just tell you that the time I did this, the artist told me I was close to having a line straight through one of my portraits because I fell asleep and jerked.  He was pretty frustrated with me, and I certainly understand why.   Ultimately,  it would have been me living with the mistake.

  If it weren’t for him being alert and having cat-like reflexes, I could have had one hell of a nightmare.   I have also heard about people using weed before sessions and reporting that it made them feel the pain a lot more so avoiding that as well is in your best interest.  I have heard many instances of artists cutting sessions short or turning them away due to realizing that their client was intoxicated.  It’s just simply dangerous and a really  bad idea. 

8.)  Be on time, but don’t get upset if they aren’t. They’re busy.  Things come up.  Often times things that they are unable to prepare for that they have to deal with so don’t expect them to always be right on time.  They also have to get everything set up, get the stencil drawn out and what not, so bring something to do because you might be there for awhile.

 Sometimes they’re just plain old late and get there when they get there.  Let’s face it… a lot of artists are “free spirit”s so don’t be surprised if this happens.  I’ve had this happen many times and yeah…it can be annoying but if you know ahead of time that this might happen it’s easier to plan ahead.   I’ve learned to appreciate all moments of the experience (including it taking a lot more time that I planned).

If you have a full day session, it’s probably a good idea to plan on dedicating the entire day to the appointment and not making plans until very late if at all, because like I said it can be unpredictable how long it will take.  I have had 8 hour sessions be drawn out from 10 AM until 12 AM, literally.  I have also shown up at 10 AM for an 8 hour session and was done by about 6:30.

 You just don’t know how long it’s going to take total, if they will be set up and ready to go when you get there, how long breaks and lunch will add up to, what will come up, etc.  But in case they are punctual, it’s definitely courteous for you to show up on time (in my book, half an hour early is on time).  Anyway, don’t get your heart set on having the appointment start as soon as possible, but be punctual because if the artist you chose is as well and you decide to be not, that causes a bit of frustration for some artists. 

9.) Try not to ask for too many breaks. Breaks are good, and can sometimes be  lifesavers when you’ve been under the needle for awhile!  Almost everyone needs them. But they can also interrupt an artists flow and rhythm and slow down the day a good bit if you choose to take too many.  

Do your best to distract yourself for long blocks of time and use the breaks strategically so you can let the artist be as efficient as he desires to be throughout the process. When you start asking for them every 30-45 minutes, that most likely gets annoying for the talented artist who wants to get in his/her zone and knock out good chunks of the piece at a time.

10.)  Do whatever it takes to show up. People flake, debatably often.  Sometimes even on the day of the appointment.  It’s ridiculous.  People will make all kinds of excuses or even no show at times. I believe 80% of the time that people flake, if they really did all they could do then they would have been able to make the appointment.

 If you’re going to set up an appointment you need to be well thought out and truly have commitment to the piece.  It is inconsiderate and in most cases inexcusable, especially when it’s extremely short notice. It causes them to either miss out on a full or partial day of income, or have to scramble to find a new client to fill the spot that day which is also a hassle. In some cases, if you cancel on an artist, you may burn the bridge forever because some are in such high demand that they don’t want to take another risk on dealing with a client who has already shown they have flakey tendencies.

11.)  Don’t be an a**hole.  Pretty simple.  Just have respect, courtesy, patience, and a positive attitude.  Don’t be a whiner or a constant complainer.   No artist likes a client who complains and pisses and moans.  Some moments might suck, and there are going to be obstacles.  But at the end of the day, if you did your research, you’re going to have had one hell of an experience and should leave the studio high on life.  

12.)  Remember to tip! $100-$200 is per full day session is pretty standard in the industry and you should factor this in when saving for your ink.  Tipping shows your appreciation to the artist and the piece of art they have done for you.  Remember, most artists do not own their own tattoo shops and they not keep the total amount that you are paying for your tattoo.  A large percentage of that goes to the owner of the shop.  (think of it like a hair stylist that rents a space at a salon)  

As for when to tip- usually this will be done at the end of the session.  If your tattoo is more than one session you can split the tip between the sessions, or wait and give it at the end of the last session.  Cash is king when it comes to tips.  Defintely avoid asking your artist how much to tip them.  That’s just plain awkward.  Plan in advance and show your appreciation.

I hope you guys found this article helpful, and thank you for reading.  Be sure to follow my pages on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jordanfeno/?hl=en and https://www.instagram.com/leadthefollowers/?hl=en and share my content with your friends if you find value in it!  Some more tips you might want to check out-  10 Ways to Deal With Tattoo Pain

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