Tattoo Do's & Don'ts (2022)

Tattoo Do’s and Don’ts

I’ve already covered a lot of do’s and don’ts on other pages but here are a few others you should be aware of if you want to make sure your tattooist will be happy to see you again.

Tattoo Rule Number One: Think, think, think and then think some more.

Before anything else, you need to do a lot of thinking. Tattoos done on a whim are far more likely to lead to you regretting it than a tattoo you thought long and hard about. Think about why you want what you've chosen.

Getting a tattoo is a lifestyle choice and understand that it's with you for life. OK, so there are lasers to remove them but, don't go into it thinking "Oh, I can get it lasered off, if I don't like it." Yes, you can but trust me when I say, getting it removed will cost more, hurt more and take far longer to remove than it did to have it done in the first place. Oh and it might not come off anyway.

Tattoo removal is a booming business because of the huge numbers of people getting the wrong tattoos by the wrong people for the wrong reasons.

Make your tattoo yours, not a copy of somebody else's. A tattoo should be about individuality. I'll be honest there's a great buzz to be experienced from the compliments you get for having great, unique work done but, there's a lot of eye rolling at feathers that turn into flocks of birds, infinity symbols and generic black and grey sleeves (there's nothing wrong with black and grey sleeves but, if you have one make sure the images in it a personal to you). Think about how often you see the tattoo you think you want. If you see it a lot, give it a miss.

Think about where you want it, hand, neck and face tattoos are a big decision. Don't be surprised if the script on your neck makes life difficult for you, not everyone is tolerant of such things, especially employers. Even employers who aren't averse to tattooed employees may be inclined to think about how their customers will perceive you before they decide to give you a job.

Think about how often people will ask about your tattoos, You Tube has numerous heavily tattooed young women complaining about people (usually men) asking about their their tattoos. Tattoos are a conversation starter, people will ask about them if they are visible, get used to it or cover them up if you can't but, don't complain if the artwork you are exhibiting draws attention.

Think about who you want to do the work for you, Not every tattooist is good at every style, in fact very few are.

If you currently have no tattoos and you're thinking about getting tattooed then you are thinking about something that is going to change your life. How you are viewed by others will change, those who are close to you will leave you in no doubt about how they feel about your tattoo. If they don't like it, they won't hold back but, if they love it they'll boost your ego no end. You will without doubt get both ends of it, think about that and if you can handle it....crack on!

You must be 18 years old to be tattooed in the UK

In the UK youmustbe 18 to get a tattoo. This isn't shop policy this is the law of the land. Don't get offended if you're asked for ID, any tattooist who knowingly tattoos a minor is in breach of The Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 and will be subject to fines, increasing with each instance. There are no exceptions, parental consent cannot be given. I would have grave concerns about any tattooist willing to knowingly tattoo minors, if they can't abide by this regulation, how many others are they willing to ignore?

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Are you sure you're 18?

Don't go on TV!

Fancy your fifteen minutes of fame? Find it somewhere that doesn't involve you getting tattooed for television.

Shows like "Tattoo Fixers" and the singularly awful, "Just Tattoo of Us", are not the place to get tattooed for any reason. These shows are cashing in on the popularity of tattoos and as a "guest", you are the entertainment. Covering up an old tattoo is a skilled art and the queue of people slating the work of "Tattoo Fixers" is long and loud. Derby tattoo artist Kevin Paul, who counts footballers, actors, musicians and, most notably, Ed Sheeran among his clients is particularly vocal about the "talents" of the Tattoo Fixers. You can read just one of the many articles about Kevin's thoughts here.

As for letting your mate choose a mystery tattoo for you....come on seriously?! What part of that concept makes you think that it's ever going to end well. I also question the ethics of the artists that are willing to do these horrific tattoos in the full knowledge that the person getting tattooed is 99% likely to hate it and want it removed immediately.

​I'd rather have my arse scrubbed with a brick than go near shows like this.

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Your skin, a tattoo machine and these people should never be in the same room.

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If this is the reaction to your new ink, something is dreadfully wrong.

Know what tattoo you want.

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A rose…no, a tiger…no, a pineapple. Do your thinking at home.

If you’ve found your tattooist in the right way he or she should have many talents but mind reading won’t be one of them. Going to a tattoo shop to discuss a tattoo that is still a mystery to you is not a good way to start. If you don’t know, neither will the artist. If you’ve an idea of what you want but you’re not sure how to put the idea together then call the shop and arrange a time when you can go in to discuss it. The Tattooist will have some great ideas on how to turn what you have in mind into a great tattoo, they just won’t really have the ability to put ideas into your head, nor will they really have the time or the inclination.

Don't try to haggle over the price of your new tattoo.

When you go to a tattoo shop the price is the price. You’re not buying a used car, at a car boot sale or in a flea market. You are paying for an artist’s time and skills, they charge what they believe those things are worth. If you don’t like the price, find a cheaper tattooist and hope they can do the same job as the artist you chose first. Bigger pieces can be done by the hour, so you don’t have to find all the money at once. Alternatively, save up for it, put it on your credit card if you have to, but don’t haggle. All you will do is piss the tattooist off and even if you are successful you’ll get your money’s worth. As mentioned on another page, paying £45 for an £80 tattoo does not get you an £80 tattoo for £45, it gets you £45 worth of an £80 tattoo. If you want half a job from an irritated tattooist, haggle.

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Swiss Toni…you can haggle with him.

Have a shower before you get tattooed.

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Make sure you bath or shower before you go for your tattoo, it’ll be your last chance for a couple of days and for the next few hours your tattooist is going to be up close and personal with one part or other of your body. Ask yourself, would you like to spend a couple of hours with your nose in close proximity to somebody who smells like they spent the last week sleeping in a cardboard box? I reckon you wouldn’t.

A word of caution though, go easy on the antiperspirant, aftershave and perfume, particularly if you intend to have work done in an area you would ordinarily apply these things.

Do you really want your Chanel No. 5 being driven through your skin along with the ink?

Don't get tattooed while you're hungry.

Make sure you eat before you go for your tattoo session and make sure you’ve taken on lots of fluids. You’re about to be subjected to a period of sustained physical discomfort, if you’re feeling a little weak from hunger or you’re dehydrated things will not go as smoothly as they should. Some people like to take sugary soft drinks to help keep their blood sugar up, personally I just take water and drink it throughout the session.

Hydration is really important, make sure you drink plenty of water in the days before you go for your tattoo and another tip is to eat zinc rich foods in the build up to your tattoo. Zinc can help you to heal more quickly and boosts your immune system. You'll find zinc in chicken, dark chocolate, spinach, pork and beef among many other food stuffs. Alternatively, invest in some zinc tablets.

Read how getting tattooed regularly may boost your immune system all on it's own.

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Wear clothes that make the tattooist's job easier.

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Well, that’ll be easy to take off!

If you’ve done everything the right way you’ll know in advance when you’re getting your tattoo and where it’s going to be placed. Make sure you wear clothing that will make the area to be tattooed easily accessible. If you turn up for a tattoo on your thigh wearing tight jeans you clearly haven’t thought much about having to take them off and the discomfort of putting them back on afterwards. If the tattoo will be placed on your legs, wear shorts. If its going on your torso, a t-shirt and if its your arms something without sleeves. Keep it simple, your tattooist won’t thank you for turning up in clothes that just make his or her job harder.

Don't drink alcohol before you get tattooed.

If you are drunk or under the influence of drugs, don’t go for a tattoo. In fact, if your tattooist has anything at all about them they will turn you away if you are clearly under the influence of any intoxicating substances. I’d also avoid drinking the night before, even a few drinks will thin your blood and make your bleed more, now the thing about bleeding is that blood is coming out at the same time that the tattooist is trying to put ink into your skin. It just makes the whole process a lot more difficult. To my shame I had one session when I was pretty seriously hungover and take it from me, you do not want to do it. It bled a lot more and to the already awful feeling that goes with a hangover we added the pain, discomfort, vibration and the buzzing (Oh my God, the buzzing!) that goes with a tattoo. It was not a happy time.

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Getting tattooed isn't a social occasion.

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Do you really need this many people to hold your hand?

While you and your friends may think it’s cool if the entire gang turn up to watch you get tattooed, your artist won’t. If you’re nervous and need a close friend to be there to hold your hand or for moral support that’s fine, but seriously…just one friend. Your tattooist doesn’t need people constantly peering over his or her shoulder to see how it’s progressing and I’m sure jokes like, “It looks like a cock!” and, “You don’t spell it like that!” never get old. That goes for children, too. Most tattooists won’t let children into their premises and certainly not into the studio. Don’t forget, kids have very low thresholds for boredom and there is nothing entertaining about a tattoo shop from a kids perspective. If you have kids, get a sitter.

Turn your phone off and let the tattooist do their job.

Phones are a distraction which, while you may want to be distracted from your discomfort, it won’t help your tattooist get the job done. Constant fidgeting whether it’s with a phone or for any other reason is, to be blunt, a pain in the arse for your tattooist. Some tattooists are quite talkative, others need to focus in silence. If your phone is going off all the time and you’re squirming around, you’re just making their life difficult. Just turn it off and sit still, and let them do their job.

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Cheesy motivational type picture

There's a fair chance that the first time you take a seat in a tattoo studio, you're going to be a bit nervous. Possibly a lot nervous. The best thing you can do, as hard as it may be, is relax. That first time I took a seat I was bricking it, I was ready for agony, after a few minutes it became apparent that there was none of the agony I'd anticipated. At almost the same time that I realised this was nowhere near as bad as I'd been told it would be, the tattooist (a really nice bloke called Kelvin) told me to relax, he could feel the tension in my arm and it was apparently like, "tattooing a piece of wood".

I took a deep breath and did my best to relax and, hey presto! It hurt less. These days I'm so nonchalant about getting tattooed I forget how nerve wracking that first session was. Stick some music on, watch the studio's TV or, if your tattooist is a chatty soul, just chat shit. The calmer you are the less of an ordeal it becomes.

Be patient.

You’ve waited months, maybe years for this moment, you can wait just a little longer can’t you? If you’ve ever been on a car trip of any length, with children in tow, you’ll know the annoyance of “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”. That said, you might want to avoid constantly trying to look at the work in progress and saying, “Is it done yet? Is it done yet?”. Good things take time, just be patient.

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Cancelling a tattoo session.

As with anything in life, now and again things get in the way and plans have to be changed. If you have to cancel for whatever reason, make sure you do it with as much notice as possible. Most shops will have a policy regarding notice for cancellation which if you fall the wrong side of it could well lead to lost deposits. Your tattooist doesn’t want to spend the time you booked sitting around doing nothing when, with enough notice, they could have got a replacement. Even if you can’t give notice because it really is a last minute thing, make sure you call to tell them. Just failing to show up gives the artist no time to get a customer to replace you, consequently they earn no money, it’s also common courtesy.​

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If you’re ill, cancel. Don’t try to soldier on and get tattooed. It’s not heroic, you won’t enjoy it (see my comments about getting tattooed with a hangover) and you may well make everyone in the tattoo shop ill as well. Call, rearrange and get better.

Don't give your tattooist technical or artistic advice.

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Nobody likes being told how to do their job, especially by somebody who doesn't know how to do that job themselves. The purpose of this website is to help you get to the right tattooist, for the right design, for the right reasons. Once you're there, if you've done everything right, you are in the hands of a professional, they know what they are doing and they don't need your advice either artistically or technically and they certainly won't want it or thank you for it. Let them do their job.

Should you tip your tattoo artist?

I’ve deliberately left this until last because I could be opening a can of worms. In recent years the tattoo do’s and don’ts lists have increasing insisted that you tip your tattooist. Now most commonly these lists have American origins where tipping is the done thing, seemingly for any service job. It’s quite a bit different in the UK (a quick lookheremight explain it better than I can) and from what I can gather it’s quite similar inAustralia. In Europe it varies fromcountry to country.

In America it seems 15%-30% is what’s recommended, at the top end my back tattoo, which cost around £1200 ($1750), by the time it was finished it would have cost me an additional £400 in tips or nearly another six hours of tattooing. ​

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Do you? Don’t you?

In the UK we tend to tip people​who are either in known low wage jobs (like waitresses) or who are in an industry known to require long unsociable hours (like taxi drivers) otherwise, the price is the price. I know that my tattooist’s hourly rate is, even after the shop takes it’s cut, considerably higher than mine, so personally, I don’t tip.

Now I know any American readers are going to call me a cheap skate or worse (feel free, I’ll ignore you anyway), I’m far from it. Arguing that the tattooist has to pay for their own gear, has to give the studio a cut and then pay taxes (seriously? You want us to pay your income tax as well?) doesn't wash with me. I don't mind paying for the work, charge me what you think it's worth and if that's $120 per hour not $100, if I think it's worth it and I can afford it I'm going to pay it but don't saddle me with feeling obliged to give you more than you've asked for. Does a painter and decorator charge for the painting and hope you tip enough to pay for the paint? No, they don't. Include all your costs in the price given (which I'm pretty sure tattooists do) and tips become the bonus they should be rather than the necessity they seem to have become in America.

If you want $600 to do a job, ask for $600. Asking $500 and giving me a shitty look because the tip didn't meet your expectations is, frankly, rude in my opinion.

In the UK we just don’t understand the American need to monetise gratitude. I recommend my tattooist to just about everyone I know if they mention that they want a tattoo, as I’m sure happy American customers do the same for their artists. What I wonder is, if an American tattooist expects 15%-30% for your gratitude then surely you should expect something for any customers you refer to them, yet I’ve never seen a referral scheme mentioned anywhere. "Quid pro quo", as Hannibal Lecter might say.

I'm not saying don't tip, I'm not saying tipping is never warranted what I'm saying is that a tip is a gratuity for a job very, very well done and should never be expected or an obligation. In the UK if you tip you'll be thanked, if you don't nobody will bat an eye lid but remember that, in the US, when they say $500 what they really mean is... at least $575.

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