Tattoodo is your number one destination for everything tattoos — finding a shop, preparing for your first tattoo, learning more about the tattoo community. Our guides are meant as a toolkit to help you be the best client and learn how to work with your tattoo artist to create the tattoo of your dreams. Remember: No matter what you read on the internet, your artist’s advice should be considered the gold standard.
Flash (pre-made drawings you can choose from the artist as is, with no alterations) has its place, and we love flash, but custom art’s popularity is a direct outgrowth of the booming tattoo industry. So, you know you want a custom tattoo — what happens now?
1. You will probably, most likely, have to have a face-to-face consultation
Email makes communication compounded and is easy to misinterpret. Phone calls interrupt an artist’s work day. After you’ve put down a deposit, your next session will most likely be a consultation. Most artists prefer to talk through your vision with you. They might sit with an iPad or computer and save references and doodle a little bit. They might also measure out the area of your body that’s going to be tattooed, and even use some sharpies on you to mock up some ideas. You being there in person will make this creative process more collaborative and speedier.
2. Prep your references.
Some artists like images emailed to them, others prefer print-outs handed to them at a consultation. Be prepared, and look on the shop’s website for any direction they might give. Regardless, you should have some ideas before you come to the consultation. It’s okay to need direction, just don’t come entirely blank.
3. Your own art means your own original art.
Remember you can’t bring someone else’s art to a different artist. It’s just rude. If you see something on Instagram you like, save it, and offer to the artist as a way of giving art direction. You can’t rip off someone else’s design — then it’s not customized!
4. Know your artist’s style before you book
You’ve done your research, right? It’s a major faux pas to go to a tattoo artist who specializes in one style and ask them to do another. Make sure you’ve got your information and desires right, and you’re not asking a leading blackworker for a watercolor tattoo.
5. Listen to your artist about design and placement
They’ve been doing this a while, and they know what’s best! There are certain ways that art can look and move on different parts of the body, and there are certain placements that might make the art seem squished. Let your artist take the lead. But remember: if you’re feeling like the placement isn’t quite right, it’s okay to vocalize. Just be respectful, and deferential if your artist has a reason for that placement. They probably have some facts to back up their choice.
6. Time is money and money is time
Don’t be cheap — you’ll get what you pay for! Make sure you know your artist’s hourly rate, and be prepared to pay it. Your deposit gets you that original piece of art. If you go back and make changes, that should cost money, since it’s new art after all. Be ready to spend for this original piece you’re going to get, and save up and be patient.
Getting beautiful, original tattoos is a process and it’s worth it. You’re investing in something no one else will ever have, and that means it should take time and money. When you know what to expect in the design process, and you come prepared, you do a service to everyone involved, especially yourself.