Booking your first tattoo appointment can seem daunting, but rest assured, it’s not. Think of your adherence to a shop’s policies and your willingness to follow guidelines set by your artist as ways to build a great new relationship, because the truth is, most folks can’t stick to just one tattoo.
Getting your first tattoo can be a little daunting and we totally understand that. We’re definitely trying to revolutionize the way people indulge in the tattoo community, which means making everything easier, more accessible, and not so intimidating for people just like you!
In this First Tattoo Guide, we go over how to book your first tattoo appointment by laying everything out step by step. We want your experience to be the best that it possibly can be and this guide will help make it so awesome that you won’t be able to quit at just one!
Step 1. Idea, date, and budget
How can I find the right design?
You can find the right design by trusting your instincts and thinking about the things you love most. The beauty of tattoos is that they can illustrate anything you want in any style you want. Try putting together an inspiration board in the Tattoodo App to get started!
Can I ask the artist to copy a design?
Most reputable artists will not copy a design unless it is a flash tattoo. What they can do is create a similar design inspired by what you bring in. Think of it this way: you’re unique. Your tattoo should be too.
What does flash tattoo mean?
A flash tattoo is artwork that an artist has already created. Most of the time these will be hung on the walls of a shop so if you’re looking to collect something quick, or you don’t have any particular ideas for a piece but want something cool, you can choose a flash tattoo and usually get it that day!
Do tattoo artists draw your tattoo?
The tattoo artists draw your tattoo if it is a custom tattoo. This means that they’ll take your inspiration or ideas and turn it into something you love before your tattoo appointment! For more information, you can check out Custom Tattoos: How to Talk Art with Your Tattoo Artist.
Can I bring my own design?
You can definitely bring your own design, but keep in mind that the tattoo artist may need to make changes here and there to ensure that your piece turns out perfect. Your best bet is to trust your artist and work with them to create a tattoo you love.
Brainstorming tattoo ideas and figuring out when you’ll be able to make the commitment to a tattoo appointment is the first step, and it’s a hella important one. This may sound obvious but it’s true. Thinking long and hard about what you want will make it easier for your tattoo artist to draw up your new piece. Your happiness is important to them, and they want to do a good job! So, getting a really strong concise idea in your mind, and then figuring out what your budget is, as well as what your schedule is like, is all going to make the process so much smoother and more enjoyable.
If you’re struggling to come up with the best idea for your tattoo appointment, make sure you head over to our tattoo image search and type in specific keywords that are of interest to you. Our archive contains literally thousands upon thousands of inspiration...you can start with things like “chest tattoos”, “rose tattoos”, or “tribal tattoos”...whatever stuff you love to look at, we promise we’ve got it.
Step 2. Find an artist or studio
How can I find the right artist or studio?
You can find the right artist or studio by narrowing down what style you want. That way you can choose the perfect artist by looking at their artwork and seeing whether it matches with what you want!
How do I know if the artist is good?
The best way to know if an artist is good is by looking at their portfolio, doing a little research on the studio they work at and checking out reviews. A good artist will work at a clean studio and create great art.
How can I make sure that the studio is good?
You can make sure that the studio is good by looking at reviews on their studio profile. See what other people have to say about their experience! You want to make sure a tattoo studio is clean and respected for the artists who work there.
How can I book an appointment on the Tattoodo app?
You can book an appointment on the Tattoodo app by either directly booking with an artist of your choice or by sending out an open booking to artists in your area. See more info on our Booking page!
Finding an artist or studio should be a lot of fun! The best thing you can do is use the Tattoodo App Booking Feature if you want all of the pressure taken off. There are two options: you can either do an Open Booking or a Direct Booking. These awesome aspects of our app actually make it easy for you to send book a tattoo by sending a request out, with all the details you desire. You can even upload images for the artist to reference!
If you do an Open Booking, your request is sent to all the tattooists on our platform who are within your area. You can then go through tattooist portfolios to find someone who is the perfect fit.
Step 3. Scheduling an appointment: Things to consider
What if it’s not clear how to book?
How to first contact a tattoo artist for an appointment will often be the first thing tattooists mention on their profile but If it’s not clear how to book with an artist make sure you check their profile information again and their personal website before you try reaching out directly. Tattoodo artists will have a large red “Book now” button on the profile. But if it’s not there or there’s no mention of it in their profile, when you reach out directly via email or contact form, just mention you had trouble finding out to book in a polite way and ask them how to do so.
What does closed book tattoo mean?
A closed book means that the tattoo artist is not currently taking bookings. Some artists who are in demand will close their books once their calendar is full for a few months to a few years and then open it again. Make sure you add your name to an artist’s client list so that you’re the first to know when they’re available!
What if I have the artist’s contact details?
If you have the artist’s contact details you should still go through their preferred booking system. This respects how the artist works and they’ll appreciate you for that! Keep in mind, too, that how to make a tattoo appointment is to be as polite as possible to your chosen artist.
What if I want something that day? Can you walk in and get tattoos?
If you want to get something that day you can definitely walk in and get tattoos. However, make sure that the studio of your choice takes walk-ins. Private studios only do custom work for tattoo appointments. Keep in mind, also, that if you specifically want a custom tattoo, that takes longer than a flash tattoo. Flash tattoos are best for day-of tattoo appointments and walk-ins.
How far in advance should I book my tattoo?
You should book your tattoo far enough in advance that you and the artist both have time to prepare. Your preparation includes knowing your budget and the design you want, while the artist has to prepare your unique tattoo for the day of your appointment. If you’re traveling, you can contact the artist and let them know the dates you prefer to see if they’re available.
How long do tattoo appointments take?
The length of a tattoo appointment totally depends on the size, placement, and complexity of your design. Small flash tattoos can take less than an hour, while large tattoos or difficult body placements, such as hands or neck, can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours. For tattoos of that nature, it’s best to set aside a whole day just for your tattoo appointment.
Is it bad to cancel a tattoo appointment?
It isn’t bad to cancel a tattoo appointment as long as you do it well ahead of time and politely. Not showing up for your appointment the day of means that that artist loses time in their studio they set aside just for you so make sure that you give them at least a few days notice so they can fill your spot with someone else who wants a tattoo. The more time you give them, the better it is.
What is a consultation appointment?
A consultation appointment is time spent with a tattoo artist to plan your next piece. This is usually done specifically for custom tattoos. You’ll talk about design details, placement, colors, budget, and more, then figure out a day and time for the actual tattoo appointment that suits both your schedules.
Do I need a consultation before a tattoo?
You will need a consultation before a tattoo if you are getting custom work done. Sometimes this means coming into the shop and other times, especially if you or the artist is traveling, the consultation will be done over messaging or email.
Are tattoo consultations free?
Yes, tattoo consultations are free. However, keep in mind that many artists will ask for a deposit to be put down before scheduling a tattoo appointment. After your tattoo consultation, if you both agree on the design and appointment day/time, the artist will usually ask for a deposit. This is a very common part of how to book a tattoo and it shows the artist you are serious about your commitment.
How to set up a tattoo appointment doesn’t have to be tricky. Many tattooists and shops have a specific set of requests about how to book an appointment. Ideally, this process will be incredibly clear on their profile.
No DM’s sound familiar? It’s true. Many tattooists or shops prefer email, telephone calls, or have a particular contact sheet they want you to fill out. That’s where our “Book Now” button comes in handy...it makes it way easier for the artist to organize your request for a brand new tattoo.
What if you want something that day? That’s not really an appointment, that’s a walk-in. That’s why our Booking Feature is so smart. It makes it clear that you want a tattoo...even if it’s that day. Especially using our Open Booking feature is great, because if an artist has a random opening or cancellation that day, they’ll be able to fit you right in.
Doing your research in the first place is a smart move — you’ll be able to suss out whether the shop even does walk-ins, and if the artist you want to see is available for such a thing.
Heads up: most custom pieces aren’t going to be scheduled, booked, drawn, and done on the same day. Expect some waiting time if you want original art. But if you’re looking for a sweet and quick flash piece to just do the damn thing, we don’t blame ya. Flash tats are rad, and some studios are set up just for that...this is where your research will come in handy!
Step 4. How to message a tattoo artist when booking an appointment?
The question we get asked the most is: How to message a tattoo artist when booking an appointment? And we promise messaging a tattoo artist when booking an appointment doesn’t have to be full of anxiety. Our advice is pretty simple, just like your message should be!
What to email a tattoo artist when booking an appointment:
A simple description of your idea and any photo references you may have.
The size and body part you’d like to have tattooed, as well as your budget.
Any particular style, colors, details, and similar, that you’d like included.
Dates that work well for you.
The best thing to keep in mind when you ask yourself how to message a tattoo artist is: be straight-forward and polite. Keep it short but make sure to include all of the information above plus anything else you think may be relevant.
What if I’m unsure about the size or the placement?
If you’re unsure about the size or placement of the tattoo, that’s okay! Just say so! But we’re pretty sure you probably have an estimate in mind...if you don’t, that’s also okay. The tattoo artist will work with you to figure out a size and a placement for your piece that will work perfectly. It’s part of their job. The same goes for if you’re unsure about colors, design, style, etc. Let the artist work their magic with you!
We totally understand why so many people are confused about how to email a tattoo artist. It’s not always obvious how a tattooist wants to be contacted, and a lot of people don’t really know what to say anyway! And what if it’s not clear how to book? Maybe their profile doesn’t have a “Book Now” button, or they don’t have a bio specifying how they want to be contacted.
If it’s an artist, try to find their email. Keep it short and brief, like: “Hey, I found you on Tattoodo, but I wasn’t sure how to book a tattoo with you. Please let me know what you prefer, and what information you’d like to have.”
The same goes for a shop that doesn’t have contact info. If you can’t find the shop email, feel free to give the shop a call — phone calls are great. Simply say, “Hey, I found you on Tattoodo. I’d like to book a new tattoo.” Again, the key is to be clear, and to the point. Many shops don’t have a shop manager to handle calls, so an artist is probably taking time away from drawing or tattooing to help you. Have your schedule ready to confirm a date, and make sure to write down anything else you’re told.
What if you have the artist’s email, Instagram, Facebook or phone number? Unless you have a special relationship with that tattoo artist or that person is a dear friend, following the rules will make you the best client you can be. And we assume if you’re reading this: that’s exactly what you should do. Tattoo artists’ schedules are whacky and busy, keeping track of multiple forms of communication is exhausting for anybody. By going through the right motions, you ensure you’re on the calendar properly, and it will help everyone out in the long run.
Step 5. Price and Deposit
Can I ask for a price estimate?
You can definitely ask for a price estimate on your tattoo! What may be better, however, is to simply give your budget to the artist so that they can work with what you have. We also have an awesome guide that may help: How Much Does a Tattoo Cost?
Are tattoo prices negotiable?
Tattoo prices can be negotiable, however most of the time they aren’t. Flash tattoos usually have a fixed price, just as tattoo artists often have a fixed hourly rate. The only time a tattoo price will be negotiable is when you’re getting a custom tattoo done. An artist can work within your budget, and you can try to negotiate a price that fits within that...but keep in mind that you should respect what the artist values their work at. Negotiating the price may mean that your custom tattoo will turn out less work-intensive than before, but you can certainly go back and finish the piece when you have more funds available.
What are tattoo deposits for?
Tattoo deposits are for holding your place within a tattoo artist’s calendar. It shows the artist that you are serious about the appointment, and it also protects them if you decide not to show up that day.
How does the deposit work?
Tattoo deposits work like a down payment. They go towards your new piece. Usually, for a custom tattoo, you’ll give the artist a deposit during the consultation and pay the rest of the tattoo price after the tattoo is done. On the Tattoodo App, you can pay a deposit directly to the artist through our booking platform which makes this process even easier for you and the artist!
How much are tattoo deposits usually?
The amount of a tattoo deposit depends on the artist or studio and their hourly rate, but often a tattoo deposit will be around $100.
Does the deposit count towards the tattoo?
Yes, a tattoo deposit counts towards the tattoos. You can pay this directly through the booking flow on our Tattoodo App when you book an appointment with a tattooist.
Do you pay for tattoos in cash?
Yes, often you will pay for tattoos in cash. However, many studios and artists are starting to take digital forms of payment such as through our Tattoodo App booking flow which uses Stripe. Some artists even take PayPal or Bitcoin!
Do you pay for each tattoo session?
Yes, for a large custom project you pay for each tattoo session as you go.
Remember that deposits are there for a reason. In fact, most artists won’t put you on their books without a deposit, especially for custom artwork. Remember, someone is drawing out an original piece of art just for you! Your initial deposit does two things: it pays for the drawing time and that original sketch, and it also guarantees, hopefully, that you’ll show up to your appointment. It might seem weird, but yeah, people bail on their appointments all the time. And it can be truly disheartening. Your money down means that artist’s time isn’t entirely wasted.
Booking your first tattoo appointment can seem daunting, but rest assured, it’s not. Think of your adherence to a shop’s policies and your willingness to follow guidelines set by your artist as ways to build a great new relationship, because the truth is, most folks can’t stick to just one tattoo and a lot of people end up working with only a few artists because they love their work so much!
Step 6. Be prepared for your appointment
Make sure you’re sober and really hydrated
Make sure you’re really hydrated. Don’t go on a bender the night before — alcohol thins the blood. Make sure you’re well-hydrated and bring a water bottle with you just in case. Being hydrated is good for your body overall, but especially for things like pain management. Your skin and blood vessels will thank you.
Eat well and sleep well
You should probably be thinking about this anyway since you’re a human and alive, but just in case sleeping and eating are difficult things to track for you, be extra attentive before your tattoo session. Being nervous about your tattoo appointment can also make you skip this important thing and you don’t want to sit with an empty stomach for several hours while someone works a needle into your skin! You also don’t want to be on only a few hours of sleep. You won’t be able to take the pain with any dignity or patience if you’re hungry and tired. Also...let’s be honest, this is your first tattoo, so you won’t really know how your body will react until it’s happening. With that in mind, it makes sense to be as physically prepared as possible!
Shower and moisturize
Think of your skin as a canvas because that’s what it’s gonna become. You want to have the best canvas prepared for your tattoo artist, so come fresh and clean, and if you’re someone who struggles with dry skin, some light moisturizing will do wonders. Think of hydrating both ways: inside and out.
It may sound a little out there, but meditating, or even just making sure that you’re at peace, can be really helpful, especially when you’re about to get your first tattoo. It can be really exciting, it may give you the jitters, but all that anticipation can hit you pretty hard once you’re under the needle and in pain.
It’s best to stay calm, centered, and remember that the pain is totally worth the art you’re about to have for the rest of your life. So, make sure that you’ve done some mindful self-care the day before your appointment...take a walk, do some yoga, have a smoothie, count your blessings, read a book...whatever you do that works for you to get in an ultra peaceful mode will work wonders, we promise. Remember that physical well-being and psychological well-being almost always go hand in hand.
Think about the timing of your day
Think about the timing for your day. If your session is midday, eat a hearty breakfast. If your session is after work ends for you, make sure you bring snacks and water to be ready. Sometimes life gets you, and you find yourself on your way to a tattoo appointment without doing some of the above things or you may just be scared to get a tattoo; that’s ok, just think of yourself as a tattoo explorer, and get what you need to be prepared! A friend and a tattoo-go-bag will do you right.
Schedule in picking up supplies
You’ll need some specific things for aftercare that you may not already have, so make sure to schedule in picking up supplies. You can always do this after you get your tattoo, but it’s totally up to you! Having some non-fragrance, hypoallergenic soap on hand, preferably in a squirt bottle since bars of soap can carry bacteria, will be great for keeping your new baby clean. No need for towels though! You’re better off air drying your piece rather than rubbing it dry. It is, after all, basically an open wound. Easy does it!
As for lotions or salves, everyone has their own personal secret weapon to fight against the dry itchiness of a new tattoo and to help promote successful healing. I’ve been using Dexeryl for years. Jes loves unrefined, cold-pressed coconut oil. Joe prefers Saniderm. Some people swear by A&D. There are a few shops out there that may send you home with a card or a little care package that includes products they stand behind. With your first tattoo, it’s usually best to stick with what your artist suggests, and as you continue to get more tattoos you’ll find your own personal favorite.
Yes, it will hurt!
“I want a tattoo but I’m scared of the pain” we hear this all the time. The same goes for: “Did it hurt?”...it’s one of the most common questions tattooed folks get from non-tattooed individuals. The answer is always “yes,” it totally hurts. But the key is how much and this is something we can all manage by being prepared, and knowing what to expect. We have a guide called “The Ten Most Painful Places to Get a Tattoo” which can definitely help you out in this area.
Getting prepared is an important piece of this pie and a great way to ease your tattoo anxiety. A lot of people feel nervous about a tattoo appointment and session, especially if it’s their first time, so there’s no need to feel alone! There are a number of ways to manage pain and prepare for sitting for a tattoo session. Everyone is a little bit different, but above are some tried and true ways to take care of those “nervous about first tattoo” jitters.
Step 7. What happens once the appointment is booked?
What else do you need to know once you booked your first appointment?
Since this may be your first tattoo you may wondering what else you need to know once you’ve booked your tattoo appointment. There are a lot of “unspoken rules” you may have heard about, but don’t let that intimidate you! We have a great guide that gives you the Top 10 Tips for Tattoo Etiquette which helps. The best thing to keep in mind when you’re finally in the studio is to be respectful, kind, and patient. The rest will take care of itself.
What happens after you have gotten your tattoo?
After you get your first tattoo, you may have many questions...your artist is there to help guide you. They will always give you a little care card that outlines how to treat your new piece. We also have a guide: How Do I Take Care of My Tattoo? That will certainly help. Feel free to also call the shop afterward if you are having difficulty.
Make sure to also protect your piece from the sun. Once it’s all healed up, use sunscreen every time you know you’ll be in direct sunlight! The better care you take of your new tattoo after your first tattoo appointment, the better your tattoo will heal and age over the years.