Talking Art with Your Tattooer

Talking Art with Your Tattooer

Getting art on your body can be a challenge if you’re not very visual. We’re here to help.

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.

Sometimes you know exactly what you want your tattoo to be — and your artist says it won’t work. Sometimes you just have a feeling inside your head and heart, and aren’t sure how to even express what you want it to look like. Sometimes you walk into a shop and the art on the walls moves you so much, you have to forgo your own original work in honor of that tattoo artist’s flash. Regardless of how you come to your tattoo, there’s going to be some conversation and negotiation with your artist about what’s possible. Here are some conversational do’s and don’ts so you can be the best client.

1. DO: Bring references of what you’re picturing.

We recommend bringing photos (a nice Google Image Search will do) of the objects or themes you want in your tattoo. You can bring images from other tattoo artists, but only to explain what sort of feel you’re going for.

2. DON’T: Ask your artist to directly copy someone else’s work or photo.

Art is about interpretation. Unless you’re going for a realistic portrait of your newborn nephew, don’t ask your artist to copy something directly onto your skin. You came to them for a reason, let their artistic sensibilities shine. That being said, if you’re going for a pop culture portrait or a shot from a movie, bring a few options of the character or celebrity you want on your skin. Directly recreating a shot from a movie is doable, but give your artist some options to work with. They’ll be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t work depending on placement, lighting, and a multitude of other things that affect a good realism tattoo.

3. DO: Ask for what you want.

This is going to be on your body forever. While it can be hard to use words to express what can happen artistically, try, and if you don’t like the direction of the art, that’s okay. As long as you’re respectful, you can meet your artist in the middle, and both of you can properly collaborate on your tattoo.

4. DON’T: Demand tiny changes over and over.

Don’t overly art direct your tattoo artist. Trust their ability to take your references and meet your vision. Ask about why your artist made certain choices, rather than take issue with them immediately, and you’ll be able to understand the work better. Skin isn’t paper — there are logistical, practical decisions your artist is making as well as artistic ones. Proper research about an artist’s style will help you with this one.

5. DO: Remember time is money.

You can make changes and you can ask for redraws — but expect to pay for them. The time your artist spends drawing before they tattoo you is a valuable part of the process. Their time is just as valuable, so make sure to budget properly for potential redraws, and remember to tip.

This is more than just an exchange of money for goods. You’re not buying a coffee from your local coffee shop — you’re getting original, beautiful art permanently inscribed on your body. The creative process is going to be more intimate and should be more respectful than your usual customer service experience, for both the client and the artist. Be the best client you can be by doing your research up front, gathering references before your initial consultation, and being a good listener when your artist explains their work.

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