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Tattoo Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts in a Tattoo Shop

Stepping into a tattoo shop can feel a bit daunting. From the buzzing of tattoo machines to the fascinating art that adorns the walls, each tattoo shop carries its own distinctive ambiance. But, just as with any place you receive a service, there are unwritten rules to follow; tattoo etiquette. 

tattoo etiquette

So, whether you’re mulling over your first ink, or you’ve already got half your body covered in vibrant designs, here’s a quick guide on how to behave yourself when it comes to tattoo etiquette. 

  • Do your research
  • Don’t be disrespectful
  • Do talk about your ideas
  • Don’t haggle over the price
  • Do take care of your tattoo
  • Don’t forget to tip

Craving a chill, no-sweat tattoo session? Schedule a consultation with us.

Now, let’s answer some common questions.

Can I Bring My Own Design to a Tattoo Shop?

Why yes, you certainly can!

You should have first had a consultation to discuss your ideas, but bringing your own design to the tattoo shop is always an option. This can make your experience more personalized. For tattoo inspiration or just a look at a few style options, check out our work!

But, do remember, your design serves as inspiration for the tattoo artist, not necessarily an exact blueprint. Bringing a picture or drawing lets the artist understand your vision; however, they will need to adapt it to suit their own style and your body contours. 

  • Do: Bring your design in clear, high-quality print or digital format. It helps the artist understand the details and colors better.
  • Don’t: Expect the artist to copy it pixel by pixel. Each artist has a unique style, and the aim should be to draw inspiration from your design rather than recreating it exactly. The artist may also suggest alterations based on technical limitations or aesthetic considerations.

Remember: the tattooing process is a collaborative one. Start with your design but be open to making adjustments along the way as per the tattoo artist’s guidance. They, after all, are the experts in their field. Now, we know you’ve got more questions. We’ll answer them, but if you’re on the hunt for information about the experience, read our article about what getting a tattoo is really like. And, if you’re new to this whole thing, we’ve got all the helpful info you’ll need in our article about getting your first tattoo.

What Should I Wear to a Tattoo Shop?

Getting new ink requires a tad bit of planning, with a pinch of forethought on your wardrobe. You might wonder why! The answer is pretty simple – you want to be comfortable, and your artist needs easy accessibility to the area being tattooed. 


  • Make the location of your tattoo easily accessible and visible. If it’s an arm tattoo, a tank top will do, and if it’s around the ankle, shorts are preferable. 
  • Wear something comfortable as you may be sitting for an extended period of time.


  • Wear tight fitting clothes. Make sure you wear something loose-fitting like sweatpants or gym shorts.
  • Wear clothes that you would mind getting ink-stained because, well, accidents can happen!

If you’ve got questions before your appointment or want to know more about how to prepare, contact us!

what to wear to get a tattoo

Can I Bring a Friend with Me to the Tattoo Shop?

So, you’re planning to hit the tattoo shop and you’re wondering: can you bring a sidekick along for the ride? There’s no set rule against bringing a friend to a tattoo shop, but there are some important tattoo etiquette tips to keep in mind. 

First, space is often limited. Tattoo shops aren’t always sprawling, roomy places. They are often compact and designed for focused work. Bringing along a party of pals can crowd the space and make it difficult for the artist to do their job. 

Second, other customers also have a right to their privacy. Some people are comfortable getting inked in front of an audience, while others prefer a more private session. Respect the comfort zones of others in the shop by not turning your appointment into a social gathering. 

Third, silence is golden. As supportive as your friend may be, they should know when to zip it up. Constant chatter can be distracting to the artist and to you. After all, getting a tattoo requires concentration from both parties. 

If you do decide to bring a friend: 

  • Ask the tattoo shop first. They might have a policy in place.
  • Bring just one friend. Any more can become overwhelming.
  • Your companion should be supportive, quiet, and respectful of the space and other people in the shop.

Remember, a tattoo shop isn’t the same as your local coffee shop – it’s a professional setting. So while you can bring a friend along, make sure they understand the rules of tattoo etiquette.

If it makes you feel any better, the best tattoo shops will be kind and lighthearted about answering questions about things of this nature.

best tattoo shops west hollywood

What Should I Do if I Need a Break During the Session?

It’s okay to need a quick breather now and then. The key is communication and respect for the artist’s time and work. 

If you’re feeling a bit antsy, start by saying, “Hey, I need a small break, please.” Convey it respectfully and understand they’re providing a service that requires concentration, much like a surgeon. 

Keep your breaks brief and sparse. Use this time to stretch or use the restroom, nothing much more.

  • You’re 100% entitled to ask for a breather if you need one, but consider limiting these breaks to instances you absolutely need one to avoid disrupting the flow of work.
  • If you foresee needing regular breaks due to health issues or pain threshold, discuss this with your tattoo artist beforehand. This way, they can plan around it and accommodate you.
  • Never leave the shop during your break without informing your tattoo artist first. This isn’t a game of hide-and-seek!

Every artist and shop have their own norms and protocols when it comes to breaks, so it’s best to clarify at the beginning of your session. In the end, it’s all about mutual respect, and your comfort is part of that equation as well.

Is it Bad Tattoo Etiquette to ask the Artist to Change My Design?

You know, tattoo artists are a rather cool breed. They’re artists, sure, but they’re also in the business of bringing ink and skin together in beautiful harmony. So, is it rude to ask him or her to alter the design they’ve worked up for you? Not at all! However, there is a right and wrong way to do it, as they say. 

Before you go in, make sure you have a good idea of what you want. Our portfolio is a great place to start. So is the artist’s Instagram for a solid idea of what they’re capable of coming up with.

Etiquette Tip 1: Run your revision request smoothly. If you have any modifications or rearrangements in mind, don’t hold back! Just make sure that you articulate your needs with respect and patience. And preferably, you’ve set the appointment long enough after you’ve made a final decision about the design and you are confident in it.

Etiquette Tip 2: What if the tattoo artist already started the tattoo? Yikes! The part is tricky. If they’ve just begun, it might be possible for them to adapt, but sometimes, there’s not much that can be done. In this case, express your concerns honestly but graciously. They might be able to recommend a method for adjusting the design in the following session or suggest a cover-up down the line. One thing you won’t be able to do is adjust the tattoo placement, though.

Etiquette Tip 3: Realize that major changes may mean extra work, and frequently, extra work means extra bucks. If your revision request turns into a significant overhaul, be prepared to pay for the additional time and effort on the artist’s part. 

fine line hummingbird tattoo

Chances are, if you were a walk in instead of an appointment, changing your design probably feels more complicated. We would highly recommend being 100% certain about your design choice and make changes before you get tattooed. For a wider range of knowledge about that process, read our article on how walk in tattoo shops work.

To sum up, is it rude to ask your tattoo artist to change the design? Not necessarily. How you approach the request makes all the difference. Always communicate with kindness, patience, and respect, because remember, they want you to walk away with a piece of art that you truly love. 

Can I Listen to Music or Bring Headphones to the Shop?

The answer is not a straight yes or no, it highly depends on the shop rules and the artist’s preferences. 

Generally, tattoo artists understand that getting inked can be a nerve-racking experience. For many, music is a great stress reliever. It can help calm the nerves, distract from the discomfort, or just make the time pass more quickly. So, they often don’t mind if you bring in headphones to listen to your own music during the session. But proper tattoo etiquette is to keep your volume at a level where you can still hear your artist if they need to give you instructions or ask questions. 

Also note that many artists might prefer to play their own music in the shop. After all, a tattoo parlor is their domain; it’s where they create, and the atmosphere plays a big part in that. You can comment on the music being played but it’s not the best tattoo etiquette to ask them to change it.

Here’s the golden rule: always ask. It’s simple tattoo etiquette. Before plugging in and tuning out, ask your artist if they’re okay with it. You wouldn’t want to come off as disrespectful. 

And don’t forget to keep the head-nodding and foot-tapping to a minimum; remember they’re working on a living canvas here! 

Is it Acceptable Tattoo Etiquette to Make Small Talk With the Artist?

Ah, the art of conversation. Any anxious soul might be wondering, “Is it cool to chit-chat with your tattoo artist while they’re carving a masterpiece into your skin?” Well, like everything, It depends. Tattoo artists are people, too. Ones who come with a range of personalities. Some may appreciate the light banter to break up their day, while others might prefer to stay focused and let their work do the talking. Ultimately, it’s essential that you respect their preferred style. 

Prop tip: Yelp and other review platforms can be a great place to find other customer’s experiences and they just might share what sitting in that artist’s chair was like!

The Honorable Society_West Hollywood_realism_butterfly tattoo

Making the First Move 

Feeling out the situation is a good first step, usually with a comment about the weather, the music, or tattoos. If your artist is chirpy and initiates conversation, then by all means, chat away. They are likely trying to ease your nerves, create a friendly environment, or simply pass the time. 

Reading Signs 

On the other hand, if they’re not making much conversation or seem deeply focused on their work, don’t push it. tattoo etiquette is remembering that they are performing a precise and demanding task that requires a good deal of concentration. You can always ask, “Do you mind if I chat, or would you prefer to concentrate?” They’ll appreciate your consideration, and you’ll have your answer. 

Keep it Simple 

If it turns out small talk is welcomed, remember to keep it light. Discussing your favorite burger joint or the latest Marvel movie? Totally cool. Voicing your existential crisis or detailing your most recent break-up? Perhaps save it for brunch with friends. Let’s consider the tattoo studio a ‘light topics only’ zone. This is a great time to mention their work you saw on Instagram and compliment them on their skills!

More important than tattoo etiquette is that you’re comfortable and the artist can perform their best work. 

Can I Bring Snacks or Drinks to the Tattoo Shop?

Most tattoo shops don’t have an outright policy against bringing in food or beverages. It’s a long process, and it’s natural to feel peckish in between. However, there are some guidelines you should consider. The first tattoo etiquette tip for earing is always to ask!

  • Keep it clean: Tattoo areas need to be immaculate to avoid any risk of infection. So, whatever food or drinks you bring, make sure they’re not messy or crumby. This isn’t the place to try your luck with a bowl of spaghetti or a large, easy-to-spill drink.
  • Be considerate: Remember, a tattoo shop isn’t a picnic spot. Avoid strong-smelling foods that might leave a lingering odor in the shop. It can be a distraction and is likely to disturb the artist and the other clients. This isn’t just poor tattoo etiquette, this goes for just about anywhere!
  • Stay hydrated: It’s a good idea to bring a water bottle, like anywhere. Some clients also bring sports drinks to replenish their electrolytes during long sessions.

Ultimately, you should communicate with your artist or the shop before making any decisions. They may have their own rules, and seeking clarity in advance will help keep the session smooth and comfortable for you both.

Is it Appropriate to Haggle or Negotiate the Price of a Tattoo?

No, not really.

The price of a tattoo is generally set based on the artist’s experience, the complexity of the design, and the time it will take to complete. It’s their livelihood and a tattoo is a piece of art that you’ll wear forever. It’s not really like haggling over a piece of pottery at a flea market. 

However, you’re not entirely without options.

If the price quoted feels out of your budget, it’s fine to discuss this with the artist. They might be able to suggest changes to the design that might bring the cost down. This can include simplifying the design, reducing its size, or possibly removing some colors. 

One important piece of tattoo etiquette to keep in mind: please do not insult or offend the tattoo artist by unreasonably trying to undercut their rates. Also, it’s not in good taste to negotiate a lower rate and then not tip. 

If the price is well above your budget, you might have to save up a little longer, or perhaps choose a smaller, simpler piece of art. Remember, a good tattoo isn’t cheap, and a cheap tattoo isn’t good.

Consider your tattoo as an investment in yourself and choose wisely. The best tattoo shops are worth the extra money! For help with what to look out for on your hunt for the right place, read our article on how to find the best tattoo shops.

Should I Tip My Tattoo Artist?

Alright, this is the make-or-break question that may have been eating away at you: to tip or not to tip your tattoo artist? In short, it’s advisable and courteous to tip your tattoo artist, we highly recommend it and they always deeply appreciate it.

Hold on, hold on, we’re not done yet. You may wonder, What’s the standard percentage? How much should I give? The customary tipping rate in many tattoo shops is similar to what you’d tip your waiter in a restaurant: about 20 percent of the total cost of the service provided. 

Tattooing isn’t merely a service; it’s an art form requiring years of meticulous craftsmanship. Your artist has undergone countless hours of training and practice so they can safely ink your body with a piece of art that lasts a lifetime. Therefore, a suitable tip is seen as an affirmation of their talent and expertise. 

But the question of tipping isn’t just a numbers game; it’s a gesture of gratitude. If your tattoo artist invested time into making your experience comfortable, took steps to ensure you got the best possible result, or if the completed tattoo simply blew you away, a tip is a fantastic way to express your appreciation. Tattoo etiquette or just general manners for any service you pay for in the states, this is a nice way to show you really enjoyed someone’s work!

Although it’s your decision whether to tip or not, doing so certainly benefits your rapport with the artist. You’re likely to get the best possible service in future appointments. 

So, if you’re counting, keep a little extra in your budget for the well-warranted gratuity.

Do Get a Tattoo With Us

So there you have it, the unofficial, unspoken rules of tattoo etiquette fit for any shop! Now that you’ve got all the information you need, schedule a consultation with us at The Honorable Society! We look forward to providing you with top-notch service and making the experience a breeze.

And, if you’re feeling spontaneous one day, we welcome walk ins!

best tattoo shops west hollywood

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