Have you ever had the sudden urge to get a tattoo? If you’ve ever thought about going into a tattoo shop on a whim and scratching that spontaneous ink itch, a walk in tattoo shop might interest you.
This guide explains what it is, how it works, the benefits, and what makes walk in tattoo shops such a fun experience. To see what getting a walk in tattoo is like in our shop, read our article on walk ins.
What Exactly is a Walk In Tattoo Shop?
Just as the name implies, a walk in tattoo shop is an establishment where you can literally walk in and get a tattoo without any prior scheduling or appointment. It’s a perfect setup for those who enjoy the excitement of spontaneity and convenience.
But don’t be mistaken, just because a tattoo shop offers walk ins, doesn’t mean that’s all they do. In fact, if you choose to go as a walk in, you’ll be fit in that same day around their already scheduled appointments. More often than not, you won’t be able to get inked the minute you step foot in the shop; you’ll likely have to wait a while. Think of this as a plus side, though! This gives you more time to decide on your design, talk to the artist, and make any potential needed changes. Whether you’re walking in or looking to make an appointment, our article on how to find the best tattoo shops is a helpful read.
So, How Does it Work?
It’s pretty straightforward. Upon entering the shop, you may be greeted by an array of readily available tattoo designs, also known as flash designs. If you don’t see any, just ask the first person you see! (Props to shops that have someone manning the front desk!)
You can browse through these designs and choose the one that strikes your fancy, and these days, you also can often find designs by the artists on their social media pages. You can sometimes work with the tattoo artist to create a more personalized design and, of course, you also have the option to bring in your own design.
However, if you’re expecting a customized design, they may tell you to schedule an appointment instead as the process for customizing a tattoo can take longer than they have time to spend. Occasionally, you can get away with a small, customized design if you already have it mostly drawn up. The artist, with all of their skills and knowledge, will likely make some recommendations to improve the design or better fit their schedule to get you tattooed the same day. If you want to go in with some extra knowledge, we recommend reading our article about what it’s like getting a tattoo.
Now, you might be thinking, “Isn’t it risky to not have an appointment?” It might seem so, but walk in tattoo shops are staffed with experienced tattoo artists, just like anywhere else…or at least, they should be. Hence, while you may not always get your first-choice artist, rest assured you’d be inked by a highly skilled individual. Just be sure you do your research about the shop before you go:
- Read reviews on sites like Google and Yelp
- Check their social media pages like Instagram to see their artists’ skill levels (you never know who will be available at the time you walk in, so it’s important to be confident in the shop you’re going to!)
The bottom line: walk in tattoo shops do not only offer convenience but also allow for a sense of exploration and spontaneity that you wouldn’t usually find in a traditional tattoo shop. They cater to both tattoo aficionados and first-timers with the option to choose from an array of designs and the ability to get tattooed on a whim.
Tattoo Shops vs Private Studio – Can I Walk In?
It’s pretty common these days to find an artist you like on Instagram or other social media platforms and want their art on your body immediately. However, it’s important to know whether they work in a retail tattoo shop (sometimes referred to as a “street shop”) or a private studio. The major difference, for the purpose of this article, is between which accept walk ins and which do not. And, more often than not, private studios do not.
For more details, take a look at our article outlining the differences between retail and private.
Retail Tattoo Shops
Retail tattoo shops have quite a distinctive character; these are what you picture when you think of a tattoo shop – buzzing with tattoo machines and covered in visuals. They are brick-and-mortar establishments usually nestled in shopping areas, often high-traffic spots where footfall is high (especially if they accept walk ins). The broad service range at retail tattoo shops can include both pre-designed tattoos and unique, custom pieces.
There is generally an in-house team of artists, often each having their distinctive styles and specializations. While retail tattoo shops frequently welcome walk ins, appointments are also commonplace for more complex or time-intensive designs. This hybrid operation mode offers customers flexibility.
Private Tattoo Studio
So, why the major difference? The creative process! Private tattoo studios often cater to a particular genre of tattoo art and might majorly be committed to custom designs, meaning artists can take their time for research, design, and preparation. It also means walk ins might not be welcome!
Important Things to Know
If you happen to come across an artist you really like on social media or elsewhere, you should first find out if they work in their own private studio or at a retail shop. This will determine your ability to get tattooed by them as artists in private studios often have periods of time where they take appointments, fill up slots for months at a time sometimes, and then close their books to the public.
Your ability to walk into a shop unannounced is contingent upon the shop not being completely booked up. If you’re curious about specifics, read our article that goes more into depth on ***how tattoo shops run*** and what the terms of the industry mean.
As for a studio, they often only take appointments when their books are “open”
- Books Open: The studio is accepting new bookings. This usually happens one of two ways:
- Books are open for a period of time, such as the next 24 hours, and whatever gets filled is what they’ve got.
- Books are open to fill slots for an upcoming period of time, such as the next 6 months.
- Books Closed: This artist is booked out, probably far in advance, and isn’t currently taking appointments.
Response times for artists can sometimes be slow but they will provide you with a well-thought-out, fully customized design in their style specialty.
If you’re looking to get tattooed right away or be able to just walk in and pick something, a retail shop is likely the route for you. And just to be clear, a street shop is just as capable of providing you with a one-of-a-kind piece given a little notice!
The Unique Appeal of Walk In Tattoo Shops
There’s something about walking into a tattoo shop and hearing the buzzing over some music, seeing all the art on the walls and tables, and knowing that you’ve been waiting for weeks to get new art on your skin. But how much cooler is it to be able to get that experience as a last-minute decision?
Imagine you’re walking down, say, Santa Monica Blvd, and you see this tattoo shop that looks so cool and inviting. The art on their walls is extensive and you just feel a flash of inspiration and an inclination to go in there and get tattooed. What would it feel like to have that urge immediately satisfied?
Often located in areas that are busy or walkable, these studios are easily accessible for you to simply pass by and make a last-minute decision to get tattooed.
Walk in or not, the charm of tattoo shops often lies in their vibe, covered in a treasure trove of fascinating designs and decor. Not to mention, the walk in tattoo shop experience resonates with the dynamic, on-the-go culture of today. Never missing a heartbeat, these establishments are typically buzzing with energy and creative vibes. While they don’t completely do away with waiting times and appointment booking processes, they are embracing those who seize last-minute bursts of creativity.
Beyond being a canvas for artistic expression, walk in tattoo shops are also hubs for community interaction. The tattoo artists not only bring your ideas to life but also guide you through the process, ensuring your comfort at every stage. And, if the shop is any good, you may experience people.
Meeting New Artists
By choosing walk in tattoo shops, you not only support local artists but also have the opportunity to access an unparalleled selection of skilled tattoo artists. You will encounter artists with different backgrounds, experiences, and artistic approaches, making each visit an exciting and unique experience.
With such a diverse group of artists, you can find someone who specializes in the style you desire, ensuring that your tattoo is a true reflection of your personality and taste. You may even discover a new style or theme that inspires your new body art.
Spontaneous and Inspired
Don’t you just love those moments when a light bulb flickers on inside your head, and you suddenly think, “Yes, that’s exactly what I need!” Walk in tattoo shops are made for such electrifying bouts of spontaneity.
If you’ve meandered into a tattoo parlor on a whim, you’re probably seeing various sheets of art hanging on the walls – artistic arrays showcasing different styles, motifs, and colors. Your eyes catch a design that speaks to you. It’s daring, unique, fun – whatever strikes your fancy, and just like that, a fresh wave of ideas wash over you!
You transcend the usual route of pondering for weeks or months over a chosen design. Instead, you lean into a mix of adrenaline, gut instincts, and an enthralling sense of immediacy. This approach isn’t for everyone, but the
The Convenience Factor
This convenience is especially beneficial for spontaneous individuals who want to get a tattoo on a whim or for those who have a sudden burst of inspiration. You don’t have to worry about booking appointments or going through a lengthy consultation process.
In addition to their convenience, the accessibility of walk in tattoo shops makes them a true game changer. These shops are often located in busy areas or prominent locations, making them easily accessible to a wide range of people. Whether you’re a local resident or a tourist exploring a new city, you can easily stumble upon a tattoo shop accepting walk ins and fulfill your desire for a new tattoo.
Setting Realistic Expectations
All tattoo shops typically employ experienced artists who boast a wide range of abilities and styles. From simplistic, minimalistic designs to photorealistic tattoos, there’s something for everyone!
However, it’s crucial that you manage your expectations for what is possible during a walk in session. If you’re hoping to get something abstract and entirely unique, this may not be the ideal situation for you. We want you to come out of every tattoo session feeling ecstatic about what you got! So, if you have high expectations for a big, fully customized tattoo, we recommend booking an appointment or scheduling a consultation before you simply walk in.
Here are a couple of tips for the perfect walk in tattoo session:
- Think small: tattoos that are small-scale can still have a certain level of intricacy yet are quick enough to accomplish in one go, between the shop’s daily appointments.
- Think simple: If you want something bigger or a placement that requires a little extra room, your design should be on the simpler side.
In need of tattoo ideas? Check out our work.
What Kind of Tattoo Can I Get as a Walk In?
Despite having some limitations, walk in sessions can still have a ton of style and placement choices available to you. It’s important that you discuss how much time you have and how much money you’re looking to spend with your artist. This way, there is no miscommunication about expectations. For a good idea of what to expect from our shop, check out our walk in page.
Here are a few tattoo styles we think work perfectly for walk in tattoo shops:
- Fine Line: A small fine line tattoo still carries tons of detail and shading. These are a beautiful addition to anyone’s arm, hand, or neck.
- Watercolor: If splashes of vibrant color are your thing, a watercolor tattoo is perfect for nearly anywhere on your skin.
- Minimalist: Simple, clean, and stylish are the top characteristics of a minimalist tattoo. Sometimes a bit abstract but always easy to accomplish at a walk in tattoo shop.
- Script: If you’ve got something to say, we’re here to help you say it. Write your words of wisdom on your wrist, arm, leg, side…you name it and a script tattoo can fit.
- Traditional: Want a heart dedicated to your mom on your shoulder or a small swallow on your forearm? A traditional, old-school tattoo is your best bet, and provided the size is right, perfect for a walk in.
Depending on your artist and your time slot, more or less might be possible for you to get, but we think it’s important to have a good understanding of your options.
Final Tips for a Successful Walk In Tattoo Shop Experience
First and foremost, come with an open mind! Remember, this is a walk in, so the design of your tattoo may not be as personalized or intricate as it could be in a booked appointment. The artist might not have enough time to draw up something super complex on the spot. However, this is part of the charm of walk ins, it’s about the excitement and getting something new!
- Research: Even though you’re going for a walk in, it doesn’t mean you can’t do a bit of research. Look up the tattoo shop, check out their artist profiles, and take a peek at their portfolios. It’s always good to have some background information! Our Instagram is a great place to start.
- Hydrate and Eat: Make sure you are well-hydrated and had a good meal before going for a tattoo. You may find that you’re waiting in there a while and don’t want to be stuck hungry.
- The Right Clothing: Wear clothes that are comfortable and provide easy access to the area you want tattooed. If you’re thinking of a thigh tattoo, shorts would be the way to go. Bonus tip: dark clothing is more forgiving to any accidental ink stains.
Appointments Recommended, Not Necessary
At The Honorable Society in West Hollywood, we can often easily make room for same-day appointments.
For more information, contact us.
If you’d like to get something more intricate and customized, schedule with us and we will walk you through the process.
We hope our shop on Santa Monica Blvd catches your eye and look forward to seeing you stop by!