In case you're wondering, YES...there are some customs to follow when dealing with your tattoo artist...we'll call it "Tattoo Etiquette." Here are some things you'll need to consider on Tattoo Day:
As I've pointed out, some tattoo artists LOVE to fall back on Tattoo Flash. It's the quickest buck they can make, and they all know it.
HAVING SAID THAT, the good ones would prefer that you make their job interesting and challenging. That doesn't mean they want to have to read your mind...it means they want you to tell them what you want so that they can tap into their creativity and deliver THEIR professional vision of what your ink can be.
Trust me on this...a good tattoo artist can take your great idea and make it even better than you imagined!
This is their job! It's what makes tattoo artistry so fun and professionally rewarding to so many great artists out there. Don't deprive them of this chance to shine! Chances are, they've had several recent less-than-stellar experiences with customers.
You can make their day...and get some crazy great ink for your trouble! Not a bad deal all around.
There are those out there who believe that tattoo etiquette is opposed to any negotiation...as if it will diminish the relationship between artist and customer (you).
I disagree with this notion to some extent.
If they are strict in their policy of charging an hourly fee, and can give you an estimate on time (hence an estimated final price) then there may be no room for bartering.
If, on the other hand, they are willing to give you a family discount (say your wife or sibling comes for a tattoo as well) or the artist is willing to give you any sort of "package deal" for multiple designs, there is no harm in asking for some consideration.
Some may even give a better price for "cash only." Hmmm...wonder why they'd do that?
In any case, make sure to let them know (nicely) that you will be tipping generously based on their final no-doubt awesome product. Nothing wrong with a little motivation!
Okay, so while we're on the subject of tipping...remember that tattoo artists are, first and foremost, ARTISTS...that means they are (or should be) proud of their work, and the best way for you to show your appreciation is to follow good tattoo etiquette and reward them accordingly.
The rule of thumb is to tip between 10% (for satisfactory work) and 20% (for excellent ink). Heck, if it REALLY knocks your socks off, feel free to tip a lot more...even up to an additional 100% if you think you got a ridiculously awesome tat and you think you'll be back again.
You WILL be wearing this for the rest of your life, so a few hundred bucks is a small price to pay.
Unless they own the shop, these tattoo artists only earn a fraction of the rate they charge. And if you should want to come back for MORE ink in the near future, they WILL remember a generous customer...and that can only help with the artists motivation to do his/her very best for you.
It's true...getting your ideas to your tattoo artist, only to have him/her redraw the idea with their own vision, illustrates THE BEST artist/customer relationship model.
BUT, some rather shady folks get the artist to create the design for them -- only to ditch the artist and take the design elsewhere (or nowhere). This is NOT good tattoo etiquette...in fact, it is pretty lame on several levels.
Like YOUR time, THEIR time is also valuable. Unless the design (and their talent) is utterly horrendous (which does happen), give them the opportunity to take your constructive criticism, fix the issue, and continue with them. If they are not willing to do that, your conscience should be clear and you really should move on.
Lots of advice out there claiming that you should NEVER bring a wingman, family member, colleague etc to your appointment. I disagree with this to a degree as well.
Look, it's not cool to "gang up" on your tattoo artist...and it simply won't help him/her hook you up with the crazy cool ink you'd hoped for if you subject him/her to the Spanish Inquisition. Who needs the pressure?
However, if you take ONE person with you who can help you make decisions and perfect the placement, I say why not? If your pal (boyfriend, wife, cousin etc) is cool and positive (and NOT a distraction), why not employ a trusted second set of eyes (and opinions)?
They don't even have to stay with you the whole time...maybe just help you start out, then check in on you a little later?
Bottom line: Ask your tattoo artist how he/she feels about it...chances are, the artist will be cool with one (or even two) of your buds or family members.