Getting tattooed is a serious decision, because that piece of art will most likely stay with you the rest of your life. That's why it makes sense to ask plenty of questions when you finally choose an artist for your design. Just avoid the questions tattoo artists hate getting asked, and chances are you'll be golden.
For the most part, though, you should feel free to ask your tattoo artist about most anything, because they want work with happy clients. In an industry where word-of-mouth recommendations matter, tattoo artists have a vested interest in making sure you absolutely love your design. After all, your awesome tattoo just might inspire the next person to seek out that artist.
That said, there are a few questions that come across as rude or even potentially dangerous. That's why it's wise to make sure you aren't prodding into the topics tattoo artists would rather avoid.
To learn more, Romper spoke with Mehai Bakaty of Fineline Tattoo, NYC's oldest tattoo shop. A tattoo artist with over 25 years of experience, Bakaty has created some seriously gorgeous pieces over the years. Here's what Bakaty and his peers had to say about the questions that tattoo artists have heard a few too many times.
1"How Small Can You Make This?"
Tiny tats can be beautiful, but there's a limit to how small you can go. 'How small can you make this?' is something Bakaty hears all the time, which he says is an understandable question in itself. "But people in general don’t seem to understand that there are limitations, and the body is organic and changes," says Bakaty. "Often when lines are too close together they can bleed into each other over time and make the design unreadable, an issue even more important with lettering." If your artist recommends a larger design, you can rest assured that they only have your best interest in mind.
2"Can You Come Down On The Price?"
Oof. Trying to negotiate the price with your artist is super rude. Remember the old saying: "good tattoos aren't cheap, and cheap tattoos aren't good," as noted in Tattoo Artist Magazine. Plus, it takes a lot of time, effort, and work to become a skilled tattoo artist, so respect their prices.
3"Do You Tattoo Genitalia?"
Generally, no. Most tattoo shops won't do this, or they will charge a substantial fee, as noted in a Vice article. You'll have to ask around a bit to find someone who will do this work, so don't just assume that the neighborhood tattoo shop will be down to draw a piece on your privates. I mean, consider the liability.
4"Will You Copy Another Artist's Work?"
Copying work is a hot topic in the tattooing community. It's referred to as "one of the biggest no-nos when it comes to tattooing" in Inked Magazine, because the copies cheapen the original artist's hard work. Just pick a piece of flash instead, or work with your artist to design a custom tattoo.
5"Does It Hurt?"
How often do tattoo artists hear this one? "Yes it hurts," says Bakaty. "Of course it hurts, but it’s not really all that bad. And when it’s over you get to wear it the rest of your life like a badge of honor." For people who love tattoos, the temporary pain is worth enduring.
6"What Should I Get?"
It isn't uncommon to want a tattoo, but have some trouble deciding what design to get. Putting the total decision into the artist's hands isn't that fair, though. If you're in a bind, then reviews artist portfolios, tattoo pics, and even images of things you enjoy online, according to Cousin Paul's Tattoo Company. It helps to have a pretty clear idea of what you want before asking for your artist to come up with an original design.
7"Can I Get Tattooed While Drunk?"
No. "Legally, you can't tattoo someone who [you can tell] is drunk," said tattoo artist Baz Shailes in Allure. "If anyone's drinking, I would never tattoo them." If you absolutely cannot face the tattoo machine while sober, then maybe tattooing isn't for you.
8"Will You Tattoo My SO's Name?"
This request puts your artist in an awkward position, because getting a significant other's name tattooed has a bad connotation. In fact, there's even a belief that getting a partner's name tattooed on you dooms the relationship, according to The Conversation. The names of your children, or even your own name, are much safer choices.
9"Can I Get It RIGHT NOW?"
Sure, you can call around and find shops that do walk-in tattoos (most likely flash). It can be fun to stroll in and pick a design on a whim. But for any kind of custom work, be patient. Many tattoo artists have waiting lists for months in advance, as noted in Fuse. Chances are, though, their talents are worth the wait.
10"Why Won't You Tattoo That?"
A tattoo artist has the right to refuse any piece. "Every artist has his or her own politics and belief system within tattoos," Matthew Marcus, owner of Three Kings tattoo studio, said in The Guardian. "Whether it be hands and necks, or it’s the type of imagery. What do I do if someone comes in and they want a racist tattoo? Or a sexist or homophobic one?" If one particular artist just won't do the neck tattoo you want, then respect their boundaries.
11Can I Bring A Support Crew?
Call ahead and make sure the shop is OK with a friend coming to your appointment. Tattoo artist Holly Astral has found that many clients will sit better without a friend right next to them. Work with your artist's preference.
12Can You Tattoo Over My Rash?
If something funky is going on with your skin, see a dermatologist first. Once you have more info about the condition, then you'll know whether it's wise to go ahead with the tattoo. For instance, some people with psoriasis have gotten tattoos with advice and supervision from a doctor, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Just don't roll into the tattoo shop with a mystery rash, because most artists will have to turn you away.
13"Can You Change The Design (While The Tattoo Is In Progress)?"
Provide all the necessary feedback about your proposed tattoo while it's still in sketch or stencil mode. And don't be shy during this time, because tattoo artists welcome your honest feedback on the design, according to Tattoo Experiences. But if you wait until the tattoo machine comes out to start making serious revisions, it may be difficult or even impossible for the artist to make changes at that point.
In general, as long as you're respectful, open, and communicative with your tattoo artist, you should have a great experience while adding a new piece of art to your body. Enjoy the process.
After a very frustrating first birth experience, this Deaf mother wanted a change. Will the help of two Deaf doulas give the quality communication and birth experience this mom wants and deserves? Watch Episode Four of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below, and visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes.