tattoo clients

Warning Signs That a Tattoo Shop May Not Be Clean.

Warning Signs That a Tattoo Shop May Not Be Clean.

Most people venturing out for a new tattoo are focused on the process of getting a tattoo, not how clean the tattoo shop is. The pain, the possible bad mood of the artist, how much to tip… it can be a crisis for some people. On top of that, you are permanently marking your body and in doing so, opening yourself up to possible infectious agents that can cause discomfort, illness, possibly hospitalization and worse yet, death.

Take one stressor off your plate and make sure the tattoo shop you are going to is clean before committing to that new tattoo. Here are a few things to look for when walking into a tattoo shop to determine if it is clean or not.

  • The tattoo shop looks dirty –

Dirty Tattoo Shop

https://i.imgur.com/BI7JXfH.jpg

If you walk into a tattoo shop and you see visible dirt, dust on surfaces, unwashed floors or overflowing garbage cans, it’s time to leave.

  • Food in the tattooing area –

Food is not permitted in work areas, regardless how small the shop is. 

  • It stinks, and not the good, clean stink –

Overflowing garbage dump

If you walk into a shop and the smell of something foul overtakes your senses, there is a good chance that shop has not been cleaned well enough to ensure safe tattooing.

  • Handling products without gloves –

Image result for tattoo no gloves

The use of disposable gloves are ubiquitous in the body modification industry and should be changed regularly. If you see artists setup for your tattoo without wearing gloves, or handle products to be used in a tattoo without gloves, something is afoot. Handling objects without proper barriers increases the chances of cross contamination, which in turn points to a dirty tattoo shop.

  • Their setup should include barrier films and plastic covers – 

tattoo barriers

Creating a barrier from potentially infectious materials coming into contact with commonly used products or tools are a minimum safe practice for tattooers. These barriers need to be new and freshly applied to all surfaces, machines, bottles, clipcords and other things during the tattoo process. If the shop you walk into doesn’t seem to use barrier films, chances are that it can be considered less clean than other tattoo shops.

  • Staff that are visibly ill – 

sick person

You don’t want to work with an artist who has diarrhea, is vomiting or is coughing all over the place. Healthcare can cost a lot so don’t put yourself in a position that costs you time and money. Stay away from shops that have fallen ill. It should go without saying that you should stay away from tattoo shops if you feel sick.

  • The shop should give you a full tour –

All tattoo shops should be appreciative of the discerning clients want to explore the shop. If they process items onsite (onsite sterilization), have them show you their machine, sterilization logs and explain their practices. If they refuse to do so, be wary of how clean the shop may be. 

  • Single use means single use – 

Image result for single use tattoo supplies

Most of the products that come into contact with your skin during a tattoo procedure are single-use. Ask to check the expiration dates on single-use items like needles, disposable supplies and ink. If a shop is willing to use products that are expired, or attempts to reuse single-use items, they may not take your health seriously.

  • Does your state have health code or licensing requirements?

If your state has licensing requirements for the shop or artist, make sure they are up to date. (Most cities/states/provinces require a business license at minimum. Check with your local authorities to see how they keep the public safe from unlicensed tattoo shops) 

  • Has your artist gone through Blood Borne Pathogens (BBP) training?

blood borne pathogens certificate

A certificate of completion in BBP is a requirement in most places for an artist to practice tattooing. This course trains people in the fundamentals of safe practices when biological contaminants are in play.

  • The rates are far below what industry standard for the area- 

Good tattoos aren’t cheap and cheap tattoos aren’t good. If a deal looks to good to be true, it most likely is and you can wonder how they save money to make the product so cheap. Most likely from skimping on a cleaning budget. Be safe and never sacrifice your safety for a cheap tattoo.

  • Do they have sharps containers – 

sharps containers

Look for red containers with a biohazard symbol on them. These containers are where used needles and other sharp instruments are placed after use for safe disposal.  If a shop doesn’t have any,or if the sharps containers are overflowing, something may be seriously dangerous about getting a tattoo at that location.

  • The shop is difficult to find information about – 

We live in a digital world and most established shops have a digital footprint. If you can’t find any information on social media, or with a search online, chances are the shop may not be legit. If it is not legit, chances are it may not know how to operate in a sterile fashion.

  • Is the shop dark – 

How bright and light is the shop? By having light colored walls and floors, you are better able to see if blood or other substances have splashed out of the work area and are in need of cleaning. Light walls, accompanied with enough light to properly see what the artist is doing, ensure artists are able to keep you safe before, during and after the procedure.

  • When in doubt,  trust yourself – 

Never let yourself be pushed around when you are spending money. This is even more true when you are spending money on body modification. Trust your judgement and walk away from any place that doesn’t treat you as well as you deserve.

Thumbs Up!

Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

 

Choosing Your Tattoos – Client Version

So many articles about choosing your tattoo to be found online. These fanciful jaunts into airy, photo laden websites give you a one-sided perspective that you, the client, need to treat your artist a certain way to enjoy you experience. This is an incorrect, albeit flattering, method of interaction.

I was honestly amazed at how pervasive the ideas about being careful with your words,  respectful with your actions and bringing treats to your artist are being thrown around. I mean, who doesn’t love that but… it’s kind of creepy getting treats before performing a tattoo. Plus, you should not be placed in a position where you, the paying client, are in an inferior position of power when first walking into a tattoo shop.

My take, as a professional tattoo artist, is a little different than what you find online and is stated below. Take it as a starting point for those of you who haven’t been introduced to shop life, those of you who have had a negative experience or those of you who want to know how another artist may expect out of you when coming in for work. Choosing your tattoo can be difficult but, if you are prepared and vocal, it can be a fun experience.

What Do You Want!?

Choosing a design.

When starting the process of choosing a tattoo, ask yourself a few questions:

What style do you like?

Are you into hair metal band logos? Do you enjoy simple geometric designs? Find something that you are believe you will enjoy through your life, not just today. I can guarantee your love of something trendy (getting Yeet or YOLO tattooed dropped out of fashion just like Kanji) won’t have the staying power you expect it will, unless you are a very special case. Who likes seeing Motley Crue logos on your uncle’s outer arm, surrounded by barbed wire armbands? No one. Don’t be like that uncle. 

Your Uncles tattoos aren't that cool. Here is an example of some bad band tattoos.
Click to follow to RateMyInk.com : The worst tattoos we have found.

Once you have taken the time to figure out what style you enjoy and think has the staying power to be impressive for your lifetime, look at the most common themes or images you see in that style. The most commonly tattooed images are the ones that will have small variations or nuances that you may not notice unless you look really closely. Being able to describe small nuances is a thing tattoo artists enjoy when critiquing tattoos. If you can spot small variations that you do not want to see in your tattoo, your tattoo artist will thank you and be better able to craft the tattoo that you want.

Think of other styles you enjoy

There are so many styles to choose from! Don’t limit yourself by thinking inside the box. Be open to both options of blackwork or color if you don’t have an image theme already picked out. Let your imagination roam free, you are working towards designing a work of art that will be on you for the rest of your life.

Take any combination of ideas and write them down. Bring those ideas in with you when you have a consultation. If what you want is not possible, the artist you will be working with will be quick to tell you it is not a good idea. Make sure that you ask why it won’t work! There has to be a good explanation for any dismissed idea. Just not liking the tattoo is not an option for a tattoo artist and if they give you this option, you know better than to get it done with that artist.

Are there any examples of artwork that you enjoy?

Having some form of visual reference to show your artist can help them understand your style wants much quicker than using descriptive words. For example, showing someone a picture of the Hulk is better than describing something “Big and Green”.

Use your words well and bring high quality photos that explain for you what you like to see. Be brave and have a simple hand drawn example to show. You would be surprised how much this helps when translating your idea. Don’t worry, we know that you are not a tattoo artist. If you were, you wouldn’t be having a consultation.

Finding an Artist

Once you have decided on a design, follow up by checking out artists near you. If there isn’t anyone close by, find one you are willing to travel to. Do some research before making the trek. Make sure they are versatile enough, or practiced enough, in the style of artwork you want to adorn your body with.

There are misconceptions about us tattooers and how invested we are in what you mark your body with. While tattoo bros worldwide enjoy the idea that they are marking you with their specific brand, most of us really don’t care how you choose to adorn your body. The lack of caring and detached persona you walk into when getting a consultation shouldn’t be taken personally as tattoo artists do this as a job

We seriously do this all day, every day. There is a good chance that the idea you found while surfing social media has been done before and it isn’t being done the way that we would prefer to do it. That doesn’t matter.

It is your body and your choice how you want to adorn it. If you get a negative reception from the artist when you share your idea, they may not be the best fit for your tattoo. All tattoo artists need to treat you with respect. You are paying them to mark you. They should be willing to treat you and your idea with respect.

If you walk into a tattoo shop and the artist you have been excited to meet is rolling their eyes and trying to change what you want to mark your body with, take a chance and walk out. This practice should be applied to any situation where you are planning on altering your body, as well as in everyday life.

Tattoo artists should approach your tattoo completely ambivalent about what you are getting. We should only be invested in the process and making it perfect.

What do they like to do?

Checking to see what “style” the artist puts up on social media is a good indicator as to what they enjoy doing. While I have a harsh critique as to why artists choose styles, it is still in your best interest to pick someone who has practiced a style when choosing your tattoo. If the artist enjoys what they are doing, or has a lot of experience in a specific style, there is less chance the final product will be opposite what you may ask for.

Work with the artist, if you feel comfortable. Ask questions. When choosing your tattoo, be involved in the process from start to finish.

During the design process, it’s your job to be available. Answer emails or text messages, and give input as they work up a design that you will be wearing permanently. If the artist has any issues with you working over their shoulder, give them some space and offer up critiques that are constructive, if needed. 

The artist should take the time and ensure all critiques are heard and understood. If any part of the process results in the tattoo artist acting in a way that is disrespectful, walk away from the tattoo.

Shadowy figure walking away.

Baggage. Do you have any?

Walking into a tattoo shop can be an experience that brings joy or, to some, terror. Needles, blood, crazy moustaches… It can be intense! If you have gotten any tattoo work before and have chosen a new artist, don’t walk in thinking all tattoo artists are a uniform breed. They are humans, just a bit more colorful.

Take the time to have a consultation and get a feeling for the artist. Your experience will be that much better and ensure you’re not strapped to a chair for 60 hours with a person you can’t stand. Suss out the artist’s vibe, energy and tact. If they don’t align with you, regardless of the final product, you should move on and find someone who you will mesh with better.

Also, when meeting with your artist, be very plain and direct about why you are getting the tattoo. If the tattoo is just rad and you have no deeper meaning attached to it, let them know. If this is a memorial for the sister you lost to cancer 2 weeks ago and the family would like to be there during the tattoo process, let the artist know.

Where do you want to get your tattoo?

The placement of the tattoo will influence how the design is made. Have at least 2 spaces prepared for the tattoo that you want to be. The process of getting tattooed is collaborative so take the ideas for you tattoo, and the placement, to your chosen artist. Talk to them about where the design is going to be placed and listen to their explanations about what is the best option for you. Also, bring up how it may connect with other/future tattoos will help create a congruent theme (if that is what you want).

How big should you go when choosing your tattoo?

In tattoos, size means everything.

Back tattoo of a ship and lighthouse.

Size will determine price, time to complete and limitations on location. Knowing how big you are willing to go (as well as how small) is essential when planning ahead. Most tattoo artists are going to want to make your tattoo as big as possible. Be prepared to stand your ground if you are set on a specific size. Leading with what your budget is, when choosing sizes, ensures the tattoo artist won’t push too hard to cover your entire thigh.

Do you want more tattoos?

If you are going for your first tattoo, try and put it in a place that isn’t at the high end of the pain spectrum. There is no reason to take an enjoyable process and mark it with a painful experience. If you have plans for multiple tattoos, you may adjust your ideas for the future due to the pain you may experience. To keep the process as quick as possible, which will decrease the total discomfort you experience, keep the first designs you get palm sized or smaller.

If you do want to plan ahead and really commit to the process, talk to your artist about how the tattoos you want to get are going to work together. Also discuss tactics for planning multiple sittings. If you have a theme or some ideas that may work well together, create a plan to make the final product cohesive.

How much time was spent choosing your tattoo?

A sick A F Lower back tatty. A butterfly T S with purple and black.

Is this a spur of the moment idea, or have you really put some thought into what you are planning to get? Regardless of the scenario, don’t go carrying bias into the tattoo shop when choosing your tattoo.

Leave that ego in check and be ready to actively collaborate with an artist. They have the training and expertise to get what you want on your skin.

Some additional points to consider

What local options are there for you?

Do you live in a major metropolis, or the middle of BF nowhere? Seeing what options are available near you may influence your decision if you are locked into a specific region with little ability to commute out.

Your buddy knows a guy named Dale at the 5 & Dime who shoots tattoos in his basement. Dale only spits out trad angel wings so it’s a good bet that you don’t want to go to him for that photo realistic tiger on your thigh.

Plan to venture out of your comfort zone if it ensures quality work. If you are truly unable to, keep the most sentimental tattoos on the backburner until you can get exactly what you want, from who you want.

What is your budget?

Pricing is usually non-negotiable.

Seriously, nothing good has ever come out of those arrangements where the artist is starving and sacrifices on price. When this does happen, people rush. The final quality will never be as great when compared to a properly paid for and prepared tattoo.

If you have a budget, and the work that you want to get is outside what that amount is, start saving. If you are not a person who enjoys the build up the anticipation, get something smaller that is inside your budget. Taking you time and not price shopping will give you want you deserve. Remember, you are in a place of business. Be respectable inside this person’s place of employment.

Artist Interaction

When choosing a tattoo, please, please, please… Don’t try and design the tattoo yourself. This is ultimately important if you are unsure about what you want the final product to be. There is a greater chance that your chosen artist will make something better than what you can imagine. Give them room to surprise you.

This above statement doesn’t stand if you know precisely what you want. Do you want your baby’s name in Scriptina font across your wrist?

Cool.

Choose that.

After that has been expressed, listen to your artists recommendations about how this chosen tattoo may age, tie in with future work and how much it might hurt. There is far more to the tattoo than the final design.

In closing

Hopefully you are in a better place now and have confidence about choosing your tattoo. You control the fate of what is put on your body.

But please… Do not tattoo your partner’s name on your arm.

PEACE OUT!
Not the author

Choosing Your Tattoos

So many articles about choosing your tattoo to be found online. These fanciful jaunts into airy, photo laden websites give you a one-sided perspective that you, the client, need to treat your artist a certain way to enjoy you experience. This is an incorrect, albeit flattering, method of interaction.

I was honestly amazed at how pervasive the ideas about being careful with your words,  respectful with your actions and bringing treats to your artist are being thrown around. I mean, who doesn’t love that but… it’s kind of creepy getting treats before performing a tattoo. Plus, you should not be placed in a position where you, the paying client, are in an inferior position of power when first walking into a tattoo shop.

My take, as a professional tattoo artist, is a little different than what you find online and is stated below. Take it as a starting point for those of you who haven’t been introduced to shop life, those of you who have had a negative experience or those of you who want to know how another artist may expect out of you when coming in for work. Choosing your tattoo can be difficult but, if you are prepared and vocal, it can be a fun experience.

What Do You Want!?

Choosing a design.

When starting the process of choosing a tattoo, ask yourself a few questions:

What style do you like?

Are you into hair metal band logos? Do you enjoy simple geometric designs? Find something that you are believe you will enjoy through your life, not just today. I can guarantee your love of something trendy (getting Yeet or YOLO tattooed dropped out of fashion just like Kanji) won’t have the staying power you expect it will, unless you are a very special case. Who likes seeing Motley Crue logos on your uncle’s outer arm, surrounded by barbed wire armbands? No one. Don’t be like that uncle. 

Your Uncles tattoos aren't that cool. Here is an example of some bad band tattoos.
Click to follow to RateMyInk.com : The worst tattoos we have found.

Once you have taken the time to figure out what style you enjoy and think has the staying power to be impressive for your lifetime, look at the most common themes or images you see in that style. The most commonly tattooed images are the ones that will have small variations or nuances that you may not notice unless you look really closely. Being able to describe small nuances is a thing tattoo artists enjoy when critiquing tattoos. If you can spot small variations that you do not want to see in your tattoo, your tattoo artist will thank you and be better able to craft the tattoo that you want.

Think of other styles you enjoy

There are so many styles to choose from! Don’t limit yourself by thinking inside the box. Be open to both options of blackwork or color if you don’t have an image theme already picked out. Let your imagination roam free, you are working towards designing a work of art that will be on you for the rest of your life.

Take any combination of ideas and write them down. Bring those ideas in with you when you have a consultation. If what you want is not possible, the artist you will be working with will be quick to tell you it is not a good idea. Make sure that you ask why it won’t work! There has to be a good explanation for any dismissed idea. Just not liking the tattoo is not an option for a tattoo artist and if they give you this option, you know better than to get it done with that artist.

Are there any examples of artwork that you enjoy?

Having some form of visual reference to show your artist can help them understand your style wants much quicker than using descriptive words. For example, showing someone a picture of the Hulk is better than describing something “Big and Green”.

Use your words well and bring high quality photos that explain for you what you like to see. Be brave and have a simple hand drawn example to show. You would be surprised how much this helps when translating your idea. Don’t worry, we know that you are not a tattoo artist. If you were, you wouldn’t be having a consultation.

Finding an Artist

Once you have decided on a design, follow up by checking out artists near you. If there isn’t anyone close by, find one you are willing to travel to. Do some research before making the trek. Make sure they are versatile enough, or practiced enough, in the style of artwork you want to adorn your body with.

There are misconceptions about us tattooers and how invested we are in what you mark your body with. While tattoo bros worldwide enjoy the idea that they are marking you with their specific brand, most of us really don’t care how you choose to adorn your body. The lack of caring and detached persona you walk into when getting a consultation shouldn’t be taken personally as tattoo artists do this as a job

We seriously do this all day, every day. There is a good chance that the idea you found while surfing social media has been done before and it isn’t being done the way that we would prefer to do it. That doesn’t matter.

It is your body and your choice how you want to adorn it. If you get a negative reception from the artist when you share your idea, they may not be the best fit for your tattoo. All tattoo artists need to treat you with respect. You are paying them to mark you. They should be willing to treat you and your idea with respect.

If you walk into a tattoo shop and the artist you have been excited to meet is rolling their eyes and trying to change what you want to mark your body with, take a chance and walk out. This practice should be applied to any situation where you are planning on altering your body, as well as in everyday life.

Tattoo artists should approach your tattoo completely ambivalent about what you are getting. We should only be invested in the process and making it perfect.

What do they like to do?

Checking to see what “style” the artist puts up on social media is a good indicator as to what they enjoy doing. While I have a harsh critique as to why artists choose styles, it is still in your best interest to pick someone who has practiced a style when choosing your tattoo. If the artist enjoys what they are doing, or has a lot of experience in a specific style, there is less chance the final product will be opposite what you may ask for.

Work with the artist, if you feel comfortable. Ask questions. When choosing your tattoo, be involved in the process from start to finish.

During the design process, it’s your job to be available. Answer emails or text messages, and give input as they work up a design that you will be wearing permanently. If the artist has any issues with you working over their shoulder, give them some space and offer up critiques that are constructive, if needed. 

The artist should take the time and ensure all critiques are heard and understood. If any part of the process results in the tattoo artist acting in a way that is disrespectful, walk away from the tattoo.

Shadowy figure walking away.

Baggage. Do you have any?

Walking into a tattoo shop can be an experience that brings joy or, to some, terror. Needles, blood, crazy moustaches… It can be intense! If you have gotten any tattoo work before and have chosen a new artist, don’t walk in thinking all tattoo artists are a uniform breed. They are humans, just a bit more colorful.

Take the time to have a consultation and get a feeling for the artist. Your experience will be that much better and ensure you’re not strapped to a chair for 60 hours with a person you can’t stand. Suss out the artist’s vibe, energy and tact. If they don’t align with you, regardless of the final product, you should move on and find someone who you will mesh with better.

Also, when meeting with your artist, be very plain and direct about why you are getting the tattoo. If the tattoo is just rad and you have no deeper meaning attached to it, let them know. If this is a memorial for the sister you lost to cancer 2 weeks ago and the family would like to be there during the tattoo process, let the artist know.

Where do you want to get your tattoo?

The placement of the tattoo will influence how the design is made. Have at least 2 spaces prepared for the tattoo that you want to be. The process of getting tattooed is collaborative so take the ideas for you tattoo, and the placement, to your chosen artist. Talk to them about where the design is going to be placed and listen to their explanations about what is the best option for you. Also, bring up how it may connect with other/future tattoos will help create a congruent theme (if that is what you want).

How big should you go when choosing your tattoo?

In tattoos, size means everything.

Back tattoo of a ship and lighthouse.

Size will determine price, time to complete and limitations on location. Knowing how big you are willing to go (as well as how small) is essential when planning ahead. Most tattoo artists are going to want to make your tattoo as big as possible. Be prepared to stand your ground if you are set on a specific size. Leading with what your budget is, when choosing sizes, ensures the tattoo artist won’t push too hard to cover your entire thigh.

Do you want more tattoos?

If you are going for your first tattoo, try and put it in a place that isn’t at the high end of the pain spectrum. There is no reason to take an enjoyable process and mark it with a painful experience. If you have plans for multiple tattoos, you may adjust your ideas for the future due to the pain you may experience. To keep the process as quick as possible, which will decrease the total discomfort you experience, keep the first designs you get palm sized or smaller.

If you do want to plan ahead and really commit to the process, talk to your artist about how the tattoos you want to get are going to work together. Also discuss tactics for planning multiple sittings. If you have a theme or some ideas that may work well together, create a plan to make the final product cohesive.

How much time was spent choosing your tattoo?

A sick A F Lower back tatty. A butterfly T S with purple and black.

Is this a spur of the moment idea, or have you really put some thought into what you are planning to get? Regardless of the scenario, don’t go carrying bias into the tattoo shop when choosing your tattoo.

Leave that ego in check and be ready to actively collaborate with an artist. They have the training and expertise to get what you want on your skin.

Some additional points to consider

What local options are there for you?

Do you live in a major metropolis, or the middle of BF nowhere? Seeing what options are available near you may influence your decision if you are locked into a specific region with little ability to commute out.

Your buddy knows a guy named Dale at the 5 & Dime who shoots tattoos in his basement. Dale only spits out trad angel wings so it’s a good bet that you don’t want to go to him for that photo realistic tiger on your thigh.

Plan to venture out of your comfort zone if it ensures quality work. If you are truly unable to, keep the most sentimental tattoos on the backburner until you can get exactly what you want, from who you want.

What is your budget?

Pricing is usually non-negotiable.

Seriously, nothing good has ever come out of those arrangements where the artist is starving and sacrifices on price. When this does happen, people rush. The final quality will never be as great when compared to a properly paid for and prepared tattoo.

If you have a budget, and the work that you want to get is outside what that amount is, start saving. If you are not a person who enjoys the build up the anticipation, get something smaller that is inside your budget. Taking you time and not price shopping will give you want you deserve. Remember, you are in a place of business. Be respectable inside this person’s place of employment.

Artist Interaction

When choosing a tattoo, please, please, please… Don’t try and design the tattoo yourself. This is ultimately important if you are unsure about what you want the final product to be. There is a greater chance that your chosen artist will make something better than what you can imagine. Give them room to surprise you.

This above statement doesn’t stand if you know precisely what you want. Do you want your baby’s name in Scriptina font across your wrist?

Cool.

Choose that.

After that has been expressed, listen to your artists recommendations about how this chosen tattoo may age, tie in with future work and how much it might hurt. There is far more to the tattoo than the final design.

In closing

Hopefully you are in a better place now and have confidence about choosing your tattoo. You control the fate of what is put on your body.

But please… Do not tattoo your partner’s name on your arm.

PEACE OUT!
Not the author

 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rian Othus got his initial break into the tattooing industry in the early 2000’s. He worked in many locations throughout the United States and Canada. The opinions expressed on this site are based on his experiences and time spent in the industry. Some are also from amateur scientific study.

The journey to increase his knowledge began on the road. At times Rian had to travel far from home. Others, he had to beg to get any information. It was an amazing journey and it paved the way for Rian to start analyzing the tattoo industry to figure out where he fit into it.

These articles are written to engage and educate those who are out in the wild world of tattooing, working in a shop or just enjoying the culture. He admits that some of the articles may be very specific regarding who they are written for, but hopes that anyone who reads them is able to take things from a different angle or better understand what someone else may be experiencing.

Rian Othus
Website: https://tattooartistsblog.com
https://www.instagram.com/rian_othus


 

Tattoo Pain – Client Version

Tattoos hurt. What can you do to cope with that pain?

Regardless of your best buddy who has skin like granite, tattoo pain is real.

It’s something we have all come to expect when being stabbed with needles. Even if it is, pain shouldn’t be a determining factor when deciding to get a tattoo. Let’s look into some basic principles as to why tattoos hurt, how they are done and what you can do to manage the pain of tattoo, before, during and after the procedure.

hands covered with blood
Photo by it’s me neosiam on Pexels.com Thanks Becky

So, Explain to me what’s going on!

i.e. the tattoo Process.

(PREFACE: Not to go in depth about the types of tattoo machines out there, as there is a plethora of opinions formulated by those far more educated in the workings of those machines, but in this article we will focus on using a coil machine. Stay tuned for a later article about different types of machines.)

Tattooing, Why hurt so much!?

So let’s start with the basics and break the whole thing down Barney style. Tattooing is the process of getting ink into the skin and getting it to stay, permanently. In the western world this is done using a tattoo machine (also known as – tattoo gun, tattoo device) where a grouping of needles is place inside a receiving tube and attached to a bar that is connected to said machine via a flat metal spring (in 1 or 2 pieces.). It moves up and down pushing the needle into the skin, creating a small opening wherein the needle is retracted and “pulls or pushes” the ink into the skin.

How the machines get ink in your skin

Some expansion to the steps above – The tattoo machine works in an simple harmonic motion, driving the needles attached to a bar up and down… quickly. The receiving tube has a reservoir that collects a suspension of pigment by dipping the needles and receiving tube into an ink cap which contains suspended pigment also known as ink. The ink that is collected is pushed into the skin and captured by immune cells and held in place. Phew! (This is seriously overly simplified, but, I will do a proper write up in the future)

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Picture a vibrating loose meat sandwich shoving pickles and onions into … Something?
(this is an absolutely terrible analogy and I asked my wife for help figuring this one out. She literally looked at me with a questionable gaze, crinkled up her nose and asked to me to repeat it a second time. After hearing twice she advised me to move on from it and not do this again.)

Shit. I got a bit off topic. Back to the post.

SO… YA! Getting tattooed hurts. And yes, I know that pain is totally subjective. Your friend Becky had her ribs blasted for 12 hours straight and didn’t even blink an eye, while you, a discerning tattoo aficionado, sat for 2 lines on your wrist at a quarter inch long and screamed like a boiled rat.

Getting help with pain

What you don’t know is that Becky may have had a great artist sit her down and walk her through how to cope with the tattoo process and the inevitable pain. Now you, dear reader, can take with you a couple tips that should help you sit like a corpse through the short, or long, session you have coming up.

Fighting Tattoo Pain

Here is the ol’ blog list for ya’ll:

1. Come in with a good night’s rest.

Yup. This is a great way to help stave off any crazy pain sensations, and its one of the easiest and cheapest ways to help you sit through a tattoo. Studies show (not a full list but the abstract and footnotes have some great links to additional studies) that sleep and the interpretation of pain are inextricably linked.

What does that mean? If you stay up all night crushing Redbull’s and Mountain Dew Code Red while running dual instances of Fortnite, and hit the sack at 7 AM, you won’t sit well for your tattoo at noon. Your body needs rest. sorry insomniacs but not sorry narcoleptics. It gets rid of all those shitty hormones and chemicals that make you feel like crap. Your brain rests and it can deal with the bullshit of getting stabbed a million times. So, please, get some sleep. (8 hours or more is a good idea).

2. Have a good meal a few hours before coming in for a tattoo

Eating can take your pain away. I am serious. Look around you if you live in the USA. We are always hurting and gosh darn it we love to eat! Good thing is that having a delicious meal will help you with any pain associated during a tattoo. Your body responds to pain with inflammation, which is what happens when you get stabbed. You get stabbed, your body goes, “OH SHIT!” and releases an inflammatory response that gets healing started. If you are more sensitive to that response, your ability to deal with the pain is limited. This means you are going to be a in for a world of hurt.

So eat something that you enjoy before, during a break in tattooing and just after. Your brain will release the fancy things called endorphins which will help with the pain by making you feel happy.

3. Keep caffeine to a minimum.

Oh my goodness, you can’t make it out of bed without a double pot of french roast. That may spell trouble for your tattoo session. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor which means it can increase blood pressure and close up them veins in your body. Caffeine does not thin your blood. The “thinning” of your blood that is noticeable after ingesting caffeine is due to decreased efficacy of your platelets. Platelets are the things that form scabs and stop bleeding when you get injured.

While the exact mechanism isn’t fully understood (at the time this article is written) you can wager a bet that the decrease in platelet function will increase your body’s propensity to bleed during a tattoo.

( As an aside, the additives in energy drinks exacerbate this effect, making them a double whammy)

What is a good idea, if you are addicted to caffeine like I, is keep your intake low. 1-2 cups 4-6 hours before you tattoo. also, drink water.

4. Drink water

You have had this shoveled into your brain since childhood (and i say that because no, little person aged 10 years, you’re double digits but you are not getting tattooed). Being hydrated is a good thing. Remember above where I had mentioned something about inflammation? That process is part of what influences your pain tolerance when getting tattooed. Here is an article that is grossly overqualified for how I type but goes into great detail about how and why being hydrated is good for pain management.

5. Learn to meditate

If you’re from a place that looks towards left leaning cultures as a place where hypocrisy reigns supreme and all folks are coo-coo, you may have cringed or become uncomfortable at the above mentioned idea. “What chu talkin’ ’bout bhoy. I ain’t gone waste my time doing no medititates! I can handle the pain like a real man-uh.” Sadly, you would be wrong there my friend. Meditating doesn’t mean you have to take up a vegan lifestyle and join a naked hot yoga class,. What it means is that you should be focusing your attention to something other than whatever the fuck it is you are thinking about currently.

This may spell disaster to anyone with ADD or ADHD but it is a great trick to spin through time and keep the interpreted pain at bay while getting a tattoo.

I have had the luck of meeting many people who were open to the idea of focused pain management over the years I have worked tattooing. I tell them to bring something to the appointment that helps them “veg out”. This is key though, it has to be focused to the individual.

The Audiophile Tattoo Client

  • If someone is always listening to music as a way to separate from their surroundings, they are triggered through audio stimulation (their ears). Having a horror movie on with tense music and screaming will ensure a short sit so keep things calm. Put on some Enya.

The Cinephile Tattoo Client

  • For people who lose themselves in the splendor of some visual stimulus, I tell them to bring in whatever they feel comfortable watching. It can be a movie or a TV series, but something that they can strap some headphones on and watch.

The Haphephile Tattoo Client

  • For those unlucky enough to be stimulated by touch more than anything, (think you get lost with massages) they are a hit or miss client. I have had some people who were good holding someone else’s hand to sit for an eternity, others are good with covering their faces with a soft or silky blanket/garment/towel. Sadly, some of those people just fucking laser focus in on the pain and sit like absolute crap. There is little to do to get them through the tattoo process other than lying to them about time and the length of the procedure so far.

6. Take some Tylenol or Advil.

While the majority of tattooers out there are undecided on the effects of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) on a tattoo, I have used them sparingly for years as a way to fight inflammation and pain during a procedure. **Note – Make sure an adequate medical history is conducted and permission from a medical professional has been given before utilizing any NSAIDs during or after a procedure** I won’t go into the pharmacokinetics but this shit works but you know that they do work due to their success globally. This tip also does not suggest to pound back 12 advil with a Redbull during your sick tat session. Please, be responsible.

Taking an NSAID after the tattoo procedure is completed also can help with pain or inflammation. Especially with those marathon sessions. Go talk to your PCP and get some feedback about how and why these may be a good tool in your tattoo artist / client arsenal.

7. Take one long break and a couple short breaks during the tattoo procedure.

Every hour take a 5 minute break to rest and adjust your eyes and allow the client to move about. At 3.5 hours, let them get a good meal and hydrate. This simple process will help in people sitting 9+ hours consistently.

This process isn’t to be broken up for phone calls, text messages, social media, cigarettes or consultations. Set up long appointments with the full intention of that tattoo being done your only goal for the day. Do not get interrupted and don’t get sidetracked. Focus on your client and what they are going through to complete a marathon session or that short 2 line session that gives you so much grief.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

So that’s it for this article. Give me feedback or comments below and share the fuck outta this page so we can get the industry aligned with a SOP.

 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rian Othus got his initial break into the tattooing industry in the early 2000’s. He worked in many locations throughout the United States and Canada. The opinions expressed on this site are based on his experiences and time spent in the industry. Some are also from amateur scientific study.

The journey to increase his knowledge began on the road. At times Rian had to travel far from home. Others, he had to beg to get any information. It was an amazing journey and it paved the way for Rian to start analyzing the tattoo industry to figure out where he fit into it.

These articles are written to engage and educate those who are out in the wild world of tattooing, working in a shop or just enjoying the culture. He admits that some of the articles may be very specific regarding who they are written for, but hopes that anyone who reads them is able to take things from a different angle or better understand what someone else may be experiencing.

Rian Othus
Website: https://tattooartistsblog.com
https://www.instagram.com/rian_othus


 

Start typing and press Enter to search

Shopping Cart