Tattoo Checklist – Artist Version
Posted in ArticlesFor Artiststattoo

We present to you the tattooing checklist for you tattooers, tattoo artists, tat bros and kitchen magicians! As you may notice after reading this article, there is no Teen Vogue esq writing. This is straight to the point and not dressed up. There is also a printable version at the end of the document.

Today we will be going over a simple checklist for your upcoming tattoo appointments. Let us skip past the initial consultation stage and assume you already have your deposit, an agreed upon art piece and time booked for the appointment.

2 Days Before the Tattoo Appointment

  • Check in with your client. Has something come up where they cannot make the appointment? Are they sick? Are they nervous?
  • Do they have any changes that they want to see in the design? Find out and get to work when you have a chance.
  • Get all drawings done and sent off, if needed, to the client for approval.
  • Amend any pricing at this time and come to an agreement as to what the final price is, if changed.

The Night Before the Tattoo Appointment

  • Get your client information setup. I use manila folders to keep all of the artwork, client contact information etc. on hand. If you utilize any cloud-based appointment applications, Google Calendar, OneDrive or if you store everything on your tablet.
  • Sterilize all equipment that you will need for the coming day.
  • If you are industrious, prepare the stencil and set it aside in a safe, clean location, for tomorrow’s work.

The Day of the Tattoo Appointment

  • Get ready. Clean your space, disinfect everything.
  • Get all positioning of furniture done and do a simple mockup of what you are going to use for the tattoo.
  • Throw down a dental bib, stack the pigments, machines, needles, tubes, wash bottles as well as whatever else you need for the tattoo.
  • Do not get setup yet.

The Client’s Arrival

  • Greet your client and go over everything that you plan to do for this session.
  • Ask if they have any questions about what is going to take place, if they have any concerns about the design, placement or pain.
  • Keep them occupied as you clean and prep the area to be tattooed.
  • Do a quick muscular mapping and get that stencil on their body.

The Setup

  • Setup all equipment in from of the client.
  • Break open needles and tubes so they can see that you are using clean gear.
  • Dispense pigments and break off some paper towels so you aren’t pulling from the roll.
  • Stay clean and wear gloves. Change them as needed to ensure sterility.

The Tattoo Procedure

  • Do what you do, when you tattoo.
  • Treat the encounter like an Uber ride. Let your client dictate the pace of conversation, topics to be discussed and when the breaks should be taken.
  • If you must answer phones, keep it to the shop line only and make sure to deglove when picking up the handset.
  • Keep your music to a level that doesn’t interfere with the ability to talk if needed. Better yet, let the client decide what you should listen to and how loud it should be.
  • Put your phone on silent and don’t check it while active in the procedure. If you need to check your phone, do so during a break.

Break Time

  • Take only necessary breaks during the tattoo.
  • 5 minutes or less every 1.5-2 hours, if needed.
  • 1 longer break at 3-4 hours in (30-45 minutes for a meal)
  • Stay off social media and your phone. You will lose track of time.
  • Make an effort to check in with your client during this time to see if everything is good with them. Ask questions and ensure they understand where you are in the process.

The Breakdown

  • Discuss your aftercare in detail with the client and answer any questions they may have regarding the care of their tattoo.
  • Clean hand. Dirty Hand.
  • Break down and don’t get a needle stick.
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces.
  • Sweep and mop your area.
  • Take out the garbage if you utilize an open-top trash receptacle and replace trash bag.
  • File all relevant paperwork in the DONE pile.

Collecting Payment

  • Ask them how the experience was and anything they feel you could improve upon.
  • Give any media links, business cards and aftercare sheets.
  • Get your Google, Yelp or business reviews.
  • Collect payment. If you are a soloist, contracted artist who handles payments or at a convention, give the client time to offer a tip without any leading.
  • Setup any additional appointments as needed.
  • Take a picture of your work.

After They Leave

  • Start post work on any images collected, if you do such things.
  • Post to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter at your normal intervals with what you accomplished, if necessary.
  • Keep artwork and photos in relevant client folder / cloud location.
  • Send outreach email if needed to client 1-2 weeks after completion.
  • If needed, schedule a touch-up.



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


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