Studio Etiquette and Info: Appointments

Most tattoo and piercing studios, if not all of them, take appointments for services. In this blog post, we're going to discuss consultations, deposits, and pretty much anything you've ever wanted to know about tattoo and piercing appointments.

Appointments vs. Walk-Ins

Tattoos and piercings can be done by appointment, or as a walk in. Walk ins are great for tattoos if you know exactly what you want, where you want it, and the piece is reasonably small (think palm size or smaller) with little to no drawing time or modification required. Walk ins are taken on a first come, first served basis, and are not scheduled in advance, thus the name "Walk In". If an artist has a time slot without anything booked, they'll usually take walk ins during this time, and it is very common for artists to book out their whole day early in the day, especially during the busy months (April-August).

This is where appointments come in! Appointments are scheduled in advance, and usually require a deposit. Artists will spend time in advance preparing for their appointment(s), which includes researching references and drawing images. Plus, the amount of time the tattoo should take is blocked off, so there isn't the risk of showing up to the studio and not being able to be fit in to our day. Large pieces, anything custom that will require a good amount of preparation, or tattoos and piercings for several people on the same day, usually are best by appointment.

While most piercings do not require much preparation beforehand on the part of the piercer, piercers can book up rather quickly with walk ins, and during the busy season it's not uncommon for a popular studio to have a wait of several hours or more. Appointments to get pierced guarantee a time slot, which means little to no waiting, and piercers can have time set aside specifically for more sensitive situations or clients, like young children.

Before Your Tattoo Appointment: Consultations, Deposits, and Drawing

Prior to your tattoo appointment, a consult is usually done with the artist or piercer to discuss ideas and to confirm that what you're wanting is within reason, and within the skillset of the artist. With some piercings, this is also necessary to assess your anatomy to make sure the piercing you're interested in will work with your anatomy. Consults can often be done on a walk in basis, but certain consults require an appointment, like those for piercing young children. Please be honest during your consult and let us know the extent of what you're wanting to have done, so we know whether we should be setting aside time for one or three piercings, or a palm sized tattoo or the start of a sleeve.

To book tattoo appointments, the industry standard as of this writing is for a client to put down a deposit to secure their spot in the calendar, as well as drawing time. Most reputable tattoo artists will not begin to draw for a tattoo without having a deposit. This is not because we're greedy or lazy, but because if we spent time drawing for every single person who came in and asked, there would be no time to tattoo. Generally speaking, deposits come off the total price of the tattoo, and they are nonrefundable. This deposit covers our time drawing and preparing for your tattoo. Even if you do not show up to your appointment, there was still time, supplies, and skill utilized to prepare for that day. This is our livelihood, and just as most people wouldn't work for free if asked, we feel the same.

We strongly suggest taking your time when choosing an artist, and browsing their portfolio to get a sense of the work they do and the style they tattoo in, so you feel confident in your choice and that your artist will make your tattoo amazing.

Reference photos are immensely helpful when explaining to your artist what you're interested in having tattooed. For example, if you asked 3 people to draw a flower, you'd probably get 3 different images. These do not need to be pictures of tattoos, and in fact, most people prefer they not be tattoos, as each tattoo artist has their own style and udon't want to copy someone else's work. If you have references, please feel free to bring them to your consult with you, or email them to your artist ASAP after scheduling your appointment.

The Day Of: Running Late & Cancellations

Tattoo and piercing appointments are no different than appointments for any other service: the person providing the service is setting aside time in their day to work on you specifically. If you are running late, or are unable to make your appointment, please contact your artist or the studio to let them know ASAP. If we spend time and effort putting something together for a client, and turning away other clients, for them to not show up, not only was there time wasted, but other folks are unable to get in to fill that time, which costs us money. Plus, it's simply common courtesy to let someone know that you won't be able to make it in.

Please try to show up on time for your appointment. We know that life happens, there can be traffic, etc. but please us know that you're running behind so we know what's up, and so we can notify other clients accordingly.

The Day Of: Last Minute Changes or Additions

Some things are very easy to tack on to a tattoo or piercing appointment. If you are scheduled for a helix piercing and decide you'd like a second, chances are we can accommodate. If you decide you don't want a name under a flower and just a flower, that shouldn't be a problem. But things like deciding last minute you want a portrait of your dog on your shoulder and not a heart on your wrist, or that you want to get a triple forward helix and change jewelry on all your piercings instead of only getting a nostril piercing, are a bit more dynamic and may not be something we are able to accommodate in the time allotted for your appointment, and in some cases may require us to start working on something new from scratch. If you change your mind before your appointment, please let us know as far in advance as possible so we can adjust your appointment time, and/or draw something new if needed.

The Bottom Line

We love our clients and our jobs, and are very lucky to do what we do! Staying organized via appointments allows us to both work efficiently and focus more attention on each of our clients, and not be rushed or spread thin. Help us help you have the best experience possible.

Ali Pope
Studio Etiquette and Info: The Basics

We plan to explore a lot of different subject matter with this blog, but before getting in to the really technical or specific topics; a general guide to professional piercing and tattoo studios and how to (/how not to) behave in them seemed like a great place to start. Tattoos and piercings are far more common (and less shameful) than they used to be, which means more and more people are walking into professional studios for the first time than ever before. Every studio is a bit different, but the information presented here is all generally a great rule of thumb anywhere. We hope you enjoy, and please let us know if you have any questions!

Etiquette Guide for Clients

We know that tattoo and piercing studios seem like a really fun, laid back place. In a lot of ways, that's true! We get to wear what we want, have tattoos and piercings, and listen to whatever music we want. Most importantly we are all here to do our jobs and those jobs often include doing permanent work that puts us in contact with other people's germs and bodily fluids. Here is how you, as a client, can make this experience easy, safe, and pleasant for everyone:

  • Be respectful to staff and artists by staying in the appropriate waiting and work areas as designated by the artist or counter staff, and not wandering all over the studio, behind the counter, or other folks' work spaces unless directed. If you have to use the restroom, just ask! We can point you in the right direction.

  • Try not to bring a giant crowd of bystanders with you. Having a person or two for support is totally understandable! A group of 5-10 people watching per tattoo or piercing can get really crowded and unruly very quickly. Plus, tattoos and piercings look great, but the process of getting them is actually pretty uneventful and your friends will probably get bored after a while. (Also, space can be limited and everyone has different comfort levels. Some artists or piercers only allow one additional person besides the client in their work space at a time).

  • Don't touch your piercings or handle worn jewelry with your bare hands. We know that seems like no big deal, but piercings (especially those that are still healing), can have contaminants and germs on them. Handling your piercings/jewelry without proper safety attire, and then touching things in the studio is a really easy way to spread those things around and puts the safety of other clients and staff members at risk. Plus, it isn't good for the health of the piercing. If you have worn jewelry that you're bringing in to the studio, please do so in a baggie or some other sealed container so the jewelry doesn't contaminate studio surfaces.

  • Don't play loud music, videos, or phone calls through your phone speakers in the lobby or work spaces. There are often several conversations going on in addition to music and the buzz of tattoo machines, and we need to be able to work and communicate with our clients as efficiently and without distractions as possible. Also, please end any phone conversations before consulting with a tattoo artist or piercing staff. Not only is this simply the courteous thing to do, but we want to be able to clearly communicate with you and have your undivided attention when discussing concepts, just as you want from us!

  • Listen to your artist or piercer when they are giving aftercare guidelines and follow these guidelines. If you have a question, or forget, please feel free to ask! We do this for a living and care a lot about our clients and making sure our work heals well and looks great 10 years from now.

  • It's unethical for us to work on anyone who is under the influence. Please respect our space and professionalism by not coming in drunk or otherwise impaired.

  • Tipping is always appreciated. We take a lot of pride in our work and making our clients happy. If you are happy with your service, we are always grateful for any gesture.

  • Always ask before taking photos or video of your artist while they're working and respect the answer if they tell you no. Photo flashes or sounds can be distracting and this is an area where we need to be able to focus.

  • Plan ahead. If you are in a rush, on a tight schedule, want to work with someone specific, or have a group of people all wanting to get worked on, appointments are the way to go.  If you come in as a walk-in, you may have to wait to get tattooed or pierced, or we may book up early in the day. We do our best to accommodate everyone in a timely fashion, but things happen and sometimes there is nothing we can do. If you have an appointment and cannot make it, please give us a heads up in advance! This means we don't waste time waiting for you when we could be working on someone else, and you are able to get your deposit back if need be.

  • Come prepared. Make sure you've eaten within 4 hours and that you are well rested prior to getting a new tattoo or piercing. Please bring a valid ID or any other documents you may need with you to your session, even if you clearly look of age.

A lot of this seems very basic or very obvious. And that's good! You don't have to know the name of every single piercing, or a bunch of technical jargon, in order to have a good experience.

What to Expect from Us

Everyone is different as far as work style, personality, etc. But all of us here love our jobs, and ideally that's how everyone should be. This is what you can expect and what you deserve from your tattoo artist or piercer:

  • To have any questions answered politely and conscientously

  • To have your work done by someone with a clear mind who is not under the influence or otherwise impaired or distracted

  • To have your ideas and concerns heard and discussed fully with your artist

  • To view disposal of any sharps used into an appropriate sharps container

  • To be treated with respect regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, age, religion, ability, or choice in tattoo or piercing

  • To have the procedure and aftercare explained in detail by your artist

  • To change your mind any time during the process if anything seems inappropriate

The Bottom Line

Body art studios can be just as unique as the folks working in them. But no matter where you go, you should feel confident in the environment in which you're getting work done, and the person working on you should feel comfortable in being able to do their job on you. Ultimately, treat the folks around you the way you'd like to be treated!

For more information, check out the Association of Professional Piercers' Piercee's Bill of Rights, as well as their brochure on Picking Your Piercer.