help out a tattoo newb!
May 1, 2009 2:17 PM   Subscribe

[TattooFilter] I'm (hopefully) getting a tattoo soon! But before I do, I have a few questions to ask regarding tipping, drawing, and weight.

So, I'm hoping to get a tattoo soon. Actually, it probably won't be until the fall, but, I like to plan ahead.

Before I settle on a place (although right now I'm looking at NY Adorned), I had a few questions that I thought you guys might be able to help with. (I've seen past ask.mefis about tats, but they don't quite fit the bill.)

1) I know that you are supposed to tip your artist. However, I once read that bringing gifts (baked goods, say) is also cool/better. Is this true? Or should I just tip 20% and skip the tin of cookies?

2) Gaining weight can cause a tattoo to stretch out and look stupid. What about losing weight?

3) I have always planned on having a friend draw my tattoos. Is it acceptable to bring in their work, instead of having the tattoo artist draw it? It will not be an overly complicated design.

If it helps, the tattoo will be a one to two inch line drawing (probably not filled in, just the outline, but I haven't decided for sure) on my side (either on one of my hips or by my boobs where the bra band hits).
posted by firei to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
For bigger things I'd only give money but for a tiny piece like that I'm not sure.

2. I don't know.

3. Yes, but, make sure you solicit and listen to the artist's advice about the drawing. They are going to want to change it a little to make it look better on your body, if they are good at their jobs.

(Personal note: I love hip tats on women. Boob not so much. Data point.)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:27 PM on May 1, 2009

I always tip, but sometimes I bring my artist little presents as well. I know for a fact that several artists (as well as the front desk staff) at NY Adorned do really enjoy cookies if you bring them. A few of the artists and staff are vegan, though, so keep that in mind if you bring food.

Losing weight can affect tattoos in certain areas. On your hip it might stretch/shrink a little, but only if you lose or gain a lot of weight, not just a 10 lb. loss. Up higher by the bra line probably won't distort much.

Bringing in your own artwork or art drawn by a friend is fine. Just let the artist know you're bringing it in. They may want to change a few things, such as line thickness or detail, to make sure it will work as a tattoo. I have several tattoos that are adapted from other artwork - graphic novels and a Celtic illuminated manuscript - and none of the artists have had a problem with it.

Good luck and enjoy your first tattoo!
posted by bedhead at 2:28 PM on May 1, 2009

1) I would tip them as soon as the tattoo is finished. If it turns out to be a super-awesome tattoo, maybe dropping by after the fact with baked goods or whatever would be an extra touch.

2) I cannot answer this since my tattoos are in places where you wouldn't really notice unless there was a huge weight change up or down (back of neck and wrist).

3) There can be some difficuly here because something that someone (not the tattoo artist) draws does not always get translated well into ink. There are imperfections of the skin, the fact that it is not a flat piece, etc. Unless your friend is really good at doing flash-artsy type stuff, the tattoo artist (if they are good) will have to re-interpret the work for skin. I would take what you want done to a reputable artist and see what they can do with it.

My brother owns a tattoo shop, for what it's worth.

On preview, a line drawing would probably be fine for the artist to transfer, but it is worthwhile in my opinion to consult with the artist, get his/her opinion, and let them tell you the best way it will look.
posted by waitangi at 2:32 PM on May 1, 2009

Definitely just tip in cash.

A lot of tattoo artists try to push you to make small tattoos larger, claiming all sorts of things (like that they can't get good detail with a small tattoo, etc). This is not true and don't let them sway you - any good artist can make a small tattoo look exactly how you want it. For example, look at the miniatures section.
posted by sickinthehead at 2:37 PM on May 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

1.) Tip money. It's no that it's not a nice thought and all, it is, but imagine if you tried that with a waiter or a cab driver. They're at work, which they do for money, so money would be appreciated. Treats on top of money? That's gravy and is a great idea.

2.) How much weight? Enough to change around your skin and make it all floppy would have an effect, but that's kind of a lot.

3.) Perfectly acceptable, although you should collaborate with the artist as well. What looks good on paper might not look as good on your body, and the artist's judgment on this subject should carry a lot of weight with you. Always remember that everyone's goal in the process is the same: to give you a dope-ass tat that you will want to show to everyone and then tell everyone who did it.

Good luck and have fun!
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 2:55 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

My sister's gotten work done at NY Adorned and was very happy with it.

I would always tip money unless you know the artist reasonably well--then, I'd consider also bringing a treat, something that you know the artist likes.

I highly doubt a tattoo on your chest (or back? it's unclear) is going to change shape much due to weight loss. On a hip, it's a possibility--my guess would be that colors will become denser and darker.

As for having a friend draw the tattoo, you can do this--there's nothing wrong with it. But, having drawn my first tattoo myself, I've had my tattoo artists draw each subsequent tattoo. Why?

Because drawing a tattoo is nothing like drawing anything else. The size and shape of the body is incredibly important in tattoo composition. A good tattoo artist will be able to draw you something that complements your body perfectly. They'll be able to take things like the type of ink and the size of the needles needed into consideration in their composition. And, I hate to say it, but any good custom artist is likely loads better than any average friend who can sketch you up a tattoo design. I can draw fine, but I'm not a professional artist. Unlike the people who have drawn my larger tattoos. One of the benefits of going to an expensive studio like NY Adorned is that they'll be able to produce really amazing, one of a kind work. There's really no reason not to take advantage of that.

A lot of tattoo artists try to push you to make small tattoos larger, claiming all sorts of things (like that they can't get good detail with a small tattoo, etc). This is not true and don't let them sway you - any good artist can make a small tattoo look exactly how you want it. For example, look at the miniatures section.

I would argue against this--then again, keep in mind that I have a tattoo that covers my chest and much of one side of my body. Sure, nicely done miniature tattoos are possible. But they don't hold up as well to aging, they're more likely to get in the way if you ever plan larger, more elaborate work, and they're less likely to really complement your body in an artful way. The tattoo artist who did my chestpiece wanted it to be about two inches larger than it already is, and honestly? I wish I'd listened. That small change would have made it look much more balanced and artful, even though it's already pretty neat.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:10 PM on May 1, 2009

tip in cash since this will be your first visit. now that i've become friendly with my shop, i bring them cookies when i come in, but i also tip cash. to me, some chocolate chip cookies aren't a tip, they're a nice personal gesture.

you would have to lose a lot of weight for it to make a difference in your tattoo.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 3:11 PM on May 1, 2009

I used to work as the receptionist at a busy local tattoo parlor. Here are my suggestions:

1. Tip in cash. Save the cookies/crafts for when you have an established relationship with an artist and know his or her preference.

2. Weight gain or weight loss will only really affect a tattoo if significant (50 pounds or more). On hips and breasts, I'd worry more about stretch marks.

3. As others have mentioned, you can certainly bring in your friend's artwork. but don't be surprised if the artist has to adapt it to be tattooable.

I would take the second part of sickinthehead's comment with a grain of salt. I have tattoos that were done too small and aged badly, with lines blurring together. Anil Gupta does fantastic work, but his talent is rare.
posted by kwaller at 3:16 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Kwaller: Anil Gupta's talent is definitely rare, but OP isn't looking to get a miniaturized masterpiece painting, but rather a simple line drawing. That can definitely be accomplished on a small scale.
posted by sickinthehead at 4:26 PM on May 1, 2009

Best answer: 1. Yeah, nthing tip in cash. I tip in cash. I also bring baked goods, which has endeared my artist (and the rest of the shop staff) to me; but I really like to bake, and they're a great audience for it.

2. Dunno about losing weight, but getting tattooed has really made me much more comfortable with my weight and in my own skin generally.

3. Bring in a drawing, sure, but listen to your artist. If they want to redraw it, let them. A good custom tattoo artist can probably draw better, and certainly knows more about drawing on a 3d surface that changes shape.

Also, I cannot stress enough the importance of finding an artist you click with. I'm getting a half sleeve right now, and my artist understands me, understands what I'm looking for, is super talented, and great fun to talk to. The last is just a perk, but the first three are essential.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:09 PM on May 1, 2009

1. Tipping is up to you ("not expected, always appreciated"). Cash is always good, and if you get to know the artist better, things like relevant art reference books and such are great.

2. Weight gain won't have much of an effect unless it's quite dramatic.

3. Of course, but unless your friend is a great artist with a good understanding of what's going to look good on skin, find a good artist whose portfolio you enjoy, and be quite clear to them that you'd appreciate their input on the design and that you'd be happy to see them improve it.
posted by glider at 8:22 PM on May 1, 2009

Best answer: 1. Why not both?

2. Yeah, big changes in body shape can mess with tattoos. It's not necessarily so, though, and some spots are more prone than others--BME has lots more info, or just figure that the less the body part is likely to change in size, the less likely the tattoo will get wonky. Your artist will be happy to talk more about this, too, or s/he should be anyway.

3. Bring in the drawing. If it's well-suited to tattooing, the artist will just do it, probably after transferring it to a stencil-ish transfer. If not, s/he'll talk with you about how best to adapt it to the medium. You'll be able to offer suggestions and agree on a final design.

And you didn't ask about this, but I'm saying anyway: pay attention to aftercare. Those first few days, and to a lesser degree those first few weeks, are an important part of making sure your tattoo looks as good as possible. And enjoy. I think tattoos are pretty great, so I hope you get a good one that you're really happy with--one where you look at it and you're like 'I can't imagine myself without this' and 'I don't know why I didn't do this sooner.'

And let us know how it turns out--we like resolved questions.
posted by box at 9:06 PM on May 1, 2009

Oy. No one ever told me about the tipping thing. Now I feel like a jerk.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:09 AM on May 2, 2009

Since 1 and 3 have been answered I'm gonna stick with what I know. I have two tattoos on my belly that survived a 80 lb (pregnancy) weight gain. They needed to be gone over after I had lost the weight because they were...faded is as close as I can describe. My skin was a bit loose while losing the weight but it did tighten back up. It all depends on YOUR skin and how it reacts. I'm going to second kwaller about the possibility of future stretch marks. I did not get them on my tats but I have seen women who have and it looked like someone slashed their art into shreds. This is something that may or may not concern you depending on the stretchiness of your skin.
posted by shmurley at 8:25 AM on May 2, 2009

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