8 Things You Should Know Before Booking a Tattoo Appointment
Before I started getting tattooed on a regular basis, I had no idea how the whole process worked.
I followed a lot of tattoo artists on Instagram, but assumed that booking a tattoo appointment would be a lot like booking in to get my hair done or my teeth cleaned—you call the shop, request a day, and you’re in.
It turns out, it’s not that simple.
While, yes, there are plenty of tattoo shops that offer walk-in availability for flash tattoos or small designs, booking a larger, custom tattoos—especially with a popular artist—takes a lot of patience, flexibility, and a little bit of luck.
Here are some things you should know before trying to book a tattoo appointment with your favorite artist
All artists have different booking procedures. Almost every artist I’ve worked with has a different tattoo booking procedure. Some require you to fill out a form on a shop or personal website, others book through Facebook or Instagram messaging, and some use tattoo-booking apps for scheduling.
The majority of artists I’ve worked with book through email. They ask clients to send them booking requests via email, usually with specific criteria that a potential client needs to fill out.
Read up on your artist’s booking procedures and make sure you follow all instructions and requirements. If you do not include all the necessary information in the initial booking request, your request will likely get passed over and you won’t get an appointment.
Keep in mind that every tattoo artist is essentially operating their own business. While some shops coordinate bookings through shop administrators and front-desk staff, the majority of tattoo artists either handle their own bookings or work with an assistant to coordinate appointments.
You may need to wait for your tattoo appointment. If you’re looking to get a sleeve started or bang out a big thigh piece tomorrow, all I can say is good luck and Godspeed.
While all artists operate on different timelines for booking, most will book appointments a few months—or even a year—in advance.
This means, if you really want a tattoo from a particular artist, you could be waiting anywhere from 3-12 months (or even longer) before getting it done.
Additionally, some popular artists have waiting lists, so even if you put in a booking request, you may not get an appointment. Instead, your name could be added to a waiting list, and you will be contacted when the artist has availability.
The key here is to be patient. If you really love an artist’s work, it’s always worth the wait. Don’t get frustrated and try to book a similar tattoo with a different artist who has more availability.
You might have a slim window to book a tattoo appointment. To keep the administrative processes of booking to a minimum, many tattoo artists will only open their books or schedules for one day or a couple days at a time.
This might happen every month, every couple of months, or only once a year—it depends how far out the artist chooses to book her schedule. You will only have a chance to book an appointment with the artist when her books are open. Any requests that come in while an artist’s books are closed will be ignored.
If you really want to book a tattoo with an artist whose books are currently closed, follow her on Instagram and change your settings so that you see notifications from that artist. Most artists will post details that explain when their books will open and how you can go about requesting an appointment.
Then set your alarm, mark your calendar, or create a notification on your phone—anything you can do to remember to send in your request within the timeline established by the artist. If you don’t get your booking request in while an artist’s books are open, you will have to wait until the next round.
You should expect for a delayed response. As previously mentioned, tattoo artists are business owners who have to balance their time between a variety of things. In addition to spending hours tattooing, their time is devoted to designing custom tattoos and drawing, managing their social media accounts, doing their bookkeeping and finances, purchasing supplies, and attempting to have family and social lives.
Reviewing booking requests and responding to emails is a time-consuming process, so you shouldn’t expect to hear back from the artist right away. Sometimes, it could take weeks or even a month or two for artists to get back to you about scheduling a tattoo appointment.
Be patient. Sending multiple emails asking for a status update or reaching out to an artist via Instagram DM will not be appreciated and will continue to slow down the process. Only resend your request if an artist or a booking assistant instructs you to do so.
The artist may choose not to tattoo your design. When books open, sought-after tattoo artists are often inundated with requests for tattoo appointments. Sometimes, they receive hundreds of emails, but only have a limited number of appointment slots to fill.
Artists may decide not to work on a specific tattoo design for multiple reasons. Maybe it doesn’t mesh well with their particular style. Maybe your budget doesn’t align with their current rates. Maybe they’ve tattooed something similar before and don’t want to tattoo it again. Maybe there are simply other requests that they are more interested in.
If your design doesn’t get chosen, don’t lose heart or get angry. Unless you receive a response that says your request is something that the artist has no interest in taking on, you can always resubmit the request at a later time.
You will need to pay a deposit. If you and your artist agree on a date for your tattoo appointment, you will need to pay a deposit in order to confirm and lock-in the date. Tattoo deposits are used to encourage clients to show up for their appointments and as a way for tattoo artists to cover their costs if a client cancels.
Deposits are usually a percentage of the estimated rate or a flat fee that is decided by the artist or the shop.
Tattoo deposits are forfeited if clients cancel or do not show up for their appointments. You will not be able to get your tattoo deposit back unless the cancellation is the fault of the artist or the shop. Deposit policies vary, so make sure to ask about your artist’s or studio’s policy before booking a tattoo appointment.
You may have to shift your schedule. If you want a tattoo from a popular artist, your date selection is going to be limited. In fact, you might not be able to select a date at all. Let’s put it this way—there are only 52 Saturdays in a year.
While most artists will certainly try to provide a date that works for you, others will provide a couple options and you can either take them or leave them. This might mean taking off work or adjusting your schedule in order to get in with your artist on a Tuesday at 1 p.m.
Once you have a date, mark it on your calendar and set reminders—especially if it’s a few months out. Many shops and artists will confirm your appointment as it gets closer, but it’s important that you remember when to show up. Not showing up for a tattoo appointment will cause you to lose your deposit and likely upset your artist, making rescheduling unlikely.
You might not see the tattoo design in advance. While this isn’t a policy across the board, know that some tattoo artists may not show you the design until the day of your appointment. Personally, I’ve had over 11 larger tattoos done, and I’ve only seen two of the designs in advance.
Many tattoo artists do this to try and minimize major design changes and a lot of back-and-forth nitpicking by clients. Almost all artists will make minimal changes and adjustments to the design on the day of your appointment so that you’re sure to get the piece you want.
If you are nervous about the possibility of not seeing a tattoo design before your appointment, there are a couple things you can do.
First and foremost, be clear about what you want your tattoo to look like when you send in your booking request and provide clear reference images for inspiration. Second, schedule a consultation with your artist in advance. Consultations are a time for tattoo artists to talk to you and get a better understanding for what you want your tattoo to look like. If you still really want to see the design in advance, ask your artist if it is a possibility. Many artists will accommodate these requests.
At the end of the day, it’s important to trust your artist. If you like the artist’s style and the other tattoos she’s done, chances are whatever they put together for you will be even better than you could imagine.
Please note: These observations are based on my own tattoo-booking experiences and are not universal for all artists and studios.