10 things to do to prepare for your tattoo appointment

You’ve done your research, you know what kind of tattoo you want, you’ve chosen an artist, and you’ve booked the appointment. The journey has just begun - here are 9 things to do to prepare for your tattoo appointment.

  1. Prepare your body

    Eat, sleep, hydrate, repeat. Your skin and body are about to take a beating so you need to make sure that you’re physically prepared for it. It’s advised to eat a full meal, preferably with iron (or take iron supplements for vegetarians out there). You can and should definitely bring snacks and water with you to the appointment. Obviously avoid recreational drugs and alcohol. Try not to be hungover!

  2. Have good hygiene

    It probably goes without saying but come to the appointment clean and fresh. Similar to other high contact services, your tattoo artist has to maintain physical contact with you for an extended period of time. You want to avoid showing up to the appointment right after a workout or a long day of work. Don’t overdo it on the perfume, cologne, or hairspray either.

  3. Know what you want but trust your artist

    If you made it this far, it’s assumed that you’ve done your research, know what kind of tattoo you want, and have chosen an artist based on style and reference photos (if not, check out “How to choose an artist”). You have or will confirm the tattoo design before it goes on your skin - this is your chance to make sure you’re 100% happy with the design. It’s OK to be assertive, but also be helpful to your tattoo artist. Do you care about thickness of lines? Do you want specific shading? Do you want the size or placement adjusted? Remember to work WITH your artist but also trust their judgement - they are the professionals and they should be afforded some creative control.

  4. Be on time

    Enough said - your artists’ time is valuable ($150-250/hour on average). Be respectful of their time and considerate of customers whose appointment is after yours. You also don’t want the artist rushing through your tattoo! Showing up early is actually best because you will need to fill out some paperwork and get your I.D. checked.

  5. Leave your posse at home

    You should always check with the artist / shop about guest policy. It’s always nice to bring a friend to your tattoo appointment for moral support. However, it’s poor etiquette to show up with a group of people or with children. Checking in with your artist first is always the best option.

  6. Bring enough money, in the right form

    Most shops are cash-only although more and more shops these days accept credit cards. As always, check in with your artist / shop to confirm what form of payment they accept. Make sure to bring enough to cover the tattoo and tip (~20% is customary). When booking, you should definitely ask your artist for a rough estimate on cost - they’ll either tell you an hourly rate + estimated appointment time or give you a flat out dollar estimate e.g., “about $300”.

  7. Bring your I.D. and state’s tattoo release form

    You must be over 18 to get a tattoo in most states - make sure to bring your I.D. because the shop will check this. Each state also requires its own release form to be signed by the customer before they can get tattooed. Want to really get on your artists’ good side? Download, sign, and bring your release form with you. (IL release form for Slate customers in Chicago)

  8. Wear loose, comfortable clothing

    Your tattoo will likely be sensitive and may even hurt after you get it. You want to avoid wearing tight fitting clothing that may constrict the area around your tattoo after it’s complete. The artist will need the area you’re getting tattooed to be accessible and you also want to be as comfortable as possible during the appointment so dress accordingly.

  9. Prepare your skin

    This actually means avoiding things like waxing or tanning close to your appointment - both of these irritate the skin. You want your skin to be moisturized but avoid using alcohol-based lotion the day of the appointment because this dries out the skin. If possible, avoid spending too much time in the sun before the appointment, especially if you’re getting tattooed in the summer.

  10. Pick up some aftercare lotion

    Every shop and artist will give you different aftercare guidance but all advice will follow similar guidelines (see “Immediate Aftercare”). Almost all will include an aftercare product to put on your tattoo to prevent infection and accelerate skin healing. We recommend A&D, which can be found at your local drug store. It contains Vitamin A and Vitamin D (hence the name) and is used to treat abrasions and minor wounds.


For a more in-depth guide to prep for your first tattoo appointment, check out the video below: