Tattoo Etiquette: A Paper Crane Primer

One of the most frequently asked questions we get is whether or not it’s appropriate to tip an artist. (The answer is yes, if you’re wondering–and it’s also very appreciated!) Tipping is part of proper etiquette when you get a tattoo that you are pleased with, much in the same way you might tip your hairstylist for a job well done.

But did you know that tipping your artist is just one aspect of tattoo etiquette? Especially for first timers, it can be easy to get so wrapped up in anticipation and excitement that you completely overlook how you should (and shouldn’t!) approach the tattooing experience. Whether it’s your first tattoo or your second full sleeve, we’ve put together a primer on basic etiquette to help you have as smooth of a session as possible. So pencils out: Class is in session!

Talk, Talk, Talk to Your Tattoo Artist

When you give us a call at Paper Crane or message us, it’s our goal to connect you directly with an artist who is a good match for your tattoo. After that, you’re welcome to reach out to us with any general questions or concerns! But when it comes to your tattoo consultation, session, design, etc., we would appreciate if you would contact your artist directly. Need to make a change to your appointment? Message your artist. Want to incorporate some wildflowers into that coyote skull tattoo? Message your artist. Curious about what kind of tattoo machine your artist prefers? You got it: Message your artist. If you want to know about where you should park or learn more about tattoo needles, you can check out our FAQ here or explore our blog–or you can send us an email! But as a general rule, if your question directly impacts your tattoo, it’s best to communicate with your artist so that there is less chance of miscommunication.

Be On Time to Your Tattoo Appointment (All the Cool Kids Are Doing It)

We want the day you get tattooed to be as stress-free as possible for you, which is why we have a semi-private tattooing space and offer things like numbing creams and extensive aftercare guidelines. But one of the quickest ways to turn a memorable day into a disaster is to cut it too close when it comes to your appointment time: If you run into traffic or can’t find a parking spot (which is a very real issue in Long Beach), you’ll end up sweating the minutes as they tick by rather than savoring them.

We don’t want you to rush, because no tattoo is worth getting into an accident. But we do encourage you to take into account local traffic as well as parking conditions, whether that’s at our studio or anywhere else. It’s much better for your peace of mind to get to your appointment a few minutes early–and not being late is a great way to show respect for your artist’s time.

If you are going to be a few minutes late, we suggest letting your artist know (ONLY if you can do so safely–don’t text and drive, please!). If you’re going to be significantly late to your appointment, please remember that your artist may have other appointments after yours, so it may impact how much of your tattoo you end up getting done or result in a cancellation.

Similarly, if you need to move your appointment or cancel for any reason, please let your artist know as soon as possible! We absolutely understand that life happens, and we will do our best to accommodate your schedule. We ask you to respect your artist’s individual policies regarding cancellations and deposits, though–and please keep in mind that depending on your piece, it might be anywhere from a few days to a few months before we can book a new appointment for you.

Stay the Course for Your Tattoo Design

Your tattoo should be something you enjoy for a lifetime, so we invite creative collaboration at every step of the process. During your initial consultation, you’ll have a chance to go over ideas with your artist and get started on a design.

We absolutely understand if you have changes to your original vision during the days leading up to your tattoo. Just keep in contact with your artist to ensure that when the big day comes, the design is what you ultimately want.

Still have changes when you see the final design on the day of your tattoo? Let us know! But please be reasonable and realistic. Some examples: If you want to change the eye color on your pin-up girl tattoo, we can do that. If you want to add your grandfather’s birthday to a tribute tattoo, we may need to work that in during a separate session (depending on how elaborate or complex the piece is). If you want to change the placement of your piece, we should be fine, as long as it doesn’t mean making your tattoo significantly larger than we’ve originally planned for.

But if you’ve put down a deposit for a custom-designed Irezumi-style tattoo and now want a photorealistic portrait of your dog, that’s going to be problematic.

Why? Firstly, your artist might not specialize in the new style you’re requesting. Secondly, the time blocked off for your original design might not be sufficient to cover the time required to both design and tattoo your new idea. Thirdly, it’s not exactly respectful of your artist’s time to ask them to trash a piece they’ve created for you and then to design a brand new tattoo on the fly.

We would never expect you to get a tattoo that you have decided you no longer want, for whatever reason. If you show up at the shop and don’t want to go through with a design, we won’t chase you out to your car with a tattoo machine (we promise). But we do reserve the right to keep your deposit for the original design and to request an additional deposit for your new idea, especially if you change your mind the day of your appointment. The best way to avoid this disappointment is to think over your ideas thoroughly and to fully explore them with your artist during a consultation. That way you’ll be ready to get inked on the big day.

Don’t Haggle Over Tattoo Cost

We pride ourselves as Long Beach’s premier tattoo studio, with boutique-style service and the industry’s most talented professionals. We are not a bargain shop, nor do we haggle over our rates.

You can check out our previous blog on pricing, but if you’ve had a consultation you’ll have a good idea of what your tattoo is going to cost. When you come in for your appointment (whether it’s with us or at another studio), we strongly discourage you from trying to bring the price down. Remember: Tattoos are a luxury, not a necessity, and you get what you pay for. If you run into financial difficulty, let your artist know as soon as possible that your tattoo might be out of your current price range. Depending on when you let us know (and at your artist’s discretion), we might be able to reschedule you for a later date, do a shorter session, or redesign your piece to be within your revised budget.

Say Yes to the (Right) Dress

What you wear to your appointment is of the utmost importance. We want you to be comfortable, especially if you’re in for a long session, so we advise against anything particularly restrictive. Moreover, we don’t want your new tattoo to get irritated on your way home: Depending on where you’re getting inked, we suggest wearing clothing that won’t rub your new tattoo or be particularly tight against it. If you’re getting a thigh tattoo, for example, loose sweats are a better choice than skinny jeans.

Your comfort on every level is extremely important to us, so we ask that you keep in mind your tattoo placement when you get dressed for your appointment. If you choose to wear a long-sleeved shirt to get a tattoo on your upper arm, you may end up having to take the shirt off entirely–and although we do have a semi-private tattooing space, there will potentially be other clients and artists in the shop.

If your tattoo requires you to be uncovered in any way that makes you uncomfortable, please let your artist know in advance about your concerns. We can suggest strategies to keep you as covered as possible, or we can discuss alternative placements.


We’ve all seen someone lose it at a defenseless cashier when things aren’t going exactly their way, and we all know it isn’t pretty. We highly suggest NOT being that person when you’re getting a permanent procedure done!

We pride ourselves on our customer service at Paper Crane (just check out our Yelp reviews). At any stage of your journey with us, we welcome your input and encourage you to voice any concerns or questions that you might have. Our founder Mikey Vigilante is additionally available to address any issues. But just as we respect you as an individual and a client, we ask you to respect any tattooist as an individual and a professional. Our studio is a safe space: We have a zero tolerance policy for abuse of any kind, including demeaning/disrespectful language, inappropriate behavior, and anything else that makes anyone in our shop feel uncomfortable. This extends to any communication you have with our artists via email, text, social media, etc.

Show Your Appreciation for Your Tattoo Artist!

Ah, back to that age-old question: How much should I tip for my tattoo? In general, 10-20% of your total cost is a good guideline. You might consider bumping that up to 25% or more if your tattoo costs less than a few hundred (for example, consider a $50 tip on a $150 tattoo versus a $15 tip). If you’re getting a tattoo done over multiple sessions, we suggest tipping after each session as opposed to a single tip at the end.

The other way you can show your appreciation for our artists is to spread the word: Share your new ink on social media, tell your friends and family about our studio, recommend your artist to people at the grocery store when they tell you how cool your tattoo is. We would love if you’d email us about your experience, or you can leave us a review on Yelp or Facebook. We’d also be thrilled to feature your piece on our social media or monthly newsletter if you send us a picture!

If you follow these basic rules, you’ll go into your tattoo appointment with the seasoned grace of an old pro. But if you’ve got more questions, please feel free to message us or your artist. It’s our priority to give you a memorable experience and an authentic work of permanent art, so we are always happy to walk you through whatever is on your mind. We’ll see you soon for your next tattoo!

Recent Posts

See All

Pinterest and Instagram have made a huge impact on the tattoo industry. As certain designs or styles become trendy, we see an increase in requests for those particular pieces. When clients are open to