Schedule a Tattoo Consultation

Getting Started on Your New Tattoo

A tattoo is a transformative experience, whether it's your first piece or your fiftieth. At Paper Crane we want you to enjoy every step of the process, from your initial tattoo consultation to your aftercare. We've put together a simple walk-through to help you get started and to give you an idea of what to expect at our world-class studio.

Step 1: Choose a Tattoo Artist

Choosing an artist is a major decision, with a lot of factors to consider. All of our artists are outstanding, with industry experience, stylistic expertise, and awesome attitudes--which can make it hard to choose just one!We're always on hand to help you make a decision, but we've got a few easy steps that can help you narrow down the field of who you'd like to work with on your new tattoo.

Joy Shannon of Paper Crane applies a tattoo stencil to a client's arm.
Find the styles you like:
  • Although you don't need to know every style or the proper names to know what you like, doing a little style research can help you choose an artist.
  • Each of our artists has certain areas that they specialize in. Many of our artists are accomplished across multiple styles, so be sure to explore our portfolios to find an artist whose work resonates with you!
  • Here's a quick rundown of some of the tattoos styles you might be interested in:
    • American Traditional Tattoos: Also known as traditional or old school, American traditional tattoos feature bold outlines and a limited color palette. Some of the most common subjects done in this style include roses, sharks, pin-up girls, swallows, stars, anchors, and hula girls.
    • Neotraditional Tattoos: Like American Traditional, Neotraditional is all about bold colors and and bold lines--but these tattoos typically feature a wider range of both colors and line weights, which gives more depth, detail, and realism.
    • Illustrative Tattoos: Illustrative tattoos feature an expanded color palette, variety of line weights, and realistic shading. These pieces often resemble an actual illustration. For some artists this includes linework that looks like pencil or brush strokes, whereas others let the depth of shading and range of color gradations lend a tattoo that particular quality.
    • Watercolor Tattoos: Watercolor or painterly tattoos often look more like something you’d see on your wall than on a human canvas. These tattoos imitate brushstrokes to varying degrees: Some may have bold strokes or paint “splatters,” whereas others have a softer, more blended look. They tend to feature a softer color palette, often incorporating pastels or subtle color variations.
    • Blackwork Tattoos: Blackwork tattoos have zero shading, whereas black-and-grey tattoos feature shades of both black and grey (using either watered-down black ink or prefabricated grey ink). Sacred geometry, bold patterns, and large swaths of solid black typically characterize blackwork pieces, but this style can also include extremely detailed subjects that have an illustrative quality to them.
    • Dotwork Tattoos: Dotwork tattoos consist solely of dots—lots and lots of dots, depending on the piece! Dotwork tattoos require the artist to precisely place tens, hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of dots into a pattern to achieve the desired image. These tattoos typically are done in shades of black or red, and the end product can be a simple design or have an almost three-dimensional look to it.
    • Realistic Tattoos: Whether in full color or black-and-grey, realistic tattoos implement expert linework and shading to create a style that is extremely true to life—almost like looking at a photograph, which is why you might hear it called photorealism. Meticulous planning and attention to detail can make a photorealistic rose look like you could actually pick it off of someone’s arm or a butterfly look like it might fly away at any second.
    • Irezumi Tattoos: Irezumi is the proper term for traditional Japanese tattoos. Originating in Japan in the 1600s, this style still focuses on classic themes from folklore, legend, and history: Dragons, samurai, phoenixes, geishas, cherry blossoms, koi fish, kitsunes, kappas, and other subjects both mythical and mundane serve as common subject matter.
Choose an artist:
  • We love getting visitors to check out our portfolios!
  • Our most recent works are posted on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter, where we feature all of our artists and the latest tattoos they're working on.
  • If you can't decide on an artist, we encourage you to screenshot a few tattoos you like on our social media to help us match you with an artist.
  • Chances are you'll find yourself drawn to one artist or style in particular based on what you're interested in getting tattooed. If you fall in love with an artist's work, we're very happy to schedule you with him/her. Alternatively, because we have artists with varied stylistic expertise and significant industry experience, we can match you with another artist who excels at the same style.

Owen Juarez tattoos an Ireumi-style chest panel in Long Beach.

  • Please keep in mind that artists have tattooing preferences as well: If you reach out to an artist specializing in photorealism, they might refer you to another artist if you ask for a neotraditional piece. Feel free to ask, though: Just because an artist specializes in one style doesn't mean they only do that style! And if that artist isn't a good match, we can help you find one who is a perfect fit for your piece.


Step 2: Schedule a Tattoo Consultation

We want your tattoo to be a work of art you love for a lifetime, but we also want the experience to be something authentic and memorable. When you have a good vibe with an artist, you usually end up seeing that person again and again--not just because you love their work but because you feel they "get" you. We're very committed to customer service and to fostering a friendly, safe-space environment, so any of our artists are going to work to make you feel comfortable. By coming in for a tattoo consultation, you'll get a chance to be sure you and an artist are a good "fit" and will enjoy working together.

In addition to getting a feel for your artist's vibe, a tattoo consultation is an excellent opportunity to see what we can do with your vision when we collaborate in person. You can get a good idea of what your tattoo design will look like and see if the artist's style translates to the tattoo you want. It's also your opportunity to get a quote on price, determine the size and placement, etc.

What to bring to your consultation:

  • Any reference photos, drawings, etc.
    • The cleaner the image, the better!
    • Appropriate reference photos depend on the tattoo you're interested in. For photorealistic/portrait tattoos, for example, we need super clear, highly detailed photos that we can work off of. If you're looking to get a very specific design tattooed, we need something crisp that we can translate into a stencil (preferably a picture on a white background). A picture of a tattoo can work as inspiration, but it won't work as an exact stencil.
    • Your artist can help you find reference photos during your consultation if necessary, so don't worry if you can't find the perfect image.
  • All your favorite tattoo ideas!
    • We LOVE creative collaboration! We want to hear all of your ideas for your new tattoo so we can create something deeply personal and utterly unique. Working on a tribute for your grandmother? You might let us know what her favorite flower was, or you could tell us about a particular piece of jewelry she wore--we can figure out creative ways of working such details into your tattoo.
  • An open mind...
    • Each artist has their own incredible style and approach, which is what makes our tattooing family so strong. We will absolutely listen to everything you have to say in order to ensure your tattoo is exactly what you're imagining--and we would ask that you listen to our input as well. Our years of experience give us insight on things like tattoo placement, size, color, style, etc.--and these insights can be invaluable when it comes to both your session and the final product. Additionally, as professionals, we can bring design suggestions to the table that might not have occurred to you. Ultimately it's your call, but we would love to be able to run all of our thoughts by you during your consultation so that we know you are aware of all your options.

Suzanne Shifflett tattoos at Paper Crane in Long Beach.

We pride ourselves on being a judgment-free, safe-space environment. That means that we will support your vision 100%! Want a fandom tattoo? We got you. Have an "out there" concept you think we won't understand? Walk us though it. Want to celebrate your identity with a tattoo but are worried about what we will say? We're on your side. From Harry Potter tattoos to uterus flowers, we've tattooed it all--and we love it all.

Talk about your budget:

  • Your tattoo artist will discuss their hourly rates and give you a quote for your piece during your consultation.
  • If you have a budget, now is the time to talk about it!
    • Although we don't haggle over our costs, we're very happy to work with your budget.
    • This might mean scaling back the size of a tattoo or utilizing other techniques to cut down on tattooing time.
    • We are also very happy to do a tattoo over multiple sessions. For example, we might work on the outline during one session, then on your next session we might start on color.

Step 3: Leave a deposit and make an appointment

Why does it take so long after the consult to schedule an appointment?

  • Our artists are among the best in the business, which means we are at times booking three months or more in advance. We often have time for walk-ins for small pieces--but when we need a significant amount of time to tattoo a piece, you might have to wait a few weeks.
  • Remember that the right artist is worth waiting for! You're going to have your tattoo for a long time (forever even!). If you really want to work with a certain tattoo artist who is booked up, we promise that you'll be happy you waited.
  • If you're really in a hurry, please send us an email before you schedule a consultation. We can take a look at the calendar to see if anyone with the stylistic expertise you need is more readily available.

Daniel Madsen works on a tattoo concept with a client during a consultation in Long Beach.

Why do I need to leave a deposit?

  • Once you're happy with your artist and the initial design, you'll pay a deposit (which you can do online if it's not convenient to get to the shop) and get scheduled.
  • For small pieces, the deposit is $50-$100. For large pieces, it's $100-$500. (There's a 2% service fee if you pay with credit/debit or online.)
  • Your deposit holds your appointment time/date for you.
  • It also shows us that you're serious about getting a tattoo! That way we don't end up designing something amazing that goes to waste.

What if I need to cancel my appointment or change the time/date?

  • Each artist has their own policy, so please reach out to your individual artist if you need to make a change.
  • Typically if you give us enough notice, we can switch your appointment time/date without requiring a new deposit.
  • As a rule, we don't refund a deposit in the event of a cancellation.
  • If you don't show up to your appointment, you forfeit your deposit and will need to leave a new one if you want to reschedule.

What if I want to make a change to my design?

  • We want your tattoo to be exactly what you're envisioning. The best way to accomplish this is to make good use of your consultation.
  • If you have changes after your consultation, please remember that even small details can impact tattooing time, so that might mean an increase in price or an adjustment to your appointment time/date.
  • Ultimately, your deposit is to cover the tattoo design discussed in your consultation. If you want to change the color of a rose or rethink the tattoo placement without changing the size, that's typically not an issue. But if you want to change your traditional anchor design into a photorealistic portrait of your grandmother, we reserve the right to forfeit your deposit and request a new one. (And even in less drastic cases, we would most likely need to start totally from scratch with a new consultation and appointment!)

Step 4: Get Tattooed!

Things to keep in mind on the day of your tattoo

  • Wear comfortable clothing that provides appropriate access for your tattoo placement.
  • Leave for your appointment with time to spare!
  • Long Beach is notorious for parking problems, and our shop isn't an exception. Visit our FAQ to get our best advice on parking.
  • Traffic around LBC can also be an issue. We don't want you to feel rushed or stressed for your big day, so please plan accordingly.
  • Eat a meal that isn't too heavy--something that will keep your blood sugar in check without upsetting your stomach. You don't want to faint from hunger while under the needle or get distracted from the experience by a growling stomach!
  • Most importantly, we want you to have a relaxing, enjoyable experience that you'll treasure forever. If you're nervous about the pain, we're pleased to offer HUSH anesthetic sprays and gels. You can ask your artist about these during your consultation or at the beginning of your session.

A tattoo artist applies a stencil at an appointment in Paper Crane.

Step 5: Don't Forget the Aftercare

Aftercare is a key factor in ensuring your tattoo looks beautiful for years to come.
We have detailed aftercare guidelines to help you in your healing journey.Your artist will go over aftercare with you after your session, and you can always give us a call with any questions
We carry premier aftercare products designed to give you the best healing experience possible. You can pick up Ora's Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve in our shop.

Schedule a Consultation with a Tattoo Artist Today!

We're stoked to be part of your tattoo experience and can't wait to see you in beautiful Long Beach! If you have any questions, give us a call and we will walk you through them.