Attending the 2024 Australian Tattoo Expo - Perth (August 23-25)
Attending the 2024 Australian Tattoo Expo - Perth (August 23-25)

The Tattooing Process

(and What to Expect)

Trusting The Process
Getting a tattoo requires a certain level of trust between client and artist – for tattooists, we trust that the client will ensure the utmost care in handling and healing their tattoo, to avoid infection and healing issues while it’s in a fragile state. In turn, we ask clients to “trust the process” to allow their tattooist to achieve the best possible outcome, from initial consultation, to the design and tattooing process.

There are several stages to getting your tattoo (this applies more to large scale pieces, as smaller/simple tattoos are a bit more straightforward):

1. The Consultation
This is where we discuss your ideas and how best to incorporate them into a design that is both representative of your vision but also works aesthetically as a tattoo.

We will talk about placement, flow, detail and size to make sure that everything works together in harmony. We do require some flexibility from the client when discussing design, as often something that may seem great in theory or on paper, won’t translate well into a tattoo. Placement and flow is very important so that we don’t end up with a tattoo that looks haphazardly stamped on and clunky, or a piece that warps because it wasn’t designed for the desired placement.

Additionally, if there are too many elements to include in the design, some cuts will need to be made so that it doesn’t become too busy or cluttered. This also goes for making a design too small for what is to be included. A good rule of thumb is to look at a design from a few meters away and squint slightly – if you can no longer tell what it is then it likely wont work well as a tattoo.

2. The Design
Once we have agreed on placement, size, style, detail and subject matter, we can book in your session(s) and get started on the design. I have to design in order of appointment, so most of the time I end up designing for a tattoo 1-2 days before our session. Unfortunately I can’t commit to anything earlier than this due to a full-time tattooing schedule (so designs have to be drawn up after work or on days off). Once I have drawn it up, I will send it through usually the day/night before our appointment so that if you have any tweaks you would like made, I can have them ready for you in the morning for our session.

There is time at the beginning of our session to make any further tweaks as needed – we won’t start tattooing until you are 100% happy, and it’s often much easier to discuss these changes in person than it would be back and forth in multiple emails. It is very rare that a design is so far from the client’s vision that we would need to completely redraw it on the day – this is why the consultation is so important, so we know prior to the appointment that we are on the same page.

3. The Tattoo Session
With the design finalised and ready to go, we then size up and print it, and create the stencil. Depending on the shape, size and placement of the stencil, this can take anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour trying to get it perfect. Sometimes we get it first go, sometimes we get it on the seventh go. This isn’t a phase we want to rush, so it’s important to be patient and make sure we nail it. Once we have the stencil on, I will ask you to triple check it in the mirror, from different angles and in different positions, so you can see how it will change depending on how you move, and make sure you are completely happy with everything before we start. This is also when you will need to confirm that any script or numerals are correct and properly spelled.

We then start tattooing! Make sure you are comfortable before we start – the more comfortable you are, the easier you will find the tattoo process. Please feel free to ask for breaks to stretch, use the bathroom or eat. We will break for lunch, and periodically for stretches, but if you become uncomfortable at all and need to move, that is no issue.

I am more than happy to chat during the tattoo if you’d like 🙂
I am also more than happy if you would rather zone out, read a book, listen to music or watch your phone (with headphones please) if that is what you prefer.

4. The “In-Between” Phase (multi-sessions pieces)
For multi-session pieces, the “in-between” phase is where trusting the process really comes into play (walking around with an unfinished piece for several weeks).

Some artists work “directionally” (for example, say they are creating a realistic sleeve with a face, a rose and a bird – they would stencil everything in the first session, tattoo the bird fully, then re-stencil the face and rose in the following sessions and continue in this way). Some artists prefer layering (eg. stenciling the sleeve on day one, then “ghost-lining” or mapping out the entire piece (face, rose, and bird) in one go so that the stenciling portion is then eliminated in the following sessions – allowing for more tattooing time in each consecutive session by not having to try to line up a new stencil with the existing work each time).

Neither method is better or worse, but personal preference. I personally prefer the latter, as I find it more efficient for myself and as a result it can require fewer sessions by cutting out consecutive stenciling time. However this means that the client will be walking around with the “mapped”, and obviously unfinished layer in between tattoo sessions – essentially just a shell of it’s final form.

In this regard, to minimise this unfinished “in-between” stage, I often recommend if you are wanting a large multi-session piece, to try and book all sessions in the planning stage, so that we have a set date for project completion. A minimum of three weeks is recommended between sessions to allow the skin to heal before adding on, so a project requiring 3 sessions would take a minimum of six weeks to complete, and so on.

It is very important that both client and artist feel comfortable, and if you find that your artist’s process isn’t your preference, this is something to bring up in the consultation phase so that you can guarantee both parties are on the same page before the tattoo is started. Once the tattoo has started, it is very hard to make changes – so if you have any doubts, please voice them and make sure they are dispelled to your satisfaction in the discussion phase.

If you aren’t feeling it, that’s okay! Sometimes there is a disconnect between the client and artist’s visions, and there is nothing wrong with pressing pause and reassessing. I don’t want to pressure anyone into a design they aren’t comfortable with, and I also won’t tattoo a design I am not comfortable or confident with. This is a permanent addition and it’s important we get it right!

Having said this, please keep in mind that last minute drastic changes or complete redesigns may mean we need to reschedule, as these take a lot of time and often can’t be done the day of our appointment (in this rare case, another deposit will be required to cover the lost day). If you change your mind, please let us know ASAP to avoid this 🙂