Updated: Aug 18, 2022
Photo by Brooke Cagle
How do you normally go about contacting a tattoo artist or tattoo studio? Do you call, email, Whatsapp or slide into their DMs? Calling is absolutely fine, Whatsapp is also fine for some, but sliding into DMs is a bit of a grey area (most artists and tattoo studios would rather that you didn't message them via social media). It's usually best to email your tattoo enquiries in as you can explain in detail what tattoo you want, send reference photos and describe how you want the tattoo to look. Due to the current pandemic, face to face consultations are tricky and some studios might not offer them for a while and so it's really important to make sure that you include all the vital details of your enquiry in your email.
Often, people send extremely short emails such as “I want a tattoo. Are you open?”. Due to the busy schedules of tattoo artists, whether they're drawing, tattooing, responding to enquiries, doing their taxes, attempting to live a life outside of tattooing, time is precious. Sending many emails back and forth is a no-no. So how do you cut down on back and forth messaging whilst making sure that you have made the tattoo artist understand your vision of how you want your tattoo to look?
Include the following in your email:
Describe the design you're looking to get. It's often easier to describe what you want when accompanied by photos or images. The popular platforms where people get their tattoo inspirations from are Pinterest, Instagram, Tattoodo or just a simple search on Google.
Note: Most artists offer custom design tattoos rather than copy, out of respect for other tattoo artists and for originality's sake. You wouldn't want a tattoo that's already been done on somebody else anyway, right? Right?
You'll be surprised to hear that a lot of people say 'small' or the size of their arm, leg, head, ear, toe. Bodies vary in sizes so if you said that you wanted it as big as your upper arm, tattoo artists would have to guess what the width, circumference or length of your upper arm would be. Sending a photo of your arm won't tell them the size of it either. You have to measure it or whatever part of the body you want tattooed to get the accurate measurements. Use a measuring tape or a ruler, with centimetres or inches as your metric. If you don't have a measuring tape or a ruler, just pick something that everyone knows the size of for reference. For example, you could say "I want the design to be the size of a postcard/A4 page/lighter/loo roll" - anything will do!
It's important to let your tattoo artist know where your desired tattoo design would be placed on the body. This is because they need to assess whether it would suit the area you've chosen, and also because they will design the tattoo to fit the shape of your body. Stating which side (for example, left or right arm) is also very useful so that the design can be created facing in the right direction.
If you're comfortable with doing so, get someone to take a picture of the area you'd like tattooed and send this as part of your enquiry. This is especially important if you're trying to fit a new tattoo next to existing ones, you want a tattoo to compliment your body shape, or for cover ups and re-works. The artist will use the photo and the measurements to make sure the design is right. Letting the artist know placement also means...they can advise you etc.
A picture can say a thousand words! A reference is basically anything that you want to use as inspiration for your new tattoo. It could be a picture of a tattoo you’ve come across, some artwork or illustration, a font that you like the style of, a copy of a treasured handwritten note, or a photograph. It’s super helpful to say what it is about the reference you like - for example, “I’d like to get a linework tattoo based on this photo of me and my friends. I’ve included the photo, and a reference picture of a tattoo that shows the kind of style I’m looking for”. Or even as simple as: “I really like the shading technique/colours/placement of this reference”. If you’re looking to get a lettering tattoo, check out websites that provide hundreds of fonts and see what you like - most of them will allow you to type in your quote and preview it in each font. You can send the ‘font name’ as part of your enquiry.
Permission to get artwork tattooed
Normally, tattoo studios will take your references and create their own interpretation of a design so as not to copy other artists' work. However, if you do want to replicate a piece of art or illustration, you’ll need to gain permission from the original artist. It’s useful if you ca