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  • Writer's pictureluce

The Checklist: What to Bring to a Tattoo Appointment

Updated: Feb 17

From an artist's perspective, a comfortable client is a good client. You can be utterly determined to sit like stone... but bodies have limits. Foresight and coping skills beat a sheer-willpower approach every time.

So, what should you pack?

A  close up of someone's thigh with a lifework tattoo of a woman's face and hands. She hold a fern  in front of her chin. an art nouveau style frame and leaves surround her.
A tattoo can take a long time. Pack well so you can focus on the artwork.

When packing for tattoo day, consider how long your session is for, the placement of your tattoo, and your previous experiences. A line of script on an arm or leg requires only the basics. A 9” hip tattoo is going to take some forethought. 

If this is your first tattoo, don’t worry; Google knows everything :0 Just be sure the information is coming from industry professionals or seasoned enthusiasts with genuine knowledge and experience. The best move is to contact your artist and ask questions.

The Short List

Items you should bring to any appointment, ever. 

Pack a Snack


Pack a Snack.

It’s important to eat before a tattoo and to stay fuelled through long sessions. If your expecting an hour or longer of tattooing, bring a snack or lunch. Ideally something with fiber and sugar.

If it's your first tattoo, or you are prone to fainting, have low blood pressure, or high anxiety, you might want some candy as well. 

As far as your body is concerned, tattoos are trauma. Sensing a threat, your body produces adrenaline and endorphins to help you cope. Endorphins are great; they reduce pain and create a feeling of general wellness. 

Adrenaline is less helpful; it prepares your body to flee or defend yourself from a threat…but the only threat present is pretty art. Once released into your bloodstream, Adrenaline causes your heart to beat faster, your digestion to slow down, and your blood sugar may drop. Occasionally, the extra adrenaline has noticeable side-effects.

The drop in blood sugar can cause dizziness, light-headedness, and fainting. After a longer period, you may feel drained, anxious, and irritable.

A sweet snack will help you feel better. 

This is probably not how you should deal with low blood sugar on a daily basis, but for the sake of sitting still and being as comfortable as you possible, a sugary drink or snack will perk you up! 

Check out Tattoos and Anxiety* for tips to keep cool, calm, and collected (from an artist with ADHD, panic disorder, and tons of tattoos)

If you have experienced the emotional-aftermath of spiked adrenaline at a tattoo appointment, you probably weren’t as chipper leaving as you were arriving. Yes, this is definitely a source of anxiety for artists :) We also understand the physiological effect a tattoo can have, and we don’t take it personally. 

Personally, I take note if someone seems to be ‘low’ upon leaving. In the moment, I recommend that they treat themselves with something to eat and get some rest. Then I follow up the next day, when they’ve had time to recover, to find out how they’re doing and get their feedback on the tattoo and their experience.

Hydration-station in Tattoo Nation

Bring a drink or water bottle that you can drink without disturbing your artist. Travel cups with straws are a great option; you won’t need to move your head (and unintentionally move the rest of your torso) to drink. 

Gatorade, juices, or smoothies are great alternatives to water, but steer clear of excessive caffeine. I recommend something with electrolytes; I feel better the next day and crave sugar less if im properly hydrated. 

Whatever drink you choose, be sure its container has a spill-proof lid.

Deodorant / Antiperspirant

Sweating is normal and so is body odor, especially when your body is stressed. Protect your artist’s nose. Wear deodorant and reapply as necessary!

Flannel or Spare Sweater

Your tattoo is a wound, which means it is going to set off your body’s defense systems. Resources rush to the damaged area and your staying warm is no longer a priority.

This response varies from person to person, but many people find themselves cold during their tattoos. Depending on placement and how well you dressed, you might be sitting still with exposed skin for a long period. Bring a light blanket or an extra sweater to cover the rest of your body. 

Outfit + Accessories

Choose soft, loose fitting garments in which you can easily show the area you are getting tattooed. Remember that there is always potential for ink to splash on your clothes; tattooers wear black for a reason. 

You’ll need to sit or lie in specific positions while your artist works. Stiff clothes, buckles, or jewelry get in the way and can quickly become uncomfortable…and lead to fidgeting. 

For specific advice, read What to Wear for you Tattoo: Placement, Privacy, Practicality*

If you feel uncomfortable being seen by other artists or clients, call ahead and ask about the environment. Some shops have big windows, most have artists’ stations in open concept workspace. Every shop will offer you a privacy screen or have a specific station they use for private tattoos. 

At my current shop, I work in a separate room in the back. When another artist needs a private space, they use my room and I take their spot in the common area. 

More to Consider

Keep Boredom at Bay

Downloaded movies, podcasts, or music keep boredom at bay, and some people find they feel less pain when distracted. If you bring media with sound, remember your headphones! 

If your hands are free, a book or laptop are acceptable, but remember that your positioning might make using these hard and consider the aforementioned as a backup plan.

Most artists are happy to listen if you want to chat, but their primary focus is on their work. They may not be engaged with the conversation the entire time.

Medical Disclosure

If you have certain health conditions you may need documentation from your doctor stating that being tattooed will not be detrimental to your health. If you have a heart condition, diabetes, or take blood thinners or anti-rejection medications, you’ll want to check with your doctor before getting tattooed.

A Friend for Support

A friend is great for emotional support, passing your snacks to you, and making coffee runs, but choose carefully. You and your artist will be focused on your tattoo; bring someone who is patient and willing to help without becoming a distraction. 

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