By loose definition, a walk-in tattoo refers to when someone has not booked a consultation with an artist and studio prior to getting a tattoo. Simply put, you walk by, walk in, get inked. But is it really that simple? It is, and it isn’t. Below is what you need to know if you want to make sure it goes without a hitch.
6 Tips to a Successful Walk In Tattoo
1. Do Your Homework on Local Studios/Artists First
A walk-in tattoo doesn’t have to be spontaneous by nature. You can plan for months in advance and simply not schedule an appointment because you may want the option to back out at the last minute. In fact, very few walk-in work is done on people that are passing by a shop and decide to get it done on the spur of the moment. Given that you want to option of having second thoughts, take time to investigate tattoo studios in your area to ensure that you find one that not only accepts walk-ins in the first place, but will have staff that is patient, professional, and will produce top quality work. View our 5-step guides to choosing a tattoo studio here, and tattooist here.
2. Know What You Want Before Stepping In
Studios that accept walk-ins will have a large number of artist portfolios and flash-books on hand for people to browse. These often help people pick their tattoo. You can go about it this way BUT we encourage you to have a clear picture of what you want ahead of time. For starters, this is critical to ensuring that you don’t get a tattoo that you will regret. It also helps your prospective tattooist significantly. There is nothing that can frustrate the connection between a tattooist and new client when there’s a lot of humming and hawing going on. If you can’t find a near replica of the design you have in mind at least do a comprehensive Google Image search and save pictures of examples that you like. This will help front staff at a studio select an available artist who is best suited to your preferred design/style, and will of course help the tattooist design your piece.
3. Keep it Small (to Medium)
A walk-in tattoo should be relatively small (or media-sized at most) and not too complicated when it comes to coloring and shading. If you have visions of getting a full sleeve or a human-realistic portrait of your great grandmother then you’d best schedule an appointment. Large and more complex tattoos require careful planning and design, at least if you want it to be done right.
4. Make Sure You’re Physically Prepared
This goes back to item number one above where we stated that even though you’re doing a walk-in tattoo you can give yourself time to prepare. This spans beyond vetting studios and artists, as you can also take the time to set the table physically. Follow our 5-step guide to preparing your skin for a tattoo which will go a long way to ensure that the tattoo will “take”. If the final decision or inspiration to do a walk-in indeed occurs on the day-of, at least make sure you are rested, well-fed (but not stuffed) and hydrated. Beyond pain, it can be a physically demanding affair akin to a session in the gym so it’s also a good idea to stretch your entire body and do some yoga before coming into the studio. This will keep you from cramping up and getting restless while sitting still for a couple of hours or more.
5. Make Sure You’re Mentally Prepared
You can get a piercing on the spur of the moment without concern. Even if it hurts more than you expected it’s done with within seconds so that you can go on about your day with some fresh ear gear to show off. A tattoo on the other hand, is much more taxing. It’s going to hurt, so be honest with yourself when it comes to your threshold for pain, and mentally prepare for the fact that the pain/discomfort may exceed your expectations (although it may be less painful than you imagined). Be sure to come in with a clear mind and check your stress and anxiety at the front door. It’s no exaggeration to state that a first tattoo is a momentous occasion so do all you can to achieve a state of calm (without consuming anything, that is) so that you can better appreciate the experience.
6. Have Wiggle Room in Your Wallet
For most people, the biggest unknown for a walk-in tattoo is often the cost. You may think it’s going to cost x-amout of dollars based on what people tell you, but you can’t take that information (or misinformation) to the bank. When searching for a walk-in studio, inquire (online or call) about the hourly rate ahead of time to help devise your initial estimate and tack on an extra hour for good measure. Have an extra hundred dollars or more available over what you anticiapted, just in case your skin is not as accepting (which extends the time) or if you’re so happy with the work that you want to tip extra – a common scenario for a studio with top quality artists. View our guide to budgeting for a tattoo for good measure.