Frequently Asked Questions
How do I choose a tattoo artist?
You should look at an artist's work (in their portfolio, on their website, or better yet, on the people they have tattooed) to see if their finished tattoos are solid-- line quality should be uniform and not splotchy, color should be uniformly applied and not blotchy, etc. --and to see if their style and work complement the tattoo you want to have performed for you. You should visit the artist at the shop where they work and observe them, see if you like their personality, the other staff (if there is any), the cleanliness of the place, etc. and see if you would like to be tattooed by them in their studio.
How do I choose a design for a tattoo?
You should spend some time thinking about what image you would like to live with permanently; something that commemorates a person or an experience you've had, a group you belong to, something important, something that has meaning, value to you. The concept is the most important thing.
Once I have a concept, do I have to find my own representation of it?
If you want to find or create your own drawing for your tattoo, you are welcome to; just be aware that your artist will let you know whether or not it will make a good tattoo. Your design may have to be altered. There are several websites where you can find art for tattoos-- here are some links
Most of the time your tattoo artist will create a drawing for you, especially if it's a custom piece, so you don't necessarily need to have artwork before you go in. Your artist can help you with the look and execution of your concept.
Once I have a particular artist in mind, what should I do?
You should contact them and make a consultation appointment; those are free and in-person meetings where you bring printouts of visual references of your concept and you discuss your vision for the piece in great detail with your artist. If your tattoo idea is small and simple, the artist may perform the tattoo for you right afterwards, if they have time. Most custom tattoos require that the tattooer spend some time planning and drawing out your idea. They will collect a drawing deposit (that goes towards the cost of the tat) and then contact you when the drawing is done and schedule a time for you to come in and get some ink.
What should I bring to my inking session?
Please check out the "Care and Feeding" section of this website for exact instructions on what to do before (and after) coming in for your tattoo. Feel free to bring bottled water and some snacks with you if you know that you're going to have a long session. (I don't have a lot of extra space, but some small stuff is fine.) You may also bring your own pillow, blanket and iPod to keep you comfortable, if you're going to be laying down or reclining for your session. Sometimes it's nice to have a friend with you but my shop is pretty small, so please do NOT bring a bunch of people into the shop with you; one extra person is enough. Small children and pets are not OK to bring to the shop.
How much will my tattoo cost?
Pricing is based on the size and detail of the tattoo you want. Most shops have an hourly rate and a minimum charge based on that. When you come in for your consultation, you should ask the artist to give you an estimate for the project. Most tattooers are happy to work within your budget. I charge by the hour, not by the piece at $130 per hour, with a $100 minimum. For payment I accept cash, check, debit and gift cards, VISA and MC.
Should I tip my tattoo artist? How much?
Like your restaurant server, hair stylist or anyone else who performs a service for you, it is customary to tip your tattoo artist after receiving a tattoo from them. How much you tip is up to you but the standard is 15-20%, just like most other services.
I'm 16- can I get a tattoo?
Not in Oregon and Washington - it is illegal to tattoo anyone under the age of 18 in those states, with or without parental permission. In California and other states you may be 16 and receive a tattoo if your parent is with you and gives their permission.
I have an old tattoo that I want covered up. What should I do?
You should come in to see your artist with your new idea/image and ask them if that would make a good cover up tattoo. They will tell you if they think your old tattoo can be covered up (camouflaged) and if the image that you're thinking about can work as a new, cover up tattoo. The new image should be fairly graphic; photos don't work. Areas of flat color don't work either, generally, especially if they are colors that are light in value-- like red, orange or yellow. Most tribal designs, where there is just positive space (black ink) and negative space (no ink) don't work either. Cover up or camouflaged tattoos are tricky and have to conform to the "Cover up/Camouflage Formula", which is that they need to be: bigger, darker, more detailed with lots of line work and gray shading, and more colorful with colors of dark value (purples, dark greens, deep blues, etc.) We will also use the position of the old tattoo and the new image going over it to move and fool the eye. Sometimes we may need to pump some white into the old tattoo first and let it heal down (especially if it's really dark), to get it to shift to a lighter value, before putting the new image over it.
What is the best place on my body to get my tattoo?
Placement, or position, is a really important aspect of getting a tattoo and can make or break a tat. Ask your artist at the time of your consultation what would be a good place to have the tattoo that you're thinking of; many places on the body (hands, feet, elbows, knees, ribs/flank, skull/necks, groin, etc.) are not optimal places to receive a tattoo or have ink, especially if it's your first tattoo. Many artists will not put important imagery in an area of the body where it bends, as the ink will probably be forced out of there over time and ruin the design. I don't tattoo fingers or toes or the groin area. For skulls I will tattoo behind the ear only, (if there is space) with small, simple designs. For hands and feet, I will tattoo a small, simple design, on the tops only.
How long will it take to get my new tattoo?
The time it will take to have your new tattoo completed will depend upon the tattoo size, design and placement, you and how your skin behaves and the skill of your tattoo artist. Your artist will be able to give you a rough estimate at the time of your consultation after getting all of the particulars from you and probably an even firmer estimate after creating your design/drawing. If it is a large piece, we may need several sessions to complete the work and we usually need at least three weeks between sessions, depending on how your body heals---sometimes we may need four. The application process itself will go better and faster if you are calm and do not move. Following my recommendations in the "Care and Feeding" page of this website will help. If your skin welts up a great deal, the process will take longer. Also, many medications affect how your skin and body react to being tattooed.
What is a "touch up"?
After you have received your tattoo, sometimes as it heals down it may lose some ink, due to the natural way skin heals. If you follow your artist's aftercare recommendations, your tattoo should heal down properly. You may come back in to have it "touched up" if you have lost a lot of ink, but some loss is to be expected; your artist can tell you whether your tat needs a touch up just by looking at it. If you come back within 4 months of your original appointment, touch ups are free (except for hand and feet, which are not.) If you want to add some elements or new color to your tattoo, that is not a touch up and you need to pay your artist for it.
Should I get my old tattoo lasered before covering it up with a new tattoo?
You should ask your tattoo artist first, to see if they think that's necessary. Most times, it is not and lasering your old tattoo may create scar tissue that can not be tattooed over. Tattoo laser removal is painful, expensive and time consuming; after you have your tat lasered, which may take many sessions with at least 8 weeks in between laser sessions, you may need to wait another 6 months to 1 year or more for your lasered skin to flatten out-- to see if you can receive a new tattoo over the new skin. It may never become flat enough, and you may end up with an even bigger mess than before.
I am thinking about getting a tattoo on my abdomen/hip somewhere. Is that a good idea?
It may be but if you are young and female and are planning on having children the natural way, you should have your baby first and then get your tattoo work done on your abdomen/hip afterwards. The reason is that the whole front and sides of the body change and expand for women when they are pregnant. Your skin may have to stretch a great deal; sometimes tattoo work will look OK after you contract down again but other times the ink will be permanently messed up and the image will be ruined.
Do you do cosmetic tattooing or piercing?
I don't do "cosmetic" tattoos--- tattooing on the face to create realistic looking eyebrows, eyeliner, and lip liner. And I'm not a piercer. I do have some experience tattooing over scars--- like mastectomy, old burn, or cutting scars and other types of scars. But for traditional cosmetic stuff, I recommend Donna London. Her phone number is (916) 995-6375. For piercing, I think that Blake at Nomad Piercing is one of the best and most knowledgeable piercers in Portland. You can find him at www.nomadmuseum.com
Does getting a tattoo hurt?
Yes. It's the nature of tattooing; we're inserting ink underneath the epidermal (top) layer of the skin with small needles. How much it hurts depends on: where on the body the tattoo is applied and you. If the area being tattooed is bony without a lot of muscle but lots of nerves (hands, feet, skull, flank, spine, etc.) it will hurt more. Also, if you have a low tolerance for pain, and you can not remain calm and still, you are probably not a good candidate to get a tattoo, especially a large one.
I have a sunburn on my skin where I want to be tattooed. Is that OK?
No. You will need for that burned skin to peel off and for the new skin growth to be at least three weeks old before getting your new tattoo in that area.
I have scars, moles, freckles on the area of the body that I want to get a tattoo. Is that OK?
Your tattoo artist will need to know about those skin anomalies; you should show them at the time of your consultation. Many scars are difficult to tattoo over, especially if they are raised, bumpy or mushy. (The same thing goes for stretch marks.) If the scars are solid and flat, it is easier to tattoo over them but some scars will not take ink well. Some scars, like mastectomy scars, are dark in color but are usually flat and solid enough to tattoo over and I have done some lovely tattoo work over them. Your tattooer will let you know if they are comfortable trying to tattoo scars. We will usually just go around moles; if we try to tattoo over them, they bleed a lot and don't always hold the ink. Freckles are usually no problem whatsoever; we can ink right over them with no trouble.
I have scratches, pimples, bruises or eruptions on my skin where I want to be tattooed. Is that OK?
Possibly, but if the skin is too disturbed you may not be able to receive a tattoo-- show your tattoo artist the anomalies first, as you may need to wait for them to clear up before being tattooed.
I have hair growth (heavy or dark) where I want to be tattooed. Is that OK?
Yes, but you should realize that the hair is going to grow back after we shave it off to get the ink under the skin and the look of the tattoo may be affected by the hair.
I plan to go camping, hiking, backpacking immediately after receiving a new tattoo. Is that OK?
No. You will need to go on your vacation first and get your new tat after you come back, because all of those activities may adversely affect your new tat-- getting it dirty, sweaty, soaking/water logging it, etc. is bad for your new tattoo.
Do you teach tattooing?
No. In Oregon, you need a separate license and training to become a tattoo instructor and I already have to pay for two licenses each year to run my own shop, so I don't take apprentices. Unfortunately, there is no one or school in Oregon that I can now recommend, as Dustin Ranck is no longer teaching or tattooing at Icon Tattoo and they've closed their apprenticeship program.