Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the tattoo questions I am often asked. After reading through them all, if you have a question which is not in this section, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I choose a tattoo artist?
You should look at an artist's work (in their portfolio, on their website, or social media pages-- but 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, something you want to carry, to represent. 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 do so; 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. Most of the time I will create a drawing for you, especially if it's a custom piece, so you don't necessarily need to have artwork before you come in. I can help you with the look and execution of your concept. When you come in for your consultation appointment, please bring printouts of the images that you like or are inspired by--- it's so much easier than trying to look at tiny pix on cell phones together.
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. Please be organized and do your research BEFORE you come in. It is exceedingly annoying to sit there waiting for you to scroll through your smart phone looking for some image that you thought you saw on somebody's social media page somewhere but now you can't find it! 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 time planning and drawing out your idea. I will collect a deposit (usually a small, non-refundable amount like $40-60--- please bring CASH!) that goes towards the cost of the tat. Be prepared to pay the deposit when you're at your consultation. I will usually schedule a time for you to come in and get some ink after taking your deposit. If you live out of town, state or the country, I'm willing to work with you over email, but you must call me with your card info to give me a deposit before we get very far and I do any actual prep work.
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 device (smart phones, iPads, etc.) 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 studio is 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; it's illegal to have animals in the shop.
How much will my tattoo cost?
Pricing is based on the size and detail of the tattoo you want. (Sleeves take several sessions; back pieces take even more-- both are major commitments in time and money.) 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 $170 per hour, with a $100 minimum. For payment I accept cash, personal check, debit and gift cards, VISA and MC. If you want an estimate for a tattoo, schedule a consultation appointment and come in. It is impossible for me to give you an accurate guesstimate without seeing you in person.
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 rate is 15-20%, just like most other services. And, just like you tip your waiter or waitress, you should tip after every session-- you would never say to your favorite server at your favorite restaurant, "I tipped you when I was in last week, so I don't need to tip you again for this meal," would you?
I'm 16- can I get a tattoo? Do I need to bring my ID to get a tattoo?
It is illegal to tattoo anyone under the age of 18 in Oregon; with or without parental permission, it doesn't matter. Tattooing is not federally regulated in the U.S., and the laws regarding tattooing change from state to state. In other states you may be 16 and receive a tattoo if your parent is with you and gives their permission, but not in Oregon, where I tattoo. And yes, all of my clients, no matter their age, need to bring current state recognized ID with them; the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) which governs tattooing in Oregon, insists that I check ID's (which I have always done, of course) and then photocopy them for every single session I perform. (They are quite insistent about it and threaten to fine me if I don't.)
I have an old tattoo that I want covered up. What should I do?
You should make an appointment to come in to see me with your new idea/image and we can talk about the project in great detail. I will tell you if I think your old tattoo or scar 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.) I will also use the position of the old tattoo, the new image going over it and the virgin skin around it to move and fool the eye. Cover up tattoos are usually done in stages: outline, gray shading and then the color. Each stage needs three weeks to heal before we can do the next, so they take longer and are more expensive than regular tats. 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. So cover up tattoos require patience. I have tons more information on my Cover Up Tattoos page; go check it out.
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. Spend some time thinking about where you want your new tattoo before you come in for your consultation. I will ask you then where you want it; many places on the body (hands/fingers, feet/toes, 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. I 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 DO NOT tattoo the tongue, lips, ears, fingers/toes, arm pit, elbow, knee, 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. I will usually 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 weeks. 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 finished, completed tattoo, sometimes as it heals down it may lose some ink, due to the natural way skin heals. If you follow my 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; I can tell you whether your tat needs a touch up just by looking at it. If you come back within four months of your original appointment, touch ups are free (except for hands 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 me for it. Sometimes a tattoo, especially a cover up of old ink or a scar, will need what we call "polishing", which is a last application of ink to completely and utterly finish it. It's different from a touch up and I charge for it.
Should I get my old tattoo lasered before covering it up with a new tattoo?
You should ask me first, to see if I think it'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. Sometimes, if the "old" tattoo is super dark/saturated or if the scar(s) you want covered are very crenulated/bunchy, I will recommend that you get the area lasered first to lighten or smooth them out, but I have to see that part of your body in person to be able to tell.
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 perform cosmetic tattooing or piercing?
I do not perform "cosmetic" tattoos--- tattooing on the face to create "realistic" looking eyebrows, eyeliner, and lip liner. And I'm not a piercer. I do have a lot of experience tattooing over scars--- like mastectomy, old burn, or cutting scars and other types of scars. I don't know any cosmetic tattooers that I can recommend. For piercing, I recommend Seth Dietz at Adorn Body Art.
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. Sometimes taking an Ibuprofen anti-inflammatory pain reliever like Alieve, Advil or Motrin right before being tattooed can help with pain management.
And now, there are new numbing creams that help; they are expensive and you should use ones that do not have any vaso-constrictors in them, so that your skin will respond properly while being tattooed. Numbing creams don't take the pain totally away, so don't expect to feel nothing-- they just numb the area, so that getting tattooed is more bearable. Zensa numbing cream works well, for example-- I love it and can not recommend it enough! It is well worth the cost.
Here is info on how to apply Zensa-- do this right before you come in for your inking sessions: clean the area affected--shave it if you can--and towel it dry. Apply the cream thickly to the WHOLE area to be tattooed; it should be white and feel cold— be generous with the space, as I may move the placement. Use plastic wrap and plastic medical tape to seal the area tightly (this is important.) LEAVE IT ON-- do not remove it in your car before you come in. I will remove the plastic wrap, etc. when we are ready to perform the ink. Also, bring the tube with you to your session, in case you need another application during the process. https://zensaskincare.com/tattoos#how-to-apply These instructions, (and the instruction sheet included in the Zensa box, frankly) are pretty lame, so follow mine.
You are more than welcome to use numbing creams-- just let me know before you come in for your inking sessions. But, 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. Seriously, if you know that you won't be able to bear being uncomfortable and in some level of pain, you should not consider getting a tattoo. Also, some medications that restrict the release of endorphins make getting tattooed very painful, so think about what medications you're on, before you come in.
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 four weeks old and totally healed down (not shiny) before getting your new tattoo in that area. Skin that has been sunburnt or damaged in other ways (bruising, etc.) can cause blow out (bleeding of the ink) or keloid scarring, if you are prone to that.
I have scars, varicose veins, moles, freckles on the area of the body that I want to get a tattoo. Is that OK?
I need to know about those skin anomalies; you should show me at the time of your consultation. I will let you know if I can tattoo them. I will usually just go around moles; if I try to tattoo over them, they bleed a lot and don't always hold the ink. Freckles are usually no problem whatsoever; I can ink right over them with no trouble. Varicose veins are almost as easy. Getting a tattoo can be a great way to cover up a scar: old surgery scars, burns, self-inflicted "cutting" type scars and mastectomy scars, for example. But many scars are difficult to tattoo over, especially if they are raised, bumpy or mushy. (The same thing goes for stretch marks, which are almost always impossible to tattoo.) 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 fairly dark in color but are usually flat and solid enough to tattoo over and I have done some lovely tattoo work over them. I have tons more information on my Cover Up Tattoos page; go check it out.
I have scratches, pimples, bruises, insect bites or other eruptions on my skin where I want to be tattooed. Is
Possibly, but if the skin is too disturbed you may not be able to receive a tattoo-- show me the anomalies first, at your consultation, as you may need to wait for them to clear up before being tattooed. Skin that has been damaged in other ways (bruising, etc.) can cause blow out (bleeding of the ink) or keloid scarring, if you are prone to that.
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 I shave it off to get the ink under the skin and the look of the tattoo may be affected by the hair. If you have lots of hair where you want to be tattooed, you may shave it first, before coming in for your inking session(s)-- that will save us time and therefore you, money.
I plan to go camping, hiking, backpacking, to the beach, etc. immediately after receiving a new tattoo. Is that OK?
No. You will need to go on your vacation first and get your new tattoo after you come back, because all of those activities may adversely affect your new tat-- getting it dirty, sweaty, sun burnt, soaking/water logging it, etc. is bad for your new tattoo. Some tattoo projects need several sessions to complete and take time and patience. Look at your calendar first and then plan when to get your new tattoo; you'll thank yourself later.
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 studio, so I don't take apprentices. Unfortunately, there is no one or school in Oregon that I can now recommend. I'm sending people to Washington or California; Seattle, San Francisco or Los Angeles are your best bet to learn how to tattoo properly on the west coast. Look for two year, traditional apprenticeships with options to work in the studio after you get your license. Also look for tattoo shops or schools in highly regulated states where teachers have to maintain a separate instructors license. If you have an art degree first, especially a degree in design, that will be very helpful.
How many styles of tattooing can you perform?
I can create/design and perform ANY style of tattoo that you want--- Tribal, Traditional American/Old School, Watercolor, Asian,/Irezumi, Sak Yant, Portrait, Botanical, Lettering, Graywork, Art Nouveau, etc.--small or large scale. (Creating and tattooing a tattoo is called a "performance", just like other types of art.) Some people see the color on my cover up work and assume that's all I can do--- but that is incorrect. If you want me to perform a particular style/type of tattoo for you, just ask me. Now, for some types of tattoos, (like Cover ups) certain styles won't work, but I can let you know that at your consultation.
Are you hiring--artists, counter people or just someone
No. My studio is small with room for just one artist; it's my private tattoo shop. I've always done my own scheduling and cleaning, no matter where I've tattooed. Also, Portland is now totally over saturated with tattoo artists.
Will you add cremation ashes to my tattoo?
No. I think that's a bad idea. We don't know how the body will react to having a thick, foreign substance like someone else's ashes in it over time. Your body might reject it and then you'd have a huge infected mess. Memorial tattoos don't need anything added to them like that; they are already powerful reminders of important people, pets, etc. and I have performed many beautiful ones.
What is some old, outdated terminology no longer used in the tattoo world?
One is "tattoo parlor": professional places where people are tattooed are called "tattoo shops" or "tattoo studios". Another VERY outdated term is "tattoo gun": tattoo artists use "tattoo machines" to tattoo people, NOT "guns".