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Ciel

First Ever Tattoo - Full Back Tattoo! Questions!

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Hi. :) I'm new to this site, and new to the whole tattoo world, so please bear with my ignorance!

I'm looking to get my first tattoo, and I want it to be a full back tattoo. It's going to be black and grey realism, with a lot of detail.

I've looked around the parlours in my city (I live in the UK, Scotland) and I've found an artist whose work I love, and who seems really keen on the idea. I had my meeting with him yesterday, and paid him £40 for a custom design, which he says will take 2 months to complete (because of his busy schedule).

So I have a bunch of questions, and was hoping you guys might be able to help me out!
 

1) The artist charged me £40 in order to complete a custom artwork design he says will take 2 months (since he's quite busy). Is this usual? I mean the £40 for a custom design.

2) Is £400 for a 6 hour day session a good price? It comes to around £66 per hour - is this the usual price? 

3) The artist didn't actually quote me how much the whole piece would cost... he said it could be 6 sessions, or 8, or 10 or even more... Now this could be a difference of about £2k. Should I definitely get a quote, or estimated duration from the artist before any work starts? Is it possible for artists to say with some level of certainty how long a full back tattoo will take to tattoo once the design can been agreed? This leads on to my next question. 

4) I'm very paranoid. I hope this isn't going to be the case, but what do I do if I feel like the tattoo artist is taking an excessively long time to complete the work, in order to prolong the sessions and gain more money? I can't rush him, but he could easily turn 6 sessions into 12 sessions if he wanted to...

5) What do you do during the tattoo? 6 hours is quite a long time. Are there usually breaks every couple of hours or what? My pain threshold is ridiculously high, so I'm not too bothered about the pain (I actually think I have something wrong with my nerve endings...)

6) What is the etiquette about tipping the artist? How much do I tip? Do I tip after each session, or after the work is complete?

7) Any tips about the aftercare? I'm going to have my partner help me out with it.

8) Is 18 days enough to heal from a tattoo? I work as a Fire Fighter, so I wear tight clothing (tight t-shirt) which obviously rubs on my back while I'm carrying out my duties. I'll be getting tattoo'd the first day I'm off on leave, which will give me about 18 days before the start of my next work shift. Will this be enough time to heal? Or at least get to the stage where I can wear a tight t-shirt and work out my back without me turning into an inky version of Carrie? 

9) My tattoo artist said that he prefers to tattoo from the bottom up - literally from the bottom starting, then ending at the top near my neck. Is this really unusual? I thought all artists did major parts of the design, then sort of fitted them together? If that doesn't sound...stupid. 

Edited by Ciel

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Hey there ... welcome to the tattoo world :)

To try and answer some of your questions ...

The drawing fee your artist asked of you is normal and even a little low in my experience.  Does seem like a long wait, but if he's busy, he's busy.  Many artists have long waiting lists ... so not all that surprising.

His hourly rate runs about the same as decent artists here in Montreal do also ...about 100$ an hour.

... something I might suggest is maybe get a smaller tattoo from him before committing so much skin to him ... I don't think I'm the only one to have ever been disappointed by discrepancies between what a portfolio has  reflected and what I have actually received ... buyer beware.  Might also help you to judge his work speed and honesty.  If he says the smaller tattoo will take 1-3 hours and it ends up 6 hours ... well.

If he says 6 to 10 sessions as you mentioned above ... then I doubt that the sessions will be more than 1-2 hours each.  Breaks are arranged beforehand with him but usually short and on your buck. Did he say 6-12 hours or 6-12 sessions?

Tipping etiquette  generally is 10-20%  upon completion of the tattoo.

There are several approaches to aftercare.  Your tattoo artist will offer you his personal regimen for care at the end of your first session.

18 days is plenty of time to heal :)  All of mine have healed almost fully (close,scab, itch and start peeling) within a week.  Everyone is different, but if you can't wear a snug shirt after 18 days there is a serious problem. 

Hope my two cents has helped ... :)

 

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3 minutes ago, littlefox1970 said:

Hey there ... welcome to the tattoo world :)

To try and answer some of your questions ...

The drawing fee your artist asked of you is normal and even a little low in my experience.  Does seem like a long wait, but if he's busy, he's busy.  Many artists have long waiting lists ... so not all that surprising.

His hourly rate runs about the same as decent artists here in Montreal do also ...about 100$ an hour.

... something I might suggest is maybe get a smaller tattoo from him before committing so much skin to him ... I don't think I'm the only one to have ever been disappointed by discrepancies between what a portfolio has  reflected and what I have actually received ... buyer beware.  Might also help you to judge his work speed and honesty.  If he says the smaller tattoo will take 1-3 hours and it ends up 6 hours ... well.

If he says 6 to 10 sessions as you mentioned above ... then I doubt that the sessions will be more than 1-2 hours each.  Breaks are arranged beforehand with him but usually short and on your buck. Did he say 6-12 hours or 6-12 sessions?

Tipping etiquette  generally is 10-20%  upon completion of the tattoo.

There are several approaches to aftercare.  Your tattoo artist will offer you his personal regimen for care at the end of your first session.

18 days is plenty of time to heal :)  All of mine have healed almost fully (close,scab, itch and start peeling) within a week.  Everyone is different, but if you can't wear a snug shirt after 18 days there is a serious problem. 

Hope my two cents has helped ... :)

 

Thanks for the reply!

I might just end up doing that - getting a smaller tattoo from him first. I've always wanted a mockingbird tattoo (I love to read - 'To Kill a Mockingbird' really influenced me when I was a kid).

He said a session would be 6 hours long (basically a whole days). He said it could be 6 sessions, or 8 sessions, or 10, or even more. You can see where I'm a little confused. He has given me a range of £2400 -£4000+ I just don't know what I should be expecting...

I'm so happy to hear about the healing time. Thanks for that!!

Oh, by the way, do you know if it's possible to do consecutive tattoo days for a full back piece? I have a ridiculously high pain threshold, so I wouldn't mind this - but is it a possibility? I'm reading the full back tattoo thread, and some guy got a ROA tattoo done in 4 consecutive days... Recommended?

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Great book ... I also remember enjoying it in my youth. :)

60 plus hours ... wow .... might wanna do some shopping around my friend ... 

After a six hour tattoo ... I would suggest definitely letting it heal a couple weeks at least before doing more.  But that's just my opinion.  An immune system can get pretty bogged down after a 6 hour session even if you can take the pain of more.  Which could lead to infection.

A mockingbird would be a great one to start out with. :)

Edited by littlefox1970

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6 minutes ago, littlefox1970 said:

Great book ... I also remember enjoying it in my youth. :)

60 plus hours ... wow .... might wanna do some shopping around my friend ... 

After a six hour tattoo ... I would suggest definitely letting it heal a couple weeks at least before doing more.  But that's just my opinion.  An immune system can get pretty bogged down after a 6 hour session even if you can take the pain of more.  Which could lead to infection.

A mockingbird would be a great one to start out with. :)

Yea, I know it's a lot of hours, but Dragos (the artist) is amazing with his black and grey realism art - and realism with high amounts of detail is exactly what I need! 

Look at his work!

I could go to another artist...but then I'd feel conflicted. Shouldn't have be okay with spending that extra 20 hours/£1.5k in order to get a piece of art I'll never regret? I don't know......

What I do know is that these 2 months till I get his design is going to be mental hell for me. XD

Fair enough. I've popped the question to my artist already - I'm sure he'll be along the same lines as you. I guess I'm just being impatient. :P

Edited by Ciel

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I don't have a backpiece but I have several smaller (and some not much smaller than a backpiece) designs, so here's my opinion on each question:

1) Totally normal. This is usually referred to as a deposit. You're charged usually somewhere between $50-$100 (too lazy to convert to pounds for you) to compensate an artist for drawing time and to help ensure you'll actually come to the appointment and not chicken out since the deposit is non-refundable.

2) Really average price. 


3) It's impossible to tell how many sessions a large tattoo is going to need. It depends on how long you can sit, how fast he can work, how your skin takes the ink, how it heals after each session, etc. I have a large piece on my thigh that I was originally told should be 3 sessions, but it ended up being 4 because some of the graywash healed too light and I needed another session for shading. Don't ask for a quote on sessions, that's a really dickish thing to do. You can always tell an artist you need more time between sessions if budget is an issue. A good rule of thumb is to save up and bring a lot more money than you think you might need.

4) Most artists wouldn't dream of doing this. They want the finished product out there walking around and drawing in new customers (you are basically a living billboard for their services) and to grow as an artist and hone their skills more. If you feel like this guy is skeevy, you can always just not go back to him and find someone else to finish the tattoo. Try to get a feel for the average speed of tattooing and how much progress is made in a certain amount of time. 

5) Whatever you want within reason. Don't be obnoxious and talk on your phone or blare music. Most artists are okay with phone usage as long as you don't flail all over the place or be loud with it, most artists are fine with music as long as you have headphones, some people read books or eat snacks or chat with the artist...I usually am entertained enough by people watching and silently judging some of the douchier customers. :8_laughing: Pain can be entertaining too. Just ask your artist if he doesn't mind if you do a certain activity first. Fun fact: I mentioned to a tattooer once that I was scheduled with Chad Koeplinger for my next tattoo and he warned me not to bring gum because Chad hates when people chew gum while getting tattooed.

6) Generally around 20%. Some people tip that much every session, some people save it for the end. I prefer to do it as we go so I'm not carrying around an extra few hundred in cash. Tip more or less depending on quality of service, as is the usual.

7) Everyone has different aftercare routines they like and works best for them. You'll figure out your own. Generally I recommend dry healing or mostly dry healing: you refrain as much as possible from ointments and lotion and let your skin take care of itself. It's way easier imo than worrying about what type of lotion to put on, how often, how much, etc. But try different things and see what you like. Generally protect it from the sun, don't scratch it (it will get itchy), and don't pick the scabs.

8) 18 days is fine. You might still have some light peeling by that point, but the tattoo isn't going anywhere at that point. I wouldn't worry much about losing ink during the healing process (your shirt rubbing off scabs) since you'll probably need touchups towards the end of the tattoo anyway.

9) I haven't really heard that but everyone does stuff differently and I guess it depends on your design. I don't think it really makes much difference.

I don't think it's necessary to get a smaller tattoo from someone first before committing to a bigger design. You might as well just go for what you want. If you can't trust your artist fully, maybe he's not right for you.

And I wouldn't recommend doing consecutive days for your first tattoo if you don't absolutely have to. It's a lot of stress to put yourself under. You're going to be nervous, experiencing a new type of pain (one that you might not necessarily have the tolerance for that you think you will), and experiencing it for hours on end. I get feverish after about 4 hours of tattooing and went into mild shock after a 7+ hour session. I wouldn't suggest it until you know how your body will tolerate tattooing.

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22 minutes ago, Synesthesia said:

I don't have a backpiece but I have several smaller (and some not much smaller than a backpiece) designs, so here's my opinion on each question:

1) Totally normal. This is usually referred to as a deposit. You're charged usually somewhere between $50-$100 (too lazy to convert to pounds for you) to compensate an artist for drawing time and to help ensure you'll actually come to the appointment and not chicken out since the deposit is non-refundable.

2) Really average price. 


3) It's impossible to tell how many sessions a large tattoo is going to need. It depends on how long you can sit, how fast he can work, how your skin takes the ink, how it heals after each session, etc. I have a large piece on my thigh that I was originally told should be 3 sessions, but it ended up being 4 because some of the graywash healed too light and I needed another session for shading. Don't ask for a quote on sessions, that's a really dickish thing to do. You can always tell an artist you need more time between sessions if budget is an issue. A good rule of thumb is to save up and bring a lot more money than you think you might need.

4) Most artists wouldn't dream of doing this. They want the finished product out there walking around and drawing in new customers (you are basically a living billboard for their services) and to grow as an artist and hone their skills more. If you feel like this guy is skeevy, you can always just not go back to him and find someone else to finish the tattoo. Try to get a feel for the average speed of tattooing and how much progress is made in a certain amount of time. 

5) Whatever you want within reason. Don't be obnoxious and talk on your phone or blare music. Most artists are okay with phone usage as long as you don't flail all over the place or be loud with it, most artists are fine with music as long as you have headphones, some people read books or eat snacks or chat with the artist...I usually am entertained enough by people watching and silently judging some of the douchier customers. :8_laughing: Pain can be entertaining too. Just ask your artist if he doesn't mind if you do a certain activity first. Fun fact: I mentioned to a tattooer once that I was scheduled with Chad Koeplinger for my next tattoo and he warned me not to bring gum because Chad hates when people chew gum while getting tattooed.

6) Generally around 20%. Some people tip that much every session, some people save it for the end. I prefer to do it as we go so I'm not carrying around an extra few hundred in cash. Tip more or less depending on quality of service, as is the usual.

7) Everyone has different aftercare routines they like and works best for them. You'll figure out your own. Generally I recommend dry healing or mostly dry healing: you refrain as much as possible from ointments and lotion and let your skin take care of itself. It's way easier imo than worrying about what type of lotion to put on, how often, how much, etc. But try different things and see what you like. Generally protect it from the sun, don't scratch it (it will get itchy), and don't pick the scabs.

8) 18 days is fine. You might still have some light peeling by that point, but the tattoo isn't going anywhere at that point. I wouldn't worry much about losing ink during the healing process (your shirt rubbing off scabs) since you'll probably need touchups towards the end of the tattoo anyway.

9) I haven't really heard that but everyone does stuff differently and I guess it depends on your design. I don't think it really makes much difference.

I don't think it's necessary to get a smaller tattoo from someone first before committing to a bigger design. You might as well just go for what you want. If you can't trust your artist fully, maybe he's not right for you.

And I wouldn't recommend doing consecutive days for your first tattoo if you don't absolutely have to. It's a lot of stress to put yourself under. You're going to be nervous, experiencing a new type of pain (one that you might not necessarily have the tolerance for that you think you will), and experiencing it for hours on end. I get feverish after about 4 hours of tattooing and went into mild shock after a 7+ hour session. I wouldn't suggest it until you know how your body will tolerate tattooing.

Thanks for taking the time to reply!

I suppose I'm just being paranoid and childish with regard to suspecting an artist of prolonging the project - you are right, I'll be an advertisement for him, both visually and through what I say about him. I suppose I need to be less of a tit. :P

Yes, it wouldn't be at all smart for me to go through a new kind of pain for hours on end for consecutive days... The reason I think I would be able to do it is because I have an unnervingly high pain threshold, and can quickly get use to monotonous pain. I have a long history with pain, physical and mental, and have an unnervingly high resilience to it - I actually think something in me in broken, but that's for another forum to deal with... or a psychiatrist. 

But I suppose no self-respecting tattoo artist would even entertain the idea of consecutive tattoo days for a newbie. 

So you don't think 60 hours for a full back tattoo is a bit much?

Thanks for the info though! If there's anything else you think I should know, please say.

Edited by Ciel

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21 minutes ago, littlefox1970 said:

I wish you the best in whatever you choose to do ...
I'd love to see your finished piece and hope you will come back to show it off! :)  

I'll definitely try!

Due to my work schedule, I have to wait 2 months between sessions, so if I don't go for consecutive days, I'm looking at finishing the piece in around 2 years - will you still be here? XD

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1 minute ago, Ciel said:

I'll definitely try!

Due to my work schedule, I have to wait 2 months between sessions, so if I don't go for consecutive days, I'm looking at finishing the piece in around 2 years - will you still be here? XD

Hahaha ...true that!  Only God knows!  Enjoy the journey! :)

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13 minutes ago, Ciel said:

Thanks for taking the time to reply!

I suppose I'm just being paranoid and childish with regard to suspecting an artist of prolonging the project - you are right, I'll be an advertisement for him, both visually and through what I say about him. I suppose I need to be less of a tit. :P

Yes, it wouldn't be at all smart for me to go through a new kind of pain for hours on end for consecutive days... The reason I think I would be able to do it is because I have an unnervingly high pain threshold, and can quickly get use to monotonous pain. I have a long history with pain, physical and mental, and have an unnervingly high resilience to it - I actually think something in me in broken, but that's for another forum to deal with... or a psychiatrist. 

But I suppose no self-respecting tattoo artist would even entertain the idea of consecutive tattoo days for a newbie. 

So you don't think 60 hours for a full back tattoo is a bit much?

Thanks for the info though! If there's anything else you think I should know, please say.

Some artists might do consecutive days on a newbie if you were traveling across the world for them or something. But if this guy is just a few hours away or less, it's going to be much easier on your body to just make the trip a few times than to subject yourself to unnecessary trauma.

As for 60 hours being a lot...it really depends. Every artist works at a different pace. And it depends on your design. Something with a lot of details might be more time consuming than something less detailed. He might be considering you're a newbie: maybe he could do it in 6 hours on a veteran to tattoos that sits really well, and he could do it in 12 for a newbie that wiggles around a lot and needs a lot of breaks. He could be factoring touch up time into that too. Your tattoo could be effectively done by, say, session #8 but then need some more work after that to tighten it up and that could bump you up to session #9 or #10. I wouldn't worry about it so much. When this is all said and done, you're going to have a good tattoo for the rest of your life and little details like how long it took or whether he went from top to bottom aren't even going to matter. 

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Regarding the tipping, that may well be country specific. You live in Scotland and have had replies from people who live in Canada and the US. Tipping for e.g. restaurants is generally lower in the UK than North America, but that may or may not apply to the Scottish/British "tattoo world"...

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