What Should I Do During a Long Tattoo Session?

Are you getting your first tattoo?  Some tattoos can take only an hour or two while bigger projects may be worked on for a full day (5 – 8 hours and sometimes longer!). If you are going to get a tattoo that will take a while, it’s important to prepare for the session so you can entertain yourself while the artist is doing his/her work. This will not only help to pass the time, but it can also help to take your mind off the pain.

What Are Some Things You Can Do To Entertain Yourself ? 

There’s a number of things you can do to pass the time during your session. You can listen to music, read a book, play on your phone, or talk with your artist or the people around you.

The important thing to remember is to make sure your entertainment doesn’t cause you to move a lot (like laughing) or cause your tattoo artist to lose focus on their job. Many tattoo artists are able to have a conversation while they work, however, if you sense that they aren’t up for small talk, don’t take offense. It’s likely they are just focusing on creating a tattoo that you will love rather than being anti-social.

Are there some things you should NOT do during the session to pass time? 

  • Do not do anything loud like talk on the phone or play a noisy game or video on your phone. This is inconsiderate and may disturb your artist and other people in the shop.
  • Do not bring a friend, especially to a long session. In my experience, it’s boring for your friend (even fellow ink enthusiasts!)  Plus it’s also another person taking up space in the shop.
  • Do not move around a lot. Depending on the area you’re getting tattooed, using your phone, making gestures, or even talking can cause too much movement.  This will make your tattoo take longer and you might go home with some crooked lines!  Plus it will frustrate your artist and that’s no fun for anyone.

How many hours is a full day tattoo session?

A session that would be considered a “full day” can range generally from 5 – 8 hours, but some sessions can be even longer.  Should you go for a full day for your first tattoo?  This depends on many factors including:

  • the area you’re getting tattooed
  • your ability to tolerate pain
  • the amount of detail or shading that goes into the tattoo

Age can also affect how long you might be able to sit for a tattoo.  It is common for people to notice that as they get older, it is hard to get tattooed for long periods of time.  However, every person’s experience with getting tattooed is unique to them.  You have to listen to your body to find your limits.

There are many reasons why someone would want to spend an entire day in a tattoo session

  • Some people travel long distances to visit their artist and are only going to be in the area for a short amount of time.
  • Work schedules and family obligations such as child care affect when and how often people can take the time to get tattooed.
  • It is not uncommon for popular artists to book out very far in advance. This causes clients to sometimes have to wait months or even more than a year to get an appointment and because of that, they want finish their tattoo all at once while they can.

Sometimes people don’t have a specific reason for doing a full day besides that they want to and that’s okay!  If you think you can handle a full day, go ahead and book it.  The very worst that can happen is you tap out.  However, keep in mind that time is money and many tattoo artists charge by the hour.  If they reserve a whole day for you but only end up working half of the day, they are losing money they anticipated making.  If you are unsure that you can handle a full day session and you have the option to break your tattoo up over several sessions, you should do that.

So you’ve booked your first tattoo session.  How do you get ready for it? 

  • Get a good night’s sleep. Your body needs plenty of rest before enduring a long tattoo.
  • Eat a proper meal beforehand. Getting tattooed on an empty stomach is never a good idea.
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothing to your session. You will want to feel as relaxed as possible during your session.  You also won’t want to wear anything that will rub against or dig into your fresh tattoo.
  • Make sure to arrive on time. This is not only respectful and common courtesy but will ensure your tattoo artist is allowed the time they need to execute your tattoo properly.  Nobody enjoys feeling rushed through their work.

What should you bring to your first tattoo session? 

  • Water is number one. You don’t want to be dehydrated while getting tattooed, especially if the session is very long.  Many studios provide water but it’s a good idea to bring your own.  If you prefer something other than water, some good alternative options include fruit juice, tea and Gatorade.
  • Bring a snack that is easy to eat during your session. If it’s a long session, you might want to pack a meal.  Make sure it’s not messy or has a strong smell that others won’t like.  If you drop anything, clean it up as soon as you can.  Remember, you are a guest in the studio space and you want to leave it as clean as you found it when you walked in the door.  The artists and studio staff work hard to maintain a sterile environment for their clients and you want to be sure to respect that.
  • Find out how you are expected to pay for your session. With all of the payment options available nowadays, artists may accept debit cards, credit cards, PayPal, Venmo, CashApp, Zelle and others.  However, some artists have a cash only policy.  When in doubt, ask your artist beforehand.

What should you expect to happen at your session? 

  • You will generally spend the first part of the session discussing tattoo design and placement. Some artists will consult with clients beforehand and sketch out designs before the session.  Other artists will do the drawing during the appointment.  This is dependent on both the artist’s preferred work process and the nature of the design.  Some tattoos are best freehanded on, while others benefit from having the drawing planned beforehand.
  • Whether your design is pre-drawn or created at the session, your artist will ask for your input. Some aspects of the tattoo that you might want to weigh in on are:
    • Size
    • Placement
    • Colors
    • Line weight
    • Level of detail
    • Specific details put into the tattoo
  • Once you’ve agreed on the design and stencil/drawing placement, you will begin your tattoo. In my experience, a good artist will check in with you shortly after they start the tattoo.  They will ask how you’re feeling.  Always be honest with your artist.  If you are in significant pain or discomfort, let them know you need a break to rest, stretch and have a drink or snack.  Your body language will often express how you’re feeling anyway.  Don’t let yourself get to the point where you can’t sit still, are very nauseous or dizzy or are crying out in pain.  Being in that state isn’t helpful for you, your artist or the tattoo.  Communication is key.
  • When your session is over, your artist will clean your tattoo and explain aftercare to you. Many artists provide sample size products like Aquaphor and A&D Ointment to help with healing.  Use these as directed.
  • Often, artists will want to photograph your tattoo for their portfolio before they wrap it in plastic wrap or Saniderm. The wrap is to protect your tattoo for the first day or so.  It is can be a good idea to remove the wrap in a shower to help clean your fresh tattoo and remove any blood, plasma or ink on the surface of the skin.
  • After your tattoo is wrapped up, it’s time to pay and then you’re on your way! Be sure to tip your artist for a job well-done.  The price of an appropriate tip can range widely from $10 to over $100.  Give what you can or what you’re comfortable with and let your artist know how much you love your new ink.  Any gesture to show your appreciation is a good thing!