Say thanks to your tattoo artist the right way
Buying gifts for your tattoo artist can be tricky, especially if you don’t know each other that well. Everyone has their own taste and tattoo artists are no exception.
In fact, given they’re often highly creative people with their own individual styles, it can be a bit of a minefield.
Thankfully, we’re here to guide you through this potentially tricky situation with the help of someone who’s spent many hours in the artist’s chair, Barbara Crane, digital creator and content manager at Stories & Ink.
Thank you gifts for tattoo artists
Barbara recommends that in some situations, it may be appropriate to give food to your tattoo artist.
“Something I do, since my tattoo artist is also a close friend, is get snacks for both of us for the day if it’s going to be a long tattoo session knowing neither of us will go out for lunch,” she says.
“Once it was his birthday and on that day I brought him a huge platter of sushi as I knew it was his favourite food.”
Photo: Barbara Crane, content manager at Stories & Ink
While snacks seem like a pretty safe bet, especially if you’re going to be in the chair for a long session, Barbara has a few words of caution.
“I dunno if I’d recommend bringing snacks if you don’t know the artist personally,” she says, “as food/meals in a tattoo shop sometimes isn’t allowed.”
In any event, you can always ask beforehand, which should be appreciated by your artist.
Hobbies and interests
As tattoo artists tend to be creative folk, one of the best gifts you can give is something that aligns with their interests.
Barbara says, “Another idea, if you know the artist well, might be to get them something that supports their hobbies. For example, my tattoo artist is into making linocut prints, so I would get him some cool paper, or new colours, or brushes, or pencils.”
But what if you don’t know your artist that well? In this instance it might be best to get them something relating to an interest you’ll know they’ll be into - tattooing.
“I got another artist a gift card to one tattoo supply shop - I think that is a neat and good gift,” Barbara says.
The best gifts for tattoo artists
Want more inspirational gift ideas? Here’s a few of the best gifts for tattoo artists depending on their level of experience.
Gifts for an aspiring tattoo artist
Got a friend that’s a wannabe tattoo artist? Nice, maybe one day it could even mean discounted tattoos! To help them reach their ambition, one of the best things you can get is some art supplies. A sketchbook, pens or coloured pencils are sure to come in handy for drawing designs.
Aspiring artists are also likely into getting tattooed themselves, so a Stories & Ink Tattoo Care Kit could be a great present. And, with their bespoke designs, a gift set from our Artist Series is a particularly eye-catching choice.
Then there’s always an inspirational coffee table book. This doesn’t have to be specifically about tattooing. Photography, nature, architecture, anime - anything that offers inspiration and / or will look cool on a shelf when they finally get in a studio - could be good.
Gifts for a new tattoo artist
For friends that have just started out in the industry, one cool gift idea is a polaroid camera.
Something like the Polaroid Now Instant Camera i-Type could do. This will enable them to photograph their work, something most tattoo artists do either for themselves or to promote their designs. Add to this a book in which to display their pics and you’ve got a great gift combo.
Alternatively, as tattoo artists can spend hours in a studio each day, why not get them something that adds life to their workspace? For example, a small potted house plant might be just the job - note the word ‘small’ being key here.
Gifts for a veteran tattoo artist
It’s an often-overlooked fact by people getting tattooed, and even newer artists, but tattooing people all day every day can be hard, physical work.
People that have spent years doing this can often experience aches and pains related to their work. Unfortunately, hand and wrist pain in veteran tattoo artists is not uncommon, as is shoulder, back and neck pain.
When it comes to buying gifts, there’s an array of things designed for people experiencing achy bodies or sore hands. These include massage guns, lumbar pillows, muscle rubs and foam rollers, to name a few. Then there’s gift vouchers for various treatments, like a deep tissue massage or acupuncture.
Again though, just be sure such a gift is going to be appropriate before you spend money on something - these suggestions are probably more for friends and family of tattoo artists than strangers.
Newer customers may want to stick to something safer, such as a gift voucher for a local coffee shop.
Should you tip your tattoo artist?
When it comes to saying thanks to tattoo artists for their great work, there’s always plain old cash. However, having asked around a bit there doesn’t appear to be a one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to tipping.
In the USA it’s much more common in general to tip people for a service - and this includes tipping tattoo artists. Here, anything in the region of 20-25% may be appropriate.
In the UK it’s not as common, and it’s really a case of assessing the situation and thinking about your own personal views on tipping. The relationship between you and your artist will no doubt come into consideration here.
All in all, if you get on well with your artist and you offer them a genuine tip - not a half-hearted, loose bit of change from your pocket (or an overly-showy gesture that may freak them out, for that matter), then a tip will probably be appreciated. I mean, who doesn’t like more money?
Again, if you’re not sure, you can always ask.
What not to give a tattoo artist?
Sometimes, a gift may not be appropriate at all.
Barbara says, “People are just different, some like gifts and for some it makes them uncomfortable.”
“I’ve heard from some artists that they’ve started telling customers to not bring anything as they have received a lot of gifts from time to time and they don’t want that (or they just keep receiving a lot of crap).”
You also really want to avoid coming off as creepy. In this respect, we’ve heard of tattoo artists being given flowers - something that’s best avoided if you don’t know your artist very well.
Overall, though, use a bit of common sense, find out your tattoo artist’s views, and however you choose to say thanks is likely to be appreciated. Barbara says, just don’t go over the top.
“I think giving a gift to your artist is a lovely thing but also something that shouldn’t be overdone,” she says. “It also definitely makes sense if you know the artist at least a little bit.”