When Can I See My Tattoo Sketch?

Most artists work from a tattoo sketch they’ve designed ahead of time. This may be a sketch that is then copied to transfer paper.  This special paper is then used to apply a stencil to the recipient’s skin. Less often this sketch can be used as a reference for an artist that will then freehand the design onto the client’s skin.

It’s not uncommon for people to want to see the artists design ahead of their scheduled session. And by no means is that unreasonable. So if you want to see a sketch the answer is definitely a ‘yes’!. But also… ‘no’.

Maybe that’s not the best way to give what ought to be a simple answer. But it’s the hard truth. There are a number of factors to take into account when it comes to a tattoo artist preparing a sketch in advance of a tattooing a piece of work.

Horinao sits at his work desk drawing a tattoo sketch.

You will frequently find Horinao sketching, painting, or tattooing. It takes quite a bit of work to prepare for a tattoo.

Artist Schedule

The vast majority of artists will have a time they set aside on a regular basis for sketching and drawing.  Although the general amount of time this is done in advance of any given appointment largely depends on the artists’ preference. It seems as though non-artists expect that these drawings are by and large prepared months or weeks in advance. Even though this can be the case, most artists have a lead-up time of a few days, a single day, or even hours depending on the artists’ working habits.

There can be any number of reasons for this. The artists we work with at Tattoo Experiences are generally loath to prepare a detailed tattoo sketch well ahead of an appointment.  Regardless as to the size or design. The cited reasons include:

  • if there is a long time between sketching and tattooing the artwork is no longer fresh in the artists’ minds.
  • they don’t want to work against a schedule they have grown accustomed to.
  • this author has been told that, given enough time, artists will always want to make changes to what was initially a design they were more than happy with.

That being said, there’s also the fact that some designs require more time. A large work in progress might not be completed before you’d like to have a look at it.

Horimitsu sketches an outline directly on the client's skin

In some cases, an artist will insist on making freehand changes directly on the skin once they see how the stencil appears after it is transferred to the client’s skin. Here Horimitsu can be seen making freehand sketch marks on the client’s skin before tattooing.

What Does This Mean for the Client?

It can mean that you might not see a tattoo sketch until the day of your appointment. By no means is this unusual! What it does NOT mean is that you don’t get to provide any input or suggest any changes. Most changes are small and easily done in a matter of a couple minutes. Larger changes or redesign are likely to mean that you won’t be tattooed that day and may have to schedule another day to come back. Clients are always invited to provide feedback and should never be reluctant to do so!

The fact of the matter is that there is a lot of work that goes into design, drawing, and preparation before a tattoo can even begin. This is time any tattoo artist must plan for and set aside. It’s also the reason why deposits are required. In the event that everything goes sideways or customers aren’t able to make their session the artists need to be able to recoup at least a small portion of the time they’ve already invested.

If however, you are adamant that you see a sketch of your tattoo ahead of your scheduled appointment, this can be arranged.  It will often require another one hour deposit be paid.  This extra deposit is subtracted from the overall total at the end of your session.

Customers should by no means consider this writing to be an attempt to dissuade them from asking to see a sketch before their session! We only hope it helps give a better understanding of when you could expect to see a drawing and why.

There are no bad questions!