WTF is a walk-in, and how do you get one? You know that most artists have you schedule a tattoo appointment, but what if that doesn’t fit your ✨spontaneous✨ personality? How are you, unbridled by society's definition of time, going to get some body art?
If you want a quick tattoo today, getting a walk-in tattoo is a great option. We’ll explain what a walk-in tattoo is, why you can get one today, who does these things, and precisely what the process will look like.
What Does Walk-In Tattoo Even Mean?
A walk-in tattoo is when you, quite literally, walk in. You don’t make an appointment — you walk in, pick a tattoo, and get it.
Sometimes you walk in, look through a specific artist's works, and see if they are available to do one of their more stylized pieces. If you want a simple tattoo, then probably any available artist in the shop will be able to oblige you.
Some people get walk-in tattoos of more custom pieces already designed by the tattoo artist — i.e., the artist drew the piece ahead of time, put it in their “available” book or posted it as an available design on social media, and you walk in to take them up on their offer. These designs are more expensive than a simple design because they take more time but are usually not as expensive as a custom design since they’re already worked out.
Other times a studio or artist will have a flash sheet to choose from. Usually, these are smaller, simpler designs. Flash sheets are a sheet of simple and quick tattoos for the client to choose from. Flash sheets are exceptionally popular on holidays like Friday the 13th and Halloween. They are also usually cheaper. With pre-designed flash tattoos, there’s also a high likelihood multiple people could have the exact same tattoo.
Walk-ins are a great way to get your first tattoo, fill a tattoo craving, or get a tattoo without having your own tattoo idea.
Can I Book a Walk-In Tattoo?
No. That’s called an “appointment.”
What can happen: you walk in for a walk-in tattoo, see an artist's work, and end up wanting something more custom from them. Maybe they have a piece that inspires you, and you want the same piece but some distinct changes. Or a combination of some of their work. Or a whole new original piece designed by them specifically for you and no one else. Then you’ll to talk to the artist and set an appointment for when you should come back.
What Is the Difference Between Walk-In Tattoos and Tattoo Appointments?
The big difference between walk-ins and appointments is how much planning goes into it: none for the former, and a decent amount for the latter.
A walk-in walks in. A tattoo appointment is when you’ve chatted with the tattoo artist about getting a tattoo from them, whether it’s from their book or a custom piece. The tattoo artist probably already knows where the tattoo is going and how big it will be. They’ve set a certain amount of time just for you, and you’ve probably placed a deposit to reserve your space.
Do All Tattoo Studios Have Walk-In Tattoos?
Nope! Some tattoo artists and studios are appointment-only. Other tattoo artists and studios are heavily walk-in based with appointments only a couple of days a week. The majority of studios do a bit of both — booking appointments and taking walk-ins.
Why Do Artists Do Walk-In Appointments?
Walk-ins are a good way for newer tattoo artists to gain experience. Walk-in tattoos are usually simpler designs that a newer tattoo artist or an apprentice can use to get some tattooing hours under their wings.
Walk-ins are a nice way for experienced artists to pad out their day if it’s slow. Some tattoo artists work a scheduled amount of time in a studio, like being there Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11-5.
If they only book a few appointments this week or finish up with other appointments quicker than expected, that’s a lot of time to fill. So they are available for walk-ins. These artists will most likely have books of more complex designs you can look through. They have a more developed style and are trying to get more experience or doing more of their favorite style in tattooing these designs.
Some artists are strictly appointment-based. They only go to the studio when they have an appointment booked. That’s it.
Sometimes, talented artists who are strictly appointment-based will advertise a walk-in event. It’s a way to offer a tattoo to people who would otherwise be waiting months for a tattoo. Popular tattoo artists get so booked up that their waitlist is months long, and it’s a bummer for people who don’t care what they get from the artist as long as they get it from that artist. A walk-in event is a great way to pump out some cool but simple and fast tattoos, get the fans inked, and make some nice pocket change along the way.
It’s also a good opportunity to do a fundraiser where a portion of sales from flash tattoos go to a specific cause — charity tattooing is slowly growing in the tattooing community, especially in the form of tattoo giveaways and fundraiser flash days.
How Does a Walk-In Tattoo Work?
What to know before you go! What actually happens when you walk through those studio doors and start asking about a “walk-in” tattoo?
Let’s say you’ve found a tattoo artist or tattoo shop that is promoting walk-in tattoos, or maybe you heard through a friend about a good spot and now you want to walk in there with some stirrups on your horse. Here’s what’s going to happen, more or less:
Find the place and walk in. That’s the first step of getting a walk-in tattoo, easily enough. The maybe uncomfortable part is: get comfortable. You’re about to ask some questions and do some snooping.
Walking into a clothing store is pretty easy. Not that intimidating. Walking into a tattoo studio can be intimidating, depending on the vibe of the place. You walk in, and sometimes they’re looking at you like, “Appointment? No? Okay, what are you doing here?”
If you aren’t an outgoing or super confident person, tattoo culture can sometimes seem intimidating with all their… tattoos. Chances are they are actually cool, and if not — get outta there! No one wants bad energy.
Note: Some studios are “appointment only,” meaning you won’t be able to just walk in. If this happens, it’s a little embarrassing, but don’t let it discourage you! You can even Google the shop and call to ask if you want — we are children of technology, you know.
Look Through the Books
“I want to check out the books.” There you go. There’s your purpose for being there. Usually, letting whoever is up front know this will create a positive reaction.
“The books” means tattoo artist’s books. If you are walking into a tattoo studio where multiple artists or even one artist works, they will have photo album-looking books where the artist has a bunch of their drawings, past work, and contact information inside.
Ask whoever is around if any of the artists that are there today have time for a walk-in appointment. If yes, ask to be pointed in the direction of their book.
Take your time. Look through the books and figure out which artist you’d want to tattoo you and what designs of theirs you like. Once you’ve narrowed it down to one artist, you’re ready for the next step.
If you want a design that is simple enough, you won’t need a specific artist. Any available tattoo artist will be able to do the tattoo for you.
Conversely, if you don’t vibe with any of the designs, just thank the front desk for their time and bail. It’s fine, we promise!
Talk to the Tattoo Artist
Ask to have a chat with the tattoo artist. You may have to wait a bit or come back a little later if they are busy with a client.
When you get to talk to them, double-check to make sure they have time today to do a walk-in appointment. Show them the designs you like from their book and ask about whichever you’d like to get tattooed.
Some good questions include:
- Can you do this design today?
- How much time will it take?
- How much will it cost? Is it an hourly rate or priced by design?
- What time can you do it today?
Once you establish that getting this tattoo will be possible, ask some follow-up questions about their practice to make sure you are comfortable.
- Do you take cash, card, transfer, and/or crypto?
- What kind of tattoo ink do you use? Is the tattoo ink non-toxic?
- What is your sterilization practice like?
- Do you use a numbing gel or numbing cream to prep?
- How should I prepare for the tattoo session?
With a walk-in tattoo, you generally aren’t doing much adjusting to the design. What you see is what you get, mostly. If there are any minor adjustments you’d like, ask your tattoo artist about it – they may be happy to oblige, or they may say it’s not possible.
If all is well, start figuring out where you want your new tattoo!
An hour before your tattoo session, you or the tattoo artist will probably want to apply some numbing gel or numbing cream for tattoos to make the session more comfortable. Then the tattoo artist will possibly shave the area you are getting tattooed and they should clean it with antibacterial soap and water.
If they are using a stencil, they’ll apply that and have you check it out in a mirror to make sure the placement and size are correct. Make any objections now, or forever have your misplaced, missized tattoo!
Payment and Tipping for Tattoos
You’ve already figured out what methods of payment your artist takes. Figure out how you are going to pay up.
As for tipping, this will change depending on where you are. You can tip because your tattoo artist had amazing customer service, made good conversation, went the extra mile, and made some time for you, yadda yadda.
Tip most of the time, always, unless it doesn’t make sense.
You can also phone a friend or straight up ask the tattoo artist what is customary if you are worried.
While you can always go the standard 15-20%, tip what you can and what feels right. Don’t overthink it or you’ll stress yourself out!
Ask your tattoo artist what their aftercare instructions are and follow them if they are good instructions! And buy some amazing aftercare tattoo products!
What are good instructions? Okay, quick rundown:
- Leave it alone, bandaged for at least the first 24 hours (some covers will stay on for several days!)
- After that, remove bandages and wash with clean hands, warm water, and antibacterial and fragrance-free soap. Pat dry with a clean towel.
- Wash twice a day and after any dirty or sweaty activities.
- Moisturize lightly but avidly with tattoo-specific moisturizer.
- Don’t rebandage your tattoo unless you are getting into a dirty situation.
- When it starts to scab, don’t pick it!
- Use sunscreen to protect your tattoo once the wound has healed!
You can walk into a number of tattoo parlors today and get some permanent ink on your body without an appointment. Your body art will just be limited to the constraints of who (tattooist) and what (tattoo design) is available!
For more info on all things tattoo, check out the HUSH blog here.
For everything you need before, after, and during a tattoo, explore our products here!