Respect the Ink | The Source Weekly - Bend

Respect the Ink

Tattoo etiquette is an unspoken art


The reason people get tattoos is unique to them and doesn't require explanation to every passerby. So, go easy on the 20 questions. Remember that people with tats have probably been asked about them dozens of times before.

Greg Mikkelson, got his first tattoo five years ago, has one on his wrist that usually creates a buzz—the Oregon Ducks logo.

"I can't stand the amount of times that people question my Ducks tattoo," he said. "I always have to defend my story about why I got it."


It's impolite to criticize someone else's choice of tattoos. They weren't done to impress you. Sure there's nothing wrong with telling someone you love that new tattoo, but in general it's best to keep your opinions to yourself. This includes your psychological theory of the person's motivation, whether you think it was well done, and whether you think it's a good idea in general to get a tattoo.

Above all, if you don't like someone's tattoos, just leave it be—don't cause a fight.

"Sometimes I get negative opinions about what I'm going to do when I'm older, but I don't care what people say, " said Sierra Edwards, a tattoo artist at Shear-up Salon. "I'm not going to ever regret them." 


Most people are not getting tattoos for you. They are often getting them for deeply personal reasons. This is often the case when someone has a tattoo of a person's face or initials on their bodies. These are the faces of people who might have passed away under sad circumstances or they could represent other troubling memories. Private tattoos can be very touchy subjects, so don't be shocked if someone shrugs you off or tells you to get lost when you offer an unsolicited opinion.

Edwards has tattoos of her mom, brother and angel wings on her body.

"Most of them were for personal reasons," she said. "They are memories of family, friends and past experiences."


It shouldn't need explaining that this is none of your business but alas, some people still insist. Just know that the mantra of "you get what you paid for" is true with tattoos. If the work is intricate and colorful, it cost more and, again, it's really none of your business.

Edward Kehoe, owner and tattoo artist at Monolith Tattoo, said the price question gets asked constantly.

"Every tattoo will be priced differently depending on things like skin location and technicality of the design," he said. "You can't expect to get the same price as the next person."


Some tattoos are extensive and cover a large portion of a person's body. If you cannot see the entire piece, it is not an invitation to discover the rest of it by pulling or lifting any item of clothing. Basically, treat people how you would want to be treated, which basically means not lifting up someone's shirt in the checkout line at Safeway.

Allie Collins, who has gotten seven tattoos over a four-year period, said she has dealt with a few individuals who aggressively grabbed her clothing and arms while she was at work in a professional environment.

"I felt a little taken aback the first time it happened, I wasn't prepared and felt it was a bit rude," she said.


When you encounter someone with a tattoo that looks fresh, it probably is. Don't touch it! A fresh tattoo is comparable to an open wound.

Ryan Osborne, a professional tattoo artist at Monolith Tattoo, said he has encountered some people who think it's OK to feel someone's tattoo without asking.

"If someone has a new tattoo, stay away. Don't go up and start touching it to get a closer look," he said.


There are a million different tattoos out there on people and even if you absolutely adore one, remember that tattoos are about personal expression. Copying someone else's ink washes away some of the specialness of the tattoo.

Kehoe, who has been in the tattoo industry for 25 years, said a lot of people like to copy the tattoos of people they know or have seen on the Internet and this is not ideal.

"The best path is to come into the shop and check out portfolios of the artists," he said. "We're always open to interpretation, so be open-minded. We do what we do for a reason."