How Long Does Getting a Tattoo Really Take?

Woman getting tattooed by male tattoo artist
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While plenty of people choose to wonder how much tattoos cost, many people aren't quite sure how long a tattoo actually takes. However, because the two go hand-in-hand, it's important to be informed on both sides of the equation.

There's no set time limit for tattoos. The time it takes to complete your tattoo will vary greatly, and it's based on many different factors. Not only is the size of your tattoo taken into consideration, but the placement and the color will play a role, both in the overall cost and time invested in your piece from start to finish. As always, discuss your designs with your tattoo artist, and determine the time needed to complete your tattoo prior to your first session appointment so that there are no surprises.

A small simple quarter-size tattoo could take an hour, where a large back piece could take seven or ten. Size matters in this equation, and it's important to remember that time is also money. The longer it takes to finish, the more your piece will cost.

Also, color tattoos usually take longer to complete than black and grey. Are you familiar with the various tattoo art styles? Some artists specialize in black and grey fine line tattoos. Some specialize in word-based tattoos. Other artists offer colorful and imaginative tattoos, in all different forms. So try and find the artist that works best with your favorite art style, whether that be traditional, portrait, blackwork, or something else.

Details vary greatly within tattoos. The more intricate your piece, the longer the design will take to complete. For example, if you have a jewelry style tattoo with lots of small filigree details, or even a Celtic knotwork design, your artist will require more time to complete your work. The same would hold true for portrait tattoo—where special attention to small structures such as eyelashes, lips and the details of hair will require more concentration.

Take into account your personal pain tolerance when planning a tattoo, as well. The longer you can sit still for your tattoo, the better, but not everyone can sit for that long. Pain tolerance varies widely, and there is truly no indication of how well you will adapt to the pain of a tattoo until you get one. Due to various tattoo locations causing more pain than others, some people decide they have to come back and complete the design in more tolerable increments. If you've never been tattooed before, try to stick with a thicker part of your body the first time around. Tattooing close to the bones and across the nerve structures on areas such on as the knee, top of the foot, and spine could be quite a shock if this is your first tattoo.

Drink plenty of water before getting a tattoo to help ensure that the surface of your skin will take ink easier.

It's also important to remember that while not part of the technical process, designing a custom tattoo will also require time. Unless you are sold on a basic flash tattoo, your artist will be spending their own time changing or adapting your design idea to coordinate with their style. Many times, this service fee is wrapped up in the cost of the completed tattoo designs. However, all artists place their own value on their work and time. If you are interested in a custom tattoo, discuss all the details prior to your appointment, including how long it will take for your artist to design the potential tattoo. You'll be on your way to making a permanent mark in no time.

Note that some artists do travel throughout the world to different conventions to share their craft with a broader spectrum of people. If you find your artist travels frequently, or if you started a piece with an artist while at a tattooing event or convention, it may require you travel back to the artist at a later time to complete a "work in progress." Naturally, this could make the full tattoo stretch days, months, or even years until completion.

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