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Frequently Asked Tattoo and Piercing Questions

A.W.O.L. Custom Tattooing Frequently Asked Questions...and here are some Myths as well.

Any medical questions should be referred to a licensed physician, all information herein is based upon the experience or research of persons from within the body modification industry.

spacer How old do I have to be to get a tattoo?

spacer Does getting a tattoo hurt?

spacer What should I get as a tattoo?

spacer Where should I place my tattoo?

spacer How much does a tattoo cost?

spacer Why do tattoos cost so much?

spacer Do you have a shop minimum?

spacer How do I become a tattooist?

spacer Do you allow children in your shop?

spacer Do you tattoo hands?

spacer Do you do facial tattoos?

spacer Do you do freehand tattoos?

spacer What are the dangers involved with receiving a tattoo?

spacer Do you do glow in the dark tattoos, metallic, or black light tattoos?

spacer Has anyone ever passed out from a tattoo?

spacer What do I need to have or do before my first tattoo?

spacer Do you use skin numbing cream?

spacer What do I look for in a tattoo shop?

spacer Do you do solid white tattoos?

spacerHow do tattoos work?

spacer Why do tattoos fade or get a blur to them over time?

spacer Why does my tattoo look bruised even though it is healed?

spacerWhat is a freehand tattoo?

spacerHow do I get rid of a bad tattoo or a tattoo that I don't want anymore?

Piercing FAQ

spacer What is the soonest that I can change my jewelry?

spacer Why do I have to be pierced with a hoop or long barbell?

spacerCan I use peroxide to clean my piercing?

spacer Do Piercings hurt?

spacer Do I have to have to get a dermal piercing cut out if I need it removed?


How old do I have to be to get a tattoo? (back to top)

It is ultimately up to the artist but for those of us that do tattoo minors you must be at least 16 years of age with parental consent. The parent must accompany the minor and both must have a picture ID accompanied by a birth certificate for our records. This rule is the same for most piercings as well.

Does getting a tattoo hurt? (back to top)

Everyone handles a tattoo a little differently. Most people describe the feeling as a dull burn, similar to rubbing or scratching a sunburn. There are exceptions in both directions varying from complete ecstasy to sobbing crying.

What should I get as a tattoo? (back to top)

This is a very personal decision. What do you feel represents you, or something that you care greatly about. What are you proud of? If it is a memorial design what was the person that passed interested in? Do you just really like tattoos and want an artist to create something from a general idea or feel that you are in to. These are a few of the questions that you could ask yourself. If you are having a hard time deciding perhaps you should hold off on getting a tattoo or ask for assistance with developing a design that is right for you. We do not recommend getting a tattoo on the spur of the moment and encourage you to think before you ink. Our artists have no problem coming up with a design just for you.

Where should I place my tattoo? (back to top)

This is a very situational decision. Many designs are made to fit certain parts of the body better than others. An experienced artist will be able to explain these things to you. In many cases a design can be altered to fit areas other than where they were intended to go.

How much does a tattoo cost? (back to top)

Well, every tattoo is different in our establishment. The artist takes many factors into consideration prior to giving a price. Things such as size, location, and complexity of the design are among those things. We generally do not charge by the hour, the number of colors, or by the inch. We do, however, also have session rates for larger pieces that are discussed at the time of planning the design that allows for breaking up the cost of the tattoo to make it more affordable over time, easier to take, or to avoid doing too large of a piece in one session.

Why do tattoos cost so much? (back to top)

In a professional establishment there are many costs. Modern establishments operate as complete businesses. They pay taxes and social security. In the old days many tattoo shops eluded doing such things. On top of those costs there is a laundry list of overhead. So, in short, a tattoo shop that is giving out "cheap tattoos" is more than likely cutting corners somewhere. Would you like to gamble on where? Worse yet, the vast majority of underground/kitchen table tattooists are uneducated in health safety standards. They usually have a silver tongue and can dodge questions so you should always watch a tattooist work prior to getting any tattoos done. If they can't give you the right answers or you see them working in an unclean manner you should leave.

Beyond the costs of business you are also paying the artists for their skills and talents. There is so much more involved in tattooing than just drawing. Though artistic talent is important it is not the biggest factor. The majority of people don't realize this fact. We have not even touched on the mechanical, physiological, or ethical sides of tattooing. For a tattooist to deal with this multitude of factors efficiently and have a great outcome is a skill. To develop a tattoo properly, artistically, and place it on the body correctly is a talent. No matter how easy they make it look they are thinking the whole time. The peace of mind and quality of going to a true professional tattooist is worth the extra money that is paid. We are reasonable though, and do not try to rob you of your hard earned money. We charge what is fair and proper for the work that we do. We believe that cheap tattoos aren't good and expensive tattoos are arrogant. We're not rock stars. We're more like goldi-locks, we're just right.

Do you have a shop minimum? (back to top)

The artists in this shop set their own prices so they have their own minimums. As of right now the tattooists have all agreed on a forty dollar minimum, which covers very small and low detail tattoos in easy to tattoo regions of the body.

How do I become a tattooist? (back to top)

Most people that set out to become a tattooist don't even make it past the paperwork. Be prepared to spend years learning and growing during and after an apprenticeship. This is a profession that requires an ability to learn for the rest of your career and a willingness to do so. There are more than enough tattooists out there right now so to be able to surpass anyone you will have to do it the right way. It is an incredible and satisfying career, but there are many, many things to learn. Being a professional tattooist involves medical knowledge, psychology, knowledge of design, business sense, and last but definitely not least mechanical aptitude. If you are not ready to for that quit now and don't disrespect the industry or waste your own time.

Do you allow children in your shop? (back to top)

We do not mind if you bring a child into the shop while you look around as long as they are kept under control and are supervised. If you do not watch your child you will be asked to leave. We do not allow children into the tattooing area for obvious reasons.

Do you tattoo hands? (back to top)

The final say on that is up to the artist but in general we have a sleeves or better rule on tattooing hands. If you don't at least have a sleeve we don't touch them. Tattooing the hands is a very huge decision and most people that aren't already heavily tattooed don't truly comprehend this. There is a lot of stigma associated with hand tattoos. We call them job stoppers for a reason. It is hard to find work once you have them and it is even harder to get someone to look at your eyes rather than your hands while they are talking to you. Very few people that get them done live without regret in having done so.

Do you do facial tattoos? (back to top)

That is up to the artist but typically that is a giant NO! We do make exceptions in rare instances, such as repairing poor quality face tattoos.

Do you do freehand tattoos? (back to top)

We all freehand draw on paper and some times the tattooists will do skin drawn freehand work if that is what the project calls for. There are times when a stencil is a much better idea, such as portraits and highly geometrical designs. On the opposite side of that sometimes freehand is a much better way to go if a design needs to flow better with the body of the recipient. None of us really do absolute freehand with nothing drawn on the skin at all. It is better to have some sort of attack plan before starting a tattoo. The end result is just more elaborate and well developed that way. You can look at our services page to see everything that we offer.

What are the dangers involved with receiving a tattoo? (back to top)

Well, in almost all cases there is no danger. Most problems that occur with tattoos done by an educated professional tattooist come from an outside variable such as coming in contact with some form of staph while the tattoo is healing, letting the tattoo scab, or applying too much ointment. There are however some very rare instances of people having allergic reactions to the pigments. Since all of our systems are different there is always a possibility of allergic reaction to anything from food, clothing, smoke, metal, and pigments or dyes.

There are typically two types of allergic reactions to tattoos if they do happen at all, contact dermatitis and photo-allergic dermatitis. "Dermatitis (eczema) is inflammation of the upper layers of the skin, causing itching, blisters, redness, swelling, and often oozing, scabbing, and scaling." says Merck. Contact dermatitis is simply from coming in contact with an allergen, while photo-allergic dermatitis is a chemical reaction occurring between the pigment, your body chemistry, and the sun. Ray (who's been tattooing for over 20 years) has only seen one extreme case (1/4 to 3/8 inch swelling) and four or so incredibly minor cases (slight swelling involving 1/32 to 1/16 of an inch) of the photo-allergic type as well as a small handful of contact from the use of inferior inks by other people. There are a few very extreme possibilities of danger associated with allergies but there are no documented cases anywhere that we are aware of so we won't bother going into them.

Essentially, if you are not prone to cellulitis, are not allergic to an abnormal amount of things, and are going to a professional there is nothing to worry about besides taking great care of your tattoo while it is healing. Here is our aftercare to point you in the right direction.

Do you do glow in the dark, metallic, or black light tattoos? (back to top)

All information at this point directs us to believe that glow in the dark tattoos are not safe, so we don't do them. We currently do not do black light tattoos either, these may be a possibility in the future but as of now it is not likely that we will ever do them. We keep getting asked about metallic or sparkle tattoos, if they do exist, we don't do those either. There are ways that we can make objects look metallic, but there is no real life reflection to the effect.

Has anyone ever passed out from a tattoo? (back to top)

Every once in a great while someone's system will go haywire and the will pass out. This generally happens from anxiety and/or shock as well as a lack of sleep or food. There is nothing to panic about, we've never lost anyone :), and the pain is usually mild and only temporary if it's not.

What do I need to have or do before my first tattoo? (back to top)

Well, basically you need to be well rested, make sure that you have eaten, and remain calm. We understand that this is a big deal for someone that has never gone through it before but it's typically not as bad as some people make it out to be. Eating and resting will help your body avoid going into shock, and will give you more nutrients to deal with the situation.

It is also a great idea to either bring or wear clothing that makes the area that you are getting tattooed accessible. Don't wear the best clothes that you own. Occasionally a spot or two of ink will get around the barriers that we use. We do our best to protect your clothing, but things do happen. You are also going to want to be comfortable while you are getting your tattoo done. Loose fitting clothes that will allow you to move around if need be are a plus.

If you are getting a large amount of work done it is a good idea to take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen, obviously this is if you have no problems such as being on medicine that will interact with them, or allergies to them. Check with your doctor if you have any questions about that. There is a small amount of swelling that occurs when you are getting tattooed and this is more so in larger projects. Here's a checklist for you if you need one.

Do you use skin numbing cream? (back to top)

In our experience skin numbing is a last resort. It typically causes the skin to react differently than it needs to in order for the tattoo to heal up nicely. There are orders of events that need to take place for the ink to be encapsulated by your body. You don't just want to heal, you want to heal as quickly and cleanly as possible.

What do I look for in a tattoo shop? (back to top)

All needles should be autoclaved and single use. Tubes (the part that they hold while tattooing) should be opened fresh at the time of the tattoo. If they are metal they should have been cleaned thoroughly with an ultrasonic cleaner and then autoclaved and stored in a sealed pouch that has an indicator to show if it has been sterilized or not. A new needle in a dirty tube is like putting clean socks into blood soaked boots and wondering how your feet got dirty. An ultrasonic cleaner should NEVER be used in a work station. If you see this leave immediately. Ultrasonic units put minute particles of contaminated water into the air if left uncovered. Contaminating items outside of the work area such as phones, radios, iPods, grabbing whole rolls of paper towel or ink bottles by touching them with bloody/ink stained gloves are all signs that they don't know what in the hell they are doing and you should leave. Inks should never be returned to the bottle after being dispersed. Needles should never be stored on site or in your purse, cupboard, etc for later reuse (i.e. "Your own needle"). They can become contaminated as well as the simple fact that skin does dull metal over time.

A stencil should not be re-used, nor a marker. There are skin diseases (as well as MRSA) that can be passed this way. Speed stick is not the answer for applying stencils. The same needle should never be used on couples, regardless of sexual activity. There are some diseases that can only be passed through the blood. We see many scratchers carrying "tattoo kits" with used equipment right in the same compartment as supposedly clean tools. Storing used items in the same container as "new" items defeats the whole purpose of having new items. There are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to doing a tattoo. Factors that are commonly unknown due to the private nature of the tattoo industry. That is why it is best to leave it to true professionals. It is illegal in the state of Michigan to operate as a tattooist or piercist outside of a health department licensed location. We are not so slow as to believe this will stop anyone from doing it nor do we truly believe that this will weed out anything but the worst shops. No matter where you choose to get a tattoo please be safe about it.

Do you do solid white tattoos? (back to top)

When you put ink into the dermis it heals and the epidermis reforms back over it. That adds the hue of your skin to whatever color was placed into it. So....white tattoos more or less end up looking like burn scars for the majority of people on the planet. They look sweet while they are healing, and pretty rough afterward. We pretty much recommend not doing them. White is best used as a highlight color against other colors to change the way that we view the occluded white when we look at it.

How do tattoos work? (back to top)

Tattoo pigment is pushed through the epidermis into the dermis with the use of an instrument, be it electrical or otherwise. The pigment is detected by your immune system and is typically deemed to be nonthreatening but also as not being a natural part of your body. Your body then normally reacts by building a barrier around every particle of ink in order to protect itself. This encasement is what keeps the ink, for the most part, stationary.

Why do tattoos fade or get a blur to them over time? (back to top)

Tattoos are held in place by microscopic barriers around the ink. These barriers breakdown and reform over time, allowing the ink to either be absorbed or to spread a little bit. Tattoos that fade premateurly generally occur due to scabbing, improper ink depth, or improper ink saturation. If the ink is not all within the dermis it will fade fast as the epidermis is shed. Excessive sun, differing body chemistry, and cheap ink are also other possibilities.

Why does my tattoo look bruised even though it is healed? (back to top)

Tattoos with an immediate, unintentional blur or bruised look after healing have typically been done too deep. The ink should reside within the dermis. If a tattoo is done too deep the ink ends up in the subcutaneous (or fatty) layer of the skin. The ink then spreads through the fatty tissues to some degree and causes that blurred or bruised look, which usually gets worse over time. This is a common occurence when dealing with inexperienced or rushing "tattooists". There are some spots of the body more prone to this than others but an experienced artist can almost always navigate through them with good results.

How do I get rid of a bad tattoo or a tattoo that I don't want anymore? (back to top)

You don't have to live with a drunken mistake, price shopping for tattoos, letting your friend practice tattooing, jailhouse boredom, a failed romance, or whatever the terrible case may be. We can cover up the majority of poorly done or unwanted tattoos with something that you will be proud to wear for the rest of your days. There are rare occasions where this proves difficult and even more rarely that it is impossible and laser removal is required. Sometimes a single treatment with a laser can make a tattoo much easier to get rid of as well.

A skilled artist should be able to figure out a way to put something that you want to live with over your existing unwanted or regretted design. Generally you cannot just take one design and put it over another one, they must be made specifically for the cover up and are quite often done freehand. For a better explanation go here.

Piercing FAQ

piercing FAQ

What is the soonest that I can change my jewelry? (back to top)

This varies by the piercing. A cartilage piercing must be allowed to heal for approximately two weeks prior to changing the jewelry. A nostril piercing should be allowed to heal for at least three days. Navel jewelry should not be changed until three to four weeks have passed. The eyebrow can be changed after about a week. These are all approximations and may vary depending on your own body's healing time. You can refer to our piercing aftercare section for more information on piercings.

Why do I have to be pierced with a hoop or long barbell? (back to top)

The reason for being pierced with a hoop or long barbell is to allow for swelling. If the jewelry does not allow for swelling there are possible complications with the jewelry becoming lodged in the flesh and/or prolonged healing times. This is especially true with the nostril piercing. We have seen instances where the piercing was done with a nostril screw rather than a hoop and the swollen skin wrapped and healed around the jewelry. There is only a few days wait to change this particular piercing out so the wait can be well worth it. We have also seen piercings where the head of a barbell has actually sunken down into the skin because the person that did it used too short of a piece of jewelry. It is basically better to just let our professionals do what they know is best when it comes to your piercing.

Can I use peroxide to clean my piercing? (back to top)

Short answer, no. The long answer being that while your piercing is healing your body is forming new layers of skin and the peroxide can irritate or remove those layers which will prolong healing time and will be likely to cause infection. The best bet is to read our aftercare instructions or check with a physician.

Do Piercings hurt? (back to top)

Piercings definitely have a pinch to them, but it is generally a quick sharp pain and then it is over unless you swell a lot. Once they are healed they almost all have no irritation unless repeatedly rubbed or snagged on something.

Do I have to get a dermal piercing cut out if I need it removed? (back to top)

Not in most instances. You can typically just come in and have one of the piercists remove it for you without any problems.