The reasons why you should not drink alcohol – or worse, get completely drunk – before being tattooed should be obvious. However, a quick internet search will reveal plenty of photographic evidence that suggests this may not be the case. Here are some excellent reasons why you should be cold sober when you get a tattoo.
Alcohol affects the human body in many ways, and one of the most important is its depressant effect on the central nervous system. It slows down the brain and impairs judgment, which might not be what you’re looking for at the moment you decide to change your body forever. A good tattoo results from careful planning and patience. The design and placement of the tattoo, the quality of the artist and the cleanliness of the shop are very important. It is highly unlikely that you will make wise decisions while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
But what if you do all your homework in advance? You research your design and find a talented artist in a reputable, clean shop. What is the harm in having a drink or two to take the edge off on the big day? This sounds reasonable, but it’s a mistake and there are three main reasons why.
First, a reputable tattoo artist will not tattoo some who has been drinking (especially a complete drunk) and your artist may show you the door. Showing up drunk to an appointment is a serious breach of shop etiquette and it presents serious legal issues for the shop. Reputable shops will have you sign a waiver or statement declaring any medications you are on, that you are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and that you understand the risks involved with being tattooed. If you are impaired, you cannot legally give consent. If the artist tattoos you and something goes wrong, she will be left holding the bag. Legal issues aside, no one wants to deal with your "morning after" tattoo regrets after you sober up.
No one likes an idiot
The second reason you should not drink before getting a tattoo is that people under the influence of alcohol, drunk or not, do not “sit” well. I don’t just mean that they fall out of chairs – although they might. Someone who sits well for a tattoo is quiet, respectful, and clean; doesn’t reek of alcohol or smoke; holds still and does what the artist asks. Alcohol will interfere with all of those things. It will make you less tolerant of pain and more likely to squirm, pass out or vomit. I guarantee that your artist will not appreciate that, and you will not enjoy mopping the floor. Do you like to deal with drunk, obnoxious, loud, smelly, uncooperative people at your job? Neither does your tattoo artist.
The third reason why you should avoid the bottle before being tattooed is that alcohol thins the blood. It is common to bleed while being tattooed, but alcohol interferes with clotting and makes bleeding worse. Even if you plan when sober and can hold your liquor (keeping that witty sense of humor to yourself), you will get an inferior tattoo if you have been drinking.
Heavy bleeding pushes the ink right out of your body, and your brand new tattoo will look old and faded from the start. If your artist has to tattoo the same spot repeatedly, the process will be more painful and could cause scarring. When blood is wiped away, the stenciled design can be wiped off with it, which makes the artwork less precise. Your artist does not want - and should not be expected - to deal with mass quantities of sticky, messy, potentially infectious blood.
Do it right
Many tattoo studios recommend that clients avoid alcohol not only on the day of their appointment, but for at least 24 hours before and after. If you think getting tattooed without liquid courage is painful, try getting tattooed with a raging hangover. You will heal better if you are in top physical condition. When you get a tattoo, you need to be in your right mind, well rested, and well nourished. You must be able to take direction, sit still, and comprehend the aftercare instructions.
Do yourself and your artist a favor and stay sober. Artists don’t want to deal with jerks and neither of you wants to be associated with a shoddy tattoo. Getting a tattoo can be painful, but it is a manageable pain. Instead of self-medicating with alcohol, focus on relaxation and deep breathing; be a full participant in your tattoo experience.
Be sensible and get the art you deserve.