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How Long Does it Take to Get a Tattoo?

Updated on January 31, 2016
Coke can tattoo approx. 4-5 hours to complete.
Coke can tattoo approx. 4-5 hours to complete. | Source

So, you've decided to get a tattoo after hours of careful consideration, deep thought about your design, and research into your chosen skilled tattoo artist. Or, you've randomly just thought, "You know what, I'm getting a tattoo." Either way, you should really know how long it takes to get a tattoo.

When you eventually do get it, it will take the artist time to put that amazing tattoo design into your skin. Though, those times may not be what you expect.

It is important to understand your appointment can and often will include the final tweaking of your design and the creation of your tattoo transfer. Depending on whether you approve the final design, or not, (and now is the last chance to say you don't — speak up!) will directly affect your remaining tattoo time.

  • Tip: Try to get your design just right before your tattoo session.

Tattoo artists are like any other specialist in their chosen field. They perform their craft at different speeds. The rate is influenced by many factors, for example:

  • Previous experience.
  • Style of tattoo chosen by client.
  • Natural skill and ability.
  • Amount of detail required in tattoo chosen.
  • Multiple colors, which requires color changes.
  • Position on your body and ease of access.
  • Attitude on the day.
  • Also, you. How long you can sit still for, how much you complain. Your skin type and how much money you have with you . . .

How Long is a Tattoo Session?

  • Typically, it can be any length of time from an hour upwards.
  • An average and tolerable time frame and a standard session is around five hours. However, shorter or longer sessions aren't unusual either.
  • Depending on your artist, they may choose to make it a day session. These are typically around seven to eight hours plus—if you can stand it! They also generally come with a set rate, irrespective of how long it actually takes.
  • If your tattoo is going to be on the larger side with a lot of detail, you may find that you will need more than one session for it to be completed.
  • A full back piece, with details and multiple colors, can take up to twenty hours, to completely finish. More in some cases.
  • An appointment may also include the creation and printing of your stencil, (the outline of your tattoo to be transferred onto your skin, before being tattooed). Your design may also need to be tweaked and altered to meet your final approval. It also needs to suit the landscape and natural flow of the body part that will be getting tattooed.

Note that long sessions are not recommended for your first tattoo. Aim for for a session that is around three to four hours long.

What Takes So Long?

Tattoos with complex designs and extremely fine details are known to take more time. The artist will need to concentrate and may slow down considerably to ensure that all the details of your design are executed accurately and as precisely as possible.

Also, a vast range of different colors is another contributor. This requires the artist to continuously clean out their tattoo machines needle of ink, which considerably lengthens a session.

Old School tattoo. 6 hours.
Old School tattoo. 6 hours. | Source

Stages of Getting a Tattoo

Getting a tattoo is generally a bit more complex than just showing up at the studio. In many cases, it will go like this:

  1. Calling the studio and booking a pre-tattoo consultation (approximately fifteen to thirty minutes).
  2. Meeting your tattoo artist in their studio (where you will actually be tattooed):
  • To discuss design and placement.
  • To discuss price/cost.
  • Address any of your questions or concerns.
  • For you to check out the studio and their hygiene practices.
  • An opportunity for the them to inform you of anything.

After you have done all, some, or even none of the above steps, it's time for you to book your actual appointment. Then, once you are at your session, you will most likely go through the following stages:

  1. The body part to be tattooed is washed and possibly shaved if there's any hair.
  2. The transfer of design is applied to the skin.
  3. The artist prepares the ink and tattoo machine (some may choose to do this step earlier).
  4. Commence tattooing.
  5. When completed, your artist will wipe down your tattoo with a cool liquid (usually a water based solution) to remove any excess ink and blood.
  6. Applies aftercare cream.
  7. Wraps freshly inked tattoo for your journey home, to avoid contaminants entering your new tattoo.

Public Service Announcement:

If you don't like your final tattoo design, say something to your tattoo artist.

You are better paying a little more for a re-design, rather than getting a tattoo you hate...

FACT: Nobody grows to like a crappy tattoo. No matter how long you hope.

Pictures with Time Estimates

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Stunning neck tattoo is not as complex as it appears. A tattoo like this would take around 3-4 hours to outline.This black and white tattoo on the upper thigh would take approx. 5-6 hours.The amazing owl tattoo has multiple layers of both detail and color, it would have taken approx. 8-10 hours to complete and potentially 2 sittings.This lovely black and white tattoo is simply beautifully done. It would have taken approx. 5-6 hours to complete due to the fine details especially in the armbands..This delightful cartoon tattoo has a lot of shading and color. An approx. time frame for this tattoo would be 5 hours.Another gorgeous tattoo that has been created using black shading. A tattoo like this would take approx. 4 hours.Small but full of impact, the thick dark lines on this tattoo would take approx. 2.5 hours to finish.Teeny tiny, a tattoo like this would take no more that 15 mins. But expect to pay for an hour session anyway.Fonts and quotes require a steady hand but not too much fine line work. So a small quote like this one would take around 45 mins to an hour to have done.A dark, fully colored tattoo like this will take multiple sitting and around 10 hours to fully execute.
Stunning neck tattoo is not as complex as it appears. A tattoo like this would take around 3-4 hours to outline.
Stunning neck tattoo is not as complex as it appears. A tattoo like this would take around 3-4 hours to outline. | Source
This black and white tattoo on the upper thigh would take approx. 5-6 hours.
This black and white tattoo on the upper thigh would take approx. 5-6 hours. | Source
The amazing owl tattoo has multiple layers of both detail and color, it would have taken approx. 8-10 hours to complete and potentially 2 sittings.
The amazing owl tattoo has multiple layers of both detail and color, it would have taken approx. 8-10 hours to complete and potentially 2 sittings. | Source
This lovely black and white tattoo is simply beautifully done. It would have taken approx. 5-6 hours to complete due to the fine details especially in the armbands..
This lovely black and white tattoo is simply beautifully done. It would have taken approx. 5-6 hours to complete due to the fine details especially in the armbands.. | Source
This delightful cartoon tattoo has a lot of shading and color. An approx. time frame for this tattoo would be 5 hours.
This delightful cartoon tattoo has a lot of shading and color. An approx. time frame for this tattoo would be 5 hours. | Source
Another gorgeous tattoo that has been created using black shading. A tattoo like this would take approx. 4 hours.
Another gorgeous tattoo that has been created using black shading. A tattoo like this would take approx. 4 hours. | Source
Small but full of impact, the thick dark lines on this tattoo would take approx. 2.5 hours to finish.
Small but full of impact, the thick dark lines on this tattoo would take approx. 2.5 hours to finish. | Source
Teeny tiny, a tattoo like this would take no more that 15 mins. But expect to pay for an hour session anyway.
Teeny tiny, a tattoo like this would take no more that 15 mins. But expect to pay for an hour session anyway. | Source
Fonts and quotes require a steady hand but not too much fine line work. So a small quote like this one would take around 45 mins to an hour to have done.
Fonts and quotes require a steady hand but not too much fine line work. So a small quote like this one would take around 45 mins to an hour to have done. | Source
A dark, fully colored tattoo like this will take multiple sitting and around 10 hours to fully execute.
A dark, fully colored tattoo like this will take multiple sitting and around 10 hours to fully execute. | Source

How long did your largest tattoo take?

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Aftercare

However long it took for you to get your amazing tattoo, the needle pierced your skin repeatedly created a wound that needs to heal.

Proper aftercare is essential in maintaining your new tattoo and avoiding infections, which can damage it. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Remove wrapping once at home.
  2. Wash it with tattoo wash.
  3. Rinse thoroughly.
  4. Apply approved aftercare cream only.
  5. Repeat three to five times a day, for the first three days.
  6. Reduce the amount of washing and application of aftercare lotion to two times a day for the next five to seven days.

Please Note:

All time frames provided are only estimates and a guide only. For a more accurate estimate on how long your design will take, it's best to ask the tattoo artist themselves.

Enjoy your tattoo, and good luck!

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    • Breezy Noah profile image

      Breezy 2 years ago

      This was extremely helpful. My senior anatomy class is doing a project on how tattoos affect your body (meaning the integumentary system & your immune system.) Thanks, m8.c:

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