This is one of the most common questions a tattoo shop get asked. It’s also the hardest question to answer. The honest answer is that it depends. There are so many different factors that go into getting inked that an exact timeline just isn’t possible. Once you decide on the image, size, and location of you new tattoo your artist should be able to give you an estimate but that can still change. Larger ink may require multiple sessions where smaller ones can be done in a matter of minutes. Like we said, it all depends.
Some designs are just more complicated than others. If your tattoo has a high level of detail expect it to take longer than a minimalist one. For your artist to get the depth, shading, shape and overall design of the image right you have to be patient. Trust us, you don’t want a rush job, especially when it comes to something as permanent as a tattoo.
Certain styles of tattoos take more work than others. Pointillism tattoos take extra time to plan and execute the multiple dots. Realism portraits will also take longer as your artist will want to make sure they capture the reality of the image. The color of ink also impacts the time a tattoo will take. Black and gray ink is typically faster than the use of colored ink due to the fact that color ink has to be repeatedly inked in layers to get it to come across
As you would expect, the size of the tattoo has a huge influence over how much time it will take to complete. Smaller tattoos will obviously take less time than larger pieces. Some of the larger tattoos even take multiple sessions over weeks (or years!). Your tattoo artist should warn you of this when you’re picking out a design but it’s still hard for some people to grasp that they won’t see their final image for long that. Be sure to consider if you have the patience and stamina to undertake a large, multi-session piece before deciding on it.
The time a tattoo takes also is depended on the tattoo artist. Some work slower than others. It also depends on how comfortable they feel with the preferred style or overall design of the image. Every artist will suggest you check out their portfolio. When you see images you like in there be sure to ask them how long it took to complete.
After Care (For Multiple Sessions)
If you’ve settled on a large, multiple session piece your artist should plan a schedule for you. Usually, a few weeks is needed in between each session to let your skin heal some. Proper aftercare, even on an incomplete image, is vital. The less you take care of it, the longer it takes to heal and then the longer you have to wait in-between each session. Follow your tattoo artists recommending aftercare to make sure you have a speedy recovery and keep healthy.
Unfortunately, there’s not a magical answer to this question. There are so many aspects that can extend the time it takes for a tattoo to be completed. Mull all of it over as you decided on placement, size, and design. Your tattoo artist will be your best advisor when it comes to these decisions. Once you book an appointment they’ll go through all of this with you to make sure you select something that works for you.