Visitors at a convention watching artists tatoo

Tattoo Conventions: How to Prepare & What to Expect

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All artists, at one point or another are likely to attend a tattoo convention. Amongst a host of other benefits, tattoo conventions are a great opportunity for artists to travel. They also give clients, who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to visit an artist for a tattoo the opportunity to do so. But, how do you get yourself in to one? And if you do, what should you expect?

We caught up with a few tattoo artists with years of experience in both the industry and conventions, and we asked them all the questions we think you’ll need to know to make sure your first one is successful.

Q: How do you go about taking part in a convention?

A: It completely depends. Some conventions are invite only, so you’ll have to be quite well known or liked by whoever is choosing the artists for the event. You can apply for a lot now though, and if you get in – great! If you’re new to the industry, it’s definitely worth applying to some to get your name out there.

Tattoo conventions are great for your tattoo shop marketing strategy

Q: What are the benefits to doing a convention?

A: When you’re starting out, the benefits are to get yourself known within the tattoo community and to pick up more work, but once you’ve been doing them for a while, you tend to benefit more from catching up with friends and basically just enjoying the experience! The atmosphere is amazing.

Q: What’s your favourite thing about a convention?

A: Having the chance to catch up with friends from all over the place. You get to meet so many people there – it’s a great social event within the industry as well as business and it’s so worth doing.

Q: How have conventions changed over the years?

A: Conventions used to be invite only and there were a lot less of them. Now, there are quite a few and as a whole, the footfall has started to drop a little. I think social media has played a large part in this as people can already see everything online – they don’t need to ‘shop’ for tattoo artists at events as much.

Q: What difficulties do you find when working at conventions?

A: Sometimes, depending on the positioning of your stand, you don’t actually make that much money at conventions. So, it’s best to go with a positive attitude towards the experience as opposed to a money-making one.

The lighting isn’t always the best at conventions either, so it’s important to take your own! A lot of first-time workers might overlook this, so a word of advice would be to get a good lamp to take with you.

Q: What other tips would you give to someone wanting to work at a convention?

A: Get yourself prepared beforehand. Pack everything early and make a checklist of all the things you’ll need. You’ll forget all the little important things if you don’t have one.

Don’t take on too much work or try to squeeze people in either – it will end up being a very stressful event for you if you do. You could always book people in before the event so that you’ve already spoken to them and got a feel for what they’re after, much like a normal tattooing day. It’s one less thing to worry about and if you haven’t, then have examples of the work you want to be doing. You’re less likely to have to spend your time doing new designs in a pressurised situation that way.

Oh, and take a helper! You’ll notice a lot of artists have someone working on their stand for them. This is because it’s really difficult to tattoo and talk to people walking up at the same time, so it’s a huge help having someone on hand to answer any questions and assist in selling merch.

Q: What sort of things would be on your checklist?

A: As well as your general kit, you’ll need things like a backdrop, a tablecloth, a good lamp, a bed, business cards, pictures of your designs, and merchandise (if you have any). Conventions can be a great place to sell merchandise so a lot of people take it.

If you have space, a stencil machine and a stool is also a great idea because the seating isn’t always ideal at conventions.

Q: How important are awards at conventions?

A: I wouldn’t say they’re too important. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very nice for you and your clients if you win, but you shouldn’t let it take away from the fact you’ve done some amazing tattoos and had a great experience if you don’t.

A script painted skateboard; the Brighton Tattoo Convention Best-in-Show award 2019
Brighton Tattoo Convention Award, 2019, won by Sneaky-Mitch, Gold Room Tattoo, Leeds, UK
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Meet Our Experts

Chris Harrison Tattoo Artist

Chris Harrison

Bridgend Tattoo Studio

Bridgend, South Wales, UK

Sneaky-Mitch, tattooist at Gold Room Tattoo, Leeds, UK

Sneaky-Mitch

Gold Room Tattoo

Leeds, UK

Tito Inkid

L’Atelier Sans Nom

Armentières, France

Lianne Moule

Immortal Ink
Chelmsford, UK

Julian ‘Corpsepainter’ Siebert

Corpse Painter Tattoo
Munich, Germany

Alex Rattray

Empire Ink
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

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