There may be many reasons to change tattoo artists. Maybe your artist has moved to a different country or city, or you may simply be unimpressed with the work that they have done so far on your tattoo. Whatever the reason may be, the question stands: can a tattoo artist finish someone else’s work?
Most tattoo artists will deem it unethical or unprofessional to finish another artist’s tattoo. However, if they are given a good reason, most tattoo artists can, and will, finish another tattoo artist’s work.
Why is it considered unethical to finish another tattoo artist’s tattoo, and what may be regarded as a good reason for leaving your previous tattoo artist? Let us have a deeper look into the unspoken ethics that tattoo artists live by.
If you are looking for inspiration before your tattoo, check out my portfolio – you can find my works and projects here – on Instagram.
Is It Unethical To Ask A Tattoo Artist To Finish Another Artist’s Work?
Some tattoo artists will not finish another tattoo artist’s work as they may see it as being an unethical thing to do.
There may be some circumstances that a tattoo artist may consider helping you finish your piece, but this will usually only be if them finishing your tattoo for you will not be of any disadvantage to the original tattoo artist.
Below are some reasons why a new tattoo artist may undergo the completion of an unfinished tattoo that was started by someone else, even though it may be considered unethical:
- Death – if the original tattoo artist has passed on, there is no disrespect in the new tattoo artist finishing their work, as it is not “stealing” their client away from them.
- Moving countries – if the original tattoo artist has moved to a different country, there is obviously no reason to not finish the tattoo that they had started, as it would be unfair to expect the client to travel to another county simply to have a tattoo finished.
- The client is genuinely unhappy with the work of the original artist – If a client is genuinely unhappy with the work that the original tattoo artist has done, and they refuse to continue using that artist’s services, a new tattoo artist may consider helping them out and finishing the other tattoo artist’s tattoo in order to try and correct any problems in the tattoo.
- The store is out of business – if the original tattoo artist’s shop has closed down, and they are now no longer able to finish their work, a new tattoo artist may consider finishing the piece for the client – because again, they are not stealing any clients from another tattoo artist.
Tattoo artists are more often than not friends with other local tattoo artists, and because of this, they will usually need a very good reason to take over the work from one of their friends; since taking over a client means that someone else is losing that client and all their future business.
Can I Switch Tattoo Artists Halfway Through A Tattoo?
The biggest issue with swapping a tattoo artist at any point in a tattoo is that each tattoo artist has their own tattooing style. It is like their signature, and no two artists will have the same one.
Because of this, if you change your artist halfway through a tattoo, the signature style of your tattoo is also going to change halfway through, making it look less consistent.
Even if it was not for tattooing styles, you will usually not be able to swap a tattoo artist halfway through a tattoo if you are getting a tattoo done in one session. Tattoo artists in the same shop will generally not let a client chop and change who is doing their tattoo out of respect for one another.
If you are halfway through your tattoo and you are not happy with it, you should rather than requesting another artist take over, simply ask your artist to stop.
Suppose, later on, you realize your tattoo was actually fine, and you were freaking out over nothing. In that case, you can return to the artist at a later point and let them continue.
If it turns out that you made the right choice and you are still unimpressed with the unfinished tattoo after you have had some time to think about it, then this would be the time to try to find a new tattoo artist who would be willing to help you finish the piece.
However, you can always switch artists halfway through a tattoo piece if you are getting a tattoo done in multiple sessions and you are unhappy with the tattoo after the first or first few sessions.
If you are going to change tattoo artists, the earlier, the better, as there will be more room for the new artist to correct anything that may need correction.
Again, as long as you are switching tattoo artists for a good reason and not because of something juvenile like the fact that you did not enjoy their taste in music while being tattooed, you will generally be able to find a new artist who will be willing to assist you in finishing your tattoo.
Will Tattoo Artists Add To An Existing Tattoo?
This will again depend on several things – why are you not going back to the original tattoo artist?
Usually, tattoo artists do not enjoy adding on to another artist’s existing tattoo. However, they may be more open to adding on to a tattoo than finishing off someone else’s work.
If you are adding onto a tattoo a few years after having it done, it generally is not too big of an issue for the tattoo artist to add more work onto an existing tattoo.
However, if you are adding onto a tattoo that was done a few months back, this may still be seen as “finishing” another tattoo artist’s tattoo.
For example, if you had a black and white tattoo sleeve done eight years ago, and you have since decided that you would really like to add color to the whole thing, that may be seen as a brand new tattoo project, and the tattoo artist will most likely be willing to help.
However, if you had a flower tattoo done two months ago, and you now decide you actually want two more flowers with it, you may be pointed back to your original artist to have them add to your tattoo, as you are their client.
Do Tattoo Artists Ever Tag-Team their Work?
Do tattoo artists finish off each other’s work, essentially finishing off each other’s tattoos but in a teamwork understanding?
It is extremely uncommon that you will find tattoo artists doing this. Tattoo artists mostly stick with their clients from the first consultation to the final product without the help of other artists.
If a tattoo artist has great respect for a colleague’s work, and they are running late for their next appointment, they may ask the colleague to take over the next client instead of asking them to finish up with the tattoo they are already busy with so that they can finish what they have started.
Each tattoo artist has their own very unique tattooing style of tattooing, and so if one tattoo artist tag-teamed with another tattoo artist unless their styles are almost identical, one tattoo piece is going to come out looking like something weird happened to it, and there will be two different styles thrown into it.
Because of this, artists will generally not share a tattoo piece with another artist but rather finish everything that they have started to keep their work consistent.
If you have no issues with your tattoo artist, make sure you stick out getting your tattoo done with them to keep the tattoo looking consistent and have the same style flow the whole way through.
To avoid ever needing to change your tattoo artist at any point in a tattoo, make sure you have done enough research into who your artist is upfront. Make sure you are using someone who is qualified and talented and whose style you like.
Otherwise, if you are going to change tattoo artists for any reason, make sure it is done respectfully and not putting another artist’s head on the line for it.
Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you
Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.
Design and tattoo ideas
For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):
- Great Book of Tattoo Designs, Revised Edition: More than 500 Body Art Designs (Fox Chapel Publishing) Fantasy, Celtic, Floral, Wildlife, and Symbol Designs for the Skin by Lora Irish
- The Big Book of Small Tattoos – Vol.1: 400 small original tattoos for women and men by Roberto Gemori
- Tiny Tattoos: Over 1,000 Small Inspirational Artworks by Rebecca Vincent.
If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).
The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):