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TATTOOS BY DAWN GRACE

award winning professional tattoo artist in Chicago (and beyond)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: I want to get tattooed by you, how do I proceed, and how long will I have to wait?
A: I will always accept new clients; my books will never close. I am honored that you are considering me!
Please use the contact form to let me know what you're interested in having done.
You will receive a response with specific questions to sort out the details of what you would like. You will be able to send any reference material. If you are sending images, please use the JPEG or PDF formats only.

I tattoo by appointment only, Sunday through Wednesday,  from 12pm-6pm. Appointment slots are 1 hour minimum, 3 hours maximum. I understand that folks would like to get tattooed for 5+ hours in a sitting, but i've learned over the years that most clients start feeling "over it" at 3 hours.  

I am generally booked a month or so in advance for my weekday appointments, and Sundays can be 12 weeks or more. If you are able to come during one of my M-W spots, you will get in quicker.

Emails are answered in the order in which they are received. While I do my best to keep up, there can be a few day delay in response due to the high volume of email I receive and bookings that are in progress of being scheduled. There is no need to email multiple times before I have a chance to respond; please keep all correspondance in one thread so that i can easily find details about your tattoo.

 

Q: Why are you booked so far in advance? Do you have a cancellation list?
A: There are only so many hours in the day and I do need a private life.

While tattooing is my passion, it is also my profession, and a strenuous one that can be hard on me physically.

I have to take good care of myself so I can take good care of you!

I do my best to get folks in as soon as possible, and I do have a cancellation list.
Out of courtesy and fairness, the people who are waiting the longest are offered the first shot at any newly available slots.

I do travel throughout the year to do guest spots and conventions. My travel schedule is in the "on the road" section of my website.
Some years more often, some years, not so much, it really just depends. I am a huge lover of the northwest coast and try to get out there to work every few years. Portland and Seattle, specifically. I make it to Atlanta once a year generally to work at my old shop, Timeless Tattoo. 

Conventions and guest spot appointments fill up almost as soon as they are announced, so be sure to contact me ASAP if you want to get tattooed by me, where ever you are.

You're welcome to shoot me an email and tell me what city/region/country you're in, as I keep every serious email and label them geographically so I can let folks know if/when I'll be heading their way.

 

Q: I really want to tell you the meaning behind my tattoo before I meet you. 
A: While I appreciate that many clients have a story behind their tattoo, it is not necessary for me to know it during the design process. 

You don’t have to audition to get tattooed by me, and I don’t select pieces I think are cooler or more fun to do! Your tattoo is as important to me as it is to you, and I guarantee we will know each other quite well by the end of a session. Part of what is so awesome about getting tattooed is the very intimate nature of what you and I are engaging in. I often become lifelong friends and confidants to many clients, and i love that! 

Q: I want to bring people/kids with me for my tattoo.

You must be 18 or older to be in my studio.

You may bring one person to come with you, but limit it to your best friend, spouse, or close relative.

This means children are not allowed in the studio, as adorable as they are.

Most people think it'll be great fun to watch their loved one get tattooed, but after 15 minutes they are incredibly bored. Make sure they bring a book or are ready for a nap. Children and animals (other than service animals) are NOT allowed in the shop. Space is limited, and children/animals running around pose serious liability and safety issues. Service animals need to actually BE legal service animals and not just wearing a vest that says they are.

I've been knocked into by an excited/bored child while tattooing, and that put an end to a kid-friendly shop instantly.  If you have an appointment and your child-care doesn't work out for some reason, PLEASE do not assume that it's ok to bring kids in. The only proper solution is to reschedule as soon as you know there's an issue. We will do our best to get you back on the books quickly, without losing your deposit. Families come first, and I understand that sh*t happens.

 

Q: What are your rates?
A:  My hourly rate is $200, with a minimum of $100, no matter how tiny the tattoo. 

My pricing is always kept in the same range as other professional artists who share my level of experience. Please do not ask me to barter, hook you up, or give you a sweet deal. Remember, you get what you pay for: "cheap tattoos ain't good, and good tattoos ain't cheap."

I require a $100 non-refundable deposit to secure your tattoo appointment. The deposit goes towards the cost of the tattoo.

If you choose to not show up to your appointment, you lose your deposit. If you need to reschedule your appointment, we need at least 48 hours notice. We will then set another date and you will not have to pay another deposit. In the case of pregnancies and other major life events (family deaths, car accidents, moving etc), I of course will hold your deposit until life is back on track.

Once we have a better idea of what we’re doing, how big it’ll be, how much detail is involved, etc., I can usually come up with a price range/time estimate. Most folks can only get tattooed comfortably for 3 hours max, and I split up sessions on bigger or heavily detailed work. It's easier on your body AND wallet.

3D realistic nipple tattooing for breast cancer survivors is $350 for one, $600 for both. If you would rather get a beautiful piece of art instead of nipples, there is not extra charge, that falls under my regular hourly rates. I am well-trained and totally comfortable and proficient in the realities of tattooing over/near scars.

Re-pigmentation for nipples/areola that have been adversely affected by breast reduction surgery runs a bit less if there is some color/shape already present.

Q: What types of payment do you accept?
A: Cash is always king, but all major credit cards are accepted. 

Checks are not accepted, except for deposits, when Paypal or Chase Direct-pay is not an option for you.

I do not barter, trade, hook up, accept coupons, or anything of that sort, so please don't ask. 

Tattooing is my profession, not a hobby. Do not EVER get tattooed by anyone who is not a professional, or is working out of their house. If they can't be bothered to work in a legitimate shop/studio, what other shortcuts to your safety are the taking?

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten.

As for tips, they are never expected, but always appreciated for a job well done. 

 

Q: How long have you've been tattooing? How did you learn? What are your qualifications? 
A:  I have been tattooing professionally since 1996, after serving a traditional 2-year apprenticeship with Cap Szumski at Timeless Tattoo in Atlanta, GA.

I will never stop learning, and I do my best to further my knowledge and skills whenever/whereever possible by working with other artists, attending conventions and workshops, and studying new techniques and methods.

I am a member of the National Tattoo Association, which is dedicated to promoting tattooing in a positive way as a valid contemporary art form, while sharing the colorful history of our predecessors and staying on top of current news and health issues.

Each year, I renew my certifications for Prevention of Blood-Bourne Pathogens, First Aid, CPR, and AED. BBP is the only required course, but by taking all of the other courses, I feel better equipped to handle any emergencies that may arise inside the studio, as well as outside.  

I've won several awards including being voted Chicago's Best Tattoo Artist by The Chicago Reader. AOL's Digital City named me one of the top ten tattoo artists in the USA. My work has been in numerous national and international magazines, both in direct reference to my work, and with clients being used in advertising. My clients have proudly sported my work on such shows as Top Chef, The Voice, & Sex with Sunny Megatron, among others.


Q. Are tattoos safe? What safety precautions do you employ?
A:  Everything I use is single use, sterilized, and disposed of promptly and correctly after use.

Yearly classes in the Prevention of Blood-Bourne pathogens/cross contamination, First Aid, AED, and CPR keep me up to date with current safety procedures.

 

Q: How do I take care of my new tattoo?
A: I give aftercare suggestions verbally, on paper, and here on my website. You should follow my suggestions and take care of your tattoo the way I suggest.

Follow the "k.i.s.s." method: Keep it Simple Sweetheart!

Do not listen to your friends/family, or random Internet "experts".  PLEASE!!

If you have been tattooed a bunch already and have your healing system down pat, please do what works best for you.

Do not hesitate to contact me at any point during the healing process.

There are no dumb questions! Ask away, and I will always get back to you quickly. 

 

Q: How does the process work, and when can I expect to see my design in advance?
A: I enjoy doing all styles of tattooing and will do my best to find a way to make whatever you'd like work unless it’s way out of my league technically, the ideas won’t work as a tattoo and we can’t agree on a workable solution, has racist/hateful meanings, or is gang-related.

I'm brutally honest, and if I think what you want would be done better by someone more skilled in that style, I'll say so and give you their contact info. Please don't take that as me blowing you off; I want you to have a great tattoo, even if I don't get to do it! 

I believe people already have a pretty clear idea of what they'd like me to do, but sometimes have a hard time explaining it. This is the main reason I do my consultations via email. I need to have everything you've said, along with any reference material you've provided, in printable form so I can use that info while working on your drawing.

Unfortunately, I don't have mind-reading abilities, so I need your guidance with visual cues. Links to tattoos I have done that are similar in look or feel to what you want, as are photographs, statues, textiles, etc. are extremely helpful. You don't need to send me a hundred links to tattoos I've done that you like.

It's a big NO-NO to copy other people's custom tattoo work. We can do a similar design, but please don't ask me steal anyone else's tattoo whether I did it or not. I won't do it, no matter how many different ways you ask me. Any tattooer who copies other artists' custom work is a scammer and needs to go find another line of work. 

The designs adorning the walls of most tattoo shops is called "flash", and was drawn specifically for tattooers, by tattooers and is meant to be used as drawn, for as many times as people want to have it done. There is NOTHING WRONG with getting a tattoo that is from flash. 

The "I would NEVER pick a design off the wall" does a huge disservice to the world of tattooing; flash is and has been a very important component of our craft for many decades, and there is so much history behind it. Tattooers who serve traditional apprenticeships generally draw sheet after sheet of flash, based on the current desires of the public and/or their own personal taste and humor. Long time tattoo artists can name the era a particular set of designs came from just by looking at it!

I can draw anything you'd like, you just have to do your best to be as specific as possible. If you are having a hard time visualizing what you'd like but are open-minded about the design and my skills, that works too!

As for my signature mehndi-style designs, I usually draw them directly on the skin so as to flow properly with the body's natural contours and not look like a sticker.

If I won’t be drawing directly on your body, I do my best to have a basic layout sketch ready the day of our appointment. I work with a combination of stencils and drawing on the skin. Occasionally I can't work on a design until we are in the studio together.

 

Q: Does it hurt?
A: Tattoos hurt. It's not going to kill you, but it's not like being kissed by a butterfly.

Every person has a totally different pain threshold, and even that is apt to change.
Some parts of the body are more painful to get tattooed, some are no big deal at all.

The trick is to BREATHE and relax.

Holding your breath, tensing up, and freaking out are only going to make us both miserable, so do your best to focus on being as relaxed as possible and BREEEATHE.
The better you sit for me, the quicker it will go. The more you whine and wiggle, the longer it'll take, and the more it will cost.

Please remember that it only hurts while you are actually getting tattooed. Afterwards, it'll feel like a sunburn and/or a bruise. You may be a little swollen and tender; ibuprofen and ice packs can help alleviate any discomfort. Again, do NOT hesitate to contact me during healing, if you have questions or concerns at all!

 

Q: I live far away, and can't travel to see you. Will you draw something for someone near me to tattoo?
A:  I do commissioned drawings, which range from $150-350 (or more, if it's really big), with re-draws ranging from $50 and up (again, depending on how much work I have to do), which is payable *in advance* via paypal. The price depends on what I will be drawing.

I generally have a 2 week or less turnaround time for commissioned drawings.

Keep in mind that many artists do not like to tattoo the super intricate work that I enjoy doing.

Everyone has their strengths, so you will really need to do your homework and look at a lot of portfolios to find someone likes doing detailed tattoos, and does them well.

I do travel throughout the year, and it’s if you want the kind of work I do, it's better to get tattooed by me than to just have me draw it. Please get in touch with me with your request via the contact form.

 

Q: Do you know anyone good in my city/state/country?
A: In any given mid-large city, there are very skilled, professional artists.

Do your homework and look through portfolios in person. Do not trust "craiglist" tattoo ads.

Make sure you are treated well, the shop is spotless, and their portfolio shows a good range of styles.

The best tattooers can do whatever you'd like, and aren't only into doing "their style". If what you want is not something they are able to do well, they should absolutely refer you to someone they know who will take good care of you.
 

Q: Do you take apprentices? How do I learn?
A: Having an apprentice is a life-long relationship. Should you come to realize that the only thing in the world that matters to you is tattooing, you will find the right person to teach you. That said, I am not available for apprenticeships at this time. 

Tattooing is not a hobby, and apprenticeships should not be a part time gig while you work at your "real job." Only a full time traditional apprenticeship with a professional who has been in the business for a long time (15 years or more) will get you started on the right path. Do not be sucked into "tattoo schools". No legitimate shop will ever higher ANYONE who attended "tattoo school". There are no quick and easy ways to become a professional tattoo artist.

Do NOT decide one day, “hey i can draw, i’m going to tattoo my friends in my kitchen!”

Just because tattoo supplies are now easily available and cheap does not mean you should take it upon yourself to tattoo your friends and unsuspecting clients.

MRSA and hepatitis are no joke, and are only a few of the problems that can and will happen with “tattoo artists” who are not properly trained. You wouldn't get dental work from someone who isn't a professional, in their garage, right? 

At least half of the work I now do consists of fixing or covering up terrible tattoos done in someone's kitchen or at a party, and I am not exaggerating!

DO NOT GET TATTOOED AT SOMEONE'S HOUSE OR AT A PARTY. 

 

Q: How old do you have to be to get tattooed?
A: It is illegal to tattoo anyone under the age of 18 in the state of Illinois. I will not, under ANY circumstances, break the law for anyone.

When I work in a different state, I follow their laws to a t; proper paperwork and legal requirements are always in effect.

There is no parental consent clause, and no one can sign for you.

Government issued identification is required to be photocopied onto your paperwork before the tattoo is started. This is no joke!

Even if you've been tattooed by me 35 times, I STILL have to copy your ID onto your paperwork, which yes, you have to fill out at every appointment.

 

Q: Can I drink/do drugs before I get tattooed?
A: It is illegal for me to tattoo anyone who is under the influence of any mind/body altering substances.

Contrary to popular belief, being high will not make your experience any better; It actually makes the process more difficult for you (and me!) and raises the risk of complications. Just say no. You can go whoop it up as hard as you want when we are done.

Drinking alcohol before our session is an absolutely terrible idea (because i can tell, and you will not be getting tattooed!).

Drinking a bunch the night before is also a bad idea. Alcohol thins your blood, makes you smelly, and makes my job harder.

Do not take any blood thinners the night before or day of getting tattooed. This includes caffeine, aspirin, advil, tylenol, etc. One normal cup of coffee in the morning is fine.  

 

Q: Can I get tattooed while pregnant or breast-feeding?

A: The jury is still out on this one, but I am not comfortable with doing either. Your body is going through tremendous changes and is under extreme stress during and after pregnancy. Getting tattooed while pregnant or breast-feeding can negatively impact both your health and that of your baby by raising your blood pressure, and I do not want anything to do with that.If you have an appointment and need to reschedule, you will not lose your deposit. Have a terrific pregnancy, delivery, and post birthing bonding time with baby.

l'll be here when baby is weaned and your body is yours again. I fully expect to see photos and hear all about it! Also, newborns are always welcome in the shop to come say hi if whoever is taking care of them understands they cannot stay while we are working. 

 

Q: Should I eat before I get tattooed? What should I do to prepare for being tattooed?
A: It is ideal to eat within four hours of being tattooed. Having food in your body helps deal with the rush of adrenaline and endorphins that naturally occur when getting tattooed. Feel free to carbo-load! For sure get some sugar in you, whether it's through real food or junk. Sugar, carbs, protein are all very helpful!

The night before, don't drink a bunch of alcohol (one or two cocktails is fine), have a good dinner, and get a good night's sleep.

The day of, please bathe/shower, and if the area to be tattooed is super hairy, do me a favor and shave it as best you can.

Eat a big, hearty breakfast/lunch, don't drink a bunch of caffeine, and try to be relaxed. Getting tattooed is exciting, but don't freak yourself out.

Happy, healthy people heal better. Getting tattooed when you are sick, post surgical, or stressed out is not ideal and the likelihood of having problems during healing is higher. if you are sick with something contagious (the flu, a nasty cold, bronchitis, strep, etc.) PLEASE reschedule. You will not lose your deposit and we will do our best to get you back in quickly after you are better. I cannot afford to be sick! Same goes for me, if *I* am contagious, I will be rescheduling you.

Folks with compromised immune systems (e.g. diabetes, Hepatitis, HIV, lupus, fibromyalgia, etc) can take longer to heal. If you are diabetic and have a hard time healing wounds, have a good talk with your doctor and heed their advice. 

If you have any health conditions which may impair healing or cause any problems while getting tattooed, please check with your doctor first. Assure your doctor that everything I use is sterilized and single-use, and direct them to my page if need be. I'd be happy to answer any questions they may have for me.


Q: Can you fix/cover-up a bad tattoo I have?
A: I really enjoy fixing/repairing and doing cover-ups! A lot of tattooers do not enjoy doing coverups, as evidenced by clients who come to me to fix a tattoo that has been badly covered once or twice already.

It's rare that I can't figure out something to fix a piece; on certain occasions I might suggest one or two laser removal sessions to lighten the existing piece in order for us to have more options, but that's not the default solution. I enjoy being challenged, and love making people happy by turning something they hate into something they love!

There's nothing worse than a tattoo that screams "cover up!!!" with a big black blob that doesn't fit the body's contours, and I refuse to do that to my clients.

I want you to be happy with your tattoo and will do my best to make sure that happens.


Q: Can you tattoo over a scar?
A: It depends on the severity and maturity of the scar. In general, a scar NEEDS to be at least one year old, and not pink or still healing. There is no guarantee that the ink will stay in scar tissue. 

I work with breast cancer survivors to create either works of art to cover the mastectomy scars, or 3D realistic nipples to replace the ones lost to surgery.

I also work with scars from plastic and non-plastic surgery, the most common being from breast lifts and tummy tucks. 

Scars from former self-harm or accidents are also able to be tattooed, but they need to be fully healed.

Nothing I can do will get rid of the scars, but we can use tattooing to draw the eye away from them and onto a beautiful piece of art. 

 

Q: What tattoos won't you do?

A: i will not do any work that is sexist or racist. 

I not do "white tattoos" or color only (no outline, watercolor) tattoos.

White is used for highlighting only, as in the whites of the eyes, or to add a little extra dimension here and there. White ink tattoos, when healed, look like awful scars. Just because i won't do them doesn't mean someone else won't. Bear in mind that anyone who would do that without warning you that it WILL look like an ugly scar probably just wants your money and doesn't care about you or your tattoo.

Tattoos NEED to be outlined in black, and have shading in order to give it dimension. The "watercolor" trend will end in a year or so when folks realize that their tattoo that looked great for a few months now looks like a washed out mess or a bruise. Black is the most stable of pigments and it is the best for holding the tattoo together.

I do not tattoo hands, fingers, sides/front of the neck, arches/outside of the feet, heels, or faces. This is how I was taught, and it's not up for debate. Again, I'm sure you'll find someone willing to do this for you, but it's not going to be me. 

 

Q: What if my tattoo is infected?
A: More often than not, what you perceive as an infection, is actually an allergic reaction to products being put on it, dirty sheets/clothes, and/or animal hair/dander . 

Allergic reactions to ink or infections are rare, but do happen. If you are having an issue, please contact me immediately! Do NOT assume a wait and see stance. There are no dumb questions!

Signs of infection include, but are not limited to: red streaks around the area, green or yellow pus/discharge, extreme pain, fever, and extreme swelling. 

Normally healing tattoos will usually be tender to the touch,  swollen and/or bruised. Leaking of lymph fluid (which can have a bit of blood in it) is normal, as is peeling and very occasionally, scabbing. if you know your body likes to retain water, do it a solid and stay away from salt/sodium, drink extra glasses of water, and when all else fails, a diuretic can be used. When I get tattooed, I stay pink and swollen for a week or more! 

Some areas of the body can have a bit of a trickier time healing; ribs will likely be really sore for a few days and feel bruised.

For women, anything in the bra-zone needs more TLC in the form of 100% cotton camisole (instead of a bra, if possible); the back shoulders will heal much better if a Y-strap or sports bra is worn during healing.

Lower legs and ankles can tend to swell a bit, which can be disconcerting! Hello cankles! 

If you are extremely uncomfortable, use the "RICE" method: rest, ice, chocolate, elevation. Yes, i added the chocolate part.

Overuse of products and/or incorrect aftercare are usually the main culprits when a tattoo is having a hard time healing.

Please follow your aftercare that I've given you. Don’t listen to your friends or the internet wizards.

Keep it simple: fragrance free soap + fragrance free lotion + no picking/scratching/soaking/sun=happy tattoo.


There are NO stupid questions, please do not hesitate to contact me with any concerns.