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Tattoo Shop, Parlor and Artist Liability Waivers - Definitive Guide (and downloads)

Tattoo Shop


What is a tattoo parlor/studio waiver?

Over the last few decades tattoos have gone from being a niche fringe art to a mainstream fashion staple, with 36% of Americans between 18 and 29 now having at least one tattoo . Tattoo parlors have become a common sight on high streets around the world.

Before starting the process customers are usually asked to sign a document containing lots of legal jargon, but primarily releasing the artist and the shop from any liability for any injuries or damages that may occur during the tattooing session. This is the the liability waiver.

What is the purpose of the waiver

There are several reasons why a tattoo shop would have a liability waiver:

  • the customer may sue because of a dispute with the artist
  • the customer may believe that the shop didn't do everything possible to protect them in case of a mishap

The liability waiver helps protect the tattoo shop against these cases, it can demonstrate that they did all they could to protect the customer, and that the customer was aware of any risks involved.

Liability waivers can be a sticky point for artists and shops. Some artists don’t like to have their guests sign a waiver. Others don’t like signing a waiver themselves. However there are not good reasons not to ensure that all customers sign a waiver - without waivers artists and shops are taking on unnecessary risks.

As long as I take care of my customers, do I still need a waiver?

If you offer good service, are careful and take care look after your customers, you will have of course have fewer problems, and reduce the chance of ending up with a disagreement in the first place. However, just because you've done all this it doesn’t mean that you will never have a problem. And if you have a problem, a waiver will help you prove that you did everything you could to protect the customer.

Do waivers fully protect me from lawsuits?

Tattoo Comic

No. A waiver protects the tattoo shop and the artist from some lawsuits. However, a waiver by itself does not mean that you are 100% protected from lawsuits. It's more likely for a waiver to be effective with a smaller problem than a larger problem, the effectivity depends on the particular laws in the jurisdiction you're located in, and even if the wording of the waiver says that there is no liability for negligence, in practice the protection depends on the degree of negligence perceived by the court.

It's important to remember that everyone, including tattoo artists, must act within the bounds of the law. If the law says that you can not do something, you can't. For example, a state might have a law that says that minors can not get tattoos. If a minor tried to get a tattoo, they would not be able to legally sign a waiver. Even if they signed a waiver, the law would not allow the tattoo and the tattoo parlor or shop would still be liable.

What makes an effective liability waiver?

A liability waiver must have 3 components to be effective. It must be transparent, it must be unambiguous and it must be freely assented to.

What is transparency?

Transparency is the ability to understand the waiver. It means that the waiver must be written in a way that the average person can understand the waiver. It means that the waiver must be written in plain language. It also means that the waiver must not have any hidden clauses or exceptions.

What is ambiguity?

Ambiguity is when something is unclear. If something is unclear, it could mean different things to different people. If something is ambiguous, it is impossible to know exactly what it means.

What is freely assented to?

Freely assented to means that the person understands what they are agreeing to and that they agree to the waiver. The person has to understand the waiver and agree to the waiver without any pressure. If the person is pressured into agreeing to the waiver, it doesn’t count as freely assented. For example, if an employee told the person that they're 'lame' if they don't sign the waiver, the waiver is not freely assented to.

Ssee also our guide on writing effective liability waivers.

What are the main clauses in a tattoo shop/studio liability waiver?

Tattoo Parlor

It's important that the waiver contains a clause that says that the customer understands that this is a tattooing session and that the customer understands that they are receiving a permanent tattoo that cannot be removed if they change their mind. In addition it should state that they have no impairment that would prevent them from making this decision, such as being drunk or otherwise mentally impaired.

It should state that the customer has an understanding other risks involved - for example infection, and scarring, and allergies to tattoo pigment (especially an issue with red pigment) or latex gloves.

Most waivers contain clauses that say that the artist and shop will not be held liable for any damages arising from the tattooing session, this is called a 'hold harmless' clause as the customer is holding the artist and shop harmless for any damage.

Another important clause is an acknowledgement that the customer doesn't have any medical problems that could have any impact on the tattoing session - for example if the customer has a skin condition that could interfere, diabetes, haemophilia or other blood conditions, or any relevant allergies.

As tattoo colors differ based on the customer's skin type, the waiver should specify that the customer is aware of this and that the color may appear different than their expectations - especially if they have dark skins, which make tattoo ink colors less bright.

The waiver should mention that the tattoo artist/shop/studio is not responsible for the meaning/spelling of the tattoo text or symbols that the customer has provided. There is an unfortunate history of embarrassing tattoo mistakes!

The artist or shop may also want to add a 'no refund' clause, so if the customer changes their mind once they have received the tattoo they cannot ask for a refund.

If the tattoo is an original design from the artist then you may want to add a copyright clause, however there is debate over whether this is valid.

Finally if the artist or shop wants to include a picture of the tattoo in their portfolio or marketing materials, then the waiver should include a media release form asking the customer to explicitly allow this.


A frequent problem with liability waivers is that they are over-reaching and inappropriate for the services provided. In this case they may therefore not be recognised as enforceable by a court, depending on the specific laws and case history in that jurisdiction.

Just because the customer is signing a waiver, that doesn't remove the responsibility to clearly explain the risks involved in getting a tattoo, how to look after it and what to do if any complications arise.

Waiver should not be hidden in fine print and should be explicitly accepted by the customer.

As waivers do not provide complete protection, liability insurance is still recommended, which would provide some degree of financial protection in the case of a lawsuit (though insurance has it's own terms and conditions attached and doesn't provide complete protection either).

Collecting waivers

Traditional waivers are paper-based and are not stored electronically.

A more recent trend is to have a digital waiver on a tablet or similar device in the shop or studio, and to have the customer sign a PDF on the device. While this solves many of the problems of paper-based waivers, the shop may not have adequate security to protect customer data and it may be hard to prove that the waiver was validly executed.

Instead using speedyWaiver electronic waiver software provides a highly secure and user-friendly means of capturing waivers and being able to demonstrate if necessary that the waiver was properly executed. In addition it provides flexibility to capture your customers' e-mail addresses, and to ask additional questions which can be useful for running analytics.

As well as supporting have the waiver on a device owned by the shop or artist, speedyWaiver also supports having a QR-code on the wall, which the user can scan and fill in the waiver on their own device.

Example waivers and downloads

Here are example tattoo studio/parlor waivers:





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