Convention Packing 101: Top 5 Packing Tips for Tattoo Conventions | Painful Pleasures Community

Convention Packing 101: Top 5 Packing Tips for Tattoo Conventions

Cover all your bases when packing for your next tattoo convention trip. Learn more here in Convention Packing 101.
by Danny Tress Last Updated: August 10, 2022

There’s a lot to consider when preparing for your next tattoo convention. In fact, the packing process can be pretty overwhelming. But packing successfully sets you up for smoother sessions and minimal “f*ck me” moments at the convention itself.

Along with general tips, you’ll find lots of advice from artists and frequent convention goers in this Convention Packing 101 Guide. So, set yourself up for success before your next tattoo convention with these top 5 convention packing tips.

Tip 1: Write and Follow a Packing Checklist

Standard tattoo convention supplies including washer andd spray bottles on a medical tray at a tattoo convention

To kick things off, write everything down.

Every artist’s packing checklist will look a little different. But writing (or typing) everything you need for a convention is a sure-fire way to be prepared. For starters, your checklist should include all your go-to tattoo supplies you’ll be reaching for throughout the convention.

You might be asking yourself, “Can’t I grab everything I need at the convention?” But packing your own stuff not only ensures you’ll have everything you need in advance… it could also save you money. Tattoo artist Christian Crittenden of Newport Tattoo always advises checklists for maximum preparedness and a budget-friendly experience.

“Always make a checklist for things that you’re bringing. I’m pretty bad about it sometimes myself, but make sure you have everything you need […] even though there are supply places here, you can get it from, it’s just cheaper to do it that way.”

Once your travel case is loaded and ready, you can go down the line of checklist items to make sure you’ve packed everything. You might find that you don’t need everything on your checklist… but better safe than sorry. Tattoo artist and TikTok star Jake Karamol from Timeless Body Arts highlights the importance of showing up to a convention with everything you need.

“Preparation is everything. The more prepared you are and the more work that goes into the preparation, the easier your time at the convention’s gonna be […] it’s always good to prepare for the worst and it’s better to have [supplies] and not need it than need it and not have it.”

See all of Jake Karamol’s personal convention packing tips here.

Tip 2: Pre-Plan Your Stencils

Aerial view of tattoo artist outlining a tattoo on a client's thigh

This goes for all artists, whether you’re only taking pre-booked appointments, or you’re open to walk-up tattoos. Either way, save yourself a lot of time and hassle by coming with printed stencils.

If you plan on tattooing a few meandering clients who like your work, it’s always a good idea to have your flash or custom designs stenciled, printed, and ready for selection. You can price each stencil, lay them out at your station, and give your walk-up clients the pick of the litter. That way, after they’ve made their selection, your stencil is all ready for application. It also means you’ll buy yourself time to do more than a few walk-up tattoos, since you don’t have to spend time pre-drawing.

If you’ve booked a few clients in advance, it’s always a good idea to create and print your stencils in multiple sizes. That way, you likely won’t have to resize anything when the appointment starts.

Bonus ProTip: If you plan on resizing or printing stencils at the convention, we highly recommend bringing a travel-friendly stencil printer (like a Brother portable printer). Make sure you can connect via cord, not Wi-Fi, since the Wi-Fi at conventions can be unreliable. Yes, you will likely find printers at the convention. But there are often long lines to claim a stencil printer at conventions – and oftentimes, those stencil printers get claimed fast. So, save yourself the trouble of waiting in line for a printer and bring your own.

Tip 3: Consider These Unexpected Necessities at a Tattoo Convention

Tattoo artist Bobby Douglas flexing his biceps at a tattoo convention

When packing for a convention, there are a few staples that seem like no-brainers. You’ll want to pack your tattoo machine, favorite tech, ink caps, grips, and tattoo inks.

But… you’re also a human being. You have biological needs. So, add some essentials to your checklist that might slip your mind when you’re all pumped for travel and tattooing. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Non-perishable snacks
  • A refillable thermos for water, soda, juice, tea, or coffee (if you’re an avid coffee drinker, this could be a lifesaver)
  • OTC medicine you might regularly take like Tums, Tylenol, or Aspirin

Also, you might find yourself at one or more convention parties during your time away. Convention parties can be a blast… but they can also have certain, *ahem* repercussions. If you plan on enjoying a drink (or twenty) at a convention party, we highly recommend coming equipped with Gatorade, Pedialyte, or other hangover-nursing supplies. It’s no fun showing up to a tattoo convention with a wicked hangover, so be sure to have your own back.

But even if you don’t plan on drinking or staying out too late during a convention weekend, staying hydrated and well-fed pre- and post-convention is invaluable. Nobody needs a blood sugar dip mid-tattoo (and nobody wants to spend too much money on convention food, which can often be pricy). tattooer Bobby Douglas of Timeless Body Arts puts it like this:

“Eat before you get there… the food isn’t amazing [at conventions].”

Tip 4: Make Sure Your Inks Are Plane-Ready

Shot of travel-friendly Eternal tattoo ink set at a tattoo convention booth

Flying to your next convention? Avoid a rainbow (or black and gray) shit-show explosion. That’s one of the worst things you can open your travel case to discover minutes after landing.

Unfortunately, air pressure from plane travel causes explosions all too frequently. Tattoo ink explosions most frequently occur when you check your tattoo ink at the gate. So, we highly recommend bringing your tattoo ink (3.4oz bottles or smaller) safely packaged in your carry-on bag… ideally with your black ink separated from your color inks. That way, in the event of an explosion, your black ink won’t mix with your color inks.

We also highly recommend packing inks by World Famous or Kuro Sumi, both of which come with non-exploding caps. Additionally, if you’re traveling with inks that have nozzle tips, use saran wrap as a failsafe. Just put the saran wrap underneath the bottle caps to prevent them from spilling.

Check out what tattooer Myke Chambers has to say about packing tattoo ink and other essential equipment safely.


Tip 5: Think Portably

Hand wearing a glove gently pressing on Recovery Derm Shield bandage, which has been applied to tattoo site

From aftercare to medical supplies, you’ll find plenty of portable options for tattoo supplies. For instance, Recovery and INK-EEZE both offer sample packets and bottles of Glide and Tattoo Spray that are easy to fit into your travel case. In terms of medical supplies, Saferly offers a travel-sized box of barrier film that weighs less than a pound (also perfect for your travel case).

As far as furniture goes, we recommend packing collapsible, lightweight, and easily portable equipment that’s specifically designed for travel. The portable tattoo armrest by Fellowship, for instance, is perfect for your next convention. Check out all our travel-friendly tattoo supplies here.

Pro-International Tattoo Convention Tip: Traveling Overseas? Bring the Right Equipment

Booth worker selling Recovery aftercare at a tattoo convention

If you’re tattooing at a convention overseas, you’ll have to be even more prepared than you would be domestically. For one thing, you’ll have to make sure you have all the right adapters and plugs for your machines and tech. It isn’t uncommon to show up with the wrong adapter… and thus cause a disaster. International Event Marketing Manager and Publicist Jen Lee perfectly illustrates just how disastrous that situation can be:

“So, if you traveled in New Zealand, plugs themselves are totally different… and adapters. So, you have your regular power strips, and you have your adapters. And I have been with artists who have plugged in their adapter [to] their US power strips [and have blown] the entire aisle out. And let me tell you, all the other artists are pretty pissed off [when that happens] because all their work just stopped.”

But packing the right connecting cables aside, there are other overseas obstacles you should be prepared for… like language and currency barriers. Fortunately, it’s the 21st century, and we have apps to make barriers so much more surmountable. Jen Lee advises the Google Translate app for all overseas conventions:

“Download Google translate and download the currency exchange that way. So, if you’re in a country where it’s predominantly another language, you can pull up, Google translate, use the microphone and [clients, artists, and other people] can talk into it. Google translate is great because you can use the camera as a menu and then [it] translates the menu.”

So, if you want to translate the price of your tattoo to overseas currency, just use the Google Translate Currency Translator. All you have to do is hover your camera over a price, and the conversion is automatic.

So, Get Packing for Your Next Convention

Using a checklist, taking precautions, and expecting the unexpected, you’ll be all set to pack for your next tattoo convention… whether that’s in your neighborhood or across an ocean. But there’s so much more to consider when you’re planning your next tattoo convention. Check out this blog to get the most out of your experience. Additionally, you can check out even more ProTips for convention packing here. Happy travels!

Comments are closed here.

Follow us @ Instagram