Making the decision to ink a design onto your skin for the rest of your life is a big step. It’s a serious decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But, just as the decision to get the ink should be a long, thought-out process, so should the choice of artist used in the process. The artist selection should be one of the most scrutinized decisions you make when considering a tattoo. Regardless of how great your design is, if you have a sub-par artist, you’re going to end up with a sub-par tattoo. And if you’re after a custom design, you really want to be sure you pick the right artist as you’ll have to pay a fee for the consultation and the creation of the design before you even get to the tattoo and the last thing you want is to end up with a design that doesn’t live up to your expectations.
So what are some of the steps you should you take when it comes time to pick your artist? Well, let’s take a look!
Take your Time
First things first, take your time. This is perhaps the most important one. When you rush a decision like this, you line yourself up for potential lifelong regret. You want to start planning your tattoo long before you get it, as some artists can book up months in advance and some are more expensive than you may have originally budgeted. But, you don’t want these factors to kill your decision—if you have your heart set on one artist and they are booked up for a few weeks, that’s a good thing! Obviously, they’re worth the wait or others wouldn’t be lining up as well.
Do your homework. You wouldn’t let some random guy on the corner remove your appendix, so why would you let some random dude in a strip center tattoo you? After all, despite being treated as a cosmetic procedure by the FDA, tattooing must meet all the same medical waste certifications as a blood donor bank, making it essentially a medical procedure. You are being jabbed thousands of times with needles, creating an open wound. You wouldn’t want to have a blood draw in a dirty facility with an untrained staff, so why would you want to get a tattoo in a dirty shop with rude, unprepared artists? Check the Internet, read reviews, browse tattoo forums, and talk to people you know who have been to the shops you’re considering. People are generally pretty verbal regarding their experiences in tattoo parlors. If they see something out of sorts, you can bet you’ll find it on some online review site. If they’ve had a great experience, you can bet you’ll find a boasting review in the same places.
Do the Footwork
Most importantly, you want to actually set foot in these shops yourself. It’s one thing to read online reviews, but you don’t know who’s reviewing it—are they friends or family? Did they get a discount? Do they have the same hygiene and cleanliness standards as you? Walking into these shops is often one of the best ways to get an idea of what you’re looking at. Look around—see if it appears clean and sterile. See what the environment is like and if you feel comfortable there. Visit several shops for comparison; don’t just jump on the first one you walk into.
Photo by Kamila Burzymowska
Get to Know the Artist
Spend some time talking with the artists you’re considering. Any artist worth dealing with will be happy to take a few moments to talk with you, show you the shop, and show off their portfolio. Is this someone you feel comfortable talking with? Depending on your design, this is someone you will be spending long amounts of time with, often in a compromising position. Do they appear trustworthy? Knowledgeable? Do they offer suggestions on your concept or talk excitedly about their work? Are they up to date on their certifications?
Get to Know their Work
Personality aside, you’ll want to be really critical of their work. After all, what they place on you will be there forever. Sure, you may not be an artist, but it doesn’t take an artist to recognize quality work or talent. You’ll want to see their portfolio. Pay attention to their style, where their strengths are, what they seem to favor the most. Does it line up with what you want for your piece? Look closely at the line work—are they clean, even? How is their color? Is it fully saturated and within the lines? Do they have photos of both fresh and healed work?
The most important factor in choosing your tattoo artist is that you feel comfortable with your decision. If you’re second guessing yourself, or if you don’t feel excited about your choice and your upcoming appointment, then it might not be the artist for you. You need to feel as equally excited and proud of your artist as you are of your design! Check the Internet, read reviews, browse tattoo forums, and talk to people you know who have been to the shops you’re considering. People are generally pretty verbal regarding their experiences in tattoo parlors. If they see something out of sorts, you can bet you’ll find it on some online review site. If they’ve had a great experience, you can bet you’ll find a boasting review in the same places.