Many talented artists exist and can add something to your tattoo idea to make it even better than its original concept. However, many artists also exist and aren’t as talented, enthusiastic, or dedicated to their craft as other tattoo experts. This variation in the quality of workers exists in every job, and it plays a large part in why finding the right tattoo artist is so essential before walking in to get your ink done.
There are a few ways to find suitable tattoo artists. Some people follow famous tattoo artists who live in their area, but even though they might be ‘famous,’ that doesn’t automatically mean they are the best fit for you. Often, many amazing artists go largely unnoticed, except for a few regular customers who can appreciate their work.
Finding the right tattoo artist for you means the difference between getting a great tattoo, a bad one, or an okay one. However, any potential client should have a few ideas for their tattoo and be somewhat ready to plan a possible future appointment.
The Stages of Getting a Tattoo
While getting a tattoo might seem like a simple process, ensuring your tattooing experience is as great as possible means there will be a couple of questions you should ask yourself before getting inked.
Some people want tattoos because they have deep sentimental value, and some like them because they love looking at art and would love to add some to their bodies. Not everyone feels the need to have a personal connection to the design they’re getting, and that is okay. It’s also OK to want your design to mean something, but knowing why you’re getting a tattoo can help an artist design better artwork for you.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about getting a tattoo is deciding what you want to get done. Every artist prefers specific genres and is better at some art styles than others. Picking out the design for your tattoo also determines the skill level you’ll need for your tattoo.
Anyone who wants a tattoo needs to decide where they want their tattoo placement. People can determine placement by printing copies of their desired design and holding it over potential areas. If you think you like it, assume it will be there. A good tattoo artist will always stencil your tattoo on you before they begin tattooing you to help ensure you will like the place you picked.
The second thing clients need to decide is where they will get their tattoos done. People commonly choose where to go based on an individual tattoo artist and their work. Different artists will have different skill levels, preferred artistic genres, and personalities. All of these qualities, and many more, play into the overall experience of getting a tattoo.
How do You Find an Artist?
If you don’t know what kind of tattoo you’re getting, looking for a tattoo artist can be a very confusing process. It’s a good idea to decide what type of skills your tattoo requires, so you can note your tattoo qualities to help you compare it to an artist’s portfolio.
If you have a few friends with tattoos, ask them what artist they like. About 36% of people choose their first tattoo artists based on recommendations from people they know. Also, word of mouth is typically a more honest review, and you should keep in mind people are much more likely to talk about things they are angry about than things they like. So if you hear people talk nicely about their tattoo artist, definitely take notes!
Many tattoo artists have social media pages dedicated to their jobs and work. You can search sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Youtube to find some successful artists.
It’s also an excellent idea to search for any tattoo shops within driving distance of your home. Online reviews can offer insight into the overall vibe of the shop, and many shops have artist portfolios inside them. Tattoo artists understand better than anyone that the type of art you’re looking to get tattooed should be a prominent indicator of the tattoo artist’s style best fit to complete the tattoo.
If your tattoo has a lot of lines, you’ll want to make sure to find artists that don’t have wobbly work. If your design has shading or colors, you’ll want to ensure your potential tattoo artist has work showing their shading abilities. If you want writing on your tattoo, look for artists with tattoo fonts you like. If you’re looking for a portrait, make sure the artists you look at have plenty of history doing portrait tattoos. If you are hoping to get a watercolor tattoo or a more traditional tattoo, make sure your potential artists have a history with these styles of tattoos.
Make sure to find the right tattoo artist who can not only provide the style you’re looking for but understands it as well. Tattoo clients should look for artists like they’re looking for cars. It will help if you shop around first before you land on the first place that appeals to you. Make sure your potential artist has consistent quality tattoos and has a large variety of tattoos in your style or genre.
Things You Should Consider When Looking for a Tattoo Artist
When you finally decide to visit some shops and meet some potential artists, you should keep a mental note of the places you visit. If someone is stressing you out, making you nervous, or is just plain unpleasant, you should go to a different shop. After all, you are trusting this person to scar you with your permission, permanently, so hopefully, you feel comfortable around them.
Another thing to keep in mind is the type of ink they use and the aftercare their tattoos require. Some tattoos only need you to lotion and some places will wrap your tattoo in plastic, and you might have to leave the plastic on for a day or more. Some businesses might use vegan ink, and some won’t.
Try to pick a place where you’d be happiest for the whole experience. You want to find a shop that is great during the appointment-making process, the actual tattooing, and the aftercare.
What Are Some Questions You Should Ask a Prospective Artist/Shop?
What’s the hardest tattoo you’ve done?
If you’re looking to get your tattoo in a difficult place, you might want a more experienced hand to help make sure you will feel as little pain as possible. Some areas, like the armpits, ribs, and feet, are more painful to get tattooed than other areas. It’s a good idea to work with an artist who has tattooed these areas before.
How long have you been an artist?
While it’s always great to give new tattoo artists the chance to do work for you, sometimes it’s better to get artists that have been practicing much longer. If you want a very complex tattoo or a defined portrait, you’ll want a very experienced professional.
How do you sterilize the equipment?
Many states don’t have strict tattoo cleaning rules, so it’s up to shops to keep their tools as clean as possible. Many shops have no problems informing their clients on how they clean their tools.
What is your shop minimum?
While cost should be the least of your concern when getting a tattoo, it is helpful to know some shops’ price differences. Size, colors, and complexity all play a role in deciding the cost of a tattoo. Many tattoo shops will also quote you how expensive they think a tattoo might be if you send them a design.
There is an excellent saying in the tattoo world;
“Good tattoos aren’t cheap. Cheap tattoos aren’t good.”
While you shouldn’t pay outrageous prices for a nice tattoo, you should expect to pay a nice chunk of change for a well-done tattoo along with a tip.
What Are Some Warning Signs that Indicate You Should Not Get a Tattoo with a Particular Artist/Shop?
All potential tattoo clients should watch out for signs of lousy tattoo studios.
If you feel you aren’t a priority in any tattoo shops, you should try to find a different one. As a client, you are paying someone to put art on your body forever, you need their undivided attention during your appointments, and if you feel that’s missing, it’s not a good sign.
Lastly, although it’s unfortunate, sometimes tattoo shops are kept up well, and sometimes they aren’t. Tattoo artists should maintain clean hands and wear gloves during the procedures. All counters should be kept neat and sterilized, and shops should always clean a seat or provide a new plastic cover after a customer finishes their appointment.
If a shop you enter doesn’t look clean or looks a little questionable, run for the hills. There are too many well-kept and professional tattoo businesses out there to risk getting an infection from a questionable studio.
Many talented tattoo artists want to provide the best service for their customers, and any potential clients should feel excitement rather than stress on their journey to get their tattoo.