Getting a tattoo is a lifelong commitment, plain and simple. While you might be excited to get your ink, take your time to find the right tattoo artist and studio for you. Laser removal of tattoos is not nearly as advanced as some would lead you to believe, it’s not very reliable, and let’s not forget that removal is pricey and the process is lengthy (multiple sessions spread out over a year or more). So what you choose today could be with you for decades. Make sure it’s an informed decision.
1) First and foremost, do your research. There’s no sense even looking into the tattoo artists or the cleanliness of the environment unless the parlor itself comes highly rated. This is much easier than it sounds, as you’re not really trying to find the best parlor at the stage; instead, you’re trying to weed out the worst.
2) Ask around. Chances are that your friends and acquaintances have tattoos and you can ask about their experiences. Of course, if their tattoos are awful, don’t bother asking! While this is out of some peoples’ comfort zones, people you’ve never met are often open to talking about their tattoos. If they are in public view, the owner wants them to be seen, and will be flattered that you thought enough of their ink to task them about it.
Once you have personal recommendations, do some web searches for each of the specific parlor names. Search for phrases like “tattoo-shop-name problems, “tattoo-shop-name complaints,” etc.
Your local independent paper is a great way to find at least one leading local tattoo parlor. Tattoo shops very often advertise in these papers, and if the ads are recurring, odds are very high that the shop is favored in the community.
3) Do your safety checks. Once your list has been narrowed down, take a trip to each one. At this point you are interested in safety and cleanliness.
* Are the tattoo artists wearing gloves? * Do they wash their hands between tattoos? * Is smoking prohibited in the studio? * Is the parlor licensed? * Is the parlor clean? * Do the artists pull their needles from the autoclave (sterilizing equipment) prior to each tattoo? * Are single-use supplies used during a session? For example, look for things like disposable ink cups, fresh needles, and the like? * Do the artists shave and disinfect each client? Are plastic bags present and wrapped around hand-held equipment? This helps prevent cross-contamination.
4) Find an artist. While many people don’t do this for fear that they’ll offend the tattoo artists, you can and should request an artist you feel most comfortable with if their style suits your tastes better. This is your tattoo, and it will be with you for a lifetime, so if one artist does better black and white work, or if one artist has a large book of designs you like, you might be more satisfied with the work that they do for you. Don’t be afraid to look through the art present to see who makes a good fit for you.
Tattoo studios receive a lot of walk-in traffic that is just shopping around or browsing through books, and many people getting tattoos get art that the tattooists find a bit boring. So don’t expect the artists to bend over backwards to accommodate you, but they should still be friendly, helpful, and offer advice without pushing your decision. Most good, qualified artists know that informed clients make satisfied clients.
If you feel that you are being pushed into something that you don’t like, or if the artist is dismissive of your questions, you might need to move on. Many experienced artists prefer working on intricate, large designs, so you might just fall under their radar. It’s nothing to worry about: there is someone out there perfect for your tattoo.
5) Don’t price it. Keep in mind that this tattoo will be with you for decades, making the cost per wear minimal. Don’t try to save a few bucks and risk ending up with a tattoo that is less than optimal. The risk just isn’t worth it. I’m sure there are some cases of price gouging out there, but I’ve never personally experienced them or talked to anyone who has. Just spend the money — the peace of mind is worth it.
6) Choose your location. Sensitive areas and areas closer to bone tend to be more painful, but you shouldn’t let pain determine your tattoo’s location. Hip tattoos are very popular, as well as lower-back and shoulder tattoos. Growing in popularity are hand tattoos and foot tattoos, while the old standbys like arm tattoos are still going strong.
7) Choose your design. Similar to pricing your tattoo, don’t settle for any old design you find in their books. With the abundance of tattoo designs available in online galleries, there is no reason you can’t find the perfect tattoo for your skin. Your best option is to make use of a quality tattoo finder to browse designs. You’ll be able to find and download artwork, and see real life pictures of what the tattoos look like on people.