Many people don’t make any effort at finding the tattoo artist that’s right for them. Their reasoning? They’re all good, so what does it matter? Or, they finally decide to get a tattoo and want it now. RIGHT NOW.

Wrong! This is probably the most important decision you’ll make in this process after the design. Think about it: this piece of art is going to be on your skin FOREVER (unless you do laser removal, of course, but it really hurts and is really expensive, so for our present argument we’ll consider it not an option). Do you want Joe Blow from up the street to do it?

No. You want a seasoned professional that’s going to give you a great piece of body art that you won’t regret. Tattoo artists are just like anybody else, there are good ones out there and bad ones as well. It will pay off to spend time looking for just the right professional who is just as excited as you are about your design.

So, when you make the wise decision to shop around, what should you be looking for?

  • Skills. The more shops you visit, the more you’ll start to discern a good design from a bad design. Look at everyone’s portfolio (and never go with an artist who doesn’t have one) very closely. What are you looking for? Well, look at their line work to start. Are the lines clean and solid, or are they shaky? Are the colors bright and consistent? Do the colors blend well or do they start and stop like a clunky car? Take a look at the design as a whole- is it well done? Can you tell what it is (you’d be shocked at how many times you can’t)? Are the proportions correct? Does the tattoo flow with the body? Be objective when looking, and don’t get caught up in flashy colors. Also, pay attention to their style. Many artists are not “everything to everybody”. They have a distinct style, which is what makes the world of tattooing so great. If you want a Japanese style tattoo, however, you probably shouldn’t go to someone whose style is New School. You should find an artist whose specialty is Japanese tattoos. Makes sense, right?

  • Attitude. How crummy will it be to get a tattoo and only remember the experience with regret because the artist copped a “Holier Than Thou” attitude and ruined the sitting? Yes, it happens. So, if you find an artist you like then spend a little bit of time talking with them about your tattoo. Get a feel for their personality. You want to be able to talk with this person and feel comfortable with them, so follow your gut instinct. If the artist blows you off or doesn’t seem interested in what you have to say, imagine sitting next to them for hours, in pain, while they put your design on your skin. Keep looking. If they try to pressure you in a direction you definitely don’t want to go, keep looking. Now, this is not quite the same as the artist offering you advice on the tattoo. If an artist doesn’t feel the design is as good as it can be, or if they have suggestions on color choice, then they’ll probably let you know in a tactful way. This is good, though! They’ve got alot more experience than you with this, so keep your mind open to what they have to say. Oftentimes they can change your design for the better. Also, if you happen to walk into a shop and the artist is in the middle of tattooing someone, hang around for a few minutes and watch. You’ll probably learn a lot about their chairside manner if you do.

  • Reputation. Know someone who has a tattoo that you love? Well, ask them where they got it! Most people love talking about their ink and will be happy to tell you what their experience was like. Make sure you ask about the artist, if the shop was clean and sterile, etc. A good tattoo artist will have excellent word of mouth, so start asking around. You’ll hear through the grapevine who’s good and who’s to be avoided.

Remember, taking the time to shop around will only benefit you and your tattoo. Just as you wouldn’t go out and randomly pick out a car on any old lot, you shouldn’t head over to the first shop you see to get your tattoo. Doing it that way will oftentimes lead to bad tattoos that have to be covered up later on. Don’t go there! Shop around, ask plenty of questions, and you’ll be well rewarded with an awesome tattoo that you’ll love showing off..

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