HOW TO CHOOSE A TATTOO ARTIST
Getting your first tattoo, or a tattoo in a new city where you have no connections to tap into, requires some homework. Yes, you can easily reference reviews of local studios but what about the artists themselves? After all, they are the ones who you will form a brief but intimate union with for a few hours or more. Their work will be forever inked on your canvas and so performing due diligence is a must to say the least. Easier said than done, right?
Ranger Tattoo is here to provide you with some intel on how to choose a tattooist so that you can make a more educated choice about where to go and who to see to get your ink.
5 Things to Look for When Choosing a Tattoo Artist Near You
1. Make Sure They Work Out of a Reputable Shop
You know that guy that does tattoos from his (parent’s) basement? Yes, he’s probably boasting a better hourly rate since there is no shop to take a cut, but at what cost? Avoid these remote tattooists, because not only may you be entering the home of a stranger, they may not be licensed and do not abide by municipal safety standards and explicit guidelines regarding tattoo infection prevention and control. You will have zero recourse should this lack of commitment to health and safety result in detriment to your well-being.
The same lack of recourse is true if you end up with a bad or downright horrible tattoo, as an individual working on his/her own will not be backed by any sort of commercial liability insurance. The risk of a bad tattoo is greater given that they have no shop standards to abide by.
2. Inspect for Work Station Cleanliness
We’re not suggest that you put on a pompous hat (whatever that looks like) and slap on some white gloves to run a dust test around the shop you step into, but you certainly have a right to walk through the studio (but not intrude upon clients currently getting work done) to view artist stations. If you’re uneasy about this, you can simply state that you had a couple of bad experiences, having checked out a couple of spots only to be turned off by what you saw.
A professional tattoo studio should be more than happy to show you artist workspaces and answer any questions you may have about equipment and safety standards. Identify stations that are clean, uncluttered, and without unnecessary objects on their table to contribute to contamination. In fact, the only items on the working area should be those relevant to tattooing you, and they should be covered and/or taped in baggies.
3. Read Reviews of the Shop to Look for Mention of the Artists
While you can quickly gauge positive feedback for a tattoo shop by looking for those 4-5 yellow stars on your social review site of choice, this does not necessarily tell you what you need to know about the individual artists within. You’re going to have to read beyond the shining stars to find the stars working within the studio.
Look for name dropping, as reviewers reference the tattooist who worked on them. Not only will this speak to the quality of work, but the experience. Was the tattooist friendly and funny, or stoic and strictly professional? When you find consistent notes about an individual tattooist, you can better identify the experience you prefer, and form a more educated opinion about a given artist. This will put you one step closer to finding the match for you.
4. Look Through Artist Portfolios to Find a Match for the Style You Want
This is an obvious one but absolutely bears reinforcement – take the time to look through artist portfolios folks. You want to make sure that you find a tattooist who consistently works within designs and disciplines that match the type of tattoo you want.
For example, if you are intent upon getting Polynesian styled work with deep black ink and sharp lines, perhaps an artist that specializes in color and shading is not the best match. It’s apples and orange and dragons and cupcakes when it comes to artist specialties and what you want on your body. We know you’re excited to get that tattoo, but spend at least an hour looking through a studio’s artist portfolios, both online and when at the shop.
5. Talk to Them Ahead of Time
Last but not least, talk to a prospective tattooist, not just shop reception. Again, this is the person who will be permanently inking their work onto your body. You will gaze upon their work every day as you look in the mirror, so at the very least you should take a moment to get to know them. Whether calling ahead of time or stepping in to the shop as a “walk-in” request a (free) consultation with an artist and have a clear idea of what you want to ask them and/or discuss. This will go a long way towards giving you peace of mind that you are about to make the right choice.