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How to Choose a Tattoo Artist

So you want a tattoo, here are the steps we recommend to follow in deciding what to get and where to go to get your tattoo.

Step 1: Decide what you want

The more you are sure of what you want, the better the tattoo artist will be able to design and draw your dream tattoo. Look online for pictures, styles, and colors that you like, and give them to your artist as clear examples for your ideas. Check out the Painful Pleasures Gallery for Tattoo Ideas or flash and custom tattoo books here.  Also decide on the tattoo's placement on your body.  Depending on your career or professional path it may be desirable to choose an area of the body that can be hidden, especially for your first few tattoos. The tattoos placement should flow with the shape and curvature of your body.  A good tattoo artist will be able to take your ideas and improve upon them, so be open to suggestions.

Step 2:  Look for a shop

The next step is to search for a tattoo studio. It's always good to have personal references, but if that's not an option, you can look online. Be sure to read reviews, and take note of ratings. It's best to check out two or three different shops, and choose the one that best suits you.  When you are considering a shop, the first thing you should look for is its cleanliness and overall appearance. The floor, walls, and ceilings should be clean. There should be no dust, and the shop should be tidy and organized. If the shop doesn't meet these criteria, don't bother staying.  It’s also important to go beyond the surface.  You should ask the shop manager if they have an autoclave and if they can show you the results of the most recent spore test.  If a tattoo or piercing is currently going on, pay attention to their sanitary practices; check to see the following:

  • Is the tattoo artist using ink cups to dip his needle into the ink to ensure there is no cross contamination?
  • Is there a sharps container available for the tattoo artist to dispose of his needles?
  • Do you see blood anywhere, if so is it dry, was a tattoo just done?
  • Is there an autoclave? Ask for the most recent spore test.

Step 3: Choose an artist

If the shop is clean, and comfortable, you should now start thinking about finding an artist. It doesn't matter how nice a shop is if the artists aren't able to offer the style of tattoo that you are looking for, then move to the next one. Look at each of the artists portfolios. Color pieces should be bold and bright, shading should blend nicely and gradually, and lines should be smooth and straight. It's always best to choose an artist who specializes in the style you have in mind. For instance, if you want an extremely colorful and bright tattoo, it's best not to choose an artist who usually does black and grey, or vice versa. Choose an artist who is good at doing what it is that you want. If it’s unclear what their specialty is, you can ask them.

When you find an artist that you like, talk to them about your tattoo idea, and make sure you are both on the same page. Give them any print outs or examples you have, so that they can have references while drawing up your custom tattoo.

Step 4: Set an appointment

Once you have chosen the tattoo artist that is right for you, the artist will give you a price quote, and set up an appointment date. Most artists will ask for a deposit, so that they can start working on drawing up your tattoo design, and reserve the time for your appointment. The deposit will be put towards the final cost of your tattoo.

Some tattoo artists price tattoos based on size, and some will charge by the hour. The average cost is between $100-$200 per hour.

Step 5: Getting your Tattoo

The day of your tattoo, be sure:

  • To eat a healthy meal before your scheduled appointment
  • Wear clothing that can easily allow access to the tattoo area, or be removed
  • Do not drink any alcohol, or take any kind of pain medication, this will cause your body to bleed more, and make swelling much worse
  • Take water and a small snack or candy to have during the tattoo in case your blood sugar gets low
  • Relax, and try to enjoy the tattoo experience, you may wish to take a friend to have as distraction, but you don't want to be too distracted, or moving around

After you’re tattoo is done, the artist will give you aftercare instructions, and send you on your way. You may need to go back once or twice for a touch up or if you are getting large tattoo you may have to have 2 to 3 sessions to finish, just keep this in mind when scheduling your appointments. Remember that the healing process is just as important as the artist, and tattoo, so listen to what your tattooist tells you, and take very good care if it.

Having a healthy body is important for any healing, so eat healthy, and avoid drinking, smoking, or doing drugs.

Now you get to enjoy your new tattoo, and start planning for the next one!