Friday, June 18, 2010

How do you choose a Tattoo Artist/Studio? Part 1

(Excerpts and info from "Tattoo Sourcebook", by the editors at

"Someone who draws beautifully but just can't really re-create it in the skin probably shouldn't be tattooing." - Rand Johnson, artist/tattooist and owner of Cherry Creek Flash

Being that tattoos are permanent works of art on your skin, it is a pretty big deal to make the decision to get one. Not only do you have to think long and hard about the design you want and the location to put it, but you also need to make an informed choice on where you'd like to go to get your art. The following are some things that you need to consider when making your choice:

- Word of Mouth - This is one of the best ways to find a tattoo artist. Listen to your friends and your gut. If people you know and trust have had a good experience with a particular shop or artist, so may you. However, it's important to remember that everyone is different, has differing tastes and are looking for different styles of tattoos. Go into several studios and look at portfolios, check out their websites, talk to the artists. You'll be able to get a vibe for each place and person. If your gut tells you that a particular place isn't right for you, move on to the next. There are plenty to choose from.

Look closely at Portfolios - Any reputable artist will have one. Scrutinize it. Look at the lines, the shading, the colors. Is anything jagged or uneven? Are the transitions from shading to solid pigment smooth or awkward? Get an idea of each artist's particular styles. What are you looking for with your tattoo? Make sure the portfolio shows fully healed tattoos and not only freshly finished tattoos. Even better, if you can, look at "living" examples of an artist's work. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a walking canvas demonstrating an artist's skills is worth more.

- Some artists only work in certain Styles - A professional tattoo artist should be well rounded and able to do anything well. However, some choose to focus their work to certain design types and styles such as realism, portraits, Old School, etc. This may be based on their personal preference. If you have a certain vision in mind, find someone that you feel is genuinely interested in doing your tattoo. This can often be determined simply by looking at portfolios.

- Cleanliness is next to Godliness - A clean and sterile environment is crucial to tattooing. Look around the tattoo studio. Is it neat and clean? How is the bathroom? The artist should also look clean and kept, regardless of personal style. The outward environmental appearances can usually be a reflection of dedication to cleanliness and sterilization practices in general at a studio. It should feel clean and hospitable. You should be made to feel welcome and comfortable to ask any and all questions you have and you should expect to have them addressed respectfully and intelligently.

- Your Health is a primary concern - Reputable tattoo studios should have a policy regarding "Universal Precautions". The Center for Disease Control has clear guidelines that say gloves should always be worn when working with blood, and hands must be washed routinely. On the spot, tattoo artists should be able to provide documentation of regular health department inspections, where available. The sterilizer used in the shop, the autoclave, should regularly undergo spore testing to make sure the equipment is working properly, and you have every right to ask to see this documentation. Moreover, your shop must have a "single needle use" policy in place and practiced. Make sure the tattoo artist sets up in front of you to ensure this happens. Be sure to look for a color change indicator which, in most cases, should be brown when properly sterilized.

These are just some of the things you should consider when you are choosing where to get your tattoo. Stay tuned for Part 2 in the next blog!

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