As a tattoo commentator and writer, I rely on my personal experience and time working in a tattoo studio.
Why the Tattoo Artist Is Important
Tattoos are just like any other product out there on the market. There's the good, the bad and the ugly... and then there is the amazing.
Serious artists spend approximately three to four years in an apprenticeship at a registered tattoo studio. Just like any other apprenticeship, they have to earn their dues, get the coffee, and sweep the floor before they earn those trade secrets. They've not learnt solely off the Internet or at some art school in a six week course. (Don't believe it if someone cites the Internet as their tattooing credentials. They don't know how to tattoo. Simple.)
There are tattoo artists out there who will blow your mind with what they can do... and then there are those who should never pick up a tattoo machine. Backyard operators have also taken advantage of the rise in popularity that tattoos are currently experiencing. Colloquially known as "scratchers," they are responsible for that crappy tattoo on your mate's cousin that is all blotchy and misspelt.
Besides, it's not just about the artist. Your tattoo experience will be with you for a long time and there are many elements to a successful tattoo.
Considering a tattoo is forever and that second chances are limited, it pays to take the time to locate the best artist you can find. Learn what you need to know and don't walk into just any studio. Find your dream Artist: it'll be worth it in the end.
Where to Find a Good Tattoo Artist
- The easiest way to locate an amazing artist is to start asking around. Check out the tattoos others have and ask who did them.
- Word-of-mouth is one of the most honest forms of advertising. People are more likely to tell you about a bad experience before they tell you about good ones, so when you hear praise about an artist, take note.
- Visit every studio within driving distance. Inspect the studios' infection control reports. Every artist has a portfolio of work that you can go through. Remember that this is their best work, as no one puts their muck ups in their photo album.
- Pore over current tattoo magazines and directories. Remember, though, just because they're in a magazine index doesn't mean they are good. It means they have just purchased advertising space on that particular page. The magazine has not endorsed them or checked them out personally.
- Most talented artists are now online. Check their studio's website or their own personal page. Look over Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumbler—see what work they have online.
- Consider traveling interstate or attending a tattoo show, which might be your only chance to be tattooed by some of the top artists from around the world. Or use the show as an opportunity to see what is being done at the moment, and whom is tattooing. Maybe collect some business cards to follow up with later on.
- Just like a car, don't buy the first one you see. Put a little study into it. Considering the result could be a dodgy tattoo that lasts a lifetime, a few hours researching will put you on the front foot.
What to Look for When Choosing an Artist
The most important part of choosing your artist is their skill level. Tattooing is entirely different to drawing, so just because your cousin can draw the most incredible pictures on paper, it does not mean he can tattoo... say "no" when he offers to try out his new tattoo gun which he just bought off of eBay on you. (They are not "tattoo guns" either, no reputable artist will call his machine a gun!)
Particular skills can only take time and practice to master, and talent plays an important part, but having that experience and the guidance of another professional, takes any artist to a whole new level. Determining an artist's ability can be done by considering the following;
- Lines - Are the single lines straight, solid with no wobbles, and appear to have been done with one pass (no joins).
- Coloring and/or shading - is it even, can you see where they have moved over the skin and left lines in the shading. (No blotches or darker patches of color).
- Do the outlines meet up? Does the color stay within the lines?
- How well can they tattoo scripting? (Writing) This is not an easy skill and takes a lot of practice. It is also one of the first tattoo techniques often taught in an apprenticeship and a great indication of where your Artist is on the skill scale.
- Have they consistently produced quality tattoos? Doing a complete tattoo requires experience. Each Tattoo Artist will have personal techniques and tricks to produce a quality design.
- Do you like what they do?
How to Recognize the Best Tattoo Artists and Studios
Honestly, the main priority when choosing an Artist is their ability and skill. If they don't have any then the following attribute are worth dot. They may offer all the chocolates in the world, but that won't help with creating an awesome tattoo, it will just make you fat and possibly give you pimples.
- Smells good, or at least had a shower this week.
- Nice person, - you don't want someone whom is nasty having so much control of your pain and comfort levels.
- Considerate when tattooing and won't rip apart your skin trying to finish off a piece, but will offer to have you return when its healed.
- Can hold a conversation, having someone dumb in your personal space can be a big put off.
- Has not consumed alcohol or drugs prior or during your tattoo session.
- Charges according to ability, reputation and skill level. Not big headed or has a self inflated ego.
- Offers knowledgeable aftercare advice.
- Offers touch ups for a realistic period of time at no cost as they value how their work looks.
- Puts their personal spin on any flash tattoos making them unique to you.
- A bit of eye candy is a good distraction.
Reputable Artists are governed by a set of laws and guidelines that protect both parties from communicable diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis. This is something that has no negotiations, ever. If you find any Artist is willing to compromise on these standard, get up and walk away immediately.
- Pristine clean, sterile environment. It should be wiped down between clients and/or plastic wrap applied each time over any chairs or beds. Throws out the fresh, disposable razor you were shaved with.
- Tattoo Artist. Clean hands, wears gloves, recently washed.
- A Clean work space. Bench, seat, ink box clean and organised. All ink, pots and paper towels to wipe with are all new.
- Tattoo Needles. New and still in their sterile package and opened in front of you.
- Tattoo Machine. Has been sterilized in the autoclave, as well as any other reusable item.
These techniques make sure that all equipment that is used on others are cleaned with chemical, steam or an ultrasonic cleaner that'll kill any bacteria or blood born viruses.
Getting a tattoo by a second rate tattooist offers blood poisoning, infection and a side dose of Hepatitis A as well as a cruddy tattoo with crooked lines. Underage and cheap tattoos are well known for passing on HIV and Hepatitis C, from one unsuspecting person to the next. Think wisely. There are reasons why hospital grade sterilization and pristine work environments are requirements in professional tattoo studios by the health department.
Good Tattoos aren't Cheap, Cheap Tattoos aren't Good.
Look at the picture to the right. Notice the quality of the workmanship. See how the picture looks as it's meant to, not some alien look-a-like. The tattoos that you see splashed around on websites, on tattooed models and in tattoo magazines have been done by professionals, not back yard wannabes. If you're wishing to have an awesome tattoo similar to theirs, then do your research.
Tattoo removal is realistically not a viable option. It costs a lot and hurts more than getting the original tattoo, ever did. Many of the available techniques do not fully remove the tattoo, rather lighten it. These appointments can add up to three to five sessions to achieve the desired removal. Also the new inks used in tattoo studios today often do not respond to traditional methods so choose wisely, it's a one time adventure.
There really isn't a reason not to get a quality tattoo if you are smart enough. It's worth doing the hard yards to find a professional Artist and Studio. There are amazingly talented Artists out there who offer their services for a fair fee, don't skimp on the money or it could end up costing you a lot more in the future.
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- What possible infections can you get going to a Scratcher?
- Blood poisoning
- HIV AIDS
- ALL of the above
- Will the guy tattooing in a kitchen produce a good tattoo?
- Probably not
- Tattoo Aftercare Tips, How Should I Look After My New Tattoo?
Practical and tested tattoo aftercare Instructions. Why do you need to do it, and how effective aftercare is done.
Melbourne, Australia Recommendation
Tattoo studio located in Melbourne, Australia with a wide variety of exceptionally talented Artists specialising in all styles.
Michael on February 04, 2020:
A good one who is understanding will understand that your shy but will try to talk for a bit to get you out of your shell cause if your paying too much attention to getting your tattoo then you might feel more pain then what you would if your talking and not paying attention to a painful spot plus it’s good for sleeves or full back or if your go for a short to talk with your artist while he is tattooing you cause then you create a bond with him and they are more willing to help you make it look the best people who like you will look after you more then those who don’t know you so talk just a lil it may end the best idea you had
Murdie on February 11, 2018:
Do all tattoo artists want to talk .I'm considering getting a full sleeve ,but not much of a coversationlist.and pretty shy I spose .
Matt gatta on February 09, 2018:
Best artist in New York City area
Anne (author) from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS) on October 21, 2013:
Yes, I do agree with your opinion! Will have a peak - thanks!
rpmadeira from Portugal on October 21, 2013:
I mada a list of the most amazing tatto artists in the world. It could help. Check it in: Tattoos with meaning: the excellence in the art of drawing.
My favorite is Xoïl, in my humble opinion he is the best in the world.