How to Pick a Tattoo Artist
Is Your Friend’s Tattoo Artist Right for You?
Maybe! You should definitely ask people whom they go to get tattooed, and ask how their experience was. People are usually happy to refer their artist and may even have a business card or a website address to pass on to you!
If you get the chance, go along when others get tattooed. Talk to the artist and watch them work. Use this time to look at their portfolios and talk shop with them and anyone else around. Don't be afraid to ask questions: Tattoo shops are typically open, friendly places where everyone feels at ease.
Connect on Social Media!
If you don’t know anybody who got tattooed at your local places, the websites of the parlors in your area are usually the best sources of information. Most websites will have shop location, hours, artist bios, and pictures of the work they have done. Artists will usually post pictures of the work they are most proud of. If you are not impressed, you should probably rule them out and keep searching. Instagram and Facebook are also excellent places for comparing artists. Most shops have a page and many artists have their own pages, as well. Like and follow them!
Not All Tattoo Shops Are the Same
Tattoo shops each take on a personality of their own depending on the artists there, the shop location, and the type of customer they attract. A shop located on a beach could have a different business model from a parlor in a historic building downtown. The reason for this is that they attract different kinds of customers. The beach shop may cater more to spontaneous tourists and will always have time for walk-ins. The downtown shop may not get walk-ins as often, so they focus their efforts on building their clientele by working with them on custom pieces. Their clients often set up their next appointment when they are getting tattooed, and these artists may be booked out a month in advance—or more.
What Do You Need to Know About the Artist?
A good artist can tattoo in any style you choose, but they almost always have a style that they specialize in. If you have a particular idea in mind, you should compare style and technique differences between artists. Some are more comfortable doing old school, traditional tattoos while others may enjoy doing more contemporary tattoos. If your idea is in an unusual style, seek out an artist who displays work done in that style.
I heard a story about somebody who had a preference for an obscure and specific style. His method for finding an artist was to print out a picture of the style of tattoo he was looking for and ask the artist if they recognized it. If they said yes, he would continue the conversation. Very effective!
What Is the Most Important Thing About Your Tattoo?
Once you have narrowed your many choices to a few, you can bring your idea in to each of them individually for a short interview. Before you talk to them, think about the most important factor in your decision. Are you looking for somebody who is confident that they can pull off that style or that level of detail? Or do you really want somebody who seems enthusiastic about your idea? Maybe you're really looking for somebody who can enhance or develop your idea? Do you want a custom piece? Or do you just want the person that can get you in the soonest? Defining what is most important to you will help you make your choice.
How Do You Begin the Conversation?
Start by telling them that you are looking for an artist to do a tattoo of [whatever it is] on your [chosen body part] and mention [your most important factor]. Many people interview artists before a tattoo, so artists are accustomed to and comfortable with these discussions. Tattoo artists are also salespeople. They may say “Great! Let’s set up an appointment!” However, it is always okay to say that you are shopping around as long as you are respectful of the artist’s time.
After you have chosen an artist, you might want to read Designing the Perfect Tattoo with Your Artist.