Deciding to get a tattoo and which tattoo artist will do it is a decision and process you should spend a lot of time thinking and learning about. Finding a good tattoo artist is not just about knowing where or who to look for, it’s a long process around the tattoo itself which will lead to the end result you desire. This will help you be happy about the choice you made for the rest of your life, and also ease your nerves going through it all.
Just like any industry, there is people that are popular and not greatest at their work, and there’s people that just knuckle down and produce the best results – yet often going unnoticed. While the public perceives these ‘popular’ people as the ‘best’ – this is often far from the truth.
Considering the consequences of a bad tattoo, taking the time to learn what and who you need to know is an investment every person should make.
In the post below we’ll go through each of the different areas around the process of getting tattooed that you should be aware about.
The unfortunate truth about tattoos is, yes, there is a taboo that surrounds most tattoos. However, without a doubt over the last few decades the attitudes towards tattoos is changing for the better. No longer is it that the general public’s perception that only gangs and criminals are tattooed. These days if you walked down a city street you wouldn’t have any trouble finding multiple people with tattoos. Thankfully they are being seen for what they really are, a legitimate form of art.
So before you get inked, think if you care about other peoples unfortunate generalizations and if that will effect you or not.
As everyone knows and has been reminded countless times, tattoos are (mostly) permanent. But one thing a lot of people don’t think about, is how their change in attitude and tastes for different styles you change as you age and mature. For this reason, its common advice to wait a year after deciding on a design for a tattoo – this is for two reasons. One, to make sure you still want it and that it wasn’t a sporadic decision (though these can be great tattoos, but that’s a talk for another time). And two, to make sure it still fits well with your tastes after you’ve had some time to go through changes. This helps you avoid getting trendy or ‘popular’ tattoos that are the current ‘in’ for the season.
The next steps to getting a tattoo are the why, what, where and how?
If you know why you want to get a tattoo, this will highly decrease your chances of regretting a tattoo choice. If you forget the why and get a tattoo because its a cool or trendy thing at the time, you’ll more than likely regret it in the near future.
Will this tattoo mean something to you, represent you, or provoke memories of a loved one? These are all things that will help solidify your choice. If you are more interested in the artistic side of tattoos, this will can also work providing you find the right artist for the job, but once again be aware to avoid the trends and be getting the tattoo for your own accord. If you’re still lacking the why have a read about finding tattoo ideas and inspiration.
Once you’ve found reasoning for your tattoo, you need to decide on what design you are after. Choosing the subject of what you want is important, but how your tattoo will look like as an end result will largely depend on which tattoo artist you choose.
The first thing to decide in terms of design, is what style or genre you would like the tattoo to be, and whether it will be Black & Grey or Color. Keep in mind that all tattoos fade, but some tattoos will age better than others due to their implementations (such as black outlines helps hide the ink when it blurs out over time). Traditional, Realistic, Japanese, Dotwork or whatever style you prefer – there’s a ton to choose from, and then some artists even have their own unique and custom style within those. Once you have a decided a style, then you can look for artists near you that specialize in this particular style. Most tattoo artists stick to one main style, so once you give your idea to the artist be aware they will draw up that design in that particular style.
The next thing to decide is the placement for the tattoo. Some people are happy to be tattooed near anywhere, and others are going to have a very specific body part they would like tattooed. Your body isn’t just one big blank flat canvas. It’s constantly moving and has many different shapes and sizes. This is one thing your artist wont completely decide for you (though they may give suggestions), you really want to think this through yourself. The main things to think about are the size and layout or shape of the tattoo. But, just as important are your future plans for other tattoos. While its near impossible to know what you will get tattooed in the future (if at all), you really need to keep this in mind. If you get a small tattoo in a large area, you may regret this choice later as you wanted to get a more appropriate sized tattoo that would only fit in that spot. Another thing to consider is if that tattoo is going to be visible in your work clothes, and if that will affect you or not (as well as in your careers future). If you want to know more about deciding the position and placement of your tattoo, click here.
The best and easiest way to find a good tattoo artist is to do a search on InkLocations for where you live or somewhere you might be travelling to. This will bring up a curated list of the best tattoo artists near you – all you will need to do is find an artist or studio that matches the style you are after.
The most common advice is to ask around (word of mouth), as people are likely to recommend an artist if they have tattoos from them and are pleased. But, be aware that most people are completely unaware of the quality tattoo artists that are around them, or what what they should even be looking for in the first place.
Another common suggestion you will see is to check the hygiene of the tattoo artist or studio. While hygiene is extremely important, if you have made your choice correctly this should be something you won’t even need to consider worrying about. All quality tattoo artists are extremely aware of the hygiene procedures they need to undertake, and it is in their best interest to do so as otherwise your tattoo will not heal properly (or become infected).
Browsing Instagram pages such as @InkLocations, @InkedMag or the tattoo gun suppliers like @FkIrons can help you find new artists and styles that you may have previously been unaware of.
While you may dislike a particular tattoo design, you should always be able to appreciate the skill level behind it. But without knowing what to look for this can be extremely hard to distinguish.
Lines are generally the foundation of a tattoo. A good tattoo artist will have solid lines that aren’t wobbly and will look like they have been completed in a single stroke.
Consistency is the next biggest factor – are they consistently putting out great tattoos. Even some bad artists will have a good tattoo every now and then, but if you want to put your nerves at ease your tattoo artist will be consistently putting out good work.
Coloring or Shading is also very important. Is their shading consistent (smooth) and do they also demonstrate the skill of putting gradients in tattoo properly, rather than just blotches of separate colors.
Excitement – are you getting excited at looking at all the other tattoos they have done? Would you be happy if that particular tattoo was on your body? These are good questions to ask yourself before committing to an artist, because if you are happy with the other work they have done (not necessarily the designs) – then you will likely be less nervous about the piece you will end up getting from them.
After deciding the why, what and where for your tattoo, you’ll be wondering how the tattoo process goes. And there are a few things most people want to know before getting a tattoo.
A very brief overview your tattoo journey will look something like this:
There are many more questions that most people want answered about the individual steps so i’ll go into some detail for each step.
When contacting a tattoo artist you will have the best chance of getting an appointment accepted if you give them the proper details. The style, size, placement and idea all need to be mentioned. Most studios would also prefer if you sent through a picture of the body part you want to get tattooed as well. As mentioned earlier, all artists have a particular style, you will want your idea to fit within this style in order for it to be accepted.
Once your idea has been selected you’ll either be asked for a preferred date, or given some options. Once again this largely depends on the artist you are booking in with as wait lists can vary from 1 month to 2 years! Deposits can also vary but will generally be around $150-$300 and taken off the final price of the tattoo.
If you are getting a large tattoo, you will want to know how to properly prepare for a long tattoo session. The general advice is to: Get a good nights sleep, stay full and hydrated, bring plenty of snacks, water, some warm clothes and something to entertain yourself with. The best tip I have is to not focus on the pain, the more you focus on this the worse experience you will have. Distract yourself as much as possible.
Taking care of your tattoo is absolutely vital to ensure it heals properly and also maximize the longevity of looking its best. You don’t want to spend all this time and money on something and then destroy it carelessly (or even accidentally!).
Generally your artist will let you know what you should or should not do after being tattoed, but it’s a good to have an idea before hand of the process.
Once your tattoo is finished, it’ll generally be wrapped or covered. This keeps it protected from possible infections and stops your skin from immediately drying out and scabbing. Keep this covering on for the first three or so hours, then take it off and carefully wash the tattoo.
The main things to avoid are scented lotions, the sun, and scratching or peeling it. Fresh tattoo’s are basically an open wound, so the best thing you can do is just leaving it alone to heal itself. Applying some unscented moisturizer like Aquaphor the next following days to keep the area very slightly moist – not completely dry.
As tattoo aftercare is so important I highly suggest reading this complete guide.
Price is probably the last thing to worry about – there’s a saying “Cheap tattoos aren’t good and good tattoos aren’t cheap” for a reason.
If you want to know some of the more common questions check out our FAQ or check out the tons of other articles on our blog.