Choosing a Tattooist

So you’re thinking about getting a tattoo? There is practically an infamous number of choices involved. What ever you do, don’t allow yourself to be pressured and don’t get into a hurry. After all, we’re talking about a permanent mark on your body. It will be there forever, and one of the most important decisions you’re going to have to make is who you want to apply it.

If you’re serious about your ink, picking out a tattooist is a big deal. You would be wise to shop around. The criteria you use should be very similar to the way you would judge a family doctor, and for many of the same reasons. It’s a choice that ought to involve considerable thought. Here are some ideas to inspire your search:

• Cleanliness – This is by no stretch the most important factor; it can’t be emphasized enough. Drop in unannounced and observe how the artists work. Are they wearing gloves? How do they dispose of used equipment? Surely they don’t reuse needles? What are their sterilization practices? Don’t hesitate to ask questions. A good tattooist will be glad to talk with you. If he won’t take the time to talk, then you walk.

• Personality – A person’s personality is always reflected in their art. When you have your search narrowed down to just a few artists, make an appointment with each one and just have a conversation. Observe them with other clients. Get a feel of the kind of person they are. If something about them turns you off, if you ever feel even a little bit uncomfortable, find someone else.

• Reputation – The best place to start your search is word of mouth. Ask people about their ink. They won’t mind. After all, they wouldn’t have the tat if they didn’t want people to notice it. Find a tattoo you love (not just like, but LOVE) and find out who’s responsible for it. Then go find them.

• Relationship – When you find the artist you want, stop by for a visit a couple of times before you actually get to work on the tattoo. Don’t stay for ever, and don’t get in the way. Form a relationship with the person who will be applying artwork permanently onto the only body you are ever going to have. It will be reflected in his work.

• Conventions – Tattoo conventions are a great way to see several artists work in one spot. However, don’t plan on getting inked at the actually convention. The tattooists are away from their usual space and may not work as comfortably as they would if they were. Also, conventions are usually already booked well in advance.

• Style – After cleanliness, this may be the most important element. There are several different genres of tattooing, kind of like music. For example, if you like the look of jailhouse tattoos, find somebody who is really good at that. If it’s a portrait you want, find someone who excels at that (prison records are a matter of public record). It just makes good sense. After all, you wouldn’t ask Dolly Pardon to rap, would you?

This is by no means a complete list of things to consider, but it’s a good place to start. This is not a decision to take lightly. Most people don’t have the cash for a good tattoo readily available at any given time. It may be a good idea to more or less decide on a design, shop for an artist, and then use the time it takes your to save up for the project to really do some soul searching about the step you are getting ready to take.

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