Ready to have that long-contemplated masterpiece of body art made into a permanent addition to your skin? Whether you’re thinking of a short bit of script or a down the shoulder and around the torso mega tat, the first and foremost part of the process needs to be choosing an experienced and gifted artist. If you don’t choose wisely, the results could be shaky lines, poor coloration or even disease.
The first bit of advice in this matter is to take your time in choosing an artist. You have a great idea and you can’t wait to get the ink, but like buying a house or an expensive vehicle, you need to get as many facts as you can before you buy, and never buy the first one you see. A properly experienced artist is traditionally one who has 3 to 4 years of apprenticeship at a reputable studio. Not sure how to choose a studio? Ask around. If you see someone with a tattoo you particularly admire, ask them were it was done. Most studios have an online presence with a photo gallery, which can also be helpful. Once you have a list of studios to consider, visit them for a review. Check their in-house portfolios (any reputable artist will have one, and a nice one at that, not just bleary Polaroids in a plastic sleeve) and also check their infection control methods. All studios must have an autoclave to sterilize their equipment and many studios keep the autoclave in plain view. If their sterilization equipment is clean and in plain view, and their ink is stored in sterile containers, you are on the right track.
Portfolios, or better yet live subjects wearing the artist’s work (walking portfolios, if you will) are a great opportunity to check the artist’s skill level. Don’t rely strictly on sketches on paper. An artist who produces lovely drawings can sometimes be a horrendous tattoo artist. Check for smooth, clean lines, straight lines, and even color. Scripting is a very good barometer for skill level since it takes a lot of practice and can often reveal an artist’s true level of experience. They may not be a scratcher, but a storefront and all the state-of-the-art “FX” equipment in the world can’t make them a true “artist” if they have no skill. And as obvious as it may seem, you want an artist who has tattoos of their own. Think about it this way—what does it say about a chef who won’t eat his own cooking?
Personality of the artist, although not a deal-breaker, can also assure you of a pleasant and satisfying experience at the studio. Find an individual who is friendly, clean, considerate and knowledgeable. These are all indicators of a good business person and someone who cares about all levels of their business from customer service to quality of their product. Your more apt to be apprehensive and tense if your artist is growly or non-conversational, and when it comes down to it, you are paying for more than the image you want to wear on your skin, you are paying for an experience that results in permanence. Your tattoo is there for good. Your impressions and your memories of getting that tattoo are, too.