With over 21,000 tattoo studios in the United States, finding the right artist for your next tattoo can be overwhelming. Getting tattooed can be a life-changing decision, and selecting the tattooist to complete the work is one of the most important parts of the process. Every artist has a different specialty, technique, and design process. For the best tattoo result, find a tattoo artist who is easy to talk to, open to collaboration, and has experience creating similar tattoos to your project.
If you are ready to find your next tattoo artist, follow these guidelines to make researching and choosing a tattoo artist stress-free.
When you schedule an appointment with a tattoo artist, they will have a list of specific questions about your desired tattoo. As a result, having a clear vision of how you want your artwork to look, including the style, placement, size, and subject matter, will make a tattoo consultation go more smoothly. There are several aspects of a tattoo to consider before finalizing the design.
What is your new tattoo going to be? Do you want your new tattoo to represent something specific? Answering these questions will give you a clear direction on the subject matter of your tattoo. In addition to deciding on the main focus, consider elements you want to be integrated into the details or background, such as script and symbols.
Another aspect to consider in addition to the subject of your tattoo is the tattoo style and technique of application. Some of the most popular tattoo styles are:
It is helpful to search for images of your tattoo subject in each of these different styles. You can even create an inspiration board or image collage of the photos you like best. This collection will be helpful reference material for your tattoo artist when they are drawing your tattoo design.
Most people make the mistake of deciding where they want a tattoo before finalizing a design. Unfortunately, certain areas of the body take ink differently. In addition, each body part has space limitations. For example, an inner bicep tattoo translates best as a horizontal piece with big details that are easy to see from far away.
It is best to be flexible with your tattoo placement. Of course, you should evaluate important considerations like the policy for tattoos in the workplace and pain tolerance. But take the tattoo artist’s advice for the ideal spot for your design.
Now that you have envisioned exactly what you want your tattoo to look like, it’s time to find the right tattoo artist for the job. Googling “tattoo studios near me” is an excellent place to start. However, investing time in researching each tattooist’s style, professionalism, cost, and artistry is the best way to feel confident you’ve scheduled an appointment with the proper studio.
Follow these tips on how to find a good tattoo artist for your project.
The easiest way to find a great tattoo artist is through personal recommendations. First, ask friends and family members with amazing tattoos which piece is their favorite. Who completed that tattoo? Then ask why they chose that tattoo artist and what makes that tattoo more special than others that they have. If their criteria align with what you are looking for in a tattoo artist, the search becomes so much easier! Now this curated list of recommended artists is a foundation for your research.
You don’t just have to take recommendations from people you know. For example, if you are out shopping and see someone with a tattoo done in a similar style or subject matter as what you want for your next piece, ask them where they got the tattoo. People are always happy to share positive experiences with tattoo artists and are excited to send new work to that artist’s studio.
Researching tattoo artists on social media has two distinct benefits. On Facebook, you can read customer reviews about their experience with the artist and the tattoo studio. You can also see images of recently completed work in artist portfolios. These images best display an artist’s skills and preferred styles of work. Find photos of tattoos that closely align with your vision for your next tattoo to determine if that artist suits your project.
It’s common to want a local tattooist to complete your new tattoo. Larger pieces require more than one appointment, and most studios offer a complementary touchup service as part of their aftercare program. As a result, it is much more convenient to book an appointment with a nearby tattoo studio.
Online tattoo artist directories are a list of licensed tattooists. The directory listings include:
You can filter results on the directory by geographic location, making finding local tattooists to schedule consultations more accessible.
The most valuable information you can gather on a tattoo artist is in their portfolio. These images of completed tattoos will show you how artists approach different styles. It will also show how consistent that artist is with their application. Key elements to evaluate in an artist portfolio are:
Attention to detail: Does the image make sense when you look at the tattoo? Are all the relevant details present in the final design? For example, if the tattoo is of an animal, is the drawing done proportionally? What is the artist able to capture realistic elements like fur?
Line work: Great tattoos have smooth and even line work. Keep an eye out for jagged lines and blowouts. These mistakes mean that the artist is not consistent and is not an ideal candidate for intricate tattoo design work.
Shading quality: Shading enhances a tattoo’s depth, complexity, and realism. Appropriately placing shading and impactful areas of the design can be the difference between a lousy tattoo and a fantastic piece of art.
Consistency in technique: Tattooing is much like any other specialized skill. The best artists fall into niche categories. Does their portfolio have images of tattoos in the style you want your new piece to be in? If the answer is no, move on to another artist.
Getting a good tattoo comes down to more than just an artist’s skills. Several factors significantly affect the experience of getting a new tattoo, including:
Reading reviews and testimonials will give you meaningful information about how clients rate their overall experience with an artist.
There is value in reading both negative and positive reviews. In addition, these ratings offer insight into how the tattoo artist approaches client consultations and collaborations.
Getting a tattoo is a big commitment. It is important that it turns out exactly how you expect. That puts a lot of pressure on the artist to deliver a design. It also requires clear and effective communication. As a result, you want to choose a tattoo artist that is open to collaboration and is willing to work with you to make the design as perfect as possible. So if you read feedback about artists unwilling to collaborate or budge on artistic decisions, take that as a red flag.
Here are several ways to check the professionalism of a tattoo artist.
First, take a look at the tattoo studio. To safely tattoo, the shop needs to be cleaned following a specific standard of care. All equipment should be sterile, with fresh needles and ink for each appointment. In addition, every tattoo station must be sterilized between sessions.
Every state requires tattoo artists to receive a training certification in blood and transmitted diseases. These programs also educate the artist on legal policies and procedures, including the legal age to consent to tattoos and scenarios that would make some ineligible to get tattooed. However, you do not need a license to purchase tattoo equipment. That means anyone could get their hands on ink and a tattoo gun and advertise as a tattooist.
The only definitive way to determine a professional tattoo artist from a novice is to check their license. Most artists have it framed and hanging next to their tattoo stations. In addition, some studios will display the licenses of all their artists at the reception desk. Either way, if an artist is licensed, it should be easy to verify.
Finally, tattoo studios must ask clients a series of questions and get a signed waiver form. Usually, this process includes providing a photocopy of your State Issued ID. If an artist allows you to proceed with an appointment without getting this critical information, it’s a red flag. Those waivers protect you and the artist, so if they don’t require protective forms, take that as a warning and reschedule with a different shop.
Professional tattoo artists require a deposit to be made before scheduling an appointment. These deposits are applied to the total cost of the tattoo upon completion. This practice is designed to get extra money out of clients. It simply accounts for the tattoo artist’s time if you don’t show up or cancel last minute. Therefore, it is safe to assume that if an artist requires a deposit, they have a busy schedule and take their appointments very seriously, which makes this practice a testament to the artist’s skill.
Every tattoo is priced on a case-by-case basis. Key factors that influence a tattoo artist’s pricing are:
The longer an artist has tattooed, the higher the rates will be. This is because they factor years of apprenticeship, training, and experience into their rates.
In addition, tattoo artists with excellent reputations also fetch higher price tags. This comes down to the simple principle of supply and demand. The more people are interested in getting a tattoo from an artist, the more money they can charge. The scarcity of availability limits the number of tattoos artists can do and puts a premium on their work. However, tattoo artists with a long wait list of appointments are also very skilled. In most cases, paying the extra cost is worth the wait and quality of the product.
Most tattoo artists charge an hourly rate for their services. Therefore, the longer a tattoo takes, the more expensive it will be. Large tattoos, or intricately, detailed tattoos, can extend past a single session. It is unlikely that a tattoo artist will give you an exact price for a piece because it is impossible to know precisely how long a tattoo will take. Instead, artists will provide an approximate quote with a range of prices relative to the time they predict spending working on your tattoo.
Cost-of-living affects more than groceries, gas, and housing prices. Tattooing is a professional service industry, so artists’ rates fluctuate based on geographical area. Getting tattooed in an expensive city will cost much more than a suburban tattoo studio. For example, if you Google the best Chicago tattoo shops, you will find that the average hourly rate for an artist is $150 – $200. However, if you search for studios in the suburbs of Illinois, rates drop to $100-$125 per hour.
It is also important to note that all tattoo shops have a minimum price. This rate is usually the equivalent of one hour of work. So while a simple tattoo like a music note will only take 10-15 minutes to complete, the minimum fee covers other costs associated with getting a tattoo, including needles, ink, and the time it takes to sterilize the artist’s station.
Once you have carefully considered how you want your tattoo to look, budgeted for it, and researched the top tattoo artists, it’s time to make a decision! If you are still trying to figure out how to proceed, schedule a time to talk with your preferred tattoo artist in person. Most shops offer consultation sessions. In addition, speaking with an artist face-to-face will help ease any hesitation.
And always follow your gut. If something feels “off,” it probably is! There are hundreds of thousands of tattoo artists. Don’t rush a decision. Take your time to find an artist you feel confident working with.
Once you have decided to get tattooed, it’s hard to resist the urge to book an appointment right away. But taking the time to research artists, pour over portfolios, and visit studios is the only way to ensure you have the best tattoo experience possible.
However, if one of your tattoos came out less than perfect, Removery can help. First, schedule an appointment at one of our laser removal locations to blast away old or unwanted ink. Our experienced staff gives honest consultations so you can feel confident about tattoo removal results. Recovery services are also effective at fading tattoos in preparation for cover-ups. So if your idea for a new tattoo involves getting rid of one you already have, call Removery. We are the first step in getting your skin clear and prepped for new ink!