What should you Know before getting a New Tattoo?

Do you know what you want, have you ever seen it before? If you are looking for a simple tattoo but don’t have a design in mind, most street shops have many, maybe 1000’s of different commercially drawn designs available. These designs are known as - Flash, and are usually found hanging on the walls of the tattoo parlor for easy viewing. In a good street shop you should be able to choose the design and get the tattoo started with in just a few minutes. But beware.
The more a tattooer depends on commercial flash to supply the design, the less hands on experience they usually have, and/or the less effort they usually want to put into your project. And more likely than not, their drawing skills are not very well developed, and they generally charge premium rates.

But, just because the shop has flash on the walls, doesn't’t mean the tattooers are not good tattooers, even the best tattoo artists have flash available for your viewing should you or the artist need some inspiration. Flash is an essential tool that every tattooer should have on hand. Custom Tattoo Studios usually have flash available but you may have to ask to view it.
Most custom tattooers have photographs of the tattoo work they’ve done, ether displayed on the walls or in a Portfolio. You can usually see the experience of the Tattooer just by looking at their studio. If the tattooer does not have photographs available for your viewing, go somewhere else.

Do you understand what kind of Tattooer you need for the work you want? Do you need an Artist, or will a Craftsmen do a better job? Not all Tattooers are the same. Each has different experience and interests. Not all tattooers want to create or draw any thing. Some are content on just copying your design as it is given to them. These are Craftsmen. Some tattooers prefer to draw their own designs even when the idea comes from a piece of flash. These are artists.
There is definitely a difference in skill levels between Artist and Craftsmen, but the difference only matters early on in the design stages of the project, and then at the very end, when the details are put in place.
If the details are minimal for the over all design, in the end results, you may not be able to tell whether an artists or a craftsmen did the work, you might not be able to see the difference. But in a highly detailed original design you certainly will. Both Artists and Craftsmen can do beautiful work. As the Client, you will need to decide if the Tattooer you are talking to has the right skill set.

If you want your tattoo to be a custom design, have you done any research for design information. Where can the Tattooer see your reference, is there enough reference, is it complete,
will the tattooer have to provide any other reference?
You should come prepared to show the tattooer your reference and answer some of these types of questions. The more you are prepared the easier it is to draw your design, and the faster everything else happens. Good preparation will help insure you get the tattoo you would like.

FYI; Custom Tattooing does not mean the tattoo artist free hand draws every detail or design. It means that the artist modifies, innovates or other wise adds or deletes detail from the chosen design in a way they have never done or seen before.
They make the artistic changes on the fly, when ever inspiration comes to them. Some times they do draw the entire design freehand, some designs have to be custom drawn to fit the body, placement, or the details that the Client wants.
When a tattooer claims to be a Custom Tattoo Artist they are just trying to tell any potential Client(s) and the rest of the world they claim (are proud of) every tattoo they do, and that they are not afraid to work hard to do what others tattooers won’t/can’t do. The words CUSTOM TATTOOING in their advertising also tells potential clients that the tattooer will try hard to make every tattoo they do their own, artistically speaking that is.

Have you researched for a local tattooer that can do the style and type of tattooing that compliments your design? Shop local first, you are much better off if your tattooer is close by.
If you have looked around your local area and no one fits your image of a good Tattoo Artist, you then need to look out side your immediate area into the surrounding area. But I would highly recommend that you try to find a tattooer close to home that can do the quality of work you have in mind. The shorter the travel distance the more likely you can complete the tattoo, especially a large multiple setting design.
Even single setting tattoos look better when they can be worked-on a second time. All good tattooers want you (the client) to come back for what-ever touch-up is necessary, so they can do their best work, they know the value of a touch up setting, it is where the real details happen.
When you are talking to a potential tattooer, if they don’t mention the possible need for a touch up setting with out you asking, you may want to go some where else, they don’t have your best interest in mind, or they know they won’t be around long enough to do the finish detail work.
Although any healing tattoo can have healing problems that require a touch-up setting much like new paint on car sometimes does. Most touch-up-work isn’t really a touch-up at all, it is the finish work that can not be done before the tattoo is healed. Quality paintings require multiple settings (layers), Fine Tattoo Art is no different. Tattooing does not happen in real life, like it happens on TV.

Have you talked with the Tattooer, are they as good (at tattooing) as your first choice, have they completed this type of design before. When talking to your Tattoo Artist, If you haven’t seen the subject, the type or the style of design you are looking for, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
An experienced Custom Tattoo Artists ether know where to find, or may already have the reference needed to create the custom design you would like. You should not ignore experience when looking for a Tattoo Artist. A good tattooer will not only tell you what they would like to do, and what they are good at, they will also tell you what to stay away from, for the sake of the tattoo and your future, even when it would be a funnnnn to do the tattoo otherwise.
Don’t commission the greedy tattooers, only the good ones. A good tattoo is not cheap, but they are not expensive either. What ever the average fee of any given professional is, such as an Attorney, Mechanic, Nurse Electrician etc., for the local area is what you should expect to pay a local Professional Tattooer per hour.
But, most Tattoo Artists charge for their artistic achievements, so the per hour price may be more or less than the local professional rates, the actual amount usually depends on what they actually get done that setting, and how they manage their business. But what ever you are charged you should feel that it is fair, or you should question the cost. You are going to be there when the work gets done, so you’ll know exactly what you’re paying for. You’ll know how hard the tattooer worked.
The best advice I can give you is; An expensive tattoo is not - only - about how much money you pay at the time you get it. It is also about how much regret you will feel when you don’t get what you expect, and some one asks to see it. Chose your tattoo designs and your Artist(s) wisely.

Can the Tattooer show you an example of their work, including some that is similar to what you have in mind? If they can’t show you any work similar to what you have in mind, don’t fret. Your design maybe just what a Custom Tattoo Artist dreams of.
Tattoo Artists do dream of doing tattoos that have never been done. It is a bonus when they get to design the entire piece, it is what makes them an Artist, and where their opportunity to create a Masterpiece comes from.
Look at their other work for detail similarities to your design and discuss your ideas. The more you talk, the more likely you will get the results you expect. But any time you don’t fell like they understand or agree with your ideas, find an other Tattooer. Get comfortable with your tattooer before starting a new piece, it is much easier (and better) to stop before you get started.

When you talked with the Tattooer, were they polite, did they sound interested in the project. Did they give you any professional level advice on size, placement, color vs no color, artistic corrections, social implications, emotional pressure, etc, etc. Not every idea should be tattooed, right where you want it, for several reason. For instance; Facial or hand tattoos need considerable thought. Who wants to hire you when your tattoos over whelm your presence. Your tattooer should be talking to you about your design(s), especially if you’re thinking about hand, face or any other derogatory tattoos.
If you are asking for a Memorial Tattoo, did the tattooer mention that death and birth dates tend to bring that person death into focus every time some one asks. If the tattooer doesn’t ask you to think about things like that, maybe they don’t understand the emotional pressure tattoos can bring to a Person. A good Tattooer will look out for their Clients well being, and will decline doing tattoos they know will disgrace their Client or the Tattoo Profession.
Once again, you can not cheat experience, go where the experience and reputation is best. Just because you know the “Dude with the new tat gun” , don’t do it. Remember; A poorly done tattoo is the most expensive tattoo there is. Every time some one asks you what your tattoo is, you’ll make a huge payment right there and then. You will pay with embarrassment and regret.

Are you on vacation, are you sunburned, can the design be completed in one setting? If you’re on vacation and want a tattoo from the local tattooer, stay out of the sun. If you are Sunburned even a little, or the design can't be completed in one setting you should seriously consider waiting until you get home, let the sunburn heal and find a local tattoo artist to do the tattoo for you there.
Half baked tattoos are a life long embarrassment, they will cost you more money to fix, and they do nothing good for the promotion of tattooing. A good tattooer will decline to tattoo a sunburned client who is on vacation. Don’t ask for a tattoo if you’re sunburned, don’t waste the time.

Will the design have to be worked on, through multiple settings? If so why. Understand what needs to take place. If you don’t agree or don’t understand the timing, the cost and your commitment(s), ask the questions before you get started.

If it is a multiple setting design, Is the tattooer stable? Are YOU stable and live close enough, and in a situation that you can return often enough that the tattooer can stay interested and tuned into the design? Are you close enough so the healing and travel time won’t interfere with the progress of the tattoo? The biggest dilemma a Tattoo Artist usually has during their carrier is with unfinished Tattoos. There is nothing more distressing or disheartening to a good tattoo artist than realizing they won’t be able to finish a large design they started, but for some uncontrollable reasons will not be able to finish. Don’t start a multiple setting tattoo unless, or until, you’re sure you can finish it. It is a waist of the Artists life and time and your money if they start, but are not able to finish the job. Large tattoos take many hours, you must be prepared to persevere.

Be prepared for the insults and the curious questions about the tattoo during the early stages. A multiple setting design goes through many changes and may not make sense to most people that are not tattoo artists.
Even other tattooers, especially ones that don’t have much experience may not understand the procedure of a multiple setting design. Some of these tattooers (and other people) will ridicule the work in progress and offer the take over the job at a cheaper rate. Don’t fall for the temptation, just remember, If the critique was qualified to do the job, you would have heard of them sooner.

You must be prepared to deal with an unfinished design for a while. Most of the time it is best not to show anyone the on going tattoo until it is complete. It always makes a bigger impact on your friends when the complete design is revealed all at one time.

Everyone knows unpredictable changes in life's priorities happen. If an interruption in progress is necessary, be polite and tell your artist so they know you intend on continuing the project in the near future, that way the tattooer won’t lose interest or their train of thought, and they will be happy to see you when you can continue. When extended delays occur, or the tattoo has been finished for a while, stop in and say hello to your artist just for fun, they are always interested in seeing You and their prior work.

Is the tattoo artist working from their own studio, or have they been working in this studio for a while? If not, you should limit the size of the tattoo to a single sitting size. Traveling Tattooers can cause you a lot of grief when they have to leave town in a hurry, before the tattoo is finished. Remember. Not very many tattooers can, or even want to work on an in progress tattoo that someone else started.

Do you have an unfinished Tattoo? Don't sweat.

A good professional grade Custom Tattoo Artist WILL take on the job and fix a poorly done or under finished tattoo if they can. But not all tattooers can or will take on an in progress tattoo, so give the tattooers that do take on those jobs some special consideration.
FYI; When a qualified tattooer agrees to take on a unfinished tattoo ( or a cover-up) they most often have to lower their artistic standards. So remember, If they are good enough to do the fix-up - cover-up design for you, they would not have done that kind of work to start with. So understand that they may have to lower their artistic standards, and do less quality work than they usually do,to save your skin.
If they agree to do the job for you, it is because of their Professional courtesy. If anyone deserves a gratuity (tip), these tattooers do. Your tip should be enough to be noticeable.

The Best compliment you can give a Tattoo Artist, that just Fixed-up or Covered-up your unwanted tattoo, is to give the Artist the privilege of doing a new tattoo for you on fresh unblemished skin. That way they get to give you some of their best work, not just their hard work.
The worst compliment you can give a Tattoo Artist after they cover-up an ugly or unwanted tattoo for you, is to give your untattooed skin to another tattooer that was not good enough to do the cover-up.

If a professional tattooer doesn’t want to work on your old work, it is probably because they don’t have the skill level, or their ego won’t let them lower their standards. Go somewhere else, don’t settle for a tattooer that isn’t “into” the job. Your tattoo can get worse, in hurry. Don’t rush your choice in tattooers, shop around, especially when you are trying to cover-up an ugly or unwanted tattoo.

True to the Profession Tattoo Artists will work on other peoples work if they have the skill necessary to do the job. A Professional Tattooer will not leave a True to the Art Enthusiast hanging with a poorly done tattoo,nor will they take on a job that is beyond their skill level. Good Professional Ethics prevent this from happening.

Is the Tattooer on a working vacation, like a Gypsy at a Convention? If you are at a convention and HAVE to get a tattoo,you will have to limit the size of the tattoo to a single sitting size. Beware,Unfinished and poorly done tattoos cause everyone grief. Don’t expect a tattoo of the day winner without pre planning the tattoo setting with the artists.
Be prepared to pay premium rates. Traveling (Gypsy) tattooers have a very high over head and huge egos, which makes them have to charge more than the local tattooers have to charge. And don't forget, You can probably find a local tattooer that has the same skills required to do the design for you in their local studio at a more reasonable rate.
Buy local first, beware of the Gypsies, even when they are a good tattooer, there’s usually a reason they need to travel.
You can certainly get a good tattoo from some one on the move, but why?

The tattoo procedure is almost as important as the results. If the tattoo design is bigger than a single setting, you will probably develop a special relationship with your Tattooist, and may spend countless hours together. Does it smell good, is the music nice to listen to, is the shop camaraderie fun and relaxed?

The Studio environment is very important, it must be comfortable. There is nothing more devastating than realizing you and the tattooer don’t get along, or the studio environment isn’t comfortable until after the multiple setting tattoo is in progress. Investigate the shop yourself, and of course, listen to the word of mouth reputation you hear on the street.

If you follow through with your research and find the right Tattooer for your artistic taste and personality you are more likely to enjoy being tattooed, and more likely to get a tattoo that you can and will enjoy for the rest of your life.

Take your time shop around, there are many very good professional tattooers to chose from

Hope you enjoy your new Tattoo(s). Please help support your local Tattoo Artists and send us photographs and comments about your new tattoo and tattooing experience.
Send Photos to:  generaldelivery@smarttattoo.com

Support your Local Tattoo Artists
Buy Professional
Buy Local

All photographs sent to smarttatto.com will be
assumed to be ©copyright free and assigned for publication