Many people wonder “how can I make sure I end up with a great tattoo?”, and really the answer is pretty simple: Go to a good shop! Actually, let me rephrase that. Go to a GREAT shop. But what defines a GREAT shop? What are some indicators that you’re truly at the right place? Well, I’ll be honest, there are many signs of a good shop, and there are many signs of a BAD shop. Let’s get into it.
Great shops aren’t built in a day. They aren’t even built in a year. Great shops take their time curating the best of the best so that they have an environment and selection of services that go above and beyond for their clients. They consider multiple things. Let’s begin with the location of the shop itself. True, just because a tattoo shop is in a nice area of town, or its decorated awesome doesn’t always mean that its filled with world class artists, but it is a pretty good indication. See, the thing is, if an artist is a highly sought out, very busy person, odds are they aren’t going to be working and subjecting their clients to a crusty, small hole in the wall. Again, this isn’t to say these scenarios don’t exist, but it is rare. Speaking of crusty, good shops are NEVER dirty. Number one, any business, tattoo shop or otherwise, don’t allow their storefront to get unsightly. They have employees specifically there to ensure that the place is cleaned. However, ESPECIALLY a tattoo shop needs to be extremely sterile. They are literally performing medical procedures, and you would probably call that into question if you saw dirt and bugs all over the floor. So a good rule of thumb, the cooler and cleaner the place is, the more likely you’re going to be getting a sick ass tattoo.
Next, great shops care about their social media/online presence. If a shop is continuously posting on their socials, showing off the work that their artists are doing, you can be sure that the artists are actually doing work, and putting out new tattoos on a regular basis. If you come across a shop that hasn’t posted ANYTHING for days, weeks or worse, months at a time, you can probably assume their artists aren’t working. And there is a reason for that. Secondly, your tattoo shop having a credible website (like the one you’re on now) is a good indicator that they want more and new clients. And they want to make sure that you can go to a reputable spot where you can contact them, find out how their booking system works, and how you can set up an appointment with the artist of your choosing. If a shop doesn’t have a website, it doesn’t have to mean they don’t harbor fire artists, but again, its the duty of the shop to keep their artists working without having to worry about handling those things by themselves if they don’t choose to do so. If you can find more than two online check points that indicate your shop is going and thriving, odds are you’ll walk out with the tattoo of your dreams.
Finally (or at least for this article), if you shop has a bad reputation, or hosts artists with bad reputations, believe it. Sure, people talk, and people will always have problems with other people who may be a tattoo artist, but if people or shops have a buzz around them being known for negative things, that collective thought did not pop up out of nowhere. If an artist has a reputation for having wanted and unwanted sexual encounters with a large number of their clients, consider if that person is in this industry for the art or otherwise. Any PROFESSIONAL artist will keep a clear line between them and their clients. If sparks fly and a relationship is struck up after your piece is finished, you got lucky twice! But if your artist spends the entire session testing your boundaries, that artist may not take their career seriously, so why would they take your art seriously? If a shop has a reputation of focusing partying and getting fucked up on the clock, again, you may want to rethink your patronage there. Trust me, tattoo artists can get rowdy. And why not? People are allowed to have fun. But if your artist is constantly fucked up on the clock, I would think twice about letting them put a needle to your skin. Because more likely than not, thats a surefire way of leaving with a BAD tattoo.
Now, there are always exceptions to the rules. This isn’t to demonize any one shop, or any one artist. But as this industry grows, the expectation of the product does grow higher. And it is the duty of any professionally ran shop to make sure that the needs of their artists AND their clients are being met. So before you sign up and sign away a nice chunk of cash, do your homework. Ask your friends and family where they get tattooed. Don’t just blindly walk into any establishment that reads “TATTOO” on the outside and assume you’re going to leave with a satisfactory product, because lack of knowledge is a surefire way to leave with a BAD tattoo.