A craftsman is only as good as his tools and when those tools are going to be putting something permanent on your body, it’s best to do your research not only on the artists, but on their shop. Sure, smoky, dimly lit, and open 24 hours has a certain rebel appeal, but your health and safety is way cooler as second-rate tattoo artist can lead to infections. So, here are just a few tips on things to find the perfect shop for you.
Take a look around and trust your gut - is this place clean? If it feels dirty, it probably is, but it’s helpful to know which details to pay extra attention to.
- Clean benches and seats, organized ink boxes, and well-lit procedure areas are all good signs.
- Look for new, sterile needles. They should be removed from fresh autoclave bags right in front of you only once the tattoo is in progress.
- Nothing that the artist uses should ever be put back into a container - it’s either tossed or sorted for sterilization.
Note: An autoclave is an electric sterilizer that uses steam to thoroughly clean the needles and other reusable supplies. But just because your tattoo salon has one doesn’t mean it’s in use. Ask for a recent autoclave certificate to be on the safe side.
2. Trained and Certified Artists
Many states require tattoo artists to have a license before they can perform on anyone, but for those whose states do not, ask if they can produce proof of being trained under another artist. And when we say training, we don’t just mean skill. Make sure any artist you’re considering has taken a course in safe and hygienic practices.
While you and your artist don’t have to become best friends (kudos if you do), you should have a mutual respect and feel comfortable around them. Communication is key, and if you ever feel uncomfortable, belittled, or like you aren’t a priority, you may want to move on.
4. Relevant Work
Check out the portfolios and past work on display in the shop or on their website/ social media. While they are displaying their best, it’s still a great indicator of the kind of work you can expect to have done on you. However, if your artist can’t show you any of their personal past work in an album of sorts, you may be taking a risk with choosing them.