Getting a 1st tattoo, for a majority of people, is a life changing decision. Once you get ink in your skin there is no coming back from it. Thus, there are quite a few things you should know before that first prick of the needle, because not knowing can result in an unpleasant (if not a prolonged, expensive) experience.
For both new and experienced people who get tattoos, there are some questions you must ask to gauge the competency of the tattoo artist that is going to be working on you. In this blog, we are going to cover six of the most important questions you must ask a tattoo artist before you hire them to make a tattoo on you.
Ask About the Artist’s Qualification
Whether you’re getting something custom designed or a piece of flash, it is the artist’s skill and experience that will ultimately determine the quality of your body art. It is always worth your while to compare artists, shops and pricing, but keep in mind that when it comes to tattoos, you get what you pay for! Keeping all this in mind, asking about an artist’s skill level and experience are questions most people hesitate to ask because they fear the artist won’t consider it a question, but rather a challenge. Realistically though, if an artist is reactive to this question, it could be a strong indicator that they are more than a little uncomfortable with their own quality of work and/or experience, even if their tone is one of authority. Don’t be shy, this is for life- dig in and ask your artist for both their qualifications and work history. A good tattoo artist has great pride in their work, and when asked, they will confidently show you their qualifications as well as their experience in the field of tattoo artistry. Overcompensation is one thing, for sure, but if the artist responds in a sketchy way, it is a red flag. And you shouldn’t ever JUST go by their sense of confidence (it can be faked),their actual tattoo work however cannot be…
Ask For Their Portfolio
If you want to gauge what a tattoo artist is capable off, you will need to see some of his past work for yourself. The best way to do so is to ask for the photo album of his work on customers. This portfolio will serve as a proof that the artist can deliver the level and quality of work you are expecting. And look carefully, making sure the images in their book are actual photographs. There’ve been plenty of sub-par tattooers out there busted cutting pictures out of magazines and stuffing their portfolios with work from other artists. (If you’d like some more tips on portfolios, read here- How to Examine Portfolios)
Ask Whether They Abuse Drugs At Work
This is a difficult question to ask a person you’ve only just met, but it is a legitimate one. You don’t want the person that’s tattooing you to be hopped up on drugs, increasing their chances of making a mistake on the only canvas you’ll ever have. At the same time, don’t fall in to the trap stereotyping- it is recommended that you to ask this question only when you witness something questionable in or around the vicinity of the studio or are aware of an artist’s reputation around town. You want a sober artist, for sure.
Ask If They Sterilize Their Tattooing Equipment
Sterility should be you primary concern when you decide to get a tattoo for the first time or when changing tattoo artists. Ask and check to see if the artist takes proper measures to sterilize the equipment. If the studio happens to have an autoclave, it is no guarantee that it is operational. Ask to see their current (monthly) spore testing report, which verifies the proper effectiveness of each unit. These tests are inexpensive and mandatory practices for most states by the health departments who issue artists licenses, all to ensure your safety.
Ask If They Practice Proper Disposal Protocols
After sterility, your next focus needs be on hygiene. First, the artist should be using disposable items like latex gloves, barrier film, bags on all their machines and equipment, etc. Every single thing that comes into contact with blood or an artist’s gloves should be covered for protection and disposed of after each tattoo. Nothing should ever go back into its original container; this includes the ink, water and ointment. After a tattoo, the needle bars should be immediately placed in a covered sharps container for pick up and incineration by an outside waste disposal organization. Look for the biohazard waste receptacles, too.
Ask About Aftercare
Aftercare is also important! You won’t believe the number of tattoo studios in America that ignore this step all together, imagining that people already know how to care for a fresh tattoo. The artist should use proper first aid methods to clean your tattoo and provide proper bandaging along with some care instructions. If you don’t know and you weren’t told how that particular artist recommends you care for your new tattoo, here’s a good article on the basics – How to care for your new tattoo.
For your own safety, remember to ask your tattoo artist the questions above. It will give you much needed peace of mind before you get on the table and allow them to work on you.
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