Considering that for most people a tattoo is something that will stay with them for life, many put surprisingly little thought into it. Modern inks and techniques mean that tattoo art is limited only by your imagination within a few small boundaries.
After being certain that you actually want a tattoo and will still do so in 10, 20, 30+ years time when it’s a little faded and your lifestyle has in all probability changed, the first thing to do is to choose a venue and artist. With the increased popularity of body art, from piercings to tattoos, almost every town now has at least one practising artist or studio. However, using a studio just because it’s local can be a very bad move.
The first thing to look for when checking out a potential artist or studio is examples of previous work. Far too many studios are covered with ‘flash art’ (coloured line drawings of available designs on sheets of paper) yet have no examples of actual work they have done. As a general rule keep very clear of these. Any artist worth visiting should be proud of the work done and at the very least will have a photo album containing pictures of previous tattoos. If the studio in question hasn’t then it’s generally advisable to move on to another that has, unless you have seen examples of their work on others and are 100% sure of its quality. Once you are happy that the artist in question is capable the next step is to choose a design.
Again, most studios are covered in ‘Flash Art’. If you see something on the wall or in a book that you simply must have then this is fine. However, any competent artist will be more than able and willing to use any design for your tattoo, be it their own or one that you bring in to them. If a studio or artist is unable to do this you again need to question their ability and if you really want this person to mark your skin for life. A good tattoo should not just look good but also mean something to the wearer. Often the only way to achieve this is to supply the image you want, not to pick something out of the studios books because that’s all there is. Spend some time discussing your requirements before hand and if necessary come back another day to get the actual work done – the worse thing you can do is to rush such an important decision.
When you are choosing your design a couple of points are worth bearing in mind. In theory, with a good artist, your tattoo is only limited by your imagination or that of the artist. However, certain colours and styles lend themselves far more to a good tattoo than others. Due to its very nature a tattoo will fade and ‘spread’ a little with age, which is especially true of bright colours such as yellow and especially white, although modern inks tend to be far superior to many of those used in the past. Even so age, and especially exposure to sunlight, will cause colours to fade and in some cases vanish, especially bright colours. The other consideration is outline. A good tattoo will benefit hugely from a strong outline for a couple of reasons - not only will a strong outline cause the tattoo to stand out from the skin and be crisp and clear, it will also resist the ravages of time far better. A tattoo with a strong outline will usually look much better 20 years down the road than a thin outline with a single needle or none at all. It’s an important consideration when deciding on a design that many overlook. Try to pick a design that will lend itself well to a stronger outline in the images.
Another point to consider when selecting an artist is which styles they specialise in. For example, if you fancy a large, body covering, traditional Japanese design ensure that the artist in question has performed these before and has an interest in the subject. Likewise if you want a portrait of a celeb or family member, ensure that the artist enjoys doing portraits and has skill in that area. These days many tattoo artists will specialise in certain styles and it is well worth travelling to get to an artist that is among the best in the field you want. A few hours spent reading the various tattoo periodicals available can quickly help to identify such people.
Finally remember that you really do get what you pay for. Considering that a tattoo will stay with you for the rest of your life, do not skimp on the price to the detriment of quality. A decent artist may well charge more but the difference in quality can be huge. Rather than rushing off to get a mediocre tattoo, save a little more and pay for something that is good quality that you will be happy with.
Elizabeth Brodie is the owner of Hot-Jewellery a UK site specialising in quality body jewellery for most common piercings.