So you want to get a tattoo? Now what? How do you pick a design, pick a place, and what do you look for? Who do you talk too? Not sure? Well you’re not alone so let me start from the beginning with a handy guide on what you should know.
I have been wanting to get some new ink for a couple of years, but I was determined not to go back to the place I went before. Not because they did bad work, but because they were very overpriced. So I set out talking to friends who had them. I asked them the typical "where did they go" and "what did they get" type of 20 questions. Months later I still had not gotten anywhere.
So I went to Ray and said we should do a story on them. They are everywhere, and you quite possibly know more people with them than you do without. Every time you turn on the TV you see movies star and athletes (especially former Ohio State athletes) all tatted up. So I set out to write a guide to getting a tattoo. Not a comprehensive step-by-step list, but a general guide of what you should look for.
While we were tossing around ideas for this, I talked to friends and artists plus Ray and I visited a few shops in our area. I didn't feel comfortable in any of the shops we went into. The place was dirty or the artist may have been good but had the personality of a dead worm. If you don't feel comfortable in the shop, why would you trust them to permanently ink your skin? That's the first lesson of tattoos.
The whole idea kind of fell to the way side, until I got back to Pittsburgh this summer and noticed a shop near my house. I decided to start doing some Google searches and reading some reviews. Wouldn't you know that almost all of the reviews of the new shop were bad? Still foiled! I know most people will only post reviews if they are angry, but this was still enough for me to shy away. I broadened my search and found 3 more shops down the road a few miles - which meant back to reading reviews. Still nothing. A few days I later drove down to the area and found a whole row of shops I never saw online. I thought I should go home and look some more of them up, but figured I would check out the ones I came to see.
We all climbed out of the family truckster and walked up to the first shop, In The Blood Tattoo. We were immediately greeted at the door by two artists who were very polite and helpful, I’m thinking "ok good start" as they welcomed us and made us feel right at home. After looking around for a few minutes, I noticed how clean the entire place is. And everyone seemed very helpful with my ideas. They also made sure to tell me that they could do the tattoo, but I wouldn't be able to go in the water for two weeks. That showed me that they were concerned for the results, and not just interested in a quick dollar. I decided to go for it.
Allan came out and worked with me by saying that my initial ideas wouldn't be the best option, but together we made a tattoo that fit my style and looked good. Bro Council readers - I cant stress this enough: LISTEN TO YOUR ARTIST!!! A good one will know what he or she is talking about and you should be open to their ideas. Don't go against what you want in a design, but if they say it won't look right...take a breath and re-evaluate. I talked with Alan and knew within 5 minutes that this was the best choice for me. I looked at his portfolio and felt very at ease talking with him. Plus, the fact that I’m big into animal rescues and he ran a rescue service with his own money and no outside help told me all I needed to know about his character. I booked my appointment for the next afternoon.
I showed up the next day and Alan invited my whole group back to watch. He talked and laughed with us for the 2 hours it took him to give me the 3 new tattoos I was looking for and recolor my old one (which came out better than when it was originally done 10 years ago). He explained how safety is of the utmost importance to them so instead of reusing and sterilizing their equipment they spend extra on the disposable pieces for the gun. This was a first for any of the places I had visited, and was a great factor for me to go with them.
As a society we tend to go with one brand or one store over another based on our trust level. I have friends who all say “my tattoo guy” and I finally know what they mean. Remember, this is something you will have for life so don’t just pick a place because your cousin and best friend went there, or because it’s close to home, or because it’s the cheapest. I can't stress enough: this isn't something you want to get the "lowest bid on". Go to the place where you feel comfortable and that you've thoroughly researched. Remember; if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.
I would like to thank Allan “my tattoo guy” and the rest of the staff at Elite Ink Tattoo in Myrtle Beach, SC for helping with this article. They even have a great list posted of what to look for on their site that you can check out below.
Look for the following in a tattoo studio:
- Bio hazard containers for blood-stained objects.
- Sharps containers for old needles.
- An autoclave - usually required by law, and necessary for sterilizing tools. It is also a good idea to ask for recent spore test results.
- Accessible facilities for washing the hands with hot water and soap.
A reputable artist will:
- Be knowledgeable, courteous and helpful.
- Refuse to tattoo minors, intoxicated people, people with severe skin conditions, or those incapable of consent due to mental incapacity.
- Ensure that the customer is satisfied with and sure about the design before applying it.
- Be willing and able to answer questions.
- Wash his or her hands with water and soap or an approved sanitizing agent, and wear sterile gloves. Artists will change gloves one or more times during sessions.
- Always open new, sterile needle packages in front of the client, and always use new, sterile or sterile disposable instruments.
- Always use properly sterilized non-disposable and disposable supplies.
- Always use fresh ink for each session, placing small amounts in disposable containers which are used for one client only.
- Provide clear aftercare instructions and products.
Good luck on the ink!