Thinking of getting your first tattoo but don’t know where to start? Perhaps you have a design in mind, and now you need to find that just-right tattoo artist to bring it to life. These tips from Fresh Chalk and Tracy Zumwalt at Anchor Tattoo can help ensure you’ll walk away with an awesome piece of body art that you’ll want to show-off.
What is the art style of the tattoo you want? Most designs will fall under a specific category—is it Traditional Japanese, Tribal, Traditional American, Realistic? Not every tattoo artist has the same style, or excels in all styles, so identifying that style that speaks to you is important. “Once you know what style you want to go with, look for someone that does this style, and does it well!” says Anchor Tattoo’s Tracy Zumwalt. Many tattoo artists have their own unique art style that can result in a truly one of a kind piece. Browse the portfolios of lots of different artists before you take the plunge—you may find inspiration for something boldly original.
Once you’ve figured out the style for your tattoo, do your research and don’t be afraid to shop around. Most tattoo shops will have portfolios of their tattoo artists’ work available to browse on their website or Instagram. Use Fresh Chalk to ask your friends for recommendations and referrals. “Find out what you can about their reputation,” advises Tracy. “If you're getting a smaller design, you're probably okay to just set an appointment with the artist you've chosen and get your tattoo. If, on the other hand, you're planning a substantial piece for your first tattoo, definitely meet with the artist before making an appointment to see if your personalities are compatible. Nothing is worse than spending time and money with someone you don't get along with!”
Have we mentioned that a tattoo is forever? It’s totally okay to be picky when looking at tattoo artists' work. Look closely at the lines—they should be smooth, not jumpy, jagged, too thick, or shaky. Circles should look like circles, not ovals. Colors should be bold and completely filled in, and watch for scabbing or scar tissue, which can be indicative of an overly heavy hand. Don’t choose someone just based on their flash sheets. Be sure to find both fresh and healed tattoos that they’ve done to truly judge the quality of their work.
Your friends can be a great resource to you. If you have a friend with a tattoo you admire, find out more about their experience. You can find out a lot more about the tattoo artist’s process, the atmosphere at the tattoo shop, how well the tattoo healed or aged over time by talking to the people who’ve actually been in an artist’s chair. Many people are passionate about their tattoos and would love to support their tattoo artist with a recommendation. Read the reviews on your artist and the tattoo parlor itself—cleanliness is certainly a factor, as is the layout and location of the tattoo shop. Is it well lit? Dusty? Are the tattoo artists’ stations next to street facing windows? Take the time to find out so that you can find a tattooer and a tattoo shop that fits with your comfortable level.