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How To: Decide on Getting a Tattoo

By Contributed content 10 October 2016
Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson

  Deciding to get a tattoo is not a decision that should be taken lightly, given that you will carry it with you for the rest of your life. To help you make all the right choices before you go under the needle and get inked, we talk to Chris Anderson of Tattoo Temple about choosing the right artist and artform for you.  It's a strange phenomenon that so many people dedicate more time and consideration to the purchase of commodities than to the selection of tattoos - the latter potentially being either a blemish or piece of artwork that they will carry for the rest of their lives. To ensure you get it right first time, consider my six top tips before taking the plunge.

1. Decide if you want a ‘tattoo’ or a piece of ‘body art’

Tattoos are typically selected from a range of ‘stock’ or pre-fabricated designs, or some slightly adjusted variation of existing designs, which are often selected and applied quickly. In other words, think of a tattoo as like a sticker. Body art, however, is a unique composition that is tailored to your physiology, and should represent a unique collaboration between you and the artist. Body art compliments your physique and is a more significant investment of both time and resources - in our experience, you're also much more likely to be happy with the permanent outcome of this option. Speed or quality, it's up to you.

2. Review previous work

Never select an artist who cannot produce some kind of unique portfolio. An album of pieces completed on living skin should be provided for your review. An artistic display of stock tattoos on the walls is not enough to tell you that the artist has a good reputation or the skills necessary to create the piece you are interested in. Take the time to scrutinise their work. Do the lines of the tattoos look shaky or feathery? Do the circles look like circles and squares like squares? What about the colouring? Are the colours blended well to create even forms of shading, dimension, and depth? Do any of the tattoos look swollen, faded, blurry, or out of proportion? Trust your own artistic eye when it comes to this as, despite all of the promises or excuses that could be used to explain inferior work, in the end your tattoo will probably resemble what is in the artist’s portfolio.

3. Ensure the artist lives in a disposable universe

If the studio does not look as clean as your dentist’s office then walk out. It's also a bad idea to get tattooed in someone’s kitchen or at a private home or apartment. Sterile conditions cannot be met in certain environments, for example if there are a lot of people walking in from the street right up to where the tattooing is taking place. Additionally, nothing that the tattoo artist uses should ever be placed back into a container. This includes ointment, ink, and water. Usually these substances have been in contact with your blood plasma. Such thriftiness increases the risk of spreading infection to you and others. Ink should always be placed in caps, which are tiny cups used to hold just enough color that is needed to tattoo you. This ink should never be returned to a bottle or a jar. The studio should also have a medical grade autoclave as well as only using new, sterile needles from fresh containers.

4. Check that the artist(s) wear latex gloves and face masks

Fingers spread germs to raw, freshly tattooed skin faster than anything else. For this reason the tattooist should always wear medical latex gloves. The gloves should not have holes or tears in them and they should fit the artist properly. It only takes a pinhole in the latex glove to increase the risk of cross contamination. The same applies to any peripheral spray from tattooing that could enter and be spread by the mouth. A face mask protects the artist from any spray from the tattooing that could spread infections. Furthermore, if the artist isn't wearing gloves or a mask during your session the chances are that they didn't for their last client as well! [pro_ad_display_adzone id="52026" align="right"]

5. You and the artist should ‘click’

You must revere and respect the tattoo artist and he or she must do the same to you. You do not have to become best friends, however this is a situation where you should not be subjected to any kind of humiliation, sarcasm, or displays of artistic temperament. Behaviors that fall into the category of displays of artistic temperament include anger, giddiness, and/or a reluctance to stick to schedules. A tattoo artist should also not consider him or herself to be too good to conduct themselves in the civil and courteous manner that is usually associated with good business practices.

6. Be aware of your budget

Cost is a factor. If you can’t afford body art then accept your circumstances. Although a tattoo is priceless, it can also be considered as a form of ‘beauty treatment’. You wouldn’t allow a bad hairdresser to butcher your hair, so don’t let an “affordable” tattoo artist brand you for life with a marking that you will most likely come to regret. Think of the huge costs associated with removing, altering, or 'covering-up' a bad tattoo - these costs can far exceed what it took to get the piece in the first place. As with any product, prices vary – popular or award-winning artists will charge more than inexperienced tattooists. The cheapest kind of tattoo is a flash or stock tattoo, aka the designs that you find hanging on the walls of studios or (traditionally) barber shops. Although price does not always dictate excellence, your best bet to receive a piece that you are satisfied with will be to choose an artist who charges $2,000 an hour or more. Ready to get inked? Check out Tattoo Temple and other studios in our online directory.
Read more! Explore the rest of our How To section for top tips on how to improve your health, well-being, and general happiness.

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