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Choosing the Right Tattoo Artist
What do you want in an artist
If you plan on having multiple tattoos or a large piece of work done then choosing a tattoo artist should be important to you. Keep in mind that what YOU want out of the artist is the most important thing, and know that all artists tend to have their own areas of expertise. Studios will employ many artists, and a good shop will have diversity among the artist's work. Now, if you just want a tattoo here and there then you don't need to give too much consideration to who the artist will be. What studio you choose will be most important for you... But if you are planning a serious piece(s) of body art, then do yourself a favor and find the right artist to help you.
There are a few types of people that get tattooed besides the casual person with one or two tattoos. If you start to become a regular at a shop you may find yourself getting special deals and making some friends. You may even find yourself getting into the door and learning how to tattoo if you are interested. A third type of person to get tattooed is what is usually called 'collector.' A collector will typically have many works of art by different artists, but a real hardcore collector will have work by many of the top artists in the country. Tattoo artists love collectors =) , especially when they collect many works from the same artist, and that artist happens to be them.
A person getting a first tattoo or planning on only have a couple small ones can still benefit from choosing the right artist. Lets look at some things to think about and look for when choosing a tattoo artist.
Things to consider
Always, always look through tattoo artist's portfolios. I say this all the time to people, and it can make a ton of difference with how happy you are in the end. Also determine how comfortable you are with the artists after talking with them a few times. You want to be comfortable, and you really want the artist to be comfortable with you (probably even more important).
When looking through portfolios look for tattoos that are a similar style to what you want. If you want a portrait then look at their portrait work. Is it clean and crisp, vibrant and full of contrast? If not then start looking for another artist to do your portrait tattoo. If yes then look further into their work. You should consider if you want a greywash tattoo (black and grey) or color, and look for quality in these areas as well. If you are looking for a greywash tattoo then pay attention to how the artist uses contrast, and shading. A good greywash tattoo will have a lot of depth and will 'pop.' If looking for color determine if you like how the artist blends and uses colors. If you don't like it then again keep looking for an artist. If it's 'ok' in your opinion then it may be worth giving them a chance because tattoo artists are constantly learning and improving with each tattoo.
If you are going for the tribal tattoo route, then always look for sharp edges and solid dark black filling. If the edges are not sharp and crisp and/or the filling is spotty and dull, then DO find someone else to tattoo you. A good tribal tattoo is not as easy to accomplish as many people think. Again different artists have different specialties, and you will start to notice as you look through different portfolios. An 'old-school' artist will have a portfolio loaded with old-school art, a tribal tattooist will have tons of tribal, a font specialist will have tons of name/script tattoo, and etc. But, every portfolio should have a bit of diversity as well. An artist able to pull off a mix of styles is usually a good artist.