Getting Started And Inked
Now that you've seen many of the options out there, and you have a fair idea of the design you want to have inked into your own skin, it's time to search for the perfect artist.

First, when you see someone sporting a tattoo you admire, you might want to ask where they got it. Most people are proud of their ink and want to talk about their tattoos, so if you feel comfortable, ask a few questions. Find out who the artist is, and if your new acquaintance recommends that artist. If not, find out why not.

It could be that he or she was disappointed in the final product, or that there were problems with healing, or maybe the personalities of the customer and artist just didn't fit. If you like the tattoo and the problem was one of personality, it could be that you and the artist would still be a good match. Next, explore some of the tattoo parlors in your area, and if you've gotten good word-of-mouth recommendations for local artists, go and check them out. Make sure the studios are clean and well kept. Tattoo parlors have a reputation for being dark and seedy, but there's no excuse for an unhealthy environment, especially in this age of needle-borne diseases.

Despite (perhaps outdated) perceptions that tattoo studios are intimidating, you SHOULD find that most of the staff are friendly and approachable. They should WANT you to feel comfortable and to share their love of ink with you. If you wander into a place and find everyone to be unfriendly and unwilling to answer your questions, then wander back out again. Of course, sometimes they may just be very busy and not have much time to devote to someone who has a lot of questions. If that is the case, and you like the work they are doing, find a more convenient time to make another visit.

Take your time during this process, and visit several places of business. Look for the proper sterilizing and sanitary equipment (autoclaves, sharps containers for disposing of needles, the use of latex gloves by the artists). Notice how the artists relate to their customers. Do they listen to their customers' concerns? Do they change their gloves if they touch anything besides the tattooing equipment (such as the telephone)? Is the atmosphere one where you'd be comfortable sitting for hours while a needle pierced your skin? If not, this is not the place for you.

Getting Inked: Now it's time to choose the individual artist who will help you get the perfect tattoo. Questions of cleanliness are important, but even if you walk out with a safe and clean tattoo, it won't be good enough if you aren't satisfied with the artwork you've inscribed on your skin.

When you've found a tattoo artist whose work you admire, ask to see his or her portfolio. A true artist will be proud to show of his artwork, and should have photographs of the work he's done on other people. When examining the portfolio, look for outlines that are clean and sharp. Colors should be bright and evenly applied. You should be able to see what the designs represents - not everyone can draw with ink on someone else's skin, although many try. If you can, definitely see examples of the artist's work on other people.

Your artist should be someone who is experienced in the business. Of course, someone has to give a chance to those new artists out there, but especially for a first tattoo, you'll want to depend on someone who has been creating great designs for a while. Perhaps most importantly of all, your artist should have a good attitude.

You should be comfortable spending a bit of time discussing your design, the process and the price with this person, because that ink will be on your skin for a good long time. Your health and your personal beauty will be in his hands, and you have to find someone you feel you can trust. Does he or she listen to your ideas?

Perhaps the artist will have suggestions on how to improve your design that you might want to listen to, but he should also listen to you and take your ideas seriously. It's your skin, after all, and you'll be the one displaying your ink to friends, family, and random strangers. So make sure you get something you like.

Click here for the previous part of this series, "Choosing an Artist at a Tattoo Convention".

Click here for the next part of this series, "Getting a Tattoo Bargain".
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