What To Look For In A Tattoo Parlor
While many, many people have gotten a random tattoo from a random shop on a whim and perhaps are perfectly happy with their choice, there’s an art that goes into picking the perfect shop and finding your kinda artist. So, if you’re thinking about getting your first tattoo, or you’re looking for the right shop to add to your collection, here’s a few things to consider:
1. Adherence to health standards and best practices. Because tattooing uses materials which come in contact with bodily fluids it is crucial that the tattoo shop you choose closely adheres to sanitation guidelines. This is the most important thing to look for in a tattoo shop. By law, tattoo shops must follow OSHA Compliance. Make sure to take note or ask questions around the following:
- Is there a separate work area and waiting area?
- Are the tattoo artists using the appropriate safety accessories (gloves, goggles or eyeglasses)
- Do the artists keep needles in sealed containers?
- Are pigment trays and needles single-use only?
- Are non-disposable devices/instruments washed with hot water and soap?
- Does the shop sterilize equipment with an autoclave?
Also, if you have allergies or are sensitive to certain materials keep in mind that ink manufacturers are not required to disclose their ingredients or even conduct safety trials since their recipes are considered “trade secrets.” Even the FDA is pretty shoddy at keeping an eye on this kind of thing. So, make sure to ask as many questions as possible and search out shops that are willing to provide a Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) which should provide information for each of the pigments or carriers used in your tattoo, and have a skin test done. You can also request skin tests using all the inks you plan to use on your design.
2. Adequate training. Does your shop have a license? In order for a tattoo artist to legally provide services to the public they must have a license. So if you visit a shop and don’t see one visible, make sure you ask. Of course, art itself is subjective, so while there’s no measurable skill level (and typically no minimum time requirement or certificate to prove mastery), the license proves the artist not only understands health and safety protocols and has the necessary knowledge required to operate the equipment. Every state requires tattoo artists and professionals who work in close contact with potential bloodborne pathogens to renew their Bloodborne Pathogens certificate every year.
3. Professionalism: Pay special attention to the way the shop initially interacts with you. Are they timely in their response? Do they communicate clearly and answer necessary questions? These early interactions will tell you a lot about what you may expect when working with them. Additionally, make sure to read reviews or go on social media to see what other people have to say about an artist/or shop.
4. A vibe that gels with you. As much as you like the look of a shop or the prestige of a certain artist, if you don’t vibe with your artist or don’t feel comfortable for some reason, you may want to really consider if it’s the right shop for you. Depending on the piece you get, you may be spending several hours with this person. And sure, while you might be able to grin and bear it, it makes the experience a whole lot better if you actually like the person giving you the tattoo…and maybe we’re just a little bit superstitious, but you’re carrying around that person’s art on your body — forever.
5. An artistic style that resonates. Perhaps you know exactly what you want, including the style, color palette, etc. Or maybe you’re still considering. That’s great! But pay attention to what you don’t like, too. Luckily, social media has made it easier than ever to not only find shops, but to peruse individual artist’s work as well. So, while you’re getting ideas and doing research you may be able to eliminate certain shops or artists based on the work they’ve shared. For example, if you like delicate, intricate linework or you really, really want a portrait you might want to skip the artist who doesn’t have a single portrait in their portfolio or seems to focus on more traditional and old school tattoo work.
Choosing The Right Tattoo Shop
When in doubt, go window shopping! If you’re out and about and see someone with a really amazing tattoo that you love, don’t be shy! Give them a compliment and ask them about their artist. Afterall, tattoos are not only art, but they’re also kinda like a business card, and most people will be more than willing to accept the compliment — and likely share their artist info.