There are so many styles of tattoos possible. It may be one of the most versatile mediums behind digital art. You can make a tattoo look like a watercolor painting, a piece of metal, an open wound, or anything else you come up with. But the greatness of the tattoo is limited by the technical skill and creativity of the tattoo artist. You need to make sure you choose a tattoo artist that is passionate about art and capable with their tools.
The best tattoo artists in the world obviously know that they are, and charge much more money than other tattoo artists. What you are paying for is not only their skill, but also their fame. It is the same with any other business, the rules of supply and demand does not escape the tattooing industry. This does not mean you need to be rich in order to get a beautiful tattoo. This only means that getting a “collector’s piece” by a famous artist is expensive. There are great tattoo artists in local shops, you just need to find them.
The easiest way to find a good tattoo artist near you is to ask people who’s tattoos you really admire where they had them done. Make sure you look at the tattoo in detail to see how well executed it is. If the tattoo is a few years old, and still looks great, then that tattoo artist did a good job.
Tattoo magazines are a pretty good way to get familiar with tattoo styles and names of great tattoo artists, but make sure you find the right magazines. There are plenty of bad tattoo magazines that won’t help you with anything, so you should try to stay away from the ones that market themselves to bikers or using naked women to sell the magazine. The magazine should be focusing only on tattoos and art, not subcultures or sex. “SkinArt” and “International Tattoo” are two pretty top notch magazines.
Do be careful what you believe in magazines, though, as there are cases in which the tattoo artist will digitally manipulate the tattoo picture they send in to be published, and there’s no way for the magazine to check that. Also, most tattoo pictures are taken the day of the tattoo being applied, so you have no idea if certain colors stayed, or if it got too overworked, and scabbed up really badly the next day. That is why seeing a tattoo on someone that looks good and fully healed is the best way to go.
Once you have chosen a few artists that you like, go into their shops and ask to see their portfolio. If they do not have one, thank them and leave. A real artist always keeps a record of their work. If the portfolio is not very well put together, that is also a bad sign. If the portfolio is good, and has close up pictures of excellent looking tattoos, ask yourself a few questions. Do they specialize in a certain look, and if so, is that the look I want? Am I coming to an artist that would want to do this tattoo, or would they be bored with it and do a sub-par job?
The next step is to watch them do a tattoo on somebody else, even if just for a few minutes. If they are following all the cleanliness guidelines we told you to look for, you should feel very comfortable. Lastly, talk to the artist about what it is you want to get done. If they are a color expert, and you want a black tribal, they may turn you down. But if you feel like this artist was respectful and excited to do this tattoo for you, then it would seem like you have found a good match.