There is a plethora of articles about choosing your tattoo. These publishers plod along with small blurbs, which are mostly tripe, and try to give you a perspective that an artist would enjoy hearing.
Why read a Teen-Vogue-esq egocentric message most artists enjoy and clients can get confused by when reading?
Don’t know what we mean? Get more information about tat bros by following this link to read our article about them.
Having read through a couple of these choose your tattoo posts that popped into my news feed this morning, I thought I should take a stab at it. I give you, gentle reader, the real deal, when choosing your tattoo.
Get ready for a comma heavy episode of…
What Do You Want!
Choosing a design.
When starting the process of choosing a tattoo, ask yourself a few questions (a few…):
What do you like?
Are you into hair metal band logos? Do you enjoy simple geometric designs? Find something that you are believe you will enjoy through your life, not just today. I can guarantee your love of something trendy (getting Yeet or YOLO tattooed dropped out of fashion just like Kanji) won’t have the staying power you expect it will.
Who likes seeing Motley Crue logos on your uncle’s outer arm, surrounded by barbed wire armbands? No one. Don’t be like that uncle. He’s only cool when you’re drunk.
What styles of tattoos do you enjoy?
There are so many styles to choose from! Don’t limit yourself by thinking inside the box. Be open to both options of blackwork and color if you don’t have a theme already picked out.
Let your imagination roam free. If what you want is not possible, the artist you will be working with will be quick to tell you what can work.
Where do you want to get your tattoo?
The placement of the tattoo will influence how the design is made, so be open to the artists input. The process of getting tattooed is collaborative so talk to them about where the design is going to be placed.
Also bring up how it may connect with other/future tattoos will help create a congruent theme.
How big should you go when choosing your tattoo?
In tattoos, size means everything.
Size will determine price, time to complete and limitations on location. Knowing how big you are willing to go (as well as how small) is essential when planning ahead.
Do you want more tattoos?
If you are going for your first tattoo, try and put it in a place that isn’t at the high end of the pain spectrum. It will destroy your love of the art. Even if you have 7 different tattoo lined up, you may not get them as the process shall forever be tainted with the idea of torture and blood!
A rule of thumb, keep the first designs you get palm sized or smaller.
Get a small tester tattoo to find out if you are one of the few people who have a hard time getting through the pain. You are more likely to sit through a single small tattoo versus a 20 hour large scale piece.
Talk to your artist about how the tattoos you want to get are going to work together when planning for multiple sittings. If you have a theme or some ideas that may work well together, create a plan to make the final product cohesive.
When in doubt, size up and use any like ideas to create a rad half-sleeve or thigh piece.
Are there any examples of artwork that you enjoy?
Having some form of visual reference to show your artist can get them on the same page as you stylistically much quicker than using descriptive words.
For example, showing someone a picture of the Hulk is better than describing something “Big and Green”.
Use your words well and bring high quality photos that explain for you what you like to see. Having a simple hand drawn example is better than nothing!
Once you have decided on a design (kinda skipping ahead here), follow up by checking out artists near you. If there isn’t anyone close by, find one you are willing to travel to.
Do some research before making the trek. Make sure they are versatile enough, or practiced enough, in the style of artwork you want to adorn your body with.
How much time was spent choosing your tattoo?
Is this a spur of the moment idea, or have you really put some thought into what you are planning to get? Regardless of the scenario, don’t go carrying bias into the tattoo shop when choosing your tattoo.
Has your planning become almost obsessive? Do you micro manage? Can your buddy’s pet cat Pete do a better job?
Leave that ego in check and be ready to actively collaborate with an artist. They have the training and (hopefully) expertise to get what you want on your skin.
What local options are there for you?
Do you live in a major metropolis or the middle of BF nowhere? Seeing what options are available near you may influence your decision if you are hooked into a specific region.
Your buddy knows a guy named Dale at the 5 & Dime shoots tattoos in his basement. Dale only spits out trad angel wings so it’s a good bet that you don’t want to go to him for that photo realistic tiger on your thigh.
Plan to venture out of your comfort zone if it ensures quality work.
What do you expect form the artist?
What do you want dammit! Treat this tattoo experience like an Uber ride. Explain in plain terms how you want to be treated and ask the artist the same. Creating a working dialogue is key so that respect is established before moving forward with a design.
What is your budget?
Don’t go and get a sick, full back tatty cranked out for $200 and a blunt.
Seriously, nothing good has ever come out of those arrangements. If you have a budget and the work that you want to get is outside that amount, start saving and build up the anticipation. Taking you time and not price shopping will give you want you deserve, dear client, fucking quality!
Let the tattooer know if you have a strict budget, if you aren’t willing to wait for getting work. Not only will this allow you to be responsible with your rent/mortgage, you may also get a break in the final price.
I am going to mention this again: this above statement doesn’t mean you should price chop and set a low bar to see if the artist is willing or desperate enough to bend and do your tattoo. As fucked up as that is, it guarantees that they will have little investment in your happiness.
Be respectable inside this person’s place of employment.
Hopefully, they have spent years honing their craft and deserve the respect gained from experience. Don’t attack the artist and tell them your cousin’s, half-sister’s, roommate’s, dog can do it for a case of beer and a blunt. The response from the artist, or entire shop, will be less than pleasant, and rightfully so. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it would be like to have this statement brought up daily. Seriously.
After the questions have been asked and answered, move forward with interviewing and researching artists/shops.
Choices, Choices, Choices…
There are a couple misconceptions about us tattooers and how invested we are in what you mark your body with so let’s clear them up.
While Tattoo bros worldwide enjoy the idea that they are marking you with their specific brand, most of us really don’t give a shit what you get. The lack of caring and detached persona you walk into when getting a consultation shouldn’t be taken personally.
We seriously do this all day, every day. There is a good chance that the idea you found while surfing social media has been done before and it isn’t being done the way that we would prefer to do it.
Well, shit Rian, that sounds like you are shifting your focus away from the client and giving us ol’ artists the hive-fiver of acceptance!
Fuck nah brah. Fuck nah.
Artists, choosing the right one
Brah, yeah, I’m the one
If you, dear reader, walk into a tattoo shop and the artist you have been super stoked to meet is rolling their eyes and trying to change what you want to mark your body with, walk the fuck out! This should be applied to every situation where you are planning on altering your body, especially when it is permanent.
While we as tattooers, should approach your tattoo completely ambivalent about what you are getting. We should only be invested in the process.
Let me explain:
If we tattooers choose to be ambivalent about what you choose, we are removing our ego from the process and allowing you to make any and all final decisions with the artwork. Sometimes this may look like a bad idea when you come into the shop with a drawing your 4 year old marked up and want a back piece of it (that has really happened to me), or if you are a bit deluded and think your artwork is just jamming’ (when it isn’t).
Our voice and tactic should only be rooted in the opinion we carry about what is the best possible outcome. We cannot tell you what to do with your body, so own that shit.
If we stay invested but ambivalent about the choices you make, we, as tattooers, can be open to the collaboration that is inherit in the design process. You as a client can’t, and probably shouldn’t, tell us how to apply the tattoo. If you knew better than us regarding application, you wouldn’t be in the shop. Trust the artist that is working with you toward what you deem the best option for your person.
What do they like to do?
Checking to see what “style” the artist puts up on social media is a good indicator as to what they enjoy doing. While I have a harsh critique as to why artists choose styles, it is still in your best interest to pick someone who has a practiced repertoire inside a style when choosing your tattoo. If the artist enjoys what they are doing, they will be more invested in the final product.
Work with the artist, if you feel comfortable. Ask questions. When choosing your tattoo, be involved in the process from start to finish. It’s your job to be available as they work up a design that you will be wearing permanently. If the artist has any issues with you working over their shoulder, give them some space and offer up critiques that are constructive, if needed.
The artist should take the time and ensure all critiques are well met. If this is what you experience, move forward with the process. If they are met with anger, hesitation or disrespect, walk the fuck out.
Baggage. Do you have any?
Walking into a tattoo shop can be an experience that brings joy or, to some, terror. Needles, blood, crazy moustaches… It can be intense! If you have gotten any tattoo work before and have chosen a new artist, don’t walk in thinking they are all the same and approach the tattoo process the same. Taking your time to have a consultation and get a feeling for the artist will ensure you’re not strapped to a chair for 60 hours with a person you can’t stand. Suss out the artist’s vibe, energy and tact. If they don’t align with you, regardless of the final product, you should move on and find someone who you will mesh with better.
Also, when meeting with your artist, be very plain and direct about why you are getting the tattoo. If the tattoo is just rad and you have no deeper meaning attached to it, let them know. If this is a memorial for the sister you lost to cancer 2 weeks ago and the family would like to be there during the tattoo process, let the artist know. (I have firsthand knowledge of this.)
When choosing a tattoo, please, please, please… Don’t try and design the tattoo yourself. This is ultimately important if you are unsure about what you want the final product to be. There is a greater chance that your chosen artist will make something better than what you can imagine. Give them room to blow your mind!
This above statement doesn’t stand if you know… !!FUCKING KNOW!! what you want. Do you want your baby’s name in Scriptina font across your wrist? Cool. Choose that, but listen to your artists recommendations about how this chosen tattoo may age, tie in with future work and how much it might hurt. There is far more to the tattoo than the final design.
Hopefully you are in a better place now and have confidence about choosing your tattoo. Have confidence dear reader as you go forth into the tattoo world. You control the fate of what is put on your body.
But please… No names.
Like, share and all that shit.