For the uninked, a tattoo shop can be somewhat intimidating when you first walk in, some are even designed that way with a tough guy/biker image – just consider that you are window shopping and keep in mind that you are a potential customer.

  • What does the shop look like?
  • What is the ambiance like
  • Does it look like a barber shop, hair salon, dental surgery, art gallery and etc.
  • Do the work areas offer privacy, ie private booths, dividers or only shower curtains
  • Do they have modern Tattooing machines, sterilizing equipment and etc.

Take a look around the shop at the way it is set up, the stock (flash) illustrations on the walls as this will give you some insight into the personality of the tattoo artist.

Don’t be concerned with the flash on the wall, that is usually stock standard stuff you see everywhere, what you need to see is the artists portfolio – usually a book containing a collection of photographs of the artist’s work. Ask to see one and if they tell you they don’t have one, then leave the shop immediately.

Look through the photographs and scrutinize the tattoos:-

  • are they well-defined
  • are the straight lines straight and not shaky or blurred
  • are the borders all uniform or varying in width
  • are the colours true and are they bright or muted
  • is the shaded or shadow work good
Hold Fast Tattoo Shop

Hold Fast Tattoo Shop

Also look at the people shown in the book, is there a fair mix of men and women, are they a mixture of genres or predominantly one particular style. This will give you more insight into the artist’s personality and capabilities. Remember, almost anyone can stencil an outline of an illustration onto your skin – the skill and artistry comes from the design, use of colours, shading and other subtle nuances that separate a professional artist from a scratcher.

When looking through the portfolio, you will have an ideal opportunity to ask questions of the artist, such as:

  • What is their favourite style, eg. tribal, Celtic, Japanese and etc.
  • What particular subjects they like to do, eg. dragons, butterflies, crosses
  • How long has the shop been there
  • How long have they been in the shop
  • How long have they been tattooing
  • Do they do much custom work
  • Do they use apprentices in the shop?

Don’t let the look of the tattoo artist intimidate you, they usually have a lot of tattoos themselves. In fact, you should be somewhat skeptical of any tattoo artist who has no tattoos at all.

If you get a good feel for the artist and have confidence in him, then you should certainly discuss your ideas and reqirements with him. Make sure the artist is willing to listen to you and respects what you want. The artist may make suggestions, but the final word is always yours