5. PORTFOLIOS - almost every artist has a portfolio online now, so when you see an artist you enjoy, you can easily look through their work, find out where they're located and get a good idea of what they specialize in, and how consistent their work is, and consistency is so important, because if you're spending money and expecting a tattoo to look a certain way, and your chosen artist isn't consistent... you may not get what you're expecting... PRO TIP: if you see an artist online and they have portraits and ultra realistic large tattoos, they probably won't do script or if an artist only has black and grey pieces, they probably won't do colour. Now, that's not always true and it can't hurt to ask but if an artist doesn't put it in their portfolio - there's a reason, either they don't like to do it, or wont or they aren't good at it. PRO TIP: if an artist doesn't have any portraits in their portfolio, don't trust them to do a portrait! The smallest mistake in a portrait of your mom and she isn't your mom anymore.
4. THE SHOP - it won't matter how great an artist is, if their shop is dirty or makes you feel uncomfortable for any reason, chances are - you won't have a good experience. Some shops are open concept, and encourage clients to chat and mingle, some shops have private tattoo rooms for clients and their artists, some shops are uptight and more professional and some are more laid back, make sure you enjoy the atmosphere, there isn't a right or wrong - it's whatever you enjoy. I personally enjoy a open concept shop with laid back artists and a sense of humour.
3. NEVER PRICE SHOP - I can't stress this enough, but a tattoo is for life, and yeah coverups exist but a coverup will never be as good as a well done tattoo the first time! If a tattoo costs you $1000, if you break down the cost of that over the rest of your life (let's say 50 years for sake of argument) is $20 a year. PRO TIP: if you have a budget, always let the artist know what you can afford and they should be able to tell you what they could do with how much you can afford, or they can at least let you know, honestly that they aren't able to achieve the results you want with the budget. PRO TIP: the hourly price is not the only thing you should consider, some artists have a high hourly rate because they tattoo quickly and vice versa. Always ask how long they usually take to do something similar.
2. DON'T GET BULLIED BUT DON'T IGNORE PROFESSIONAL ADVICE - there is a fine line with getting what you want and getting the best tattoo, sometimes an artist doesn't like your idea and will try to coerce you into a design you're not happy with - don't give in, this is on you for life and if an artist won't work with you on things that are important to you - find another artist. BUT sometimes an artist genuinely is trying to suggest ways that will give you a better tattoo, or be trying to get you to simplify (a tattoo including 6 butterflies, 4 types of flowers, your 6 kids names, their birthstones and your family tree with your grandma's pearl necklace and your mom's favourite song's lyrics may work as a full back piece, but won't work on your foot, for example) so sometimes listening to your artist's professional opinion is a good idea, but in the end - it's your design and if you feel like the artist isn't respecting your choices - then maybe they're not the artist for you.
1. TRUST YOUR GUT, THEN TRUST YOUR ARTIST - I can't stress this enough, once you've gone to the shop, met your artist, chatted to them and decided to put down the deposit - trust them and respect them. They're human and they will try their best but sometimes your ideas and their vision of it, may not always be perfect at first try, so be honest with them and help them not get frustrated. Be specific in exactly what you like and give constructive feedback if you want something changed, but always be respectful and try and say it as soon as possible so they don't spent hours on something you hate. Respect that you are 1 client out of hundreds, and while you're excited and want it now, that you are among the ranks of every other client of theirs, so don't waste their time, don't change your mind every 5 minutes, don't be late, don't message them every day, don't message them at midnight unless you are dying and just try to be patient. A good artist - is a busy artist, and trust me when I say - we go home with our work, we don't work a 9-5 but we don't get paid unless we are tattooing, and just because you're spending $160/hour doesn't mean they are going home with that in their pocket.