There are two sides to finding the right tattoo artist. First you need to decide what you want: the style, the placement, what you’re prepared to pay and how far you’re willing to travel. Then you need to look at who you’d like to do it – someone who’s work you’re 100% confident in.
But there are multiple considerations involved with both sides, so where do you start. With so many styles and good artists out there, it’s hard to know where to begin in the search for the right one for you.
You can be sat with your chosen tattoo artist, one on one, for an extremely long time and chances are you’ll discuss everything from what your favourite biscuit is to what your lifelong dreams are. So yes, who and what you choose is an important decision to make and not one that should be taken lightly.
We caught up with some tattoo artists to shed a little light on where to start and then take your search. Read on for their tips.
1. Know your style
There are many tattoo styles: Traditional, neo traditional, blackwork, realism, watercolour, fine line… the list goes on and knowing what you’re looking for is a good starting point.
The artist will differ depending on what kind of tattoo or experience you want. If you want to simply pick a design from a book and have something done there and then, a walk-in shop may be the way to go. But, if what you’re after is a more creative and unique design, then it’s worth doing a bit more research into what you want and who you want to do it.
If you’re after a custom piece you’ll need to fully trust the artist’s style. You’ll be approaching them to ask them for a piece of their work, so you don’t want to be asking them for something different to that, or going through multiple rounds of amends on a design with them (they definitely won’t want that either).
“Before you search for the tattoo artist, you must study the tattoo style (Black & Grey, Old School, Graphic, etc.,) that you want. This will guide your research.”Tito the Kid, L’Atelier Sans Nom, Armentières, France
2. Do your research
You’re probably familiar with Instagram – the one and only social media platform for tattooing! Start by searching there. After all, tattoo artists tend to use Instagram as their portfolio nowadays as it’s the easiest and fastest way to showcase their work and what they’re capable of.
You’ll quickly get an idea of an artist’s style from their social media pages and will know whether or not that’s what you’re after. Once you know what style you like, you can use specific hashtags to find more artists. For example, search #traditionaltattoos and #traditionalartists for more traditional styles (think Sailor Jerry), #blackwork and #dotwork for blackwork and geometric artists, and #neotraditionaltattoo for more current, bolder style tattooing trends. You’ll also be able to see their following, and well-established, trusted tattooists tend to have a higher one.
“It’s so easy to find a local tattooist or a style you like by searching hashtags!”Sneaky-Mitch, Gold Room Tattoo, Leeds, UK
There are also some really good Instagram accounts to follow that aren’t dedicated to a single artist. Some focus on a style, some are more general, but they are all a great way to find both artists and inspiration. @neotraditionaleurope is a fave of ours!
Don’t forget to do your research on Google too. Look into online reviews and see what people have said about an artist’s work. You’ll want to know about their hygiene as well as their talent.
3. Get in touch
Once you’e found an artist you like, get in touch. Most will state how they prefer to be contacted on their Instagram page (and it’s normally via email). Or do they have a website you can take a peek at? Is there any info detailed there on their preferred methods of contact?
Don’t be afraid to speak to a few different tattooists too. Email them with as much information as possible but try not to lead with “How much will XYZ cost?”, as asking about the price from the outset can sometimes put artists off.
Start by explaining what it is you want and give as much detail as possible. Talk about the size, style and where on your body you would like the tattoo to be. When the artist responds, you’ll get a good idea of whether they’re going to be right for you. They’ll either love your idea and build on it or they’ll be completely honest and say they don’t think it’s quite their thing.
Keep in mind that tattoo artists are very busy and responding to emails can take a little while. So, cut them some slack if it takes them a while to reply!
There is always the old-fashioned face-to-face method too. If they’re local, pop in and say hello. A first-time tattoo customer is understandably a bit more nervous than a seasoned collector, so meeting an artist can put you – and them – at ease with what you’re wanting.
4. Ask around
Word of mouth is another great marketing tool. Ask your friends (who are familiar with the industry) if they can recommend anyone, specifically anyone who does the style of tattoo you’re wanting. Think about what’s important to you when finding an artist and see what others say about that person. What’s important to you can be anything from how good the artist is to how patient they are. If this is your tattoo, you might want someone who’s going to make you feel at ease.
We caught up with Anna from Leeds, UK, who said she found it difficult to know what to look for when she first started getting tattooed, but also said with time, the process started to become a lot easier as well as a lot of fun. “It’s important to me to find an artist who has a unique style, someone who genuinely loves what they do and who wants to be creative. It’s also important to have a good experience with that person though, so I like to feel as though I’m going to get along well with an artist.
I tend to ask around a lot and I love it when tattooists recommend other tattooist. It’s really helpful and it fills you with confidence knowing they’re respected by other artists”.
5. Take your time
Finally… don’t rush. Enjoy the experience of finding the right tattoo artist and make sure that you’re completely happy with whoever you do choose.
Keep in mind that a lot of top tattoo artists will be booked up for a few months in advance or might not be taking on new work at the time you’re enquiring.
A tattoo – and the right tattooist – is always worth the wait!