Illegal tattooists have been an issue in the industry for years. Make sure you know the facts and use a respectable website to do your tattoo research.
Councils in the UK are calling for tougher rules and regulations to crack down on industry 'scratchers'. Now that you can buy DIY tattoo kits online, some people looking to make money often offer cheap tattoos from unlicensed premises, and you can be certain that they: a) won't be following the correct hygiene procedures and b) can't draw a straight line.
A story was released on UK Sky News website this month following a statement from the Local Government Association (LGA), claiming that "illegal tattooists operating under the radar pose a real danger to people's health. They can use unsterilised equipment that seriously increases the risk of spreading diseases such as hepatitis or HIV, and causing permanent, ugly scarring."
So what can you do? It can be hard to know where to look for an artist's license papers. But there is one thing that you can find publicly... their reputation.
Reputable websites such as Tattoodo (us!) aim to feature the best tattoo artists in the world. Do your research and find an artist that's been featured online, interviewed for magazines and has a strong portfolio of work available to the public.
Artists have to present licensing information to tattoo at conventions, so those who have worked at well-known tattoo at events all over the world are obviously legit. What this means, too, is that you're going to get a tattoo from an ARTIST. Sadly, for me especially, a 'scratcher' isn't just someone who doesn't follow the correct hygiene procedures or have the correct license... they might do both of those correctly... but their tattoos might still be executed badly.
Check out the online profiles of your artists - look at as many of their tattoos as you can, or better still, go off personal recommendation from someone your trust who has had a positive tattoo experience before. The scratchers, especially those who tattoo from their homes / garages / wherever, will hide underground somewhat. You might not be able to find their work online, but 'a friend of a friend of a friend says they'll do you a cheap tattoo', right? STAY AWAY!
Good luck, and stay safe folks.
I've been using the work of Aron Cowles throughout this article as an example of exceptional tattooing. There's loads of information about Aron and his studio online, making it clear that he is a well-respected artist. He has a long waiting list, he tattoos are major international conventions and is sponsored by many tattoo brands. His work is artistically flawless - the depth and texture in his realistic roses are beautiful.