After you have read this, you will notice that you know more about tattooing than a scam tattoo artist would know.
You can avoid a bad looking tattoo and avoid scars from a bad tattoo artist by knowing a bit about how tattooing actually works.
A good tattoo artist will always take the time to answer your questions, schedule a free artist consultation and provide or point you in the direction of any tattoo related information. If you feel the studio is not accommodating you with any information or is unable to answer your questions – go to another one.
The artists should always be wearing gloves! Why this is important: This is standard hygienic practice. To stop the transmission of any bacteria it is crucial that the artist use cloves. You are undergoing a procedure where your skin is being pierced. The use of gloves protects both you and the artist. If an artist is not wearing gloves during your appointment – chances are they didn’t wear them for the last customer either! The equipment, such as tubes and grips MUST be sterilized in autoclave. A common misconception is to boil your equipment to remove bacteria. This can leave substantial bacteria and virus's such as hepatitis and HIV. As you can imagine, this can cause extreme damage.
The artist have two choices in this Number 1: Procure an autoclave and use standard equipment in aluminum or steel. Number 2: Use disposable equipment that is discarded after use.
New sterile needles must be used!
Why this is important: As tattooing needles pierce the skin they can be exposed to bodily fluids. Needles must be in sealed containers, opened in front of you before the tattoo and disposed of in a proper receptacle afterwards – That goes for disposable tubes/tips as well – If the artist have prepared it all in advance – Demand a new needle and disposable tube/tips. It is your health that is at risk.
Find out if the artist has been trained. Why this is important: Tattooing is an art form that has traditionally been passed down from master to student, in order to learn how to tattoo. Depth of the needle, how to shade, how to use the machines, how to keep at safe and clean environment.
All inks should be in disposable caps during your appointment
Why this is important: You’ve probably seen photos of rows of tiny white or clear caps on an tattoo artists work station. Tattoo ink is placed into these caps because throughout the tattooing process the artist has to constantly dip the tattoo needle into the color of ink they’re using at the time. Like the old fountain pens, tattoo needles keep a very small amount of ink on the tips that have to be constantly replenished. If they were to keep dipping the tattoo needle into a central, main pot of ink, it would then cross contaminate every client. Ink, cream and other materials used throughout the tattooing process must be divided into separate containers for each client. Also a good artist knows alot about his inks, if the answer is: "um.. the cheapest one" - Walk away.
Why it important to know the depth of the needle
The human skin has a total of 3 layers: Epidermis, Dermis and subcutaneous tissue. The tattoo needle depth should penetrate into the Dermis layer. If the depth is too shallow, it will only penetrate into the epidermis sub layers and the ink can peel off over time. If the depth is too deep, you will be causing unnecessary pain to your client and run the risk of infection and unwanted scarifications, further more the ink can “blow out” which means the ink goes in too deep so what should have been a crisp line becomes big and blobby. The dermis layer of skin is between 1mm and 2mm into the skin. However this is only a very general rule. Skin depth and angles also depends on where on the body the tattoo is, if it's over bone, and how much body fat the person has. An experienced tattoo artist know these things by instinct, and if you talk to the person about it, you will instantly sense if they are in their comfort zone.