9 Warning Signs Your Tattoo Artist Isn't Good & You Should Find Someone Else
by Lindsay E. Mack

If you've done any people-watching lately, one trend seems more popular than ever: tattoos. Gorgeous, colorful designs are sported by people from all walks of life. If you're inspired to go under the needle anytime soon, it's important to be aware of the warning signs your tattoo artist isn't good so, if necessary, you can take your business (and your skin) elsewhere.

For what it's worth, you are far from alone in desiring a tattoo. According to Support Tattoos and Piercings At Work, approximately 42 percent of American adults have a tattoo. As the art form continues to grow in popularity and acceptance, so do the number of tattoo artists willing to ink your skin.

There's a significant amount of creative, talented tattoo artists that create quality work every day. As an art form, tattooing has a long history of apprenticeships that often involve years of careful training and oversight. Mastering a trade such as tattooing in this way often produces respectable results, as noted by Live About.

Unfortunately, though, not everyone who wields a tattoo machine is producing quality work, or has put in the time to obtain the skills necessary to create beautiful pieces of art. Pretty much anyone can buy a machine and start inking, regardless of artistic talent. Visiting a dedicated, professional tattooist at a clean, well-run shop is crucial. Read on to learn what signs should send you running for the door.


Artistic Differences

It's crucial to find an artist whose work resonates with you. It's also important to work with an artist who specializes in the type of tattoo you want, according to The Tattoo Connection. If someone is known for tiny, minimal tattoos, maybe don't choose that person for a giant back piece. Work with the artist's particular talents.


Dirt Cheap Price

Sure, everybody loves a bargain. But tattoos aren't just a form of art: they're minor surgery. You pay for what you get, so maybe avoid the guy cranking out $20 tattoos from the back of a storage shed. The pros generally charge $100 or more per hour of work on a tattoo, according to Authority Tattoo. Save up for something nice, and consider playing around with henna or temporary tattoos in the meantime. Don't rush to get a cheap piece you'll never really love.


Gets Pushy

There is an underrated hero on the tattoo scene: artists who steer clients away from regrettable pieces. (See for example: tattoos that are overly trendy, misspelled, or gross, as curated by Buzzfeed.) In the vast majority of cases, artists do want what's best for the client. It's wise to trust in their expertise.

On the other hand, if the planned design is far from what you envisioned, but the artist refuses to compromise, then this is a red flag. Tattoo artists who get pushy, or defend shaky, bad designs, are best avoided, according to XO Jane. Don't settle for a tattoo you dislike.


Lack Of Sobriety

Both you and your tattoo artist should be sober as judges when getting ink done. Drawing straight lines is hard enough when you're sober, so your artist should be in good operating order when it's time to ink. If something seems off, leave.


Lack Of Online Information

Most professional shops and artists have an impressive online presence. But if you can't find a shop's site or any other information about it, consider another place, as noted by The List.


Less-Than-Stellar Portfolio

Everyone has to start somewhere, and becoming proficient at any art form takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. No one expects those early drawings to be perfect. But if your tattoo artist's portfolio shows only work that seems a bit off — the lines are wobbly or proportions are skewed — then keep shopping, as noted in Slate. The artist can practice in sketchbooks instead of, you know, your skin.


Unclean Shop

Do those needles and other equipment look less than fresh? Is a rat actively gnawing on the corners of your tattoo artist's portfolio? According to Majestic Tattoo NYC, professional tattoo artists only work in a clean shop, and they are generally happy to show you around the facilities. If the shop looks dingy, or your artist dodges questions about sanitization, it's time to ease on down the road to another studio.


Unknown Artist

Sure, it's fun to find musicians or performers who fly under the radar. But in general, your tattoo artist should be well-known with a good reputation. Check out review sites and ask your tattooed friends for recommendations.


Unprofessional Artist

Again, there's no shame in taking time to learn something new. But if your artist is some random friend of a friend who bought a tattoo machine online, maybe take a pass for now. Oh, and if the artist is operating any place other than a licensed tattoo studio, then take heed, according to the website for Tattoo Artist Magazine. Given the potential for infection, you might be risking more than just a crappy design.