When it comes to picking a tattoo parlor, there’s a lot to consider. Think: the kind of art the shop specializes in, who a specific artist is, and also the kind of ink you want are going largest elements that influence your decision. Although it can be a little overwhelming to start to dip your toe into the world of tattoos, don’t worry, there are a few things you can do to help make your search for the right shop easier. We spoke to Drew Linden, who has been tattooing for ten years and is co-owner of The New Moon Studio in New York City to get her take on what some things you can do to help find the shop that works best for you.
1. Do your research
Try and hone in on what’s important to you in a shop– are you looking for someone specifically who specializes in American traditional tattoos or Japanese style? Do you prefer to go to get tattooed by someone who is a man or a woman? Do you have friends who have had a great experience with someone and won’t stop talking about them? Do you want a shop that offers a more inclusive space say for LBGTQ+ folks etc? Today more and more shops and studios are becoming more inclusive and are cater to people’s needs. Tattoo shops can be scary and intimidating if you’re new to the scene so it’s important to feel comfortable and safe.
“I think there are lots of shops now that are focusing around making people feel inclusive which is definitely something we did here at the New Moon Studio. We built something literally just to make sure people felt safe when they walked in and didn’t feel like they had to pretend to be something else, something that there not,” Linden said.
Once you have an idea of the kind of shop your after, this can help you narrow it down a bit more. Nowadays there are quite of a range of tattoo shops that cater to many people’s needs to deciding what things are on the top of your list for a shop is an important aspect of finding the right fit for you.
2. Learn the difference between a shop and a studio
When you say tattoo shop a lot of things come to mind. Tattoo shops tend to be larger with a lot more foot traffic and have usually three to ten artists who work in them. Given the fact they are busier, they accommodate a larger number of people and can sometimes be a bit chaotic to navigate. Private tattoo studios on the other side tend to be smaller in size, and have a scaled back staff who works there with typically one to three artists working.
“A private studio setting it’s going to feel more intimate, it’s going to feel a bit tapered just because it’s more of a smaller environment, where as when you walk into a street shop there’s going to be flash on the walls and there’s going to most likely be more people there doing different things at the same time and it can be overwhelming,” Linden explained.
3. Look at an artist’s work online
Getting a sense of the kinds of styles and tattoos that different artist create at a tattoo shop is important. It helps you conceptualize the kind of tattoo you want, and also gives you a chance to see what their work is all about. Go to the shop’s website and look at people’s portfolios. There will often be a range of pictures stemming from larger body projects artists are engaged in such as sleeves, back and leg pieces, or smaller work, s with accompanying healed images of the tattoos as well. This can help give you a better idea of the range of work an artist does and how they approach a tattoo.
Always check out the shop’s website for more information about the artist and their work. Also, remember to look at an artist’s Instagram page or personal website because it will have more images of the things they work on and can really give you a more in-depth look at their style.
4. Be patient
Although you may feel a sense of urgency around getting your tattoo right now, the best thing that you can do is be patient. It takes time to find the right tattoo shop and artist, and this is one process you do not want to rush. A tattoo will be with you forever and it’s important to do the work to find the right shop and artist for you so it will ensure the most positive outcome.
There’s a saying in the industry: a good tattoo isn’t cheap and a cheap tattoo isn’t good. Keep this in mind when you’re in a hurry to get a tattoo. “Definitely pushing the whole ‘I only have this amount of money so I am going to get a cheap tattoo somewhere else’ attitude out of your mind and you might as well sit on that idea for a little while and save up the money and get a nice well done tattoo versus spur of the moment and now,” Linden says.
5. Check out a shop in person
Now that you’ve decided which shop you think you might want to get tattooed at, checking it out in person is always a good idea! By dropping by, you can see what it’s like, talk to the person at the front desk, see the artists’ work in person via their portfolios, ask some questions, and hopefully, briefly meet the artist. Always check to make sure both the shop and tattooer are licensed as well. This way you can rest easy that you are going to a reputable shop and know you are going to get the highest level of service and that it’s a safe and clean environment.
Linden notes, “Once finding an artist, going in and having a talk with them so that you can get a feel for where they work and the type of people they work around because that can kind of determine whether or not you feel safe in that particular environment.”
6. Schedule a consultation
Once you’ve narrowed it down to an artist, the next step is scheduling a consultation. This way, you can spend a little time with the artist, discuss what you have in mind for the tattoo, hopefully, get a better idea of pricing than from there to be able to schedule the appointment. This time also allows you to ask any questions you may have, get clarification on what to expect etc. This will also let you get a better sense of what the tattooer is like and how they work, and it’s also an opportunity for you to give them more information about the kind of tattoo you’re after and provide them with some visual references.
7. Ask questions
Remember no question is a stupid question. It is your first time getting tattooed or even your 50th, it’s important for you to get the information you need to feel comfortable. And sometimes you may be going to a different tattooer when you travel or are trying a new artist out. Ask the questions you need to ask. and don’t ever feel like you are wasting someone’s time or being annoying. Knowledge is power!
As you navigate the tattoo scene in your area, remember it’s important for you to find a shop and an artist you’re comfortable working with. Game out what aspects of a tattoo shop is most important for you and let that guide your search. With those things in mind you’ll be able to find the right fit for you, and in the process get some great ink and hopefully find a shop and artist you will work with for years to come.
Related: How Do Tattoo Artists Get Paid?