For a long time the tattoo industry felt like an exclusive club; a boy’s club where only tattoo artists were privy to information about their processes. But those days are over. Slowly but surely, uncomfortable, male-dominated, highly sexualized tattoo shops have been challenged by a new wave of tattoo studios.
The modern tattoo studio is one dedicated to accessibility, inclusivity, and artistry, and are places where tattooers actively work to make their processes as comfortable for clients as possible. But some of the myths about tattoos born from the mystery of older shops still abound. Here, a few pros call those out, and debunk the myths.
Myth 1: Some skin is too difficult to tattoo
“The most frustrating myth I’ve heard about tattoos is that there is skin that is ‘too difficult’ to tattoo,” says Seattle-based artist Jac Milliron. “I have had clients tell me stories about being turned away or discouraged from getting a tattoo because of their skin tone or texture (stretch marks, cellulite, etc). Skin is different from person to person, and an artist should be educated on how to adapt their style to every person’s needs. Tattoos are for all body types!”
Myth 2: You can stop your tattoos from aging
It’s true that tattoos look their best when they’re new. The idea that keeping your tattoos out of the sun or water or cautiously applying SPF will stop them from aging is, however, not true. According to Los Angeles’ Melissa Contreras, the aging of a tattoo is impossible to stop because the aging of its medium – your skin – is impossible to stop. “The aging of a tattoo is part of the process,” she explains. “Lines will thicken and colors will fade. Black never stays a true black – it often takes blue or greenish hues over time.”
Your tattoos will also age differently depending on where they’re located on the body, she says. “Where your skin is soft and thin [the stomach and chest, for instance] it’s a lot easier for the ink to spread. On areas with thicker skin, like the hands and feet, it’s harder to get the ink to stick so your tattoo might be patchy.”
Myth 3: The process is supposed to be scary
“One of the myths about tattoos I hear most is that people think the process somehow has to be intimidating or frightening. It shouldn’t be,” says Noelle Currie, resident artist at Nice Tattoo Parlor in Brooklyn. “Getting tattooed is a deeply personal and vulnerable experience and it’s important to feel comfortable in the space as well as with your artist. Choosing a space that is welcoming to all people is key. The good news is that more and more studios are opening that really focus on artistry and are safe spaces for everyone.”
Myth 4: Small tattoos are inexpensive
This is a myth that I debunked the hard way after getting one of my first tattoos. The piece is simple – a solid blue circle about one centimeter in diameter – and took only five to 10 minutes for the artist to finish. It came with a $120 price tag. While I appreciate that a great deal of skill, practice and artistry goes into creating a beautiful tattoo I didn’t consider that something so small and straightforward could cost so much money. Now I know better.
Artists charge minimums and hourly rates that are based on factors including their skill level and experience, the cost of living, and the price of their materials. Tattooers also don’t take home the entire amount paid by their clients. If your artist works out of a studio they’ll typically owe the shop a percentage of all their sales. Some artists charge a $50 minimum but others charge a $500 minimum so it’s important to budget for every tattoo since even the smallest pieces can be quite costly.
Myth 5: Hand poked tattoos aren’t as sanitary
Emily Trajkovski began her career giving hand poked tattoos in remote bush camps in northern British Columbia. Many people have similarly casual stories about their first hand poked pieces – getting them from a friend in their basement or an art school student at a college party – and it’s because of this that some assume hand pokes aren’t as sanitary.
“I think that is one of the biggest myths about tattoos,” she says. “The idea of ‘stick and pokes’ being dirty and dangerously performed by careless and uninformed tattooers.” This isn’t at all true. If you’re getting tattooed by a professional (do your research first and ask about their process if you’re unsure) you can feel confident that your tattoo is being done safely and sanitarily.
Myth 6: The best tattoos are meaningful
“I’d say one of the most common myths about tattoos is that every design a person gets has to have significant meaning or symbolism,” says Cooper Scott, resident artist at Seven Eight Tattoo in Toronto. “A lot of folks just enjoy collecting art by their favorite tattooers and having control over their relationship to their body and how they’re perceived.”
Choosing to get a tattoo simply because you like the artist or design is fine – tons of people do it. While becoming comfortable choosing less meaningful tattoos can take time, remember that at the end of the day your tattoos are yours for life so rather than focusing on what other people think about them you should focus on getting what leaves you feeling your best.
If you liked our post, ‘Myths About Tattoos: Separating Fact From Fiction’, check out 14 Things I’ve Learned from Getting 14 Tattoos