If you’ve never gotten a tattoo before, figuring out where to start looking for an artist can be pretty daunting. Without any knowledge of the industry or how tattooing works, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information out there, but doing your research is a crucial step to getting the tattoo that you want.


First of all, knowing what tattoo you want and why you want it is essential. A lot of people think that if you’re getting a tattoo, it has to mean something or represent something important to you. This isn’t necessarily the case. Of course, getting a piece in remembrance of someone or something that symbolizes an important aspect of your life is a great reason to get tattooed, but simply wanting to decorate your body with art is also a valid reason. Whatever the reason is, knowing what you want from your tattoo artist is the first step.


Once you decide what it is that you want, searching for an artist based on the style of artwork that you like comes next. There are a vast amount of different styles out there and finding someone who specializes in the type of art you want will ensure that you get the tattoo you’re imagining. Some other things to consider when researching artists are what kind of person do you want to get tattooed by? How soon are you looking to set up an appointment? How much does your budget play into deciding which artist you want? All of these things will vary from artist to artist and are important factors in making sure that you set up an appointment with someone that can meet your needs.


When researching artists, the easiest place to look at someone’s portfolio is either their website or their social media. An artist’s online portfolio will give you a good idea of what kind of styles they specialize in and their quality of work. Most artists keep their public portfolios updated frequently because most potential clients do their research online. However, even though an artist may seem great online, it’s always better to see their work in person. An artist may edit their pictures or not post their latest work.


It’s also best to line up an in-person consultation with an artist you are interested in working with. Going back and forth over email or text is fine but communicating face-to-face will give you a better idea of who the artist is. You don’t want to get a permanent piece of artwork on your body that you look at and remember a bad experience. A big red flag is if the artist is condescending or insulting towards your ideas instead of trying to work with you and give suggestions on how to get the best work. It’s not the artist’s place to criticize what you want. During your consult, the artists should be honest about whether or not they are the right person to do your tattoo for you. You should be open to ideas or possible changes to your piece, but if they are straying too far from what you want, they may recommend another artist that can take care of you.


The way that you approach an artist can make or break your chances of getting booked with them. I’ve had projects that I’ve accepted just based on the person sending the right email, even if I’m booked out or I’m not taking new clients. Based on their attitude, I want to work with them, so I make it happen. If a client comes at me too worried about the price or if they talk down to my assistant or any other artist I know, it’s a bad sign. I don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t show common decency. The types of projects I take on are usually bigger pieces that may have me working with someone for the next year, so the attitude of a client is a huge factor in whether or not I’ll work with them personally, and I know a lot of other artists feel the same way.


Even though there are a lot of things to consider when researching artists and there are many ways to go wrong, you shouldn’t let that discourage you from getting a tattoo if you really want one. Doing the research and being diligent in finding the right artist for you will guarantee that you have an enjoyable experience and that your piece comes out how you want it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to bring up concerns you have, because any artist who is worth your time and money will be more than happy to answer your questions and make sure you get the best artwork possible.