TATTOO EDU THREAD I’ve been on OT for approximately 2yrs now and have been a mod for 1/3 of that time. I’ve seen many good tattoos and many bad tattoos. I figured it was a good time to make an EDU thread letting people know what to look for when deciding on what shop to go to, what to look for in a shop, what to get and where to get it. I’ve been piercing for 6yrs, working in a shop for 7yrs and been around the tattoo community for close to 12yrs now so I feel I have good knowledge on the subject. This is based on my opinions and experiences so feel free to add to this or make suggestions. I’ve broken this down into 10 sections. Some sections contain a few pictures to show examples of what each section is describing. The pictures should be looked at not for their subject matter but what they’re being used to show. SECTION 1 - STERILITY AND CLEANLINESS One of the first things to do when walking into a shop is look at your surroundings. Is the floor clean? Is there clutter everywhere? Do the pictures on the wall look organized? First impressions last a lifetime. Someone should come greet you once you walk in the door. They should be polite and courteous. Talk to them for a few minutes, explain what you’re looking for and what you’re interested in getting done. Some good things to ask about are: - shop hours - do they have portfolios - how do they sterilize their equipment - can you see their spore tests - do they prefer custom or flash work - ask if you can speak with an artist Professional studios should be using an autoclave or statim to sterilize all their equipment. Here’s a picture of each: Autoclave Statim They should be running a spore test either bi-weekly or monthly. Every state/province has different laws and/or regulations regarding how often these should be done. They should have no problem showing you their most recent spore test. Here’s an example of what a spore test may look like: The day of your tattoo you will have to fill out a general waiver form. This requires your name, address, date of birth, age and will ask a few questions such as: have you been tattooed before, do you have any known infectious diseases and do you have any known allergies. These are to insure the safety of not only yourself but your artist as well. Once this is filled out you will be brought into the artists area. Take a look at the artists desk. Everything should be in single sterile packages. The 2 main things to be concerned about at the needles and the tattoo tube. Here are pictures of each being placed in a package: Ask to see the back of the packages. There should be either a small square or arrow. They will be a darker colour which shows that they have been sterilized properly. If nothing is packaged then ask the artist to open new ones in front of you. The pigment should be poured out in front of you into single-use disposable caps. Any pigment left over should be discarded. They will prep the area by wiping you down with a green soap solution then shaving said area with a brand new razor. The stencil will then be applied (unless custom freehand work is being done) and you will be asked to approve of it. At this time the artist usually sets up his machines and pours his pigments. Gloves should be worn at all times during your tattoo. Many shops prefer to do custom work. This ensures that you’ll have your own tattoo and you won’t see someone at the beach with the same one. Flash is NOT a bad thing. It’s how many shops make their rent but it’s generally better to get custom work. Some shops may charge a small fee ($20-$50) for drawing but they often times take this off of the price of your tattoo. Bring in some references of things you’d like in your tattoo. A good artist should be able to get something together from the ideas you give them. When talking to your artist look at their overall appearance. Are their clothes clean? Do they have clean hands? Dirty fingernails aren’t a good sign. A tattoo artist should be washing his hands more than 10 times a day. If he’s taking care of him/herself then he’ll take care of his shop and equipment. SECTION 2 - PORTFOLIOS When looking through a portfolio look for fresh and healed pictures. A good way to tell the difference is there will be a touch of redness or irritation around the outside edge of a fresh tattoo. Healed pictures are a good sign that customers are returning to the shop to possibly get more work done. I would walk out of any shop that didn’t have photos to show of their work. If they’re proud of their work and have confidence then they’ll want to display them for others to see. Many of today’s artists also paint, draw and airbrush on a regular basis. Ask if they have any photos of that work as well. It will give you an idea of their style and what they like to do. This can be beneficial in choosing which artist you’d like to tattoo you. SECTION 3 - TRIBAL/ALL BLACK Tribal tattoos have come and gone and come back again over the last 10-15 years. Some love it and some hate it. It’s not something that is easy to do at all. A good tribal tattoo should have good flow and accentuate your body shape. If tribal is what you’re looking to get done then get it custom drawn up. There are too many cookie-cutter armbands and lower back tribal tattoos out there. My shop has 5 specific lower back pieces that we’ve done at least 3000 times in the last 5 years. We always try and suggest changing a design to suit the customers tastes. If you’re getting a symmetrical piece done be sure to ask if the artist has done that style before. Ask to see pictures of it. One of the most common mistakes when doing tribal is that the artist can’t make a proper symmetrical tattoo. Here are a few tribal designs. As you can see in this piece the tattoo was very badly coloured in. Many parts don’t match from side to side. This piece could be fixed with extensive work. Here is another example of the 2 sides not matching. Again this piece wasn’t coloured very well either. This one would be quite easy to fix. A major problem with tribal armbands is that they don’t match up on the inside like in the picture above. Always check once the stencil is on to make sure it lines up. This piece shows excellent symmetry and good overall colouring. Heres an OTers cross tattoos. The symmetry on these is great. SECTION 4 - COLOUR WORK Colour work is and has been very popular. It’s not for everyone though. One thing to keep in mind is that you are looking at your tattoo through 4-5 layers of skin. If you have darker skin then pigments will not show up as bright as on someone with pale skin. The pigment will also not be as bright as when your tattoo was first done. People have been known to have a reaction to some colours, red being the most common. It contains a very high amount of iron oxide which your body fights to reject. White is another colour that doesn’t show up very well on most people. It may look great the day you get it but after some exposure to the sun the pigment may turn a creamy tone. Choice of colours for your tattoo is 100% up to you. The artist will always give their professional opinion but in the end it is ultimately your choice. There is a wide choice of colours available today and an artist can mix up colours very easily on the spot. Metallic (silver, chrome, gold) are not available yet but a good artist can reproduce the effect with ease. Here are a few examples of good and bad coloured tattoos. Excellent use of colour in this tattoo. Simple yet effective This one was done very bad overall. The colours have not held up very well. The artist tried too hard with this one. Cluttering up too many colours together causes the tattoo to look dark and everything blends in making the tattoo look sloppy. SECTION 5 - PORTRAITS Portraits have become extremely popular. As artists get better the tattoos they produce get better. A portrait is a good way to remember a loved one in your family, a family pet or just someone you look up to. I CANNOT STRESS HOW MUCH YOU NEED TO RESEARCH THE ARTIST YOU WANT TO DO YOUR PORTRAIT. Make sure they have done portraits before. They should have a picture of the original photo as well to show the resemblance. Any artist can tattoo a cross, armband or a sun on you and if they screw it up it can be fixed. Portraits have a very slim chance of being fixed if someone makes a mess of it. When going to get a portrait done you should bring along a 5x7 black and white laser copy of the photo you want. Try and keep the tattoo at least the size of your palm or bigger. Here are some examples of good and bad portraits. This is a great example of using light shading in a portrait. It catches the boys expression very well. Look at the small detail in his eyes and laugh wrinkles. Portraits should generally be done in black and grey. This method shows off the detail in faces much better than colour. Colour portraits can be used for animals instead and they show up quite well as shown in the example below. This is an amazing tattoo in my opinion. This tattoo artist caught the expression, angle and depth of this pet perfectly. Here is an example of a bad portrait. The eyes are different size than the photo, the shape of the mouth is off and the dark shading in the background just makes this tattoo not very good at all. The size of this tattoo had a large part in making it difficult to pull off. SECTION 6 - SO MANY DECISIONS TO MAKE This section will come across as very biased and possibly rude. I apologize ahead of time if my opinion offends anyone in this forum. The decision to have tattoo work done can be a major part of someone’s life. It WILL change who you are. The process involves many many decisions, some harder than others. Where will I get it? What will I get? Is it going to hurt? Will I regret it? Should I get colour or black and grey? How big should it be? Does my workplace allow visible tattoos? What will my family/significant other think? Will I like this tattoo on me 20, 30 or 40 years from now? These are all examples of questions you will be asking yourself leading up to the day of getting your tattoo. These choices should all be made by yourself and you should not allow anyone else’s opinion to sway your decision. (other than a professional tattoo artist) Location is very important. What looks good on your upper arm may not look good on your leg or back. Many shops guarantee their work. If you need a touch-up they will do it for free. This doesn’t apply to some locations such as hands, feet, face and neck. These areas exfoliate much faster and they will push out pigment causing your tattoo to look blotchy. If you’re going for a visible location be sure your workplace allows it. As much as I am against tattoo discrimination many employers will not hire people with visible tattoos. (more-so in the US) Your choice of design doesn’t have to have any meaning to you. If you like how it looks then get it. Don’t let someone tell you different. 90% of my tattoos have no meaning but I will love them till the day I die. I got them for myself and myself only. There’s an old tattoo saying that “bigger is always better”. This is very true. Your skin changes as you grow old and your tattoo will change as well. If the detail in your tattoo is too small it will blur and look very shitty. I’m a dedicated advocate of getting what you want, as big as you want and where you want it. I don’t let anyone sway my decision in getting a new tattoo done. SECTION 7 - COST There are a few ways for shops to price their tattoos. The most common 2 are an hourly rate and ‘by the size’. If you are getting flash done most shops will give you a price based on what they think the tattoo is worth to them. This could range anywhere from $30 to a few hundred dollars. Custom work is usually done on an hourly rate. The average is anywhere from $100-$200 per hour. Artists like to sit for 2-6 hours, after that they start to get hand cramps and the customer gets very sore. Every shop has a minimum price that they charge. This pays for your new needles, pigments, sterility and any other supplies used to do your tattoo. With the more work you get done there is a good chance your artist will start to give you small breaks on the price of your tattoos. It’s always a good idea to tip. My formula is for every $100 you spend on your tattoo, tip $20. If it costs $200 tip $40, if it costs $500 tip $100. Of course not everyone can do this but if you can it’s a wonderful gesture and your artist will appreciate it very much. An excellent old tattoo saying is “A GOOD TATTOO ISN’T CHEAP AND A CHEAP TATTOO ISN’T GOOD”. SECTION 8 - TIPS FOR A GOOD TATTOO EXPERIENCE Be sure to eat a good meal at least an hour before you go in. This will be sure that your blood sugar levels are good. Customers have been known to get light headed, nauseous and sometimes vomit from the tattoo experience. Bring along a chocolate bar and a bottle of water. If at anytime you don’t feel well let your artist know. They’ll let you take a break until you feel better. During the tattoo try and relax. When you hold your breath and tense up you will start to shake. This makes the tattoo process take longer which means it’s going to hurt more. Sit as still as you possibly can. The more you move the better the chance of your artist making a shaky line or messing up. If you plan on bringing a friend along for moral support try and only bring one friend not five. Tattooing isn’t a spectator sport and most shops don’t have room to accommodate that many people at once. Try not to be nervous, we’re here to make your tattoo experience comfortable. Most of all have fun. SECTION 9 - AFTERCARE All shops have a different method of aftercare. I’ll explain how my shop does it first then I’ll explain a few other ways of doing it including how I’ve healed all of mine. Some methods work better for different people. The one thing you don’t want to use is any sporin based products such as Polysporin or Neosporin. These are medicated for infections and if you don’t have an infection they will treat the pigment as a foreign body in your skin and will pull a lot of it out making your tattoo seem faded or blotchy. You do not want to soak any scabs, this will just cause them to get thicker and will crack your tattoo. Stay away from pools (public or private), baths, hot tubs and Jacuzzis. Keep your tattoo out of the sun during the healing time and after its healed use sunscreen. My Shops Method (good for any size tattoo) After your tattoo is finished they will bandage it. Leave the bandage on for 6-24 hours. Take it off and hop in a shower as hot as you can stand. Do not let the water hit your tattoo directly. Place a CLEAN cloth over it and let the water hit that. Use a mild white unscented soap (dove works great) and wash your tattoo off completely. Pat dry and leave for 2-4 days. You can still shower during this time but keep them short. Once you feel the skin start to tighten up use an unscented hand moisturizer such as Vaseline Intensive Care, Curel, Lubriderm or Aveeno. Place a very small amount on your tattoo and rub it in. If the tattoo looks greasy or shiny you’ve used too much. Use a CLEAN paper towel to wipe off the excess. Be sure to wash your hands before every application of lotion. Apply lotion 3-6 times a day until all scabs have fallen off. DO NOT PICK THEM OFF. Once they’re all gone apply lotion as often as you can. Occlusive Bandaging (good for very large tattoos) This method is the same as they one they use on burn patients in hospitals to minimize scabbing. After your tattoo is finished they will bandage it. Leave the bandage on for 6-24 hours. Take it off and hop in a shower as hot as you can stand. Do not let the water hit your tattoo directly. Place a CLEAN cloth over it and let the water hit that. Use a mild white unscented soap (dove works great) and wash your tattoo off completely. Pat dry and leave for 2-4 days. You can still shower during this time but keep them short. Let your tattoo sit for an hour or two. Apply a very thin layer of lotion to your tattoo then place a piece of saran wrap over your tattoo. Do this 2-3 times a day for the first week of having your tattoo. This method tricks your body into thinking it already has a scab (the lotion and saran) and it will heal up very quickly. This does not work for all customers. If you don’t think you can wash and re-wrap your tattoo 2-3 times a day then don’t use this method. My Method After your tattoo is finished take a few paper towels and soak them in water as hot as you can stand, the hotter the better. Place the towels on your tattoo and let them sit till its cool. Pat it dry and bandage it. Leave the bandage on for 3-4 hours. Take it off and hop in a shower as hot as you can stand. Do not let the water hit your tattoo directly. Place a CLEAN cloth over it and let the water hit that. Use a mild white unscented soap (dove works great) and wash your tattoo off completely. Pat dry and leave for 2-4 days. You can still shower during this time but keep them short. This is all I do. I don’t use any lotions, creams or ointments on my tattoos until all the scabs are gone. This method works great for me but others have major problems with it. This thread turned out to be much longer and much more time consuming than I first conceived. I hope this helps everyone in their next tattoo experience and I appreciate any and all of you that take the time to read this. I’m not the best at writing these kinds of things so bear with any spelling, grammar or repetitive lines. Any feedback is welcome.