Please keep in mind that this is only a guide--a mere starting point for an often complex and unpredictable journey. After reading this and doing other research, it's still best to proceed with caution and treat your chosen tattoo artist like the expert they are. Although we feel confident in the accuracy of all the information you're about to read, you may find reputable tattoo industry professionals who disagree with some of the statements or ethical viewpoints expressed here. We welcome such diversity, and so should you: consider it equivalent to getting a second opinion from a doctor before going through with a surgery. Both types of decisions can certainly have life altering consequences, so gather all the information you think you'll need, starting here, and make the wisest choice possible. Good luck and enjoy.
Whether you're looking for your first tattoo because all your friends are getting one, you're going on vacation and want something to remember your fun time forever, or you're planning out your next large custom piece, your goal is the same: getting the perfect tattoo. To get the perfect tattoo, essentially all you need to do is match the perfect tattoo design with the perfect tattoo artist--but it's not really that simple.
Getting a tattoo is not something to be taken lightly, unless you have already done your homework and have a thorough knowledge of tattoos. While the mantra 'tattoos last forever' is a great thing to keep in mind when making your decision, it is not completely accurate: they only last until you move on to the next world, silly... or until you cover them up with new ones, or get them removed with laser surgery--but that's a whole other article. Tattoos may be painful to get, but they are even more painful to remove. Suffice it to say, the decision you make now will affect you, in some way, for the rest of your life.
The 'proper' way to get the perfect tattoo is to do a few years of researching tattoos as well as the art world in general in order to develop a taste for artistic tattoos, before choosing a tattoo artist, not after. Visit some tattoo conventions, surf the Internet for hours, email and talk with tattooed people you know, check out the landscape, and learn about it before jumping in.
It should be mentioned here that if you are going to try talking with heavily tattooed people about tattoos outside of a studio or convention environment, that you should approach the subject with caution. Many heavily tattooed people put up with minor public hassles like staring, whispers and comments as they walk by, and people who have the attitude that because someone has many tattoos, that they are automatically on display for strangers' amusement, like a circus sideshow performer. Many heavily tattooed people, and particularly women (who generally appear less intimidating and more approachable than tattooed males), complain of people they don't know reaching out and touching or grabbing their tattooed skin in awe or wonder. This can be very threatening, even if people do not mean anything harmful by it. Therefore, remember to make sure someone is willing to talk about their tattoos and/or show them to you, before engaging them at random. They will usually appreciate your politeness and tattoo etiquette and be that much more willing to share some of their knowledge with you. Some basic human respect and dignity can go a long way in this and any other area of life.
So, the first rule to getting the perfect tattoo, like almost anything in life, is to be patient and really learn about this fantastic art form before taking action. In this information age of knowledge sharing, there is no reason to enter the world of tattoos without doing it the right way. Sure, most of us heavily tattooed people did not follow the advice being given in this article, but thatís because we were young and dumb. Now that we have learned all these lessons the hard way (and our dumbness is still debatable) and are sharing them with you, you donít have any excuse for making bad tattoo decisions. If you end up on a website like badtattoos.com, or as the butt of your friends' jokes, donít say we didnít try to warn you...
The Perfect Artist
Finding the perfect tattoo artist is probably more important than finding the right design, though many first timers donít realize this. After all, if you find the right artist they will make sure you get the perfect design in the end, whether you have it in your hand to begin with or not. In fact, even if you only have a vague idea in your head to start out with, the right artist should be able to work with you enough to make that idea a reality. Conversely, if you have the perfect design or idea but not the right artist, you won't get the best tattoo possible.
But to find the perfect tattoo artist, first you have to learn what goes into finding one. First and foremost, your tattoo artist must be clean and sanitary. After this comes the technical ability to apply good tattoos, artistic talent, proper quality equipment, honesty and ethics, a good reputation, and a zillion other personal traits and qualities to do a good tattoo. Finding a tattoo artist like this will take a bit of time and effort--they probably arenít your best friend's friend who tattoos out of his kitchen in return for a six pack. Your best bet is to do lots of homework and learn, and then ask industry experts to back up your decisions. Every phase of the tattoo process involves being patient enough to do it right.
The Perfect Design
Only you can know what the perfect design is for your body, and it's an extremely important decision to make about your tattoo, obviously. At the end of the day, most tattoo artists are in the service business. That is, with a few exceptions (generally racist tattoos, or tattoos on the face/hands/neck, or artists that are so sought after that they decide which tattoos they do or don't do), a tattoo artist will put whatever you want on your skin to the best of their ability because they are in a retail industry providing a service to a consumer. You want a tiny tribal dragon on your massive back or your girlfriend/boyfriend's name? You should get it. You may find later that you are selling yourself short with that decision, but the bottom line is that you should get what you want, because it's your body.
Other Important Considerations
We have answered many questions about the pain, patience, the money, and tons of important questions.
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