#10) Get tattooed in a Mall / Hair Salon / Tourist Trap
Yes, they will inform me, and I'm sure somewhere out there in the wide world, there may be an exception to my stated perception.
Here's the deal folks; Tattoo shops don't belong in malls. No self respecting band of tattoo pirates would open up a shop in a mall, or a casino or arcade, nor would they operate from a hair salon, clothing retailer or anything of the sort. Tattoo Shops are like temples of weirdness, where an undefinable energy is present and they require the edgy zest of operating in the "real world" to fully fuel the artwork within their doors.
Tattoo shops operating in malls suck for a lot of reasons, but here's a few that readily come to mind:
1) They are paying HUGE retail space rent. As much as $50 000 a month in some markets. That means that they may have to operate as many as 10 full time chairs over 2 shifts a day, 12 hours per day, 7 days a week (plus selling piercing, jewelry and do-dads) to pay the bills and make a profit. That means lots of staff, under lots of pressure.
2) These places are rarely owned and operated by tattoo artists, or by people with any real experience in the trade. Quality tattoo art is never the goal in these establishments. They are simply cash machines, designed to bilk the teenager, or the impatient consumer or the tourist out of their money. And quickly too.
3) The staff in these joints are routinely very young, very inexperienced and very poorly paid by industry standards. They have no training and development available to them, nor do they generally have any artistic supervision of their work. They are encouraged to bang out lots of work, as fast as possible and soon enough they become very burnt out and bitter.
4) If you are looking for real artisan tattooists who are immersed in the culture of art and illustration....stay out of the malls. The work coming out of these places, if even passable at all, is generic, stunted and usually just pulled out of a design catalog.
However, if hangin' out at the food court with your homies with your fresh tatties is up your aisle......well go have at it, I guess.
#9) Get it tattooed way too small
A really impactful tattoo is one that is shaped, contoured and conformed to the muscle groupings it's tattooed over. It should look like it's part of you. Not like it's floating around like a moth in front of a movie screen.
I understand that very few clients start their tattoo journey with a full back piece tattoo.
However, we see a very high percentage of our clientele move towards larger and more complex work as the years progress.
Chances are if you get an undersized tattoo on, let's say your shoulder, in time you are very likely going to want to incorporate it into a more serious piece later......which will be harder to do well while keeping up the overall "body flow".
Give your artist enough room to work, and let the design be vibrant and readable from across a big room. Don't get stuck with a cramped and jumbled, regrettable quickie.
#8) Don't do any research
I am made even crazier by those who come in requesting tattoos that are clearly "deep end" designs, and yet they have obviously not done the required reading, learning and living to warrant poking the thing into themselves forever.
Also, if your design may require knowledge of a specific culture, trade, language, religion, or art style, the tattooer's job is not to fill in those blanks for you. A good shop with smart artists can go a long way with helping you through those kind of issues, but in the end....it's your job.
Do Your Homework First.
#7) Go to the cheapest artist you can find
"GOOD Tattoos are never Cheap, and Cheap Tattoos are NEVER Good"
Self explanatory I hope.
#7b) Shop by price alone
There are also a whole lot of good shops like ours who's price schedule sits somewhere in the middle. Price, to an extent, is irrelevant.
BUT, just like I said in example #7, If it's cheap...it's cheap for a reason.
I also think you have to really suspect any tattoo provider who is regularly giving away freebies or 2 for 1 deals or Groupon deals. Those may be occasionally sound marketing gimmicks, but if a shop near you is handing out those incentive offers all the time....it smacks of desperate days ahead, and little pride in what they offer.
#6) Flags, flags and more flags.
But 95% of the time, guys get little shitty flag / maple leaf tattoos that are rendered in a very cramped, cheesy and lifeless way. They usually get them on impulse or with little serious consideration.
I have come to think of the ubiquitous flag tattoo as the beginner's cop out mistake #1.
"Say there Bob,....can't think of a decent concept for a first tattoo?" Get a crappy little flag. Get it way too small, Get it in the mall. Get it cheap. (You can also substitute "Taz" and "YingYang" for flag in most cases.)
Yup. I'm a little bitter.
#5) Too much to read, we'll need a thesaurus.....
Tattooing is a pictographic and glyphic artform. And until very recently, script, lettering, fonts and writing were a very small part of high-end tattooing style.
Now it's everywhere. Like a bad dose.
Keep the wording to a minimum, or better yet, get an artist who understands symbology well enough that he or she can say what needs to be said on your skin with pictures alone.
Damn it, I'm an Artist Jim. Not a type-setter !
#5 b) Throw in the Kitchen Sink while you're at it.....
The list was as follows : A crucifix, praying hands, a rosary, a caribou head, a deer head, one 30-06 calibre bullet, a flag of the Northwest Territories, a flag of the province of Newfoundland, a CAT bulldozer, a special wrench used on those bulldozers, and his family's last name done in the same lettering style as the Snap-on Tools logo.
I did not make that up. It was an actual request. We talked him into something more suitable and feasible. And while that is an unusually loaded example, the internet is riddled with those kind of cluttered disaster tattoos.
A good shop will say no, explain why it won't look good, and stick to their guns.
#4) But what do you really mean??
Good chance you don't either.
So, if you are absolutely determined to get some random abstract concept represented on your body in bold black Asiatic calligraphy.....go to a professional translation service and get it properly sorted out before coming to us or any other tattooist.
DON'T get it translated over the internet.
There are whole websites devoted to showing off the evils of the mistranslated foreign language tattoo.
Asian languages are complex, subtle and nuanced creatures. Our common english idioms rarely translate easily or well into asian speech or their glyphic writing styles.
You want to be sure you are never the cause of a "diplomatic incident".
#3) Get something cheesy, that you will regret at 40
You are bound to view the tattoos you received at 25 years of age, in a very different light than you will at age 40. That's OK. That's growth of the individual.
What you don't want to be stuck with is something that seems so utterly trivial and shallow and fleeting, that you are embarrassed to have it on your body. Perhaps it may even disturb you in the glaring light of hindsight.
Top offenders to avoid: corporate logos, sports team logos, product brands, rock band or musician symbols, names of girlfriends or boyfriends, religious symbols from a faith you were not raised in, yin & yang, video game or cartoon characters, celebrity portraits (some exceptions apply), tattoos on your hands or neck or face (some exceptions may apply) and probably a hundred others.
#2) Get really loaded, and do it on a whim
Also remember that if you are coming in for a booked appointment, that getting a little bit buzzed beforehand can be a bad idea.
Booze thins your blood and makes you bleed more, making it harder to do a good tattoo. Drunk people can't sit still worth a damn either. You do not want to be squirming during a tattoo session.
Marijuana seems like a harmless enough way for many people to take the edge off their pre-tattoo anxiety right?
Truth be told, I think stoned people get more freaked out and paranoid once the tattoo machine gets buzzing. Marijuana also greatly increases tactile sensitivity in most people......yes that's right, pot makes it hurt more, not less.
#1) Not letting your artist do their job
But wherever you are, I hope you've found an ethical, sensible and truly inspired Tattoo Artist to do your work.
Here's my last bit of advice.
Providing you've really done your homework, and you're dealing with a real top grade artist, and you're having good clear communication about what you want on your body...... you need to give your artist a little free rein to do their thing and be freely creative.
Micro-managing your tattooist never brings about a good result.
Find a good artist, decide on a clear and classy concept and then put your well placed faith in the process. Let a good tattoo happen.