Are you looking for someone whom you feel is qualified (on all levels) to give you your tattoo? If so, the following are important considerations to keep in mind.
If you read no farther, please remember, be patient and contemplate deeply before making tattoo-related decisions!!!
Anyway, first thing's first. You've got to look at a tattoo technician's portfolio. This is a critical first step!!! Most people we encounter who have poor quality tattoos don't understand how it could have come about. "After all," they say, "I got it done in a shop and the shop had a good reputation". So??? Unless you look at a portfolio how can you be sure that your tattoo technician isn't in their first month of tattooing, how do you know if they can even draw? Wouldn't you want to be really interested and critical of the work of the tattoo artist whose artwork you'll be wearing for a lifetime? Why waste time asking questions about designs or cost until you know some of the basic essential information.
Some states and counties have rules and regulations governing the tattoo industry. Some, not all. Never be afraid to ask to see permits, sterilizer test results or inspection reports. Ask about the artist's experience and how many years they've been tattooing. My goal at Sacred Fire Tattoos is to do such a meticulous job of making sure tattooing is performed like a "surgical procedure" that there is no worry, there is no doubt, there is no fear.
Which leads us to the next point. How do you really know that when you walk out with your tattoo you won't also walk out with Hepatitis C, HIV or some other blood borne pathogen??? Anyone who tells you tattooing is anything other than a very high risk undertaking (for the technician and client both) is either ignorant or lying. So who will you trust? How will you know? Is a "gut feeling", or finding a "nice" person to do your tattoo really enough? Does seeing a tattoo technician take the needles out of a sterile pouch REALLY tell you anything useful??? The answer is "No!" by the way. Does finding out whether or not a tattoo technician uses "single-use" needles tell you anything relevant? The answer again is "No!", since other critical and potentially contagious equipment often get re-used, like tattoo tubes for instance. If you don't know what information you need to acquire, what will seeing the tattoo technician set up their machines or pour their ink into an ink cap in your presence truly mean? It helps to know what you really need to look for if you want to be able to know with certainty that your tattoo artist is offering a clean operation.
As far as I am concerned, if you haven't asked for a sterilizer's test report you can't be sure of much. As mentioned previously, even though the needles used for a procedure may be disposed of, it is common for the tubes that the needles travel within to be re-used. These tubes come into the same level of contact with potentially dangerous body fluids as do the needles, so if they are being "sterilized", but in an untested sterilizer, there can be little in the way of a guarantee that the tubes are sterile and that you are safe.
Something to think about: consider asking your prospective tattoo technician this question: "Would you as a tattoo artist feel safe tattooing a person with HIV or Hepatitis C, then cleaning and sterilizing that person's tattoo needles and then using those needles to tattoo yourself?" In other words, does your tattoo technician really have full confidence in their procedure and the cleanliness and sterility of his or her sterilized equipment. Not that we would suggest anyone put themselves at unnecessary risk, but you see the point. In theory, one could re-use needles until they became dull if they had a working sterilizer, and an ultrasonic cleaner. If there is no proof that the autoclave has been tested regularly and is working properly, there can be no guarantee that equipment sterilized in it is truly sterile. Remember, if you are uncertain of a studio or artist’s cleanliness, it's never too late to walk away!
Another point you as a prospective tattoo recipient might want to check: does the tattoo technician put their machines within some kind of bag/barrier protection. Cleaning machines with disinfectant just can't be considered enough. Not with “maximum safety standards” in mind. The uncovered machine is one of the biggest culprits these days in terms of disease cross-contamination. And "yes", it has happened in the tattoo industry, that people have been infected with lethal disease. And "yes" it still continues to happen. The machines should be under wraps, as should be the machines' power cord, their power supply unit, the work chair, the spray bottles, the lamp and the work surface. At Sacred Fire Tattoos I even wear face protection and surgical gowns, though I am pretty unique in this and I wouldn't necessarily consider whether or not a tattoo artist dresses like a surgeon as positively indicative that you will or won’t receive a clean procedure and quality tattoo.
Another topic that should be addressed: Tattoo pigments - “Acrylics” vs. "organic".
We are not talking here about the same definition of "organic" most people think of, as in; "Organic certified" food or products. Rather, some tattoo pigments are suspended in an organic dispersal solution, some tattoo pigments use an acrylic plastic based. (For more information on Tattoo Ink composition please visit the relevant links on this website’s Links page.) This especially, is timely information to consider. There is currently at least one class-action law suit that's been filed against the tattoo supply companies with regard to their sale of some potentially dangerous tattoo pigments without proper disclosure or warnings. Currently at Sacred Fire Tattoos the main ink that I use is an ultra-bright organic pigment by Eternal brand pigments. I have worked with Eternal’s organic inks since 2004 and have had awesome reults with it, both interms of how tattoos heal and how bright they are once healed. For an organic, it holds it own against the best of the acrylics on the market.
Acrylic tattoo pigments can be some of the brightest on the market these days (most noticeably with the lighter, intense colors like oranges, yellows, pinks, lime greens etc.). They really can look incredible. However, the trade off is that they are not as stable, and compared to organic tattoo inks, a larger percentage of people will be reactive to them. Of course, I have seen a few people react to an "organic" tattoo pigment over the years, but nowhere near the percentage of acrylic-related tattoo reactions I've observed. Doing a spot test and observing the healing process is one way- though perhpas not the most practical way - to ascertain an individual's response to any tattoo inks as is applied kenesiology/muscle testing.
If you've ever seen a severe acrylic reaction perhaps you can understand where I’m coming from. Acrylic reactions can be more intense than many can imagine, and it's all well and good till you are the one who hass to live through a reaction and the possible end results. An acrylic reaction can consist of a wide range of symptoms. These can include "pimples" and rashes, scabs, excessive weeping, funky smells, major swelling, feverish skin in the area of the tattoo and prolonged healing times. Another point to consider; using acrylic tattoo pigments is a relatively recent development in the world of tattoos and there's not much in the way of research information as to the long term effects of the acrylic polymers in the skin.
Now, here's another short and sweet tip; the winter (for those of you who live where cold seasons arrive) is a great time to get your tattoos. When it's cold people have a tendency to keep their bodies covered as much as possible, which is wonderful from the point of view of a fresh tattoo, which should be kept out of the sun for at least several weeks if possible.
Now then, those of you who come across all this information before you start your journey into the world of body art will be more likely (if you've paid attention) to wind up with beautiful works of art and tattoos that express your self in just the perfect way. However, for those of you who, for one reason or the other, wound up with mediocre or horrible tattoos, this next part's especially for you....
First of all, the majority of tattoos we see are mediocre at best! No kidding. To be really honest, many would even fall into the “downright bad!” category. Now then, here's where it gets tricky...
Only because, when someone hears that their tattoo is ugly, it can be challenging not to take it personally, since if it's you who happen wearing the art and you who chose the artist who did the work it can be a touchy subject, to say the least! So let's speak of the bad tattoos in an open an honest way, no judgement.
Bottom line is that just because you may have a "jacked up" tattoo, doesn't mean that your only options are to live with it or have it lasered off. If you can find a really good artist, perhaps they'd be willing to help you create a cover-up tattoo design. Here at Sacred Fire Tattoos it can be truly awesome to witness the sheer volume of people who want repair jobs!! It never ceases to amaze. Be so careful though, when selecting your cover-up artist! Nothing's worse than a messed up looking cover-up. A great cover-up tattoo shouldn’t even look like a cover-up! A good cover-up tattoo would be one where, without pointing it out, no one would know that the beautiful tattoo you are showing them wasn't the original idea/art! By the way, laser tattoo removal procedures can lighten your tattoo after a few (painful) sessions and thus, can greatly increase your possible tattoo cover-up's range of potential options. Something to consider seriously in some instances!
Some things to consider when thinking of a cover up; first of all, find a really talented artist who has a lot of experience with cover-up tattoos. Second, be flexible. Sometimes you need to think "ouside the box" or let go of certain concepts to settle upon an image that will work as both a cover-up and also represent your highest vision of what's possible for your new body art. Sometimes it may even be possible, if desired, to keep the old subject matter as the new subject matter for the cover up. For example, covering up a poorly executed seahorse or bear tattoo with a new, beautifully crafted seahorse or bear tattoo. Third, certain subject matter tends to work better as cover-ups than others. Designs that work well might have feathers, wings, fur, hair, animals, nature elements (water, trees, mountains, fire etc.), traditional Japanese designs and Dragons to name a few. Consider that which has some dark areas for hiding purposes, but also has strong light areas or strong light sources so that the design doesn't end up being too dark. Good cover-ups are part cover, part camouflage, part visual distraction. Good cover ups are life changing. Really! People who may not have been comfortable showing their bodies and skin due to an unsightly tattoo, all of a sudden may want to show off their skin. A good cover-up can be a very transforming and liberating experience.
And for your information, my tattoo portfolios are filled with cover-ups, but you’d never know it! I do more great cover-ups than I care to count and I am somewhat of a specialist in the area. Click HERE to view my Cover-Up gallery...
Finally, how one prepares for the tattoo can be very significant! One who sits calmly, focusing on their breathing, relaxing, letting go of any nervous tension will be more likely to make wise tattoo related choices, as well as be in a powerful space from which to enter the tattoo operation. Versus the one thinking about how much it may hurt or dwelling on a fear of sharp objects, not breathing deeply, holding tension, feeling defensive rather than full of courage and strength, this one is more likely to make rash tattoo-related choices or have fainting spells when the operation gets underway. And not necessarily from pain, but from tension and constricted breathing. Relax. It's important to feel totally comfortable in the environment in which you choose to be tattooed. Relaxation is always key when it comes to the tattoo experience!
If one feels the desire to eat before a tattoo, consider doing so several hours prior. And by the way, alcohol and tattoos DO NOT mix, avoid that combination. And it’s not a bad idea to have a little of your favorite sweets or power/energy bar handy when you go to get your tattoo.
So, we hope this provides you some valuable information as well as some useful tools with which to make decisions surrounding your body and its art.