The following is all the things I have learned over many years of getting tattooed and tattooing other people about the best way to get a really good tattoo.
Firstly, find the right artist for you. If you get this bit right then the rest is much easier. Make sure you love the work they do (as in 9 out of 10 tattoos on their portfolio), and after conversing with them that you are happy with the way they work. Don’t find a tattoo you love and then try and find someone local and cheap who you think can probably do that piece for you. And definitely don’t find an artist you love on social media and try and find someone local who you think will be able to do work like that. The artist will hate it and you’ll be disappointed.
Once you have found the right artist for you, give them your ideas but be flexible and let them work their magic, that’s all there is to it!
The most common mistakes:
- Trying to get too many ideas into one piece. For a sleeve maybe 2 or 3 main elements is plenty. Not everything has to have a meaning or a story and you don’t have to have everything that’s important to you represented in one tattoo. You have a whole body to spread ideas over.
- Thinking that you know better than the artist. Does the artist have a good portfolio (and surely they do if you have picked them out)? If so, then trust their judgement and skills and listen to their suggestions. Every tattooist with a good portfolio has years of experience of designing tattoos, day in, day out. They are almost certainly going to be better at it than you (or your partner/friend/parent, see last mistake), so I recommend listening to them.
- Waiting too long between sessions. When you wait a year or so between sessions the tattoo has already started the ageing and settling in process and so the new parts never quite look the same and the artist is not likely to be as enthusiastic as they were to finish the tattoo. Surely you want the tattooist to be really enthusiastic about your tattoo too?
- Not being patient. It can take some time to start to appreciate the difference between good and bad work so don’t rush into finding the right artist and when you do, they will probably be busy so be patient and wait for them. Waiting a few weeks or even months is nothing when something is going to be on you for life.
- Copying someone else’s tattoo. When you try to just copy someone else’s tattoo (because it’s “perfect and exactly what you had in mind”), all you get is a second rate copy of the original, it is never as good. I have seen loads of copied tattooed over the years and never seen one that was even close to as good as the original. When does Hollywood ever remake a film and it’s better than the original? Never! And it’s a bit like that. On top of that, no good tattooist will ever just copy someone else’s artwork, it’s unethical and severely frowned upon in the world of decent tattooing.
- Shopping for a bargain. Like everything in life, you get what you pay for but unlike pretty much everything else, tattoos will be with you forever. Some people think nothing of spending £100 on some trainers or jeans but want to spend as little as possible on a tattoo, it’s clear which one is gonna last longer. You can always find a cheap car but don’t think you are gonna get the quality of a Mercedes when you pay for a Skoda.
- Too many cooks. Good art doesn’t happen by committee. Girlfriends/Mothers/boyfriends etc never help when they get involved, it becomes a nightmare. Tattooing is too personal, just the artist and customer are all that count.
- Micro-managing. Good art doesn’t happen by proxy. Just give the artist the vague idea and let them get on with it. Trying to get someone to recreate the image you have in your head is impossible and an exercise in frustration for all parties.