So. you’ve decided on your tattoo design but now you need to find an artist. You’ve come across a few you like, or maybe your questioning if the one all of your friends recommend is good enough? I have some tips for you to identify if the artist your considering is actually a good artist and some things to consider before going ahead and booking. I have to admit that I usually don’t check for all of these things, but they’re a good rough guideline, especially if you’re looking to get your first tattoo.
1. Go by healed images
A lot can be hidden by fresh images. Colours and outlines can look bolder, black areas can look fuller, and lines can look cleaner. If you moisturise a tattoo it tends to be more vibrant and the same goes for fresh tattoos. If the artist uses mostly fresh images try searching for their work by using a hashtag to see if clients have posted healed images. You then want to look to see if the tattoo has healed well. Is there any blowouts, rough areas or places where the ink hasn’t stayed?
2. What is their speciality?
See if you can identify from their portfolio what their speciality is. It’s better to have an artist that perfects one style, than tries to do it all just so they don’t miss out on an appointment. Quality over quantity. Some artists can be extremely talented in various styles, but it’s rare and you’re better off going for someone who knows exactly what they’re doing.
3. Do they edit or use a filter?
You can usually tell when an image has been altered with contrast or a filter and I recently saw a discussion about an artist who’s work looks incredible on Instagram, but it’s debatable as to how much the images are edited. Some of the colours don’t look realistically achievable with tattooing and the contrast is pretty high which can make the blacks look darker than they actually are. While the artist may still be incredible, again it’s better to check for client images to see if they’re accurate or to see if they have a portfolio in their shop with unedited images.
4. Don’t go by recommendation/follower count
Does their work hold up on their own? Don’t go with an artist just because all of your friends recommend them. I get asked pretty often for a good tattoo artist in my area, and my first reply is always “what style do you want?”. There’s an artist that can do a lot of styles well but if they chose blackwork or script then I recommend someone else. High follower counts also don’t immediately mean that they’re a good artist. Maybe that have a good aesthetic or got featured somewhere. There’s a lot of artists that go unheard of that are just as/even more talented, and Instagram fame can mean nothing. This has been proven by certain TV shows featuring ‘talented’ artists.
5. How is their linework?
Linework is one of the first things artists learn to do, and something they have to perfect before moving on to other skills. Check that their lines are even and smooth. Make sure that they stay a constant thickness and don’t curve or straighten in the wrong areas. Are the straight lines actually straight? Try zooming in and getting a closer look to get more detail and make sure you’re not just overlooking errors.
6. Is the shading and colour smooth?
Next you want to check out their shading and colouring. Is it inside the lines and does it look even? Does it look realistic and does it have any patchy areas? You want to make sure that it’s consistent throughout the whole piece, blending is done well and it all looks smooth. Also how does it heal? Does it have any patchy areas, blowouts or look faded?
7. Composition and proportions
You’ll need to check these things particularly if you’re after realism/realistic pieces, but it’s also something to check for in general, and that is whether they have good composition and proportions. Does everything flow smoothly and fit into a suitable place. A messy composition can throw off the tattoo and someone with a better idea for composition may design you something that flows and fits better, particularly if you already have other tattoos to fit it around or if you’re going big with a sleeve design etc. Check to see if the different depths are correct. Does something in the background cross over to the foreground in the wrong place? Is everything realistic or is it warped? Don’t forget to look at the proportions and make sure that one leg isn’t wider than another or a torso is longer than it should be. Hands and faces can be typically difficult to get right.
8. Are they consistent?
Finally you want to check if their work is consistent. Are they creating smooth, incredible pieces throughout their entire portfolio or is the main piece your looking at miles better than anything else? If so, perhaps you’re just looking at their best work, or they had a very good day producing that one piece and their overall work isn’t as up to par. Some errors (especially in linework) can be caused by the client moving so make sure you compare multiple works in their portfolio.
I hope this helped and you can now successfully identify a good artist from a bad one, and don’t forget to go by your intuition. It can also never hurt to go by feedback/recommendations but make sure this isn’t your whole basis for going to an artist and make the decision for yourself. Thanks for reading, April.