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Finding Your Match: How to Choose the Best Tattoo Artists for Your Ink

Getting the perfect tattoo is more than just choosing an image. It’s about finding the best tattoo artists who understands your vision and can deliver top-notch quality.

In this guide, we’ll break down the steps to help you find the best tattoo artists for your preferences. If you need a full guide on things you should know before getting a tattoo, check out our article on tattoo tips.

Unlocking Your Tattoo Identity: Understanding Your Preferred Style

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First things first, understanding your preferred style requires a bit of research. Get yourself acquainted with the different tattoo styles available. Read about them, look at examples, and see what kind of art speaks to your aesthetic sensibilities. If you’re in need of a good guide, we recommend reading our article breaking down tattoo styles.

Do you see yourself more with a classic and bold traditional tattoo or are you drawn toward the intricate details of realism?  Maybe minimal and delicate tattoos are up your alley. Whatever the case, we recommend finding a style or two that is satisfying to you and using that as a jumping-off point for finding the artist that’s right for you.

Here are a few popular styles to get you started:

  • Traditional: Encompassing bold lines and bright colors, traditional tattoos are immediately recognizable and are often linked with iconic images like roses, hearts, and anchors.
  • Realistic: This style includes incredible detail to replicate images as they look in real life, making them a choice for portraits and animal tattoos.
  • Fine Line: A modern style that emphasizes delicate, thin lines, and intricate details. Popular for its precision and subtlety, making it ideal for conveying complex or miniature designs.
  • Neo Traditional: Neo-traditional tattoos seamlessly blend traditional tattoo elements with contemporary artistry, featuring bold lines, vibrant colors, and a modern twist on classic designs.

And this is really just the beginning – there are numerous other styles to explore and consider. While exploring, remember that your preferred style should resonate with you on a personal level. 

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Keep in mind that, while it’s important to have a preferred style when choosing your tattoo artist, it’s equally critical to remain open-minded. Artists can often provide valuable insights about how a design could be adapted or evolved in a way that you might not have considered.

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, Judge Tattoo Artists by Their Portfolios

As the saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and the same holds true for choosing a tattoo artist. The best indicator of their ability and style is their portfolio – a collection of their past and recent work. A deep dive into their portfolio can give you a serious glimpse of their potential to ink your skin with that dream design you’ve thought of.

Where to Find Artist Portfolios

Finding the best tattoo artists for your unique style in the vast digital world can seem overwhelming. However, it’s a straightforward process if you know where to look. Today, most of the best tattoo artists conveniently display their portfolios online, giving you the chance to easily view their work.

Here are some of the most common places where the portfolios of tattoo artists can be found: 

  • Official Websites: Most professional tattoo artists have their own websites, where they publish a selection of their work. (You can take a look at our work here). These sites often include additional information about the artist, customer testimonials, and contact details. It’s an excellent place to gauge the quality of their work, their range, and their artistic style.
  • Instagram: This platform is also a popular choice among tattoo artists, owing mainly to its visual nature. Artists update their profiles regularly with fresh works, allowing you to see their most recent designs. Instagram also provides a conducive environment to interact with artists and their communities, offering a deeper understanding of their work ethic and customer satisfaction.
  • TikTok: TikTok has evolved to become another significant platform where artists showcase their skills. Often, you will find time-lapse videos of their tattooing process, giving you a unique insight into their technique, attention to detail, and the complexity and diversity of the styles they handle. Some customers even post videos of their experiences!
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Take your time scrolling through these platforms. The wide range of styles and designs will help you identify the artists that resonate with your aesthetic preferences and make an informed choice. Spend time appreciating the artistry involved and, if possible, engage with the artists or their communities by reading comments and asking questions to make a confident decision.

But, How do you Judge a Portfolio? 

  • Take a look at the consistency of their work: A good sign of a seasoned tattoo artist is the consistency in their work. Look out for clean lines, smooth shading, and commendable color saturation across different designs. Minor inconsistencies might occur but disproportioned, wobbly, or sluggish linework could be a red flag.
  • Check for versatility or specialization: Some artists are versatile – they can handle various styles well, whereas others might specialize in a style or two, putting their unique signature on each piece. Both approaches are valid; it depends on what you’re looking for in a tattoo.
  • Evaluate the overall aesthetic: Every artist has a personal aesthetic, which often shows through in their work. If their pieces visually appeal to you, it’s a positive sign. When you meet with them, you want to be sure they are capable of understanding your style and vision.

Seeking Out Portfolio Red Flags 

Just as it’s important to identify the qualities of a good portfolio, you should also familiarize yourself with common red flags. 

  • Over-edited photos: While good lighting and clean shots are necessary for showcasing work, excessive editing, including the use of filters, can obscure the quality of the tattoos and should be taken into consideration.
  • Lack of healed tattoos: Fresh tattoos always look shinier and brighter. What matters, however, is how the tattoo holds up once it’s fully healed. The best tattoo artists will have a section dedicated to healed tattoos in their portfolio.
  • Limited styles: If an artist’s portfolio has only one style or very few examples, it might indicate a lack of experience or versatility. Ensure the artist is comfortable with the style of tattoo you want.

What to Look for in Tattoo Artist Reviews

When choosing your ideal tattoo artist, looking over reviews is a crucial step. However, like any other service, understanding what to look for is essential to make the most out of the feedback. 

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Reliable platforms to find reviews and customer experiences are always Google and Yelp. Looking for examples of quality shops with high reviews? Use either to check out Mantle

First off, consider the overall rating the artist has received. Typically, they use a star rating system, from one (low) to five (high). An average of four or more stars indicates a generally positive consensus from previous clients. 

However, don’t let a high-average star rating lull you into complacency. It’s important to consider the number of reviews. An average rating from a large number of reviews carries more weight than the same rating based on just a handful of comments. 

You should also delve deeper into the content of the reviews. Here’s what to look out for: 

  • Professionalism: Look for mentions of the artist’s professional behavior. This includes respecting appointment times, maintaining a clean workspace, and showing courtesy towards clients.
  • Artistic Skill: The best way to gauge an artist’s skill is through the eyes of those who’ve sat in their chair. Look out for mentions of the clarity of the design, coloring techniques, line quality, and overall execution.
  • Communication: Ensuring both you and your artist are on the same page is key. Are there mentions of the artist’s willingness to listen and accommodate design changes? How well did they explain the process, from preliminary sketches to aftercare instructions?

Reviews can also help highlight those potential red flags we mentioned. Look for recurring negative themes, such as repeated instances of poor hygiene, unfinished designs, or failure to follow the design specification. These are clear signals to steer clear. 

Finally, consider the response of the artist or the shop to negative feedback. A professional and understanding retort indicates an artist who values customer satisfaction, improving their mistakes, and maintaining a level of professionalism. An aggressive or dismissive response, on the other hand, can be a significant warning sign. 

Finding an Artist Who Understands Your Tattoo Style

Embarking on the journey of choosing the best tattoo artists is exciting but can also feel overwhelming. One pivotal aspect to consider is ensuring your chosen artist truly understands the style of tattoo you desire. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ in the world of tattoo art; individual artists often have their own specialties and preferred styles. Curious about ours? Contact us.

Oftentimes, you’ll first find work that resonates with you on social media platforms such as Instagram or TikTok.

Familiarize Yourself

Before you start reaching out to potential artists, it’s vital to have a solid idea of the kind of tattoo style you’re interested in. From traditional to tribal, Japanese Irezumi to neo-traditional, and geometric to watercolor, there are countless styles to explore. Research different styles and note down what resonates with you—you’ll find this information invaluable when communicating with artists. Don’t forget that a brilliant artist in one style might not be best suited for another. If you need to familiarize yourself with varied styles, we recommend looking at our work.

Get Specific

Once you’ve figured out your preferred style, start seeking artists who excel in that particular style. Look for those who have extensive experience and a rich portfolio reflecting your desired style. Don’t be afraid to get really specific. If you want a grayscale, realistic lion tattoo, seek an artist who can showcase previous work with realistic wildlife tattoos in grayscale. It’s all about aligning the artist’s strengths with your desires. 

Multi-style Artists

Some tattoo artists are capable of working across multiple styles. They can be a great option, particularly if your design incorporates different attributes from multiple styles. However, remember that someone who professes to specialize in numerous styles may not be as proficient as someone who focuses on one or two. 

Communication is Key

Once you’ve found a potential artist, have a detailed discussion with them about your stylistic preferences. A skilled artist doesn’t just replicate a design—they interpret it and bring it to life. An artist who listens thoughtfully to your ideas, provides input, and shows enthusiasm for your project is likely to produce a tattoo that not only matches but surpasses your expectations. 

Making Marks Forever: Qualities to Look for in the Best Tattoo Artists

Choosing your tattoo artist isn’t just about great designs; it’s about appreciating an individual’s skill, professionalism, engagement, and understanding. 

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  • Artistic Ability: Above all else, the best tattoo artists are truly skilled. This might seem obvious but is about more than being able to draw your design accurately, it’s about understanding your concept, able to incorporate color theory, shading, and line work realistically. You want to feel legitimately impressed by their work.
  • Technical Skill: Investigate their use of lines, shading, and color blending. Their technical proficiency directly influences the longevity of your tattoo. Look at healed tattoo images they have done rather than fresh ones to get a real sense of their technical ability.
  • Experience: How long have they been tattooing? Experience is crucial when choosing a tattoo artist as it directly influences the quality and precision of their work. Seasoned artists typically possess a refined skill set, a deep understanding of various tattoo styles, and the ability to handle diverse client preferences, ensuring a more satisfying and successful tattooing experience. However, don’t forget that every experienced artist started somewhere and some newcomers bring fresh perspectives and newer skills.
  • Professionalism: The best tattoo artists will provide a professional environment that adheres to health and safety standards. Consider their scheduling system, punctuality, studio cleanliness, and use of high-quality equipment.
  • Personality: You’re likely to spend quite a bit of time with your tattoo artist. Do you get along well? Are they patient, attentive, and respectful? This can be key to having a comfortable and positive experience.
  • Specialization: Many artists specialize in certain styles. The best tattoo artists for you are those skilled in your desired style.

Remember, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable and confident with the artist you choose. 

Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions

A knowledgeable and passionate artist will welcome the chance to talk about their craft. Be proactive. Discuss your tattoo ideas, inquire about their experience and expertise, and clarify anything you’re unsure about. This can not only help you make an informed decision but also create a space for open communication, laying the foundation for a great tattoo experience. Have questions you need answered? Contact us at Mantle.

Hygienic Habits: The Underrated Aspect of Choosing a Good Tattoo Artist

In the world of tattoos, aesthetics may hold a prime focus, but hygiene must never be underrated. When you’re essentially entrusting a stranger with a needle to your skin, the cleanliness of the environment and the artist’s adherence to hygiene protocols is vital.

Checking review sites like Yelp is a great way to determine if a shop and its artists take health standards seriously. Reviewers will never shy away from complaining about this aspect if it needs to be addressed.

The Tattoo Shop’s Cleanliness 

When you step into a tattoo studio, run a critical eye around. Does the area appear clean and well-maintained? The hygiene level of the studio sets the tone for what you can expect from your tattoo artist. A professional will ensure that their workspace is as nearly sterile as they can make it, reflecting the cleanliness of a medical facility. A tidy, well-kept studio is a good indicator of an artist who takes pride in their work and cares about their clients’ health and safety. 

Sterile Tattoo Equipment 

The artist’s use of sterile equipment is non-negotiable. All needles, ink, gloves, and other equipment must be new, sterile, and opened fresh for each client. Reusing items in a tattoo shop not only cross-contaminates inks but also increases the risk of infection, skin reactions, and the contraction of transmissible diseases. Feel free to ask, the best tattoo shops will be open about their equipment sterilization procedures if they are not readily outlined or visible. 

Personal Hygiene of the Artist 

Stay observant to the tattoo artist’s personal hygiene as well. Are they wearing gloves during the procedure? They should also change their gloves after touching anything non-sterile, like a phone or light switch, and put on a fresh pair before they continue with your tattoo. Equally important, pay attention to whether they wash their hands regularly and maintain proper grooming standards. This gives you an indication of their awareness and compliance with hygiene requirements. 

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Adherence to Health Standards 

Last but not least, all of the best tattoo artists should meet local health department standards. Some areas require tattoo artists to have a permit or license, which usually implies the artist has undertaken a health and safety course. Don’t hesitate to ask them to show you their health department certificate or permit if you don’t see it displayed. 

Let’s Talk: The Best Tattoo Artists Will Have Effective Communication

Choosing the best tattoo artists for you isn’t just about their skill level or portfolio, though these elements are incredibly important. It’s also about communication. You’re not just purchasing a piece of art; you’re investing in a service that requires cooperation and understanding between you and the tattoo artist. Let’s explore why effective communication is so crucial in this process. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a good conversation. It often starts with a preliminary discussion about your tattoo design idea. It’s during this conversation that the artist gets a feel for what you want and can start making your vision come to life in a way that suits your style. Creating a tattoo design can be a process of give and take, so engage in open and honest communication. 

When discussing your ideas, be as clear and precise as possible. Use reference images if available. However, remember that every tattoo artist has a unique style and perspective. They might provide suggestions on how to best depict your concept, bringing a unique aspect to the design that you had not considered. 

Beyond just discussing the design, effective communication can help clarify other important details as well. These can include: 

  1. Tattoo placement: Where on your body the tattoo would fit best, taking into consideration your body contours and the structures of the design.
  2. Size: Your artist can help you determine the appropriate size for your design to ensure clarity and longevity of the tattoo.
  3. Color and Style: These decisions will significantly affect the look of the tattoo. Your artist should be able to guide you based on your skin tone, the design elements, and your specific style. This includes everything from script tattoo fonts to 
  4. Pain management: During the tattooing process, some discomfort is expected. Discussing this beforehand can help you feel more prepared.

Additionally, trust your artist’s expertise but do not hesitate to express any concerns or request modifications. After all, it’s a perpetual mark on your skin. Being able to comfortably communicate your desires, expectations, and boundaries is a key element in creating a tattoo you’ll love forever. 

A word of caution: Be respectful of your tattoo artist’s professional boundaries. Just like in any other profession, their time, expertise and energy should be valued. A respectful, empathetic approach is always appreciated and can pave the way for productive conversations. If you need tips, we recommend this article about tattoo etiquette.

The Importance of Aftercare and Who Should Guide You

Just as crucial as the inking process is the aftercare of your new tattoo. A fresh tattoo is, essentially, an open wound and must be treated with the appropriate care to prevent infection and ensure proper healing. But wait – who should be the ultimate guide in this critical process? You got it – your tattoo artist. 

The best tattoo artists are seasoned professionals with a wealth of knowledge in healing and aftercare. Therefore, their advice is worth its weight in gold. But, if you’re looking for some more immediate assistance, we like this article about the tattoo healing process.

Communication is key in this stage. Make sure to ask every possible question before leaving the tattoo parlor. Obtain instructions in written form, if possible, to ensure you don’t forget any critical steps. Also, the best tattoo artists will tell you that if you have any worries or questions during the healing process, you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to them. 

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Mantle Tattoo DTLA

If you’re on the hunt for really talented artists and professional shops to take care of your tattoo, look no further. Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, we’re easily accessible and have the receipts.

Check out our work and our Instagram to see our portfolio, and our reviews on Yelp or Google to make sure we give quality tattoos. 

Then, schedule a consultation. We’d love to help you take the plunge on your next tattoo.

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