Tattoo ArtistWhen it comes to tattoos, everyone is hoping for the perfect execution.  The client wants a beautiful piece of work that will last a lifetime.  The artist wants the skill and talent to show through.

In order to get create the perfect tattoo, take keep these six steps in mind…

#1: Really Listen to the Client

Whether he or she is looking for a reproduction of a piece of flash or wants something completely original, it is important to hear what is being said.  Getting the design to fit the customer’s vision while representing you as an artist takes some serious skill, but in doing so, you are already on the road to the best possible tattoo.  There’s a reason that tattoo artists spend so much time practicing their drawing and shading skills.  By putting the design on paper first, you can ensure that everyone has the same vision in mind.

#2: Pay Attention to Placement

It’s really common for a customer to have a pretty good idea of the design he or she wants, and it seems they almost always have a specific place they want it.  As the professional, you need to be able to look at the design and the desired location and determine if it’s a good fit.  In some cases, creating a better fit can be as simple as scaling the design up or down in size.  In others, though, you may need to make the client aware that the design really doesn’t work.  Show them how it will appear warped from a different angle, how it interacts with other tattoos already received, etc.  In the end, if you are able to advise the client for a better fit, it will reflect well on you and make for a far better piece of art.

#3: Consider Techniques in Advance

Sure, you will want to make decisions on the fly when you’re inking someone, but having a game plan in advance gives you the opportunity to really think through the best approach.  For example, you may determine that you’d like to create some bloodlines in order to develop some nice boundaries for color without having  to outline them completely in black.  If you were simply sitting down and doing the tattoo without having thought it through in advance, you may have overlooked the possibility of improving the design by using this technique.

#4: Know your Equipment

From the tattoo machine to the pigments and beyond, being experienced and comfortable with your equipment and tools of the trade is incredibly important for the overall quality of the work you will produce.  Of course, you will want to try out other machines and to experiment with new inks, but keep in mind that you want to have a good feel for your favorites.  Each will have its own qualities and quirks, so using those that you know well means that you will have much more control over the finished product.

#5: Be Realistic

A good tattoo artist needs to be aware of his or her limitations and to accept them.  That’s not to say that you don’t want to keep practicing and learning new techniques, but biting off more than you can chew is not going to result in the quality of tattoo that you want to represent your work.  In addition to not choosing to do tattoos that are beyond your skill level, it’s also good practice not to choose to do a design that you object to for some reason.  Again, you would not want it out there representing who you are and what you do.  Additionally, you may inadvertently not do your best work because you don’t actually like the design.

#6: Educate Clients About Aftercare

Most tattoo shops will have a standard “aftercare sheet” with a list of “DO’s and DON’Ts” when it comes to caring for their tattoos in those first few days and weeks.  No matter how much work the tattoo artist puts into the design, it’s just not going to hold up if the client doesn’t follow through on his or her end.  In addition to simply handing the clients a sheet of instructions, take time during the tattoo process to talk about how tattoo ink works and to let them know what they can do to protect the color (staying out of the sun, not submerging in water, avoiding picking the scabs, etc.).  When this conversation happens during the tattoo process, the client sees it as valuable insight coming from a professional, rather than just being instructions on a handout that can be ignored.

Elite Tattoo Artist Insider


Tattoo BusinessFor many tattoo artist, owning a shop is a dream-come-true.  But, owning a business is about more than simply finding an empty building and moving in.

The successful tattoo business owner has to wear a lot of hats to keep everything running smoothly.

Here are five secrets to use in setting up a successful tattoo business…

Secret #1 – Location Really Is Everything

You often hear people talk about how the three most important aspects of real estate are location, location, and location.  While that may be a bit simplistic, it is still kind of accurate.  Choosing the location for a tattoo shop can absolutely make or break the business.  There are few guidelines to keep in mind when choosing your location.  For one, you want to consider your clientele and make yourself available in areas where they are.  If you want to tattoo soccer moms or college co-eds, you might choose to have a space near other retail outlets.  If you are looking for a rowdier crowd, maybe head toward a rougher part of town.  No matter where you’re setting up, though, you want to know that the population can handle another tattoo shop.  Being the best at what you do will certainly help, but if there are just too many shops in a small area, all of the tattoo businesses will suffer, with the newer ones potentially going under first.

Secret #2 – Write a Business Plan

If you’re looking for outside funding (say, from a bank), then a business plan may be a necessity.  Even if it isn’t, though, any new business owner should consider creating one before opening the doors.  Creating a business plan forces you to consider aspects of the business that may have never occurred to you otherwise, and being prepared for them puts you at an incredible advantage down the road.  There are fewer surprises, for sure, but the process also allows you to envision where you want the business to go and to create a sort of road map for how to get there.  Once the business plan is written, you can use it to guide your decision-making process, keeping in mind that it’s not written in stone and you can revise and alter it when appropriate.

Secret #3 – Treat Your Business Like a Business

Face it, one of the best reasons to start a business is so that you can do things the way you want and so you can enjoy the experience.  One way to do this is by surrounding yourself with people you like.  This is great and can create an awesome atmosphere in the shop.  On the other hand, it can be a business owner’s downfall.  Working with your friends is great, but having your friends slack off while you pay the bills is not so cool.  Be sure that everyone is aware of the policies of the shop and that when you bring in artists and other staff members they know that they are not above following the rules.  More than one friendship has been  torn apart by a business relationship, so rather than risking both, it makes sense to have contracts in place and expect everyone to abide by them.

Elite Tattoo ProSecret #4 – You Can’t (Shouldn’t) Do It All

A business owner is kind of like a juggler with dozens of balls in the air at a time.  There’s payroll to make and rent to pay and distributors to meet with and health inspections to pass.  Oh, and working with customers and actually doing some art, too.  How can one person do it all?  The answer is that one person probably shouldn’t do it all.  There will be areas in which the business owner really excels.  On the other hand, there are areas that really should have professional attention.  For example, the contracts mentioned above should really be created by a transactional lawyer.  It’s very likely worthwhile to hire a part-time bookkeeper rather than to try and do all the accounting yourself.  You may also want to work with a marketing company to develop a strategy for bringing in customers and keeping your artists busy.  The best approach is to determine which things you’re good at, as well as which things you enjoy, and then bring in the “big guns” for the other tasks.

Tattoo History

Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Tattooing is an art form that has existed for thousands of years in cultures around the globe.  It’s likely that different groups of people independently discovered the ability to make permanent marks upon the skin, and many chose to incorporate this into their own cultures.  Still others were likely introduced to the concept of tattooing when they visited new lands or were host to travelers themselves.

The acceptance of tattoos has also been fairly dependent upon cultures.  In many Western countries, tattoos were considered to be low-class, while other cultures viewed them as signs of status.  The background of why different groups view tattoos differently is a complex one that is informed by religion, history, and the use of the tattoos themselves.

Prehistoric Tattoos

Obviously, there are no written records of the practices of pre-historic humans.  After all, that’s why it’s “pre-historic.”  So, we don’t really know what went on as far as tattooing during this time.  We do get a little glimpse into pre-history, however, with the discovery of a five-thousand-year-old frozen human.  Scientists refer to him as “Ozti the Iceman”, and his body was discovered frozen in the Alps.;  Ozti was covered in tattoos!

There is evidence that tattooing may be even older than this man from the Bronze Age, though.  There are some clay statues in Japan that are thought to be about ten thousand years old.  These figures are of humans, and the marks on their bodies seem to indicate that at least some people from that time wore tattoos.

Really, Really Old Tattoos

Without necessarily drawing the line between “history” and “prehistory,” there are other examples of really, really old cultures that incorporated tattooing.  Bodies of Siberians from nearly 2,500 years ago have been found with tattoos depicting animals.  Remains from North America have also been found that show tattoos from approximately 1,500 years ago.

Even older tattoos can be found when one looks at mummies from both Egypt and South America.  Female mummies from Egypt have been found with tattoos on the thighs and stomach, leading archaeologists to theorize they were fertility symbols.  South American mummies dating back 3,000 years have been found with animals depicted in their skin.

Tattoos for Punishment, Possession, and Prisoners

Perhaps part of the reason that such a stigma was placed upon tattoos is the fact that they were often used as a form of punishment in various cultures.  (Interestingly, the Latin word for tattoo was “stigma.”)  Tattoos were commonly used to mark slaves, a practice that stretches back into Greek and Roman times, and were also used to punish criminals.  Those caught stealing, for example, might be forcibly tattooed so that others would be able to identify them as thieves.

The practice of tattooing for these purposes became less commonly practiced in the Western world with a decree from the Roman Emperor Constantine when he adopted Christianity as the official religion of his empire.  More than 450 years later, Pope Hadrian I prohibited any tattooing at all.

A more modern example of the use of tattoos that has further added stigma is their complex history with prisoners of all types.  Particularly disturbing is the image of Holocaust prisoners who were tattooed with identification numbers on their wrists.  Not all prisoners come by their tattoos by force, however.  “Jailhouse” tattoos are quite common, with varying levels of quality.  There’s a whole cultural aspect to tattoos within the prison system, with different designs representing crimes and punishments.

Growing Acceptance in the US

In large part due to the prevalence of Christianity in the US, tattooing was not looked upon favorably for a very long time.  There were people who broke with tradition and got ink anyway, and many of them were soldiers and sailors who chose tattoos as permanent reminders of those back home, as well as of their experiences in the armed services.  Rather surprisingly, Christian symbols (along with patriotic images) were particularly popular.

It wasn’t until the 1890s, however, that a more accessible method of tattooing (the tattoo machine) was created.  It suddenly became much easier and desirable to get ink.  Tattooing still had a long way to go before it gained more acceptance, and for a long time it was still viewed as low-class, with connections to gang and prison life.

That is not the case today, however.  Everyone from soccer moms to celebrities now sport tattoos.  One estimate says that almost 40% of Americans under forty have a tattoo.  This is great news for the aspiring tattoo artist and goes to show how the acceptance of this art form has grown incredibly in the last few decades.

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