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It's a question as old as time— how do you tell a good tattoo artist from a bad one? Well, we finally have the answers for you. There are many different factors that go into separated the good from the bad artists, however, it's essential that our audience is knowledgeable and walks away with a great tattoo. Take a look at our dos and don'ts in the gallery below and let us know if you agree (or disagree) with our list. 


Good: Takes the Proper Health and Safety Precautions

Every artist should take the proper health and safety precautions. This means having an updated bloodbourne pathogens certification, always wearing gloves, always cleaning their machines and keeping a tidy work station.

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Bad: Tattoos Highly Intoxicated Clients

While there is some gray area with stoned clients, a tattooer should always refuse service to someone who is drunk or on drugs (other than marijuana.) Of course, if it's a friend it can be a different situation, however, for a walk-in client an artist should refuse to tattoo someone who cannot properly consent to the tattoo.


Good: Has Solid, Consistent Linework

A good tattooer, regardless of their style or experience, should have solid and consistent linework. Linework is the foundation of most tattoos and an artist should make sure that the linework in their tattoos is as crispy as possible. 

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Bad: Tattooing Without Gloves

Under no circumstances should an artist tattoo without gloves. This is a big no-no regardless of who you speak to and is a huge indicator of someone not taking accountability for their craft or their client's safety.

Color tattoo art by Alex Pancho

Good: Can Pack Saturated Color Into the Skin

A good tattoo artist should be technically trained to pack color into the skin. The tattoo pigment shouldn't be patchy and shouldn't fade drastically over time. This is an indicator of application and artists should be knowledgeable on the fundamentals before attempting this style of tattooing.

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Bad: Copies Another Artist's Work

Here's the thing, an artist should know better than to rip off another tattooer's work line for line. There's a distinctive difference between taking inspiration from someone's work and straight up duplicating the design on another client's skin. While tattoo copying isn't illegal, the industry has certain ethics that discourage artists from doing it.


Good: Walks Before They Run

Another indication of a bad tattooer is someone who bites off more than they can chew and tackles a design that they aren't technically or artistically experienced enough to properly execute. Every artist out there, including the industry icons and the hot shots, started somewhere and learned the basics before moving on to more intricate work.

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Bad: Does 'Party' Tattoos

While there's nothing wrong with an artist setting up a tattoo station at a party, in this instance, we're specifically referring to scratchers that tattoo their friends at social gatherings. If you see someone that's not a professional artist whip out a machine at a party, we advise against getting a tattoo done by them—even if they offer up their services for free. 

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Good: Posts Healed Tattoo Photos

A good artist should be transparent about their tattoos, both fresh and healed. There are plenty of tattoos that look great right after the tattoo but because of poor application, heal like crap. Keep this in mind when researching an artist for your next tattoo.

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Bad: Tattoos in Unsanitary Locations

This should be a no brainer, but getting tattooed in a bathroom, on a subway car and even in a grimy shop is a bad idea. Tattoo infections are no joke and many clients have died from getting a dirty tattoo.