This is a topic I briefly touched on in one of my previous blogs, but I wanted to take a moment and expound on that. We're talking about the moment when you finally decide to get that tattoo you've been wanting, and now the question becomes "what shop should I go to and which artist should I hired to do my tattoo?"
First thing is first, you should know that it is always wise to research your artist and inspect their portfolios before committing to getting any tattoo done.
That being said, I'm going to walk you through five crucial tips on how to look at an artists portfolio, so that you know what to look for as well as what to look out for when seeking the right artist for you.
1: Look closely at the Linework.
Linework is a very crucial part of almost any type of tattoo you might want to get. Specially if you're wanting to get something like a name tattoo or any type of lettering, you want to be sure your artist can run a clean line.
What you want to see is solid, and consistent Linework throughout the entire portfolio, not just one or two pictures. Running a clean line should always be amongst the first thing any tattoo artist learns to do. Weak lines are a dead ringer for a weak tattoo. Even minor imperfections in the Linework can quickly take your tattoo from awesome to eyesore in a heartbeat.
(Above is an example of some really sharp looking Linework. Notice how solid and consistent the lines look)
(This second example, on the other hand, features inconsistent and squiggly lines. That's what you don't want)
2. Look at the Shading
The next thing you should be looking at, is how smooth the shading looks through out the portfolio. There are many different techniques for shading a tattoo, but ultimately the name of the game is consistency. Does the shading go smoothly from black to white? Or does it look choppy, sketchy and scratchy? If it looks choppy, move on to another portfolio. The last thing you want is to go in for a portrait tattoo of someone you hold dear, and have that tattoo look 110 years older than the person looks in real life. Smooth shading is a crucial part in any tattoo in order for it to look as good as it's supposed to.
This is also makes the difference between a cheap looking tattoo, and a good looking tattoo.
(Notice the soft smooth shading on this elegant forearm tattoo)
(This picture shows what choppy shading looks like. It's not smooth, or consistent, it's hard to read and will not look good once the tattoo is healed)
3. Solid Color Work.
If you're looking to get a color tattoo, then you may want to know just how well your artist handles color.
Being in Florida, most color tattoos tend to take quite a beating from the sun which can fade your color tattoos rather quickly. This is much less of a problem in other places where summers don't last 9 months out of the year. But in either case, what makes a good color tattoo, is how solid the colors are packed. When looking through portfolios you want to look for solid colors that look vibrant and have lots of contrast (balance between bright and dark colors). This contrast is what will make your color tattoos really pop and stay vibrant over the years.
On the other had, if the colors looks soft, and light and doesn't have a good balance of black or other very dark colors, the brightness of the tattoo is almost certainly destined to fade sooner than later.
(Here's a closeup of some solid colorwork. Notice how vibrant and colorful these leaves and flower petals look)
(Here's a closeup of another tattoo that has nothing but really light colors and no contrast. This tattoo will most certainly fade away and leave little to no color behind after just a few years)
This is a little bit more of a complicated subject, but there are some simple guidelines you can look for that will really show you the competency of your artist.
One very common issue is tattoos that are placed backwards or upside down.
Tattoos should always face outwards and towards the front of your body. Portraits and anything with eyes should always be looking forwards. It's so common to see a tattoo on someone's shoulder that is facing towards the back. This may seem like a small detail, but it's a technicality that any good artist should be aware of.
Look for backwards tattoos in artists portfolios and don't be shy to ask why the tattoo was done backwards. It could be the artists didn't catch, but it could also be that the customer wanted it that way.
At least make sure the artist knows the difference.
(This idea of backwards tattoos, while it may be trending, is usually enough to cause just about any tattoo artist to roll their eyes at you)
5. Do your styles match up?
This is a very important thing to keep in mind when looking through portfolios. You want to make sure that what you want to get, lines up with what your artist does. If you want a lettering tattoo, you should find an artist who does good lettering. It's not usually wise to ask a black and gray artist to do a full color portrait, or vice versa. Although many artists can adapt to whatever you want to get, it's also very common for good artists to specialize in a certain style. So you'll want to make sure that your styles match up so you can actually get the type of tattoo you're looking for.
Stay tuned for the next blog where we will cover different kinds of tattoo styles so you can learn to tell one from the other, and know which style best suits you.