How to Spot A Good Tattoo and Piercing Shop and What Not to Do


Lu P | Watercolour & Trash Polka Artist | Dreamworx Ink

Finding a good artist you vibe with is like finding a good doctor. Once you’ve found them, you go there for the rest of your life

—owner, Dreamworx Ink.

When it comes  piercings and tattoos, there are an abundance of shops around to choose from. However, as a client who is potentially planning to modify their body, you need to be extremely weary of bad shops, bad artists, and bad piercers. Let me begin by essentially saying that you get what you pay for. If you want an extremely detailed work of art for $200, you will get a $200 tattoo. It just doesn’t work like that, yet a lot of people unfortunately have that mentality. When it comes to something being permanent on your body, do not sell yourself short, but more over, do not limit yourself based on money. I cannot stress this enough. The shop that I’m at, Dreamworx Ink (check out their Facebook page) encounters a multitude of people who come to us in hopes of fixing disasters from other shops. The first questions we ask are “where did you get it done” and “how much did you pay”.

If you can’t buy a Louis Vuitton purse for two hundred dollars, why expect the same high quality work in a tattoo for the same amount?

Many reputable shops work at hourly rates of about $150 and up. For extensively detailed pieces, with very intricate line work and shading, you will not pay less than the hourly rate, so stop dreaming. There is no bargaining in the tattoo industry. A talented artist will not undersell their art. More-over, a talented artist will be in high demand, and booked well in advance. If you walk into a tattoo shop and find artists lined against a wall waiting for clients, take this as a warning sign. Furthermore, a good shop will genuinely advise you on your tattoo, and attempt to guide you away from anything like bad placement ideas, sizing, colour vs greyscale, and simply really stupid tattoo ideas in general. With that said, what should you expect when you walk into a reputable shop, you ask? Allow me to enlighten you.

First and foremost, the overall shop appearance can tell you a lot about the shop. What do the floors look like? Are they clean? Are the artists’ stations clean? How does it smell? These are very important notes to take into consideration, because it involves your own well being as a potential client. You need to be able to “eat off the floors” per say. Shops need to have the same hygenic diligence as a clinic or hospital, because there is an abundance of blood and plasma that comes in contact with the artist’s workstations. There should be cavacide and alcohol at each station, and should be used to wipe down all surfaces before and after each client. Each artists needs a sharps container where they can safely dispose of any used needles. All needles and tubes should be packaged and sealed prior to use. Needles come pre-sterilized and pre-packaged, and tubes are packaged in autoclave bags, and sanitized in an autoclave at 121°C. The exact same procedure applies to all piercings: needles come pre-sterilized and pre-packaged, and all tools such as clamps, holders, etc, are packaged and sterilized in an autoclave. Speaking from personal experience, I (along with my colleagues) prefer using pre-setilized tools. It saves the headache of constantly autoclaving, logging, and making sure the the’clave is running properly during each use. Moreover, each client has their own disposable, pre-sterilized tool, and it is thrown out after each use. It’s easy, safe, and many clients find comfort in the  having disposable tools used on them rather than over-used steel clamps that have been autoclaved a thousand times.

Getting a tattoo or piercing at the same place you go to get your fade or nails done is something we classify as a ‘bad life choice’.

Expecting a great tattoo from a place that doesn’t specialize in it is like expecting your cat to start barking. It just doesn’t make sense. Yet, it continues to surprise me how many people I’ve come across who have gotten a tattoo at a barber shop, or at the back of a convenience store and have been surprised and disappointed at the lack of fundamental skill they they have received. Why are you surprised?!

Figure your sh*t out, already!

I can’t stress the importance of researching your artist enough, clearly. Moreover, figure out exactly what it is you want. What style appeals to you? Are you willing to go the appropriate size for that hyper-detailed piece? And who specializes in that style? Your common down-town corner shop artist who tattoos old-school, bold flash art from a catalogue will not be able to execute a greyscale hyper-realism portrait for you. And if they vow that they absolutely can, seek proof. Take time extensively browsing through their portfolio, and past tattoos. That example is not to say that old-school tattoos are bad. They an be pretty badass, if, again, executed by someone who specializes in them!

You are not made out of paper.

Size. Size. Size. You absolutely cannot get a bible verse tattooed on you at a size equivalent of 8 pt font on a standard 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper. You are not a book. Your tattoo will blur, and you will regretfully be left with a blob of a tattoo, only to have to endure laser removal or get an exponentially larger cover-up tattoo to mask your initial bad decision. Those little Pinterest tattoos are the devil: falsely-advertised, lying and luring even to the best of us. If you are adamant on a tattoo done microscopically small-which may not even be noticeable-then you may want to re-evaluate why it is you want the tattoo in the first place. More often than not, it results from a commitment phobia or insecurity of having ink on your body and thus wanting it as least noticeable as possible. If that is the case, do not get a tattoo. You will not be happy with it. And you will most definitely have a sour taste about tattoos collectively once it blurs. Take your time, and make sure you’re ready.








Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s