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How to look at portfolios when looking for a tattoo artist

Whether you are looking for your first tattoo or your tenth, trying to find the perfect tattoo artist can be daunting. Because of the (almost) permanent nature of the art, getting a tattoo should not be taken lightly. Tattoos can be easy to get, but difficult and costly to fix, coverup or remove.

An important part of getting the perfect tattoo is being patient. You need to do your research on studios, artists, styles and possibly wait for months to get exactly what you are looking for. Doing the necessary leg work can take some time. Once you have narrowed down what you want you will need to start researching artists to make your dream tattoo happen.

One of the most important things to do when researching artists is to take a look at portfolios. When doing this, you are not looking for the exact design that you want - instead you are looking for the technical ability to make your dream tattoo happen. Here are some things that you want to look for:

  1. Crisp, consistent outlines. Each line should be a single thickness or if the design calls for it, lines should gradually go from thin to thick like calligraphy. Lines that are splotchy, uneven and/or missing spots were not put in properly.

  2. Color should be even and consistent. If color looks patchy or faded it will only look worse over time. This is usually a sign that the artist lacks the technical ability to put in solid color or is too lazy to take the time to do so.​

  3. The transitions from one color to another should be smooth and seamless. You should not be able to tell where one color stops and another starts.

  4. Black and grey shading should be soft and also have seamless transitions from dark to light. The full spectrum of black and grey shades should be present.

  5. Be weary of overly photoshopped images. Portfolios should be neat and presentable and many artists will photoshop multiple views of one tattoo together so that you get a 360º view of a piece - like a sleeve for example. If the colors look overly saturated and fake though, they probably are.

  6. Does the artist work in the style that you are looking for? If you want a black and grey portrait you want to go to someone that does them - not someone that works in another style completely.

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