Ask to see the autoclave and the sterilization certification. This will ensure that the studio practices the highest levels of safety. The autoclave will always look similar to a personal save
, and is used by the medical field to sterilize surgical instruments.
Make sure that the artist is wearing disposable surgical gloves. Standard medical latex gloves should always be used. Another point worth mentioning, though. Do the gloves fit properly? If the gloves are too big or too small, the artist runs the risk of either poking a hole in the gloves or tearing them. All it takes is a pinhole to run the risk of cross contamination. Well, this is more for the safety of the tattoo artist, but no one wants an infected tattoo artist working on them. If the tattooist doesn't care about their own safety, would they care about yours?
Is the artist vaccinated for Hepatitis B? This is becoming more important as disease and infection are spreading more rapidly every day, and unsafe tattooing is quickly becoming the culprit guilty of creating the necessity for tattooists to be vaccinated against Hepatitis for their own protection and for the protection of their future clients. Unfortunately, it is not a common practice across the globe yet. Many studios still do not practice this safety measure. It does not necessarily mean that they are unsafe, although practicing this does put a client's mind at ease. If they are not vaccinated, just be sure they are following the other safety guidelines to prevent cross-contamination.
Ointment, ink, water and other items should not be returned to a universal container after it has been removed for use on a client. Anything the tattoo artist uses on you should be thrown away afterward. Unused inks should NOT be returned to the original container! It is contaminated with blood, and should be tossed out.
The artist should be using these tiny little cups called "ink caps" to put just enough ink in for your tattoo, and whatever is left should be thrown away. The same goes for the water and ointments.
This brings to mind another point: Many artists will use deodorant to transfer a copy of the image onto your skin before they begin tattooing. This is a very effective method, but the artist should never use the deodorant stick directly on your skin. It has been used by other clients. Instead, the deodorant should be wiped onto a tissue, and the tissue placed on your skin.
New sterile needles must always be removed from an autoclave bag in front of you. Again..excellent advice. But what is an autoclave bag? Well, not to bring up any bad memories, but you know the little pouches the dentist gets all of his tools out of? That's an autoclave bag. The needles should not be removed from that bag until you are sitting there and they are ready to start your tattoo. You can also ask to see the little sterile confirmation logo on the bag itself. Normally it is a marker that changes to another color when they have been sterilised with gas or the autoclave. Some customers have complained that they have to wait for us to setup the equipment and needles, as they have noticed that in some shops these equipment are already set up and ready to tattoo. Do you want to be tattooed this way?
So, how do you know that the needles are new? In many countries, it is not a legal requirement to use new needles. If used needles are properly autoclaved, it is legally acceptable to use them, but this is not a recommended practice!!! New needles should be bright silver in color, not stained with ink or brownish looking. A point to note. If the artist or studio does not practice breaking the needles in front of each customer after use, chances are the needles will be recycled.
Find out who you are dealing with. Ask him / her where they did their apprenticeship? (LEARNING FROM A BOOK DOES NOT MAKE HIM OR HER A SKILLED TATTOOIST OR ARTIST). Always ask to see examples of the artist's finished work, either live or photographs.. Photos should be openly available. Funny thing is when people walk into a tattoo shop, the first thing they go to is all the flash on the walls or in the books instead of the artist's personal portfolio. You may not find what you're looking for in a tattoo in the portfolio, but it will definitely help you decide if you might want to be trying to find the exit door! And don't be influenced by pretty pictures. Really look at the designs up close. Scrutinize the line work. Are the lines straight and smooth? Do the lines break, do not meet or over run? Do the circles look like circles? What about the coloring? Are the colors blended well to create even forms of shading, dimension, and depth? Look out for gaps in color or shading. All these are important things to consider.
A sidepoint to keep in mind, though: remember that photos can be stolen from other artists. Some time back, I remember walking into a shop with fantastic pieces of artwork that were featured in tattoo magazines. However since the work were done by many well-knowned international artists, and being curious, I walked in and asked the guy if they were his work. He said "Yes, all are my work". If you have the time to spend, stay and watch the artist that you are considering. Don't be shy to ask questions! Trust your instincts, and always remember......If in doubt, don't!