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13 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Tattoo Artists

Tattoos are more mainstream than ever, to the chagrin of tattooed hipsters who were once happily ahead of the curve. Anyone can ink a tattoo, but if you want it to look better than a jailhouse tat, you want to go to a professional artist to have yours done. Mental_floss talked to some experienced inkers to find out what goes on behind the scenes of your local tattoo shop. Here’s a sample:

5. A GOOD ARTIST WILL SAY NO.

Whatever your age or employment status, there are some tattoos artists just won’t do, either because it’s not their specialty or they know it won’t look good or heal well. The professionals will be honest about this.

Small, intricate designs might not age well, and finger tattoos won’t last. A good artist will warn you about these potential complications and maybe even refuse the work. Because so much of their business relies on referrals, their art is an advertisement, so it better be good. “A good artist will tell you no because your money is not worth their name,” says Page.

But this isn’t always true, especially for less-experienced artists looking to make as much money as possible. “They probably didn’t train under somebody that taught them well,” Leever says. “It’s become this cash-cow industry where people open up a shop that know nothing about tattooing and hire a bunch of people who don’t know anything about tattooing and it’s just about making money.”

8. THEY MAKE MISTAKES ALL THE TIME.

They just know how to cover them up so the customer never knows. “Every tattoo artist messes up,” says one artist on Reddit. “We just take the time to fix it as we go, adding a flourish here or there, a little bit more contrast. No client would notice.”

Oh, there’s lots more to learn about tattoo artists at mental_floss, and you’ll find it interesting even if you’re never going to get a tattoo.


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