Scratcher Tattoos: Why You Should ALWAYS Avoid Them

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 5, 2020
    Last Updated: July 6, 2021

Scratchers are inexperienced and unclean artists that have taught themselves how to tattoo rather than being trained through an apprenticeship with a professional tattoo artist. They get their name from the typical quality of the tattoos they produce, which have uneven linework that looks like a “chicken scratch.”

For this reason, it’s best to never get a tattoo from a scratcher. No matter how cheap, scratcher tattoos are never going to be the kind of art you’re happy to have on your body for years to come. Most who get scratcher tattoos end up regretting it.

Why Scratcher Tattoos Are a Bad Idea

The problem is, some people are so desperate to get a tattoo that they are willing to go to someone cheap to have it done. If it seems like you’re getting a tattoo for way less than it’s worth, you’re probably going to a scratcher. 

Scratchers are unlicensed and usually do tattoos “on the side.” Just because someone can draw and has artistic talent, it does not mean they can tattoo. The art of tattooing takes dedicated practice and has its own set of techniques and skills that need to be developed. 

How Scratchers Damage the Reputation of the Tattoo Industry

Many professional tattoo artists find scratchers extremely offensive. Imagine the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. That’s what comes to mind when we think of scratchers. They don’t know what they’re doing, and they’re going to ruin your skin. 

Nevertheless, perhaps the biggest problem with scratchers is not their lack of skill, but their unsafe practices. Scratchers typically have cheap equipment that’s not properly cared for or sterilized. Some report getting things like hepatitis and even AIDS from going to a scratcher.

Just imagine the splattered blood, bodily fluids, and germs from previous clients in a space that has not been properly cleaned. It sends shudders through our bodies. How about you?

4 Red Flags Your Tattoo Artist Is a Scratcher

Besides an extremely low price, there are other red flags that a tattoo artist is a scratcher. Keep the following in mind, and you’ll know what to avoid.

1. Scratchers Don’t Work in a Shop

Skilled and talented tattoo artists can always get work in a shop. If they can’t, there’s probably a good reason for it. Be wary of anyone who has you come to their home for a tattoo or who asks to come to your house. 

If someone is going to sit you down at their kitchen table or living room sofa, this is a red flag you’re working with a scratcher. The same goes for home visits. Scratchers love to come to tattoo parties where they can give a bunch of tattoos, collect a wad of cash, and then disappear if someone gets an infection or contracts a disease. 

2. Scratchers Don’t Follow Safe Practices

Whenever you’re working with a needle piercing skin, there’s the danger of contamination. While a scratcher might put on gloves and get a new needle out of the package, there is a lot more professional artists do to keep you safe than this.

Special equipment is used in a multi-step process to ensure safety during a tattoo session. A professional tattoo artist has been trained in the “sterile chain of events” to prevent infection and disease. 

Scratchers don’t care about safety. If you get sick, there’s very little you can do against them since they don’t have the proper licensing or a shop to complain to. 

3. Scratchers Will Give You a Tattoo for “Real Cheap”

We’ve already discussed this a little, but it bears repeating. Scratchers often lure people in with very low prices, and the quality of the tattoo will reflect this fact. 

Professional tattoo artists pay for certifications, licensing, sterilization, and insurance. There’s a reason quality tattoos cost as much as they do. The proper equipment and setup are essential to protect YOU from harm.

4. Scratchers Tattoo “On the Side”

Anyone who gives tattoos to make extra money is not a professional tattoo artist. If the person in question says they can give you a tattoo out of their basement or living room, it’s unlikely they’ve had the proper training or the correct equipment to do so safely.

Scratchers are always looking to make a quick buck. They don’t care about you or the quality of their work and might try to show off their lousy artwork as if it’s any good. If someone is currently a tattoo apprentice, they will be upfront about it, and a real tattoo artist will display professionalism and humility when it comes to their art. 

Real Tattoo Artists Take Their Art Seriously

If you’re working with a professional tattoo artist, you’ll know it. Look for a clean, professional shop with talented artists. They’ll be happy to show you their sterilization practices and licensing.

Don’t fall for a scratcher’s “cheap tricks.” If it sounds too good to be true, it is. The last thing you want is to contract hepatitis or have to go to the hospital with a severely infected tattoo.

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