Signs of a Bad Tattoo Artist

  • Written By Dan Hunter on October 30, 2020
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

Getting a tattoo is a big decision, so naturally, you’ll want to make sure you go to a qualified, talented, and reputable tattoo artist. The last thing you want is a bad tattoo artist putting permanent marks on your body, or worse, someone who doesn’t follow appropriate health and safety measures. 

Fortunately, there are several signs that allow you to spot a bad tattoo artist before it’s too late. If you do your research, you should be able to decide if you’re going to someone who you can truly trust with your skin.

Health and Safety Measures

If anything about a tattoo parlor seems unsanitary, it’s probably best to move along. A dedicated tattoo parlor will invest in all of the proper equipment. The artist should always wear gloves while inking and adequately clean and sanitize all equipment.

The parlor should follow health and safety regulations, such as having a current bloodborne pathogens certificate. The tattoo artist should also have a license. These requirements vary by state, therefore, make sure you check your state’s guidelines to see if the artist is properly qualified.

You Get What you Pay For

As in any industry, high quality doesn’t come cheap. Talented tattoo artists know that they’re good and charge accordingly. If a tattoo artist’s fees seem exceedingly low, that should be a red flag. You’ll rarely find top-notch quality at low prices.

If you’re new to tattoos, shop around at several parlors in your area. Try to find someone who is in at least the upper-middle range. If these prices are outside of your budget, it may be best to wait and save your money until you can afford a quality artist.

Practice Makes Perfect

Everyone has to get their start somewhere, but it doesn’t have to be on your skin. No matter how talented an artist is, they must apprentice with an experienced tattoo artist for several years before breaking out on their own. 

If you choose to let an inexperienced inker give you a tattoo, just be prepared for potential mistakes. It’s best to go with a seasoned veteran instead.

Samples of Their Work

Good artists are not only proud of their work – they are willing to show it off. Reputable tattoo parlors will have photographic evidence of completed work. Some may even have testimonials. If your chosen artist doesn’t have any examples or seems reluctant to show you a photograph, you may need to move on to the next place.

Great tattoo artists not only showcase photographs of their work right after it’s completed, but also images of their work after it has healed. Many tattoos look great at first, but then tend to diminish in quality after healing. A talented artist will have photo evidence to show their work holds up.

Information on the Parlor or Reviews

In today’s internet culture, nearly every business has a website. There’s also loads of reviews from happy (or unhappy) customers. If the parlor doesn’t have a website or at least a Facebook page, that’s a red flag! If you can’t find any reviews, or if you can only find negative reviews, that’s a warning sign as well. A legitimate and professional tattoo parlor should operate like any other business.

The Artwork is Subpar

This one is probably a given. Nevertheless, as you check out samples, check for consistency- straight lines, solid colors, and more. If the artwork is anything less than quality, and you want something more complex than your name, it’s time to look elsewhere. If the artist doesn’t have any samples of complicated artwork, you don’t want to go there for an intricate design.

In addition, it may be worth considering whether the artwork is in the same style as what you desire. Sometimes an artist isn’t bad per se, but they don’t have experience in the style you want.

Reluctance to Answer Questions

If the artist isn’t willing to do a consultation or doesn’t want to answer your questions, that’s a bad sign. Tattoo artists who are talented and passionate about their work, love to talk shop and are always happy to reassure their clients. Someone who won’t give you a straight answer to your question may be hiding something, or worse, be inexperienced.

It Feels Wrong

Sometimes you have to go with your intuition. If your gut tells you that there’s something not right about a particular parlor or artist, listen to yourself and go elsewhere. You don’t want to go into a situation with a bad feeling.

Likewise, if you and the tattoo artist seem like a bad fit, it’s probably best to move on. Keep in mind that it’s about more than finding someone who is talented. You also need to find someone who makes you feel comfortable and who understands what you want. After all, you could be in this person’s company for hours on end, session after session, depending on the size and detail of your tattoo.


Getting a tattoo should be a memorable and positive experience. If the tattoo parlor or artist gives off bad vibes such as uncleanliness, a lack of a portfolio, or a bad attitude, you may be better looking elsewhere.

Overall, you want a licensed, talented artist who follows procedures, charges what they’re worth, and has a packed portfolio with examples of great work.

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