Picking Your Tattoo Studio, Tattoo Artist, And/or Body Piercer..

Picking a tattoo shop can be one of the toughest decisions a customer with zero knowledge of what to look for can make. In this post I will guide you and tell you what to look for when choosing your tattoo studio, tattoo artist, and/or body piercer.

Choosing Your Tattoo Shop –

There are alot of misconceptions about tattoo studios. Many of people think that if a tattoo shop is all “decked out” and a fun place they must be good, or if the shop is really busy with customers they must be good.

In my opinion you could not be further from the truth. I have been a professional body piercer for 10 years and have worked at shops all over the globe, and some have been really nice professional shops, but with the good there is always the bad and I have worked in my share of “bogus” tattoo studios that cared more about your money then the work they put out or your health.

So with that in mind I am going to give you a list of things to look for or ask to see so you can make the best judgement possible to insure you’re in a safe establishment.

  1. 1. Ask Around – People talk, all you have to do is ask someone to give you their opinion. Don’t base your decision strictly on that, but use it as a basis for what tattoo studios you will “investigate” first.
  2. Search the internet for tattoo shops in your area – All you need to do is google tattoo shops in your area and check out their websites. Not that this step has any credibility on how good the tattoo studio is its more of a way to get you decided on which studios you would like to check out.

Now that you have your list of tattoo studios we are going to guide you through what to look and ask for. A lot of people might not know that just within the past 2 years Illinois passed laws regulating tattoo studios. Local health departments are the ones that carry out the duties of enforcing the rules. I do believe there are still shops in the state that do not fully comply. So I am going to inform you on how to weed out the good and bad. Also how to report shops that are not complying with state regulations.

  1. First and most important be respectful in a tattoo studio. You can ask all the questions you want but if the person says no then just leave. No need to cause a scene in a studio.
  2. Ask if you can see the spore test log for the studios Illinois states that all tattoo studios must keep a monthly log of their spore test. A spore test is a test that tells us if our Sterilizing Equiptment (or AutoClave) is working properly. Now don’t be fooled some may show you “steam indicator strips” this is not the same thing. Steam indicator strip only tells you if your auto clave reached the proper temperature.
  3. Steam Indicators – These are found on the sterilization pouches themselves or on a strip that is located in the pouch. They normally say “turns black when processed in steam” and ultimately depending on what the color change is you should know if the package has reached proper temperature. Ask your tattoo artist or body piercer to show you the equipment packages and see for yourself. A list of things that should be sterilized are as follows: needles, initial body piercing jewelry, tattoo tubes, any clamps, basically any tools aside from tattoo machines that will be reused or that will break the skin of a client (needles should NEVER be reused) must be properly sterilized.
  4. Ask to see the AutoClave – This is just a good one to check. Just simply ask to make sure they even have one. Every shop should have a steam sterilizer of one kind or another.
  5. Last but not least look around – Take a look around. Check out how the general cleanliness. Check out the bathroom, is it clean? It should be.

Use your best judgement and try and apply a few of my suggestions. It could save you a lot of headaches in the future.

Choosing Your Tattoo Artist And/Or Body Piercer –

Tattoo Artist’s and Body Piercers now this is where it gets hard, so pay attention. As far as illinois is concerned there is not much regulating tattoo artists or body piercers. Mainly just the studio itself and how they run the shop.

Chosing a artist or piercer is where it can get tricky. I am going to try and guide you as best I can in choosing the person to do your modifications.

  1. Look Or Ask To See Portfolios – Seeing a portfolio can really help out in the decision making of picking a piercer or tattoo artist. But be aware people do steal other peoples portfolios, people do edit photos to make them perfect so my general rule of thumb is “never make the portfolio the deciding factor of letting someone work on you.” Take all factors in consideration.
  2. Ask Questions – Talk to the artist or piercer. Ask questions. Any “professional” will answer any concern or question you might have. They should be as helpful aspossible. If they don’t know the answer to a question you might have they will find out for you. A good professional artist or body piercer will have no problem helping you out. Read their body language, if the conversation does not feel comfortable and your getting a bad vibe then get out. Ask how long they have been doing their chosen art. Ask who they learned from or how they learned. I do have on thing to add that I  hear a lot, I am afraid to say people that say they are certified to pierce or tattoo they are full of crap (Most of the time, in some states you do have to be certified, Illinois is NOT one of those states). There is no such thing. Shops are certified, artist and body piercers are not. Unless of course, your artist payed for a certificate he bought out of a tattoo magazine. In which case they are bogus and get out quick.
  3. Ask To Watch – This is my own own personl favorite. I personally do not let anyone work on me unless I feel comfortable with them and their work. The best way for me is to see them actually do their job. Any respectable tattoo artist or piercer will not mind (however, the artist should also ask the client getting worked on if they are comfortable letting a stranger watch).

So for my conclusion, I will leave you with this. Never judge a book from it’s cover, do some research of your own, and trust your gut. If there is one last piece of advice I could give you it would be a old saying I’ve heard from tattoo artists all over the world, I think this applys for both tattoos and body piercings.

“Good tattoos aren’t cheap and cheap tattoos aren’t good.”

Thanks Zuni

Thanks to for there photo.

Attention!!! Illinois Tattoo And Body Piercing Laws Broken Down For You.

I get people all the time in the tattoo studio that really have no idea of the current laws that have been set forth by the state. Another thing I  have noticed in  my 10 years of  professional body modification is that alot of people are generally stupid to put it lightly. Most customers have no regard to their health when it comes to any kind of body modification, weither it is tattoos, simple body piercings, and/or heavy mods, people just do not put forth the effort to find the safest enviroment and most qualified person they can find for their procedures.

This post is to help make people aware of the laws and my opinion on these laws.  My next article will be on how to pick your piercer and/or tattoo artist, in addition to knowing that your chosen tattoo studio is following proper procedures to keep you safe- make sure to check back for this article.


Illinois Body Piercing And Tattoo State Laws

(720 ILCS 5/12-10) (from Ch. 38, par. 12-10)
Sec. 12-10. Tattooing Body Of Minor.

(a) Any person, other than a person licensed to practice medicine in all its branches, who tattoos or offers to tattoo a person under the age of 18 is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

(b) Any person who is an owner or employed by a business that performs tattooing, other than a person licensed to practice medicine in all its branches, may not permit a person under 18 years of age to enter or remain on the premises where tattooing is being performed unless the person under 18 years of age is accompanied by his or her parent or legal guardian. A violation of this subsection (b) is a Class A misdemeanor.

(c) As used in this Section, to “tattoo” means to insert pigment under the surface of the skin of a human being, by pricking with a needle or otherwise, so as to produce an indelible mark or figure visible through the skin.

(d) Subsection (a) of this Section does not apply to a person under 18 years of age who tattoos or offers to tattoo another person under 18 years of age away from the premises of any business at which tattooing is performed.
(Source: P.A. 94-684, eff. 1-1-06.)

Now this law should be self explanatory,  but most people get pissed when they bring their 14 year old to get tattooed and we say sorry we can’t do it. “But I’m their mother” well quite honestly I don’t care the law clearly states the boundaries for tattooing persons under 18 years of age. And yes, people do storm out and get all pissy and you know they are going to go down the street and get it done with some shitty half ass tattoo shop. It is a sad day when people just don’t listen to professionals and the potential customer decides they know what they are doing.
In my opinion I don’t think people under 18 understand the risks and commitment that comes with a tattoo. Cleanliness is one of my concerns, teens are the ones who come in a week later after getting a fresh piercing and its terribly infected, they lift there shirt to show me this navel piercing, and the first thing they do is touch it with their dirty fingers. I have  seen it 100+ times and it goes to show that maybe “Minors” should wait. Not only that, but most kids grow at some rate or another till they are  18 and somtimes later. Piercings and Tattoos can be done straight but I have seen a few occasions where the person grew so much the tattoo was in a totally diffrent place or the piercing was clearly  crooked  from their  growth pattern. Just something to think about.

(720 ILCS 5/12-10.1)
Sec. 12-10.1. Piercing the body of a minor.

(a)(1) Any person who pierces the body or oral cavity of a person under 18 years of age without written consent of a parent or legal guardian of that person commits the offense of piercing the body of a minor. Before the oral cavity of a person under 18 years of age may be pierced, the written consent form signed by the parent or legal guardian must contain a provision in substantially the following form:

“I understand that the oral piercing of the tongue, lips, cheeks, or any other area of the oral cavity carries serious risk of infection or damage to the mouth and teeth, or both infection and damage to those areas, that could result but is not limited to nerve damage, numbness, and life threatening blood clots.”

A person who pierces the oral cavity of a person under 18 years of age without obtaining a signed written consent form from a parent or legal guardian of the person that includes the provision describing the health risks of body piercing, violates this Section.

(1.5) Any person who is an owner or employed by a business that performs body piercing may not permit a person under 18 years of age to enter or remain on the premises where body piercing is being performed unless the person under 18 years of age is accompanied by his or her parent or legal guardian.

(2) Sentence. A violation of clause (a)(1) or (a)(1.5) of this Section is a Class A misdemeanor.

(b) Definition. As used in this Section, to “pierce” means to make a hole in the body or oral cavity in order to insert or allow the insertion of any ring, hoop, stud, or other object for the purpose of ornamentation of the body. “Piercing” does not include tongue splitting as defined in Section 12-10.2.

(c) Exceptions. This Section may not be construed in any way to prohibit any injection, incision, acupuncture, or similar medical or dental procedure performed by a licensed health care professional or other person authorized to perform that procedure or the presence on the premises where that procedure is being performed by a health care professional or other person authorized to perform that procedure of a person under 18 years of age who is not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. This Section does not prohibit ear piercing. This Section does not apply to a minor emancipated under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 or the Emancipation of Minors Act or by marriage. This Section does not apply to a person under 18 years of age who pierces the body or oral cavity of another person under 18 years of age away from the premises of any business at which body piercing or oral cavity piercing is performed.
(Source: P.A. 93-449, eff. 1-1-04; 94-684, eff. 1-1-06.)

There is nothing I love more about my job then when you get the cocky 15 year old with her 21 year old sister and they walk in the shop acting like they own the place and then when the 15 year old trys to get her piercing I have to say no because you don’t have a parent or legal guardian. And everytime the sister pipes up and says,  “But I’m 21 and she is my sister.” Then I  point to the Illinois law and ask her to read the rules.
Now maybe I am a prick but I just hate it when people come in all uneducated about what they are about to get. Even though I’m almost 90% sure those 2 girls knew the entire time  you must have a parent present for a underage piercing but figured they might get away with it, and I’m afraid they can at other less qualified shops around town.

It is all of our jobs to report Tattoo Shops that aren’t following the guidelines set forth by the state. Laws are in place to keep citizens safe. So please call your local Public Health Department and complain for noncompliance of tattoo shops, this should not be tolerated. For Champaign/Urbana Call Here for all complants.

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