The 1 Big Red Flag To Watch Out For When Picking A Tattoo Artist

Tattoo artist Virginia Elwood chatted with HuffPost's "Am I Doing It Wrong?" podcast about the one thing a reputable tattoo artist should never ask you.
Virginia Elwood (right) with friend and fellow tattooer Tron, who is showing off the tattoo Elwood created for her.
Courtesy of Virginia Elwood
Virginia Elwood (right) with friend and fellow tattooer Tron, who is showing off the tattoo Elwood created for her.

Ready to get a tattoo? Whether it’s your first or your 50th, you’ve got a bunch of big decisions ahead of you, from what you want to where you want it and, maybe most important, who you’re going to enlist to do the job.

If you pick the wrong artist, you could end up spending a ton of money for a busted tattoo that’s going to be on your skin forever (or until you fork over even more cash and put up with even more pain to get it covered up or removed), not to mention the potential for a nasty infection.

So how do you find the right artist? And what are the red flags that can help you avoid hiring someone unworthy of this incredibly intimate, expensive and often meaningful job?

Virginia Elwood, co-owner of This Time Tomorrow tattoo studio in Brooklyn, New York, recently joined us — Raj Punjabi and Noah Michelson, co-hosts of HuffPost’s “Am I Doing It Wrong?” podcast — to chat about what should instantly set off your alarm bells when getting a tattoo consultation.

“[If someone is charging thousands of dollars just for a consultation], that is without a doubt [a red flag],” Elwood said. “[Recently there was a controversy surrounding a tattoo artist] who would charge $180 for the consultation fee and then she had a pricing system where it was, like, in the upper $2,000s to have one design drawn with just one possibility of changing things. If you weren’t happy with it, you had to pay something like another $2,000 — and then that’s on top of the tattoo time! That’s crazy! That’s scammy as fuck — grifters gonna grift.”

Elwood says that an artist shouldn’t charge anything for a consultation, and if they do, that’s a sign you might want to hire someone else to do the work.

So what should we be looking for?

“Find an artist whose style you really love and that really speaks to you — find a few — and email them and meet with them,” Elwood said. “If you’re going into a tattoo studio [for a consultation], look at the surroundings — is it clean? Are people friendly? When you meet with your artist, are they warm and kind to you? Do they explain the process?”

Elwood emphasized that your potential artist should “know what they’re talking about and know what they’re doing,” adding, “You should really, really do a deep dive into whatever artist you choose. Do you feel respected? Do you feel heard? Listen to your gut. If something’s wrong, don’t be afraid — you are not blood-bound to get this tattoo. If it doesn’t feel right, listen to yourself.”

Elwood also chatted with us about some of most painful places to get tattooed (including one particularly surprising spot), the one thing you definitely want to do before you show up for your appointment, and much more:

After you’ve had a listen above or wherever you get your podcasts, subscribe to “Am I Doing It Wrong?” so you don’t miss a single episode, including our investigations of the ins and outs of tipping, how to score the best deals on airline tickets, slaying your next trip to the grocery store, apologizing, vanquishing your credit card debt, finding love online, online shopping, overcoming anxiety and making a big life change.

Need some help with something you’ve been doing wrong? Email us at, and we might investigate the topic in an upcoming episode.

For more from Virginia Elwood or to inquire about booking an appointment with her, visit her website and follow her on Instagram.

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