If you’re planning on getting a tattoo in the near future, odds are you are looking for the best tattoo artists in town. But in a city like Richmond, VA that has tons of amazing artists working in lots of really high-quality tattoo shops, how can you find the best tattoo artists in Richmond? To help you pick an artist that will deliver just what you’re looking for, follow these steps to finding tattoo artists that can meet and exceed your expectations for your tattoo, both the art and the experience.
Finding the Best Tattoo Artists in Richmond
Like we said, it’s about finding the best tattoo shop and artist for you. That means knowing what you want from your tattoo artist and their shop. What do we mean by that? We’re talking about the style of art you want, the level of detail, and the kind of interaction you expect with your artist while getting your tattoo. Knowing what you want from the start can help you find the best tattoo shop for you. We’ve put together some of the things you might want to consider before picking a tattoo shop for your next piece, regardless of whether its your first tattoo or not.
Local Rankings of Tattoo Artists
If you live in or around the Richmond, VA area then you are probably familiar with Style Weekly. For those who aren’t, Style Weekly is a local magazine designed to offer alternative views on news, culture, and food. They also publish op-ed pieces and like any good local publication they have an annual Best Of list. Because tattoo culture in Richmond carries weight, they publish “Best Tattoo Artist” and “Best Tattoo Shop” winners. For 2014, their list was as follows:
Best Tattoo Artist
1. Amy Black of Amy Black Tattoos
2. Thea Duskin of Ghostprint Gallery
3. Katie Davis of Salvation Tattoo Gallery
We think the list is especially interesting because these artists have very different styles. Katie Davis is known for bold designs that use more of an illustration style, while Thea Duskin is renowned for her outline-less watercolor style. Amy Black does a little bit of everything but is known for traditional Japanese style tattooing as well as for her charity work tattooing realistic nipples for women who have had reconstructive breast surgery following mastectomies (via her work with the Pink Ink Fund). To us, ranking these artists against each other doesn’t make sense and might give less informed would-be tattoo patrons the wrong idea. You’re all winners to us, ladies.
4 Tips for finding the best tattoo artists
There’s no shortage of tattoo shops in Richmond, VA. So we get that finding tattoo artists that meets your needs and expectations, in addition to providing attention to details you may not yet have thought about, isn’t an easy task. Reputation alone goes a long way, but sometimes you have to take certain things into consideration. One of those being that different people like different things. The atmosphere of a tattoo shop and the personality of the artists might suit your friend perfectly, but may not be ideal for you. So how do you figure all of this stuff out? Here’s some things to think about when trying to locate the perfect artist for your tattoo.
Know what you want in terms of tattoo art
If you don’t have a specific design in mind, or only have an idea and aren’t sure about what tattooing style you’d prefer, then take some time and do a little research. You can learn about some of the different styles in our tattoo art style guides. Each style has a unique history and contributes something unique to tattoo culture as a whole.
There are also lifestyle connotations (intentional or otherwise) associated with each of the various tattoo styles so it’s an especially good idea to be aware of what those implications are before you get something tattooed. So before you start looking for an artist, get an idea of what style you’d like your tattoo to be done in. Once you know that, you can begin looking for artists who specialize in that style. It’s the best way to ensure you get a high quality tattoo that you’ll love for a lifetime. In fact, instead of asking “who are the best tattoo artists in Richmond?”, it might be smarter to ask who is the best in a certain style. Every artist has a favorite style and really good artists take the time to learn about the culture, history, and composition of various tattoo styles. That kind of knowledge leads to a higher quality tattoo and a more knowledgeable tattoo artist can better guide your tattoo design to ensure that it works within the style that you’ve chosen and doesn’t look awkward or out of place.
Don’t be afraid to ask around and find out which artists are into which styles. More often than not, if an artist isn’t comfortable with a style they’ll let you know right away.
Once you’ve found a tattoo artist, be sure to have a consult
It’s pretty much standard practice these days to schedule a consult with your artist before they begin work. The point of the consult for the artist is to get a feel for what you want, what your expectations are, and to essentially shape how they draw your piece (assuming, of course, that you’re having a custom piece done- if you’re getting a piece of flash, you might still want to talk with the artist a bit before starting). For you, the consult will give you a better feel for your artist’s personality. Tattoos take time and you should feel comfortable with the artist since you could be spending some serious time together. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions and tell them exactly what you want. Be prepared for them to give you an expert opinion on how something should be done. The goal is to find the middle ground where their expertise meets your idea and they come together to form a great tattoo design. Expect it to be a little bit of a process, but any good tattoo artist will work with you to make your design or idea a reality. Be willing to defer to their expertise, but don’t let them push you into something you don’t really want.
If this is your first tattoo, the best tattoo artists for you will be ones with lots of experience. The more experience a tattoo artist has, the sharper his or her work is likely to be, and the more honed his or her skills will be. This matters because an experienced tattoo artist knows more than just how to give you a great looking tattoo. They know how deep is too deep. They know to pause and give you a break (or at least a heads up) before tattooing tender or sensitive spots. They know that special shade of green that means your blood sugar is too low and you’re likely to be ready to blow chunks like Garth Algar in the back of a Gremlin (If you’re gonna spew, spew in this!). It’s a sense of knowing that comes only with time. That’s not to say you can’t get an incredible tattoo from some young tattoo prodigy, because you can and they are definitely out there. But for a smoother experience over all, look for someone who’s spent a lot of time tattooing. Don’t be afraid to ask about their experience either.
You’re the boss
It’s all about you. You are their patron, their customer. They should be focused on helping you. The best tattoo artists in Richmond know this. They’re friendly, helpful, and won’t hesitate to tell you their concerns regarding your piece of art, its placement on your body, or any number of things that might come up.
What should you know about choosing a tattoo shop? See our guide about finding the best tattoo shops.