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Professional Tatooist Reveals Shameless Industry Secrets

Most of us have considered getting a tattoo at some point. I went under the needle shortly before my 20th birthday and was hooked. I've now got four seizable pieces of ink that I adore. Whilst tattoos definitely aren't for everyone, they're a form of self expression that allow people to not only feel better about their bodies, but mark significant events in their lives.

Shortly after getting my second tattoo, I decided I wanted to become a tattooist. This involved a lengthy unpaid apprenticeship which I quit after a few months. During my brief spell in the industry, I met some weird and wonderful characters, and one of them has agreed to spill all about a profession once reserved for society's most rebellious people...

Have You Got Any Tattoos?

From 'scratchers' (that's industry term for self-taught tattooists) to shops with less than sanitary conditions, we're going to reveal all about what goes on behind the tinted windows of tattoo shops. One thing's for sure: you'll think twice about where you're getting inked after you've read this article. Here's the shameless secrets tattooists don't want you to know...

NEXT: This is why you should be nice to your tattooist...

It's a common misconception that tattooists earn a lot of money. $60 an hour might sound great, but when you take into consideration the time taken to draw up your tattoo, the cost of inks, needles and studio space, it doesn't equate to much...

1. Artists Will Hurt You

So if you come into the shop and start making your tattooist's life harder than it needs to be, don't be surprised if you have a particularly painful experience. Tattooists can control the depth at which they're tattooing, and there are some who will deliberately hurt annoying customers. Whilst it's something our interviewee would never do, she admits it's a common occurrence.

NEXT: Seriously, don't push the person touching you with a machine...

People can annoy tattooists in a variety of ways - whether it's asking them to make minute last minute changes, or simply moving around a lot whilst they're working. If you really, really upset your tattooist, they can do worse than just hurt you...

2. Deliberate Mistakes

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there are tattooists who make deliberate mistakes on customers after they've reached their wit's end, but they're always small. Once again, it's something that our interviewee doesn't condone, but tattooists work with the public day in and day out and snap - especially when customers bring in friends to 'watch' and give a running commentary as they work.

NEXT: But sometimes tattooists will help you out...

You're probably by thinking by now that tattooists are all horrible people. That couldn't be further from the truth. Whilst there are some unscrupulous characters who'll do things that are totally unacceptable, even if they think they're justified, some artists...

3. Easy Cover Ups

If your tattooist has morals, they'll help you make less of a mistake when it comes to marking your love for your significant other on your skin. Kind tattooists always make sure that they tattoo names in fonts and sizes that are easy to cover up so when you inevitably break up with your partner, you've got a slightly smaller problem on your hands.

NEXT: Some tattooists aren't even artists...

In order for tattooists to create beautiful pieces of art on your skin, they have to either draw on a design freehand or, as is more commonly done, use a stencil. This effectively allows them to trace their original design. However...

4. Plagarised Artwork

There are some tattooists who won't just trace their own artwork, they'll trace other people's and charge you a large amount of money for an 'original' design. With tattoos only growing in popularity, it's a massive issue. Many artists use social media websites like Instagram to share their creations with would-be customers, but sometimes they can be stolen by unscrupulous artists.

NEXT: This is worse than tattoo plagiarism...

Whilst there's no doubt that paying for an original and ending up with a copy is bad, there's some tattooists who'll go one step further when it comes to making a quick buck. In the US, only people who're 18 years or older can get inked...

5. Underage Inkings

But shameless tattooists will tattoo people who're underage. If you cast your mind back to when you were 16 and try to think of the sort of things you'd have gotten tattooed then, you'd probably be horrified. So you can only imagine the monstrosities it results in.

NEXT: Tattoo artists have very strong opinions about you...

When I worked in a tattoo shop, people came in with some unusual requests. They ranged from a woman wanting cat paws on her vagina to a man who wanted a snake his phallus. Tattooists are paid for their art, that doesn't mean they won't...

6. They Will Judge You

Tattooists will mercilessly judge you for your tattoos. Just because they've seen countless people come into their store with their ex's name tattooed on them, doesn't mean that they won't think they're idiots for having done it in the first place. As for the designs you come up with? Well, if Pinterest was your inspiration, your artist will be laughing at you behind your back.

NEXT: Tattooists aren't copy editors...

If you've ever had writing tattooed on you, then you'll probably have had to sign a declaration confirming that you're happy with your chosen spelling. That's the one thing that tattooists refuse to take responsibility for...

7. They Won't Spell Check

Admittedly, you'd have to be a pretty cruel tattooists to continue tattooing something that you knew was spelt incorrectly, but tattooists aren't editors. At the end of the day, it's your responsibility to make sure that your tattoo is spelled correctly.

NEXT: How tattooists can inadvertently say no to you...

Tattooists can ink absolutely anywhere on the body, however, there's one place that a lot of tattooists will slyly refuse to ink. If they do it, you'll really have to pay the price. Here's what most tattooists will inadvertently refuse...

9. Genital No Nos

Tattooists hate inking genitals. Our interviewee said that they once refused to tattoo a candy cane on a phallus. That's why some artists can double, sometimes even triple, their usual rate so that people say no, and they don't need to make it happen. If they agree to it, at leas the tattooist has some consolidation prize for getting up close and personal with a stranger's genitals.

NEXT: But it's not just genital tattoos that artists refuse to do...

The tattooist I apprenticed under told me that there were some things that he'd point blank refuse to tattoo - like swastikas and racially offensive terms. However, there's a lot of things that artists will simply refuse to ink...

18. Artists Will Say No

If you want something totally ridiculous that no self respecting artist would want to put their name to, chances are that they won't do it. Some artists with standing in the industry even refuse to tattooed clichés like dreamcatchers and peace signs.

NEXT: The most important thing you need to do after getting a tattoo...

Unfortunately, getting a tattoo involves a lot more than just going into a shop and having a needle put to your skin. To ensure that your tattoo doesn't get infected and looks good for years to come, you'll need to buy some "tattoo butter"...

10. "Tattoo Butter"

This is aftercare cream that helps your tattoo to heal and prevents the risk of infection. However, there are some unscrupulous shops which don't make it explicitly clear to people exactly what it is. Horrifyingly, after getting their first tattoo some people have taken the phrase "tattoo butter" a bit too literally and put butter onto their new tattoos...

NEXT: One of the worst things tattooists can do to their customers...

Tattoo shops have to be sterile environments. That's why they smell like bleach. Any reputable studio should have cleanliness levels that are on a part with a hospital's. But that's not always the case...

11. Dirty Needles

When you sit down to get a tattoo, you should see your tattooist open up clean needles and put them into their machine (not gun as it's mistakenly called). If this doesn't happen, there's a high chance that they're using dirty needles which have already penetrated someone else's skin. Needless to say, this means that there are artists who're putting their customers at risk of a range of diseases.

NEXT: This is what you should always do before a tattoo...

Tattooists have to get up close and personal with their customers. Sometimes they even have to shave skin to make it suitable for tattooing on. That's why customers should always make sure that they've done this...

12. Personal Hygiene

If you're getting a tattoo, make sure you've showered before going into the store. Tattooists aren't going to do a good job if you smell so bad that they can't concentrate. In fact, that's another reason why people can be quoted unreasonably high prices. No amount of money makes tattooing whilst breathing in pungent bodily odours worthwhile.

NEXT: There's some unexpected perks to being a tattooist...

A lot of people want to date tattooists because they're seen as rebellious and attractive people. Our interviewee said that she had considerably more Tinder matches when she revealed her occupation on the dating app...

13. Prostitution

There's some tattooists who've used their profession to their advantage and tattooed people in exchange for sex. Our interviewee said the most it's ever gotten her is a few extra drinks at a bar, and that was just because people thought she was hot. However, it seems that there are some people who're willing to enter into a form of prostitution to add to their ink collection.

NEXT: Tattooists who play jokes on their customers...

It's no secret that people often get foreign phrases tattooed not knowing what they mean. Chinese symbols are one of the most commonly tattooed things that are done wrong. You might think your symbol says love when, in reality, it says water.

14. Joke's On You

However, our interviewee revealed that she'd heard of one unscrupulous tattooist playing the ultimate prank on a customer who'd asked them to design a barcode tattoo. They decided that they'd turn the barcode from a packet of condoms into the design. It took the customer months before they realised what their tattooist had done. And apparently this is a common occurrence in the industry!

NEXT: Another reason why tattooists aren't all bad...

Tattoo machines can pierce the skin hundreds of times every second so getting inked is a painful process. Some parts of the body hurt more than others. When I had my ribcage tattooed, I could feel my bones vibrating beneath the gun...

15. Sexy Outfits

But if you're lucky, you could have tattooist who does their best to distract you with their good looks. Apparently there are some female tattooists who'll deliberately dress in sexy, revealing outfits to distract their customers from the pain. I'm sure this is something their customers have never complained about, and, as they're not writhing around so much, it means their artist can do a better job.

NEXT: It's not the rock and roll lifestyle it's made out to be..

Tattooists are typically characterised as sexy, rebellious people who've got amazing designs coming out of their ears. To your Average Joe, they earn good money doing what they love. But the reality is that they're often...

16. Boredom

Tattooists are bored. People aren't as creative as they are, and, unless they're an established artist who has people queuing up to get their custom designs, they'll probably be tattooing similar things day after day - like dreamcatchers, tribal designs, and initials. As I've mentioned, they don't earn what people think they do, and our interviewee said there's months when she struggles to pay rent.

NEXT: Some customers ask for very suspicious tattoos...

Whilst tattooists can advise against getting the name of a significant other tattooed, it's an easy way for them to make money so most will agree to it. However, our interviewee realised that one of her customers wanted something much worse...

17. Human Trafficking

A man came into our interviewee's store with a woman that she assumed was his girlfriend. She happily tattooed his name on her and assumed she'd see her again at some point for another. Then the man appeared again with a different girl. And then another. She had no option but to assume that the poor girl's she'd tattooed were prostitutes and that their pimp was making his property.

NEXT: The worst kind of tattooists out there...

Whilst most tattooists are lucky to make ends meat, there are some who use the trade as a way of making a quick buck. These are the people you should avoid at all costs. It doesn't matter what you want, they'll ink it for you...

18. Money-Grabbing Scratchers

There are a lot of money-grabbing tattooists out there, and more often than not they're 'scratchers'. This means that they've bought a machine and inks of eBay, practiced on some oranges and by passed everything that gives an artist standing in the industry. Their tattoos might be cheaper, but you'll be the one who ultimately loses out whilst they walk away with your hard-earned cash...

NEXT: The major upside to tattooing...

If tattooing was all bad, the industry wouldn't exist. Now that we've covered the bad, it only makes sense to conclude this article by telling you a little bit about the good. This is how getting inked can change your life forever...

19. Helping People

Tattoos can help people. Our interviewee has covered countless self harm scars which have enabled people to move on from painful experiences. She's even tattooed on handprints of babies who've died, allowing their parents closure on an event which has the potential to blight their lives. Other clients have had seizable mastectomy scars covered with beautiful designs.

NEXT: How tattooing affects the artist...

Even though our interviewee has to content with a lot as a tattooist, from scratchers undercutting her prices and unreasonable prices, she does love her job. This is what our interviewee finds the most rewarding...

20. It's Rewarding

Needless to say, our interviewee finds helping people the most rewarding part of her job. However, it's also artistically rewarding. Tattooists are the only artists who's work will stay with people for life. People love to show off their tattoos, and our interviewee loves the fact that her work will be enjoyed for years after she's tattooed her final dreamcatcher.