Getting inked

Local artists offer important pre-tattoo knowledge for potential customers

Tattoo flash by Jimmy Valenzuela, Capital Ink Tattoo, 1021 Second Street.

Tattoo flash by Jimmy Valenzuela, Capital Ink Tattoo, 1021 Second Street.

FYI: You must be 18 years old to get a tattoo. In the state of California, not even a parent or guardian can give permission for an underager to get ink—so don’t even try.

Getting a tattoo is a serious decision. OK, sometimes it’s a last-minute choice brought on by coaxing friends, liquid courage or sheer dumbassery. Occasionally people get lucky and meet a great artist who gives them an amazing piece of art. Many times, however, such hasty decisions don’t end so happily. So a few local tattoo artists shared information to help potential customers avoid health risks and bad art, as well as some tips for being an educated (and nice) customer, because tattoo knowledge saves lives—well, at least the aesthetic of your skin.

Sanitation, sanitation, sanitation

“We’re dealing with blood and fluid from the body. … If people are using equipment that’s not cleaned properly, you can definitely get infections, or the worst-case scenario, get a disease like HIV, hepatitis or something like that. Sacramento right now, for the county, is actually pushing to get more regulated rules for tattoo shops and guidelines as far as their training and sanitation in general. … A lot of if it just has to do with the actual cleanliness of the shop when you come in. If people are eating in the area that they’re tattooing, it’s not a really good sign. Make sure that people are wearing gloves and their area is actually clean and not full of clutter. … [And make sure] that they’re wearing gloves when they’re actually putting their equipment together.”

— Matt Marsango, a tattoo artist with four years experience, Side Show Studios (5635 Freeport Boulevard)

Permanent means permanent: Research your design

“Definitely do your research as far as what kind of imagery you want to get, where you want to put it; is it something you’re going to want to live with for the rest of your life.”

—Matt Marsango

“It helps if they have something specific in mind, because we’re not mind readers, so if they’re telling us something, it’s hard for us to be on the same page as them. So if they bring in some stuff they get off the Internet, it always helps to achieve the final goal.”

— Britton McFetridge, tattoo artist and owner of Royal Peacock Tattoo (2101 P Street)

“We always recommend researching. What [the tattoo] stands for, why they’re getting it, just things that they should know. We always try to talk people into no names, like [if] you’re going to get your girlfriend’s name. We try to tell them, ‘Look, is it serious or something you want to do?’ Because people just come and get things for the spur of the moment. Like, ‘Hey, I was drinking at the bar and I met this woman, and I wanted her name tattooed on me.’”

Tattoo needles should only be used once and should come in a sealed package.

— Tommy “Rat” Garcia, tattoo artist for 10 years and owner of Fat Cat Tattoo (7820 Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael)

You’d research a heart surgeon: Research your artist, too

“You should always research your artist and your shop and look at portfolios before you do anything. … There’s 200 shops in the Sacramento area. Everybody’s opinion of art is different, so you could come in and want to get tattooed and hate my work. And I wouldn’t be offended by it, because there’s a million different artists, and art is everybody’s own opinion. … If you don’t look at the portfolios and see the style artwork that you like, you’re going to end up with a tattoo that you’re not going to like.”

— Jessi Manuel, tattoo artist with four-and-a-half years experience, The Studio Tattoos (634 Vernon Street in Roseville)

“When you come into the tattoo shop, get familiar with your artist. You can research artists on Web sites, or you can come in and look at their [portfolio]. It’s not a bad thing to come browse and talk to the people first and then make up your mind. Or go to a couple different shops until you feel comfortable.”

“Another thing is you don’t want to get tattooed by an apprentice if you’re a legit customer coming in off the street.”

—Tommy “Rat” Garcia

Great tattoos aren’t cheap

“People always ask about price right off the start, and that’s something I don’t think should be your No. 1. I think people really need to realize that price isn’t going to get you anywhere. People come around shopping for tattoos every day going, ‘Well, I’m trying to find the best deal.’ As everybody in the tattoo industry says, good tattoos aren’t cheap, and cheap tattoos aren’t good. Do your research—by your artist—and worry about price later. It’s a permanent thing.”

—Jessi Manuel

“Understand that we’re doing a service, that’s a craft for them. This isn’t a Kmart; it’s not a tire store or something like that where we’re giving a product that’s already pre-made. We’re making a custom piece of art for them. [They should] just have that respect and know that we’re serving them with our art and passion.”

Make sure a tattoo shop uses a professional autoclave.

—Matt Marsango

Donald Trump knows the value of apprenticeships

“Pretty much most of the artists, tattoowise, have [served an apprenticeship]. If they haven’t, then there’s something probably really wrong. … It’s really important to ask how long it took them for their apprenticeship [and] who they worked under. … It matters.”

—Tommy “Rat” Garcia

Tipping isn’t just for cows

“If you went somewhere for dinner, you wouldn’t just walk out and just not leave a tip. If you went and got your hair cut somewhere, chances are you wouldn’t not leave a tip. This is a service industry. We don’t necessarily expect [a tip]. It’s great. We normally will charge people hourly rates or price rates for that piece, but we’ve gone and probably put in another five to 10 hours of work on the sidelines drawing for them or researching for them or preparing for them. … And tipping is just nice.”

—Matt Marsango

Sanitation questions

It’s common sense that a clean tattoo shop is better than a grungy one. Yet cleanliness goes deeper than the general appearance of the building. Here are some important questions to ask your artist before getting ink:

• Do you have bloodborne pathogen certification?<

• Are your needles single-use?

• Do you sterilize your equipment in a professional autoclave?

• Do you wear gloves (while setting up, during the tattoo and cleaning up)?

• Do you discard needles in a biohazard container?