WHY THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A “CHEAP” TATTOO
A couple of people have asked me what “scratchers” are, as I’ve referred to them quite a bit here. A scratcher is someone who scratches at your skin—they don’t tattoo it. Your skin might have some colored markings on it, but it’s not a piece of art. I’m going to quickly go over why there’s no such thing as a cheap tattoo, and why the $20 special will cost you more long-run.
SCRATCHERS HAVE NO HEALTH/SAFETY TRAINING
A tattoo artist will use fresh needles, put their instruments into an autoclave before reusing, use fresh gloves (usually multiple pairs), add a barrier between your body and their seat/arm rest, keep their shop super clean, and are registered with the health department. Scratchers are often missing most or all of these.
Also—you know you can get HIV from sharing needles, right? You know there are people claiming to be tattoo artists who will reuse needles, right? And even if they give you fresh needles, tattooing in a dirty environment or with their dirty hands can lead to infection. Have you seen an infected tattoo before? [click here] I’m not even going to post a picture of it because it’s so fucking gross. And getting that fixed? $$$
YOU WANT A TATTOO THAT WILL LAST OVER TIME
Tattoo ink is injected by the machine so that it’ll be wedged between your layers of skin. Without formal training, it’s hard to learn how deep to put it in, and how to put it in evenly. Fun fact: when you see line work that looks like the one below, most of the ink has fallen out and it not only looks like shit now, but will be totally fucked up in less than a decade.
Also, they usually can’t fucking draw. Just saying.
OKAY, I GOT A SCRATCHER TATTOO. I’M GOING TO FIX IT.
Not that easy! When you want to fix a tattoo, you can either cover it up or lazer, but the most successful strategy is usually a few lazer sessions to lighten it, then covering it up since lazers aren’t 100%.
But if you got a scratcher tattoo? If they used too much black, you won’t be able to cover it up because of how dark it is. So you want to lazer? Because the pigments weren’t all at the same level of skin, the lazer has a hard time locating and breaking them up. So bad tattoos are actually harder to get rid of.
And you thought you were getting a cheap tattoo. The cost is all in the back end.
BUT TATTOOS ARE SO EXPENSIVE
You get what you pay for. With a scratcher, you’re paying for a guy with no training and shitty equipment to inject you with some ink. With a tattoo artist, you pay for:
- 3-5 years training in a tattoo shop (same time commitment as an undergrad)
- Dozens of books, good equipment, and safety equipment like gloves, medical barriers, clean arm rests/chairs, and cleaning products
- About 40-60% of the tattoo goes to the shop which trains new tattoo artists; keeps the place clean and stocked; and generally running.
- Tattoo artists technically work for themselves, so if they have health insurance or other benefits that come with most jobs, they pay for it.
- Free consultations; behind the scenes work like working on your drawings at home; going to conventions to continue learning; and more work that you don’t even see.
THE LARGER IMPACT OF SCRATCHING
When you get a scratch tattoo, you’re not just doing yourself an injustice. You’re supporting a little cockroach which helps take away money from actual tattoo artists.
And, when you run around with your “new ink” telling everyone how you got it for $20, you’re lowing the wages of trained tattoo artists, which lowers the standards of the whole craft.
Finally, you reflect badly on the rest of us. The people who spend good money and love the art are lumped in with your shitty, faded tattoos, and it make it easier to discriminate against tattooed people.
Learn the difference between good and bad tattoos. Learn about the history and safety of the craft. Get good tattoos and be cool.