As a tattoo artist here in Orlando, Florida, there are tons of tattoos that are produced around me. I'm always learning new things and being inspired to better my work, but how can you, as the client, be sure an artists tattoo portfolio is a good one?
The tattoo artists portfolio is one of the first things you should look at when deciding on who to get your tattoo done by. There are a lot of factors to consider when looking through a portfolio.
Here are a two key things to look for in an artists portfolio.
What is in the portfolio?
Are the designs dark in nature? Are they brightly colored? Realistic? Illustrative? These are all super important in deciding on who does your tattoo! You wouldn't ask a realistic painter to animate a movie, So why would you ask a tattoo artist who has a book full of skulls to tattoo your hearts and girly things? So be observant of whats in an artists portfolio. The artist wouldnt have included those images unless it was something they enjoy tattooing or they are proud of.
'Oh look a panda! Its got green in it! They must be the guy who does panda tattoos!'
That is the last thing that means. It simply means that they did a panda once. It could lean towards the fact that the artist likes to animals. It could mean that they were proud of the tattoo. IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE ARTIST IS THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD THAT DOES PANDAS. Keep looking through the artwork.
Also, if you don't see something in the portfolio, it doesn't mean the artist isn't capable of doing so. If the style of what you're looking to get is similar to the portfolio you're looking through then chances are the artists could do what you're wanting to do. All you need to do is ask!
Is the work solid?
People please stop overlooking the important details of an artists portfolio. Linework, color saturation, design balance, proper anatomy etc. So many things get over looked because Are the lines straight or are the wavy and inconsistent? Is the color completely solid or does it look like a marker was drying up as you tried to fill the paper with color? Is there an akward amount of negative space between elements of your tattoo? If there a random finger popping out of the hand? Are the limbs and body proportions balanced? Anyone can buy a machine online now a days and that's a scary situation. Just because your 'bro works in a shop man he's legit' doesnt mean he actually knows how to tattoo well.
ANYONE CAN USE A BRIGHT COLOR. IT DOESN'T MEAN THEY KNOW HOW TO USE PROPERLY.
Avoid the 'Oh its a zombie! I love zombies! This person must be really good at tattooing zombies!' and instead try the 'Oh wow the lines are super consistent!' or even a 'Oh look at the saturation in this one! I don't see any blotchy areas!'
*please note that I did not do the bird tattoo on the left of the photo and I take no credit for its design or application. I am simply using it as an example.