The top 5 things to look for in a tattoo shop

Bearcat Educate

Do a quick search for San Diego tattoo shops, and you’ll see that there’s a ton of options. So how do you begin to narrow your search? First, don’t get frustrated and make a quick decision—do your research. Take the time, because the right shop can make a huge difference in your experience, and the quality of work. There are a lot of important factors, but these are the top 5 things to look for in a tattoo shop.

1. A Relaxed and Professional Vibe

It all starts with the first phone call or email. How do they sound? Do they sound helpful and interested? Are they polite and kind? When you get to the shop, how does it feel when you walk in? Do you immediately take a deep breath and relax, or do you feel yourself on edge? Do they say “hello” and welcome you? All of these little things will tell you how they run their shop—and it shows how seriously they take their profession. If they take the time to get to know you, answer questions, listen to your ideas and make you feel relaxed, it’s a sure sign of a great shop.

2. Cleanliness

The top level shops will absolutely have complete sterility and cleanliness. We can’t stress enough how incredibly important this is. Their tools should be treated like those of a dentist or surgeon. All of the needles and tubes should be medical-grade and disposable. Everything should be individually packaged and sterilized. The ink caps, where artists hold the ink, should also be single-use disposable and fresh each time. If the shop has tools that are multiple use then an autoclave is absolutely necessary. This machine sterilizes the equipment and should be routinely tested. Some of the newer studios are all disposable and an autoclave isn’t needed but it’s a very important question to ask.

Around the shop the artists should always use disposable gloves, along with anyone else helping to prep the workstation. That goes for every step of the process. Shaving your skin, disinfecting, applying ointment, tattooing, and cleanup. During cleanup, the artist should safely dispose of needles in marked bins, spray and wipe everything with medical grade opticide spray, and all other items properly disposed of. Make sure to take a look around the studio to assure yourself of the cleanliness.

3. Getting along with the artist

While it’s the tattoo that will last forever, the experience should also be memorable. You’re going to be spending a few hours (or more) with the artist, so spend a little time getting to know them and make sure you’re a good fit, personality-wise. Check out their artist profile and learn about their personality and interests. Our artists are always happy to hang out, talk about your ideas, and go from there. And when you get along with your artist, it definitely makes for an amazing experience and the tattoo time go much faster.

4. The actual studio

Every place gives off a vibe. So how does it feel when you walk into the shop? Like we said, you want it to be clean and relaxed. But there’s a few other things to look for. What’s on their walls? Is it cluttered with random of flash art, disorganized pictures and posters? That could be good for small and easy tattoos and simple traditional work. But if you’re looking for a high level tattoo with depth, intricate technique and brilliant colors, a street shop should definitely be avoided. Here at Bearcat, the walls of our San Diego tattoo studio display our personal oil paintings, drawings, and other art. Our passion is reflected on our walls and it shines through into our work. Fine art pushes our tattooing skill, and it promotes an art gallery vibe in our shop. Bearcat is truly a comfortable space to relax.

5. Confidence through Accolades

The best tattoo studios will shine through their accomplishments. It’s important to see which artists are featured in magazines, received awards, and have great reviews. Knowing that others have taken time to write about a studio is a great sign that you’re looking at a professional and solid business.

We’re proud to have been featured in Tattoo Revue, 4L San Diego’s Ink Magazine, Skin Art, freshly Inked, Out of Step Publications and more for our award-winning tattoos and artwork.

We’ve also partnered and support many local brands and charities for live art and events. San Diego Zoo Food and Wine, Sd-Too Gallery, Sailor Jerry Rum, Lagunitas, JDRF Foundation, Fernet Awards, Three Wisemen Foundation, and many more.


Understanding the things to look for in a tattoo shop will make your decision much easier, and you’ll know you’re choosing the right shop for your tattoo.

Here at Bearcat we know what it means—and what it takes—to be a great tattoo shop, and we know you’ll appreciate what we have to offer.

The Bearcat Family

Learn more about Bearcat, or see our artists.