Damon Conklin, owner of Super Genius Tattoo on Capitol Hill, started professionally inking skin 17 years ago, when he transitioned from a background in video game graphics to a gig at Slave to the Needle. So he’s seen his share of botched needle jobs. And he has advice on how to dodge a catastrophe, just in time for the Seattle Tattoo Expo August 10–12 at Seattle Center. 

1. Don’t get anyone’s name inked on you. Ever. This guy came into my friend’s shop with this girl and got her name tattooed on him. Comes back two days later with a different woman. His wife. She’s pulling him by the hair, saying, “You better get this [expletive]’s name off of him.” A name is the number one regret tattoo, hands down.

2. Scope the tattoo shop’s portfolio. There’s the thing where you get a tattoo of something that you don’t believe in later. Your morals, your ideas, and your religion change, sure. But what people regret more is bad artwork.

3. Find an artist that you click with. If you get a big piece, you’re going to go through a lot of hours of pain and you’re gonna pay a lot of money. And it sucks to go through that with someone you don’t like. There is enough talent out there these days that you can find someone that you click with.

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