This week I got an email from a woman who found me on P.ink . She asked me what she should be looking for in a potential tattoo artist for the purpose of tattooing her mastectomy scars. After I wrote to her, I thought the information may be useful to others. here is what I said:
If i were to look for a potential tattoo artist to tattoo my mastectomy scars I would first look for someone with a light hand, because scar tissue can be particularly and weirdly sensitive. You can tell how light or heavy handed an artist is by looking closely at the linework in their tattoos. Do they have thin feathery lines that are smooth and even or are all of their lines on the thicker heavier side? This is not a fool proof way of telling without a trained eye. Some styles call for thicker linework, but almost no heavy handed tattoo artist can execute thin feathery smooth and even linework. Look for that. Tattoos done with a particularly heavy hand can have areas of "blowout". Blowout occurs when the ink is inserted deeper than is necessary, seeping out into the fatty tissue and causing a bruise-like look underneath the lines. That bruisiness is permanent. (Sometimes blowout occurs because the skin is too thin, such as on the inside of the elbow and the person moved a lot after getting tattooed. Or if the skin is that of an older person and is too thin and unstable because of age. Not all blowout is the fault of the tattoo artist, but most is).
Most tattoo artists will say they are light handed, so you better believe your eyes over your ears.
The other thing I would look for, is someone who has some experience with tattooing over surgical scars and seems genuine, sympathetic and easy to be around. Tattooing mastectomy scars is an intimate and vulnerable experience. You should be able to relax with this person. Ask if you can have as much privacy as you need (not all shops will be able to provide a private space), and if you have a hunch that this is not quite the right experience for you, don't be shy, walk out, and find someone else.