So you’ve decided that you’ll be having your first tattoo. But before you go to the nearest local tattoo shop in your area, think twice. In Los Angeles, tattoo shops are pretty numerous. You will find it hard to choose a single one. But don’t worry. Several characteristics distinguish a good (and safe) tattoo shop from the others. Here’s what you should consider.

Safety Above All

Safety should be your utmost priority. Tattooing is as direct a procedure as they come–your skin is pricked continuously by a needle that secretes ink on the underside of the skin’s topmost layer. You would not want the miniature puncture wounds to get infected especially during the healing process. A good tattoo shop is clean and has a defined sterilization procedure for their instruments. But if you see that instruments are just being boiled in water, look the other way. Boiling does not mean standard sterilization, and it can still present problems. You can’t take the risk.

When it comes to safety, another great thing is adequate employee training. This includes both in the proper tattooing process and the sterilization of instruments. This is easy to spot if you observe how the parlor’s artists conduct their business on the chair. Do they use disposable protective equipment such as rubber gloves? Are the needles immediately thrown away and replaced after use? If you’re not sure how they do it, don’t be afraid to ask them. Good tattoo shops have nothing to hide.

Vision To Reality

Lastly, choose a shop that caters to what you want and need. Ask questions, try to see what their portfolio has in store. The portfolio is a good place to start when deciding if the artist can do what you ask. Try to notice if the designs have simple, repeating pieces. If there is a good amount of repetition, the artist might not be good enough for fully personalized designs. Chances are, he’s just good at tracing.

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Consider these when looking for a tattoo shop, so you won’t regret anything in the future.