It’s no secret, the best tattoos in Toronto & Vancouver come from the best tattoo shops. Whether you’re a first-timer or you’re covered in ink, there is one constant - you need your tattoo to come out just right. That kind of confidence is only found with the best tattoo shops. That’s where you’ll find the skill, experience, and environment for outstanding ink. We take a look at our own location, and some of our favourite tattoo parlours in Toronto & Vancouver, to see what it takes to make a shop great.
The MentalityOne thing that holds true across all leading tattoo shops is their mentality. There is an extra drive and commitment to the craft that translates into every drop of ink. At Chronic Ink, the core of our mentality stems from our long-standing goal, “to do the best tattoos in the world.” This mentality emphasizes that every tattoo matters and reinforces a dedication to quality, safety, and experience. It’s a mindset that affects everyone, from the artists to the receptionists. At the best tattoo shops everyone, employees and clients alike, prioritize your tattoo and experience.
The Tattoo ArtistsThe best tattoos parlours have a roster of elite tattoo artists. In a city like Toronto & Vancouver, no shop struggles to find enough artists. The challenge is in attracting top talent. The best Toronto & Vancouver tattoo artists flock to the best tattoo shops. No leading tattoo parlour is complete without top-notch artists. For a beautiful, lasting, and safe tattoo you need the experienced touch of a tattoo master. Beyond inking the tattoo itself, the artist carries you throughout the process. For scheduled appointments, they help you pick your tattoo style, design, and placement before creating an initial sketch for approval at your next meeting. For walk-in tattoos, the process is a little different, but there is the same commitment to quality and safety. Walk-in consultations are also available. After completing the tattoo they provide all the necessary information for tattoo aftercare so your tattoo looks it’s best for longer without complication.
SpecialistsLike most artists, the best tattoo artists have their own specialties. If you’re looking for specific tattoo art styles it pays to do a little research on your shop. The best tattoos come from artists who specialize. Think of it this way, Pablo Picasso was a great painter. If you wanted a surrealism or cubism painting, he’d be one of the best options since those were his specialties. If you wanted a hyperrealism piece, he could probably do a passable job. But, you’d be better served with someone who specializes in hyperrealism, like Gottfried Helnwein. Like painters, tattoo artists spend years honing their talents in a single or few styles. Top artists can do most styles well, but specialists do the best work on specific styles. Some of the best Toronto & Vancouver tattoo shops have a variety of specialties at their studio, others focus on a single style. When Chronic Ink started out, we were dedicated to traditional Asian style tattoos. Today our roster includes specialists in a variety of styles.
The Shop ItselfThey always say not to judge a book by its cover. But your first impression of a tattoo shop has a lot of important indicators. If you know what to look for, the best tattoo shops have recognizable quality in their:
Tattoo Shop AtmosphereThe atmosphere of a tattoo shop matters. Atmosphere isn’t just what makes a shop cool, it’s an indicator of quality. Better shops create an environment where artists want to be, the feel of the shop reflects this. Tattooing is an artform and the top artists are passionate. They get to do something they love every day. If they’re working in a good shop where they can work creatively, safely, and properly most people are happy. Sure, some great tattoo artists may curse like sailors, others may be serious. But they shouldn’t be rude or unpleasant to their customers and each other. If you go into a shop and the staff are unpleasant to each other or the customers, there is usually something wrong. It may be that they’re unhappy because their work is rushed due to poor scheduling, their equipment is inadequate, or they are underqualified for their work. Regardless of the reason, a negative atmosphere at a tattoo parlour is a big red flag.
Tattoo Shop Safety & CleanlinessFrom the moment you walk into a tattoo shop, you can get a feel for their focus on safety and cleanliness. A clean environment is crucial. Getting a tattoo is safe, but that safety relies on sanitary practices. A shop that cares about sanitation and safety keeps a clean space that clearly follows protocol. The first signs of this are right in the reception area. If the area is disorganized, messy, and garbage receptacles are all overflowing - this may not be the shop for you. After this initial inspection, take a look at how the tattooing stations are set up. Before sitting down any client, each station should be prepped with clean and sterile covers. Anywhere that the skin touches should be covered. Next, take a look at any artists in the process of tattooing. Are they wearing gloves? A lack of, or indifference towards, safety protocol doesn’t just suggest a lesser quality shop, but also an unsafe one.
Tattoo EquipmentOver the millennia that people have been performing tattoos the tattoo equipment has continually evolved. In addition to improving the quality of work, and making styles like fine line tattooing possible, this evolution also makes the process safer. The best tattoo shops in Toronto & Vancouver ensure both the highest quality of equipment, as well as the safe handling of equipment. Most tattoo equipment, like needles and tubing, are made for single use. A good tattoo studio provides assurance that your equipment is sterile by removing them from sealed packages in front of you. If your artist has the equipment already open when you sit down it’s okay to ask them to open a sealed package. Asking isn’t rude, it’s smart - your health always comes first and the biggest risk in tattooing is using unsterile equipment. Some tools, like the tattoo machine itself, are not single-use. So between tattoos, artists must clean and disinfect the machine. Some artists bag the machine during the tattoo process for extra protection. Another thing to look out for is the quality of ink. The Canadian government doesn’t regulate tattoo inks. Reputable tattoo shops purchase only high-quality inks that adhere to the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist.
Our Favourite Tattoo Aftercare
After InkedAfter Inked Tattoo Moisturizer delivers effective skin moisturization and helps to preserve the colours of your tattoos. There's no petroleum so it won't stick to or stain your clothes. This moisturizing skin lotion, enriched with Grape Seed Oil, can also be used on any permanent makeup procedure on lips, brows, eye liner, and areola, as well as an after-laser tattoo removal moisturizing lotion. After Inked is Dermatologist tested, non-allergenic and non-irritating.
PurSanPurSan Aftercare is a specially formulated Vegan skin cleanser used to clean and moisturize as part of an aftercare regimen for fresh tattoos and piercings. It revitalizes, refreshes and purifies skin without drying it out. Gentle yet effective, PurSan contains no parabens, fragrances, colourants or alcohol. Chloroxylenol (PCMX) is a proven antimicrobial ingredient shown to be effective against bacteria and viruses without burning or irritating the skin. Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose (Hypromellose) is an ultra-high grade lubricant ideal for sensitive skin.
How to Pick the Best Tattoo ShopA good tattoo starts with the right shop. Before going out to get inked, it’s worth doing a little research. There are 4 essential considerations to picking the best tattoo shop: