Finding the Right Tattoo Shop


photo by Jen Hanson

The only businesses more prevalent than thrift stores in Santa Fe are the tattoo shops. An elementary Google search yields a list of nine tattoo shops within the city limit. Getting a tattoo is a mighty decision, as is choosing a place that fits you best. Ultimately, it begs the question: what should I look for?

The No. 1 requirement: cleanliness. I mean, let’s be honest, if you’re going to pay someone to stick a needle in you for anywhere from half an hour to a matter of days, cleanliness must be at the top of your list. You want to know how you can tell if a place is clean? Get the address, walk in, and look around. If it looks unkempt, dusty, dirty, sloppy, grimy, greasy, slimy, murky, muddy or fresh in bodily fluids, then guess what? It’s not clean. Don’t get your tattoo there, and wash your hands twice, with anti-bacterial soap.

No. 2: Speak with the artist. Ask yourself, does this person understand me? Is this person a dick? Is this person listening to me, or projecting what they want me to get? Is he or she professional? Understanding? Able? Is he or she working with me to get the best possible outcome? Do they want me to be clear about what I want? Again, ask yourself, is this person a jerk? This person, the artist, will be drawing a permanent design on your body; it is extremely important you feel comfortable and that you trust him or her. If you feel in any way that something is off, do not proceed with given shop or artist. You and the artist should click!

Finding a huge ball of yarn for a dollar is one of those “the cheaper the better” scenarios. With tattoos on the other hand, this principle sets you up for total disaster. At the same time, there’s little reason to over pay. As they say, balance is the key to life. There isn’t a standard on how much to pay (or not pay) for a tattoo, since the cost depends on the venue, the artist, and the design. A highly respected tattoo shop may cost you more, an inexperienced artist may cost you much less, and many aspects of the design are to be considered (color vs. black, intricacy, size, placement, and length of time are the primary factors). A five-inch tattoo with great detail may cost more than a 10 inch tattoo of a plain design. The best tattoo shops will explain the cost, work with your budget, and will put out an effort to find a fair price. If a tattoo seems too cheap, expect the artist to be inexperienced, too busy for you, or too desperate for business. If the cost seems too high, ask questions, and if you aren’t satisfied, go somewhere else. Another great way to determine if the price is right, is to ask around. Especially ask your tattooed friends. As a general rule of thumb, go with your gut, do your research, and never be afraid to object or discuss the price with the artist.

Last but not least, word of mouth recommendations will not only save you time, but money, and they can save you from the absolute worst: ending up with a tattoo or tattoo experience you hate. Even if you have two full sleeves, you’re a tattoo god, getting new ink is a delicate experience. You want to feel comfortable, you want to trust your artist, you want it to be a positive experience. Word of mouth recommendations can either close down a shop or provide a shop with endless customers. Pay attention to what others say about their experiences. A friend of mine posed a question on Facebook: where should I go for my first tattoo? The answers varied, some recommended one place, while others were steadfast against that very same place. Your job is to ask questions. What was it about this shop they loved? Why did they hate this other one? Would they go back to the same place for another tattoo? Why would they never go back there? The more people you ask, the better idea you’ll have about which place fits you best. With seven shops listed for Santa Fe, you’ll be able to whittle it down to the top two or three. Then you can begin analyzing everything listed above. Is this shop cleaner than the others? Which artist and I click the most? What can I afford? In the age of technology, where on the web there are reviews on pretty much everything, such as, the accuracy of word of mouth continues strong.


Here’s a list of the shops I found in my research, their addresses, phone numbers, and websites if applicable.





Talis Fortuna

(505) 820-3170

931 Shoofly St.

Santa Fe, NM 87505

Four Star Tattoo


825 Topeka St.

Santa Fe, NM 87505

Talisman Tattoo and Body Piercing

(505) 986-0013

1430 Cerillos Rd.,

Santa Fe, NM 87505

Dungeon Tattoo

(505) 983-8262

1632 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87505

Facebook Page

Dawn’s Custom Tattoo

(505) 986-0002

901 W San Mateo Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87505

Santa Fe Ink/Domain of Pain

(505) 316-2303

718 N St Francis Dr, Santa Fe, NM 87507

Lost Cowboy Tattoo & Gallery

(505) 983-6928

411 W Water St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Evil Emporium of Tattoos

(505) 467-8286

1512 Cerrillos Rd Santa Fe, NM 87505

 Facebook Page

505 Tattooz

(505) 470-4863

4250 Cerrillos Rd. Suite 1434

Santa Fe, NM 87507