One of the most important rules of tattoos is that not all artists – or tattoos – are created equal. The process may seem simple, but there is a huge difference in quality between the work of a skilled artist and that of an amateur. 

Unfortunately, it can be difficult for some less experienced tattoo recipients to tell the difference between a tattoo that will stay looking good years into the future and one that won't – especially immediately after it's completed. Here are some signs to keep an eye out for that may indicate that your tattoo is less-than-stellar.

Know before you go
One of the best ways to determine the quality of a tattoo is to first look at the quality of the shop. Chances are, if you walk into a tattoo studio and instantly get bad vibes, you should expect the tattoo to reflect that. Any cleanliness issues aside, be sure to look at the artists' portfolios – almost all professional studios will have them on display – before making your decision. It's important to select not just a good artist but a good tattoo artist – skin is a very particular medium, and just because someone can draw well doesn't make them a good tattooist. That means you should ask to see examples of an artist's finished tattoo work.

Feel it out
Tattoos involve injecting ink underneath the top layer of skin. This means that once it heals, the tattooed area should feel no different than any other part of your skin. It's this precision that keeps your tattoo protected from the elements without causing too much trauma to your skin, Love To Know reported. However, if your tattoo has fully healed and it still feels raised to the touch, that could be a problem. The source indicated that this is likely a sign that the artist went too deep with the needle. Similarly, if your tattoo experiences heavy scabbing that ends up leaving a scar, it's a good sign that your artist was too aggressive with his or her needlework. While raised tattoos aren't necessarily bad tattoos from an artistic standpoint, it's certainly not doing your skin any favors. And if your scabbing leaves a scar across your art, it can mar your original design permanently. 

Those colors shouldn't run
The vibrant colors and bold blacks available through a plethora of tattoo inks are a major draw, not just to tattoo enthusiasts, but to art aficionados as well. Just like painters try and keep their colors pristine, so too should tattoo artists endeavor to do the same. Of course, fading and blurring are, to some extent, inevitable – aging, your body's natural reaction to the tattoo ink and exposure to sunlight can all result in slightly less vivid colors and lines that aren't as sharp as the day they were inked. But a really bad tattoo can be spotted by its characteristic extreme discoloration. 

You've likely seen examples of this before – old-timers or prisoners adorned with tattoos in the iconic blue-green-gray that older or homemade inks inevitably fade to. Ink quality is a major factor, but so too is artist skill. The reason many prison tattoos take on this swampy hue is because the ink is subpar, and the artist didn't inject it to the correct depth. Tattoos that are too shallow can fade and blur much faster, and if the needle used is too large, it can further contribute to blurring. 

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