The bane of the tattoo world is the shadowy, unprofessional person called the "scratcher." A scratcher is somebody who:



Does not have the proper training in either tattoo art or of running a professional operation;


Does not know and/or care to use responsible sterilization methods;


Promises to provide tattooing services for an incredibly low fee, for free, or in exchange for drugs (ack!);


Chooses not to apprentice through a legitimate tattoo shop because of one excuse or another (but lacks the knowledge one needs to work in or run a professional shop);


Will hurt you because they don't know what they're doing;


Will give you a permanent tattoo you will regret for the rest of your life;


You should stay away with a ten-foot pole.



Never, get work from a scratcher unless you are willing to accept all the hazards listed above.
 Of those in a study by Clinton Sanders who regretted their tattoos, more than two-thirds of them regretted their tattoo because of poor quality! 
Looking for an artist can be as easy as checking the Yellow Pages, or as complex as checking references, magazine photos, and reading RAB. There are a number of ways to find good artists, including (but certainly not limited to): 
Perusing tattoo magazines. While not all tattoo magazines are of the National Geographic quality, the photos will speak for themselves. Some issues highlight specific artists' works; a good way see the type of work someone does. Use the photos in the magazines to compare with those of the artist you are interested in. These magazines have done a lot to show what is possible. 
Some things to look for in magazines:



Style (realistic, black & grey work, tribal, etc.)


Placement on your body


Ideas for images


Size in proportion to your body


Artists whose work you like.



Reading RAB and this FAQ. It'll give you a base in which to start. If you live in an area where an artist is not listed in the FAQ, you might want to post a query. If you saw an artist whose work you liked in a magazine, see if they're listed in the FAQ. If not, post a query. Remember the artist list FAQ is limited because we only take first-hand recommendations from people who read RAB There are many artists who are excellent, who have not worked on RAB participants.



Attending a tattoo convention. Read the FAQ section on tattoo conventions for more information.



You can approach this one of two ways. You can either go to a shop because someone recommended the artist to you, or you can go in cold. For obvious reasons, you will have a little more information with you if you already know something about the artist. This may make you feel more at ease when going into a shop for the first time. 
Many of the top-notch artists recommended in this FAQ are very busy and work on an appointment-only basis. Visit their shop anyway you will still learn about them even if it doesn't mean getting work done right then and there.



Body art enthusiast Dr. Kai Kristensen , a pathologist and a recently retired lab director of an internationally prestigious medical center in La Jolla (California), says the most important aspects of a good result are to:



Choose an experienced, knowledgeable performer who knows about sterilization and avoidance of infection.


Avoid infection during the healing process.


With both of those bases covered, healing of either should be non-eventful and the desired appearance should be guaranteed.