The act of getting inked, as rebellious and carefree of a rap it gets, should be a serious endeavor if you want a quality tattoo. You know, one that doesn't look like some old, bald guy in cell block D gave to you with a sharpened paper clip and a few drops of Bic ink.

Cleanliness, safety, and a clear health record should be of utmost importance when you're looking for a place to get tattooed in Tampa.  As awesome as it may drunkenly seem, getting a tattoo at any random place, at the spur of the moment is a terrible, terrible idea for a number of obvious reasons.

The truth is getting a tattoo can lead to potential transmission of blood-related diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis-B, and HIV, if the equipment used was previously utilized on an infected person.

You can prevent this easily, though. First and foremost, do your research and make a list of a few shops that seem reputable.  Tattoo shops don't have to be licensed by the health department but are required to be under the supervision of a medical doctor or dentist.  If they can't show proof of this, go elsewhere.

Once in the shops, ask for a tour of the facilities.  If they refuse, that should probably set off a few alarms.  Any shop worth their salt should have nothing to hide in this area.

Take note of the equipment they use.  Are needles individually packaged for one-time use?  Or, do they clean and re-use them?  If so, take note of the cleaning methods and products used in this process.

Talk to the artists too.  They're going to be injecting your skin with artwork that will be there the rest of your life.  If you guys don't gel, you probably want to look for someone else.  Communication is key, especially if you have something specific in mind, so really make sure you're comfortable with your artist.

With this in mind, here are a few solid and reputable Tampa tattoo shops.

1603 Tattoo & Body Piercing Co.

For the utmost quality and precision in tattooing, there's no better choice than 1603.  Located right in the heart of Ybor City, 1603 will help you with your ideas and drawings to create the best tattoo they can.  Stop by their artist page here and view some of the different artists' portfolios and find a style that matches what you have in mind.  Of course, 1603 prides itself on cleanliness and uses new needles and ink with each new session.

Blue Devil Tattoo

Ybor City is full of tattoo shops to choose from.  Blue Devil, open since 1994 and the oldest in the neighborhood, has been around long enough to see the good ones stay and the not-so-good perish.  With time and quality on their side, you can be sure you'll get a great,well thought-out tat from one of their tattoo professionals.

Las Vegas Tattoo Co.

Las Vegas is another longstanding Ybor tattoo insitution.  Stop in today and choose from an enormous selection of designs or consult with one of their professional artists for a great, custom tattoo.  Their customer service is unparalleled according to the ton of fantastic reviews they've received.

Red Letter 1

Red Letter prides itself on providing the best custom tattoos in the Bay Area. In fact, that's the only thing they do. Stop in today and consult with one of their nationally-renowned artists and get the tattoo of your dreams.  They double as an art gallery as well with notable exhibits from tattooists and graphic artists around the world.

Atomic Tattoos and Piercing

Atomic is a tattoo and piercing chain with locations throughout Florida and five right here in Tampa.   You can rest assured that each Atomic location exceeds industry standards in quality, cleanliness, and safety as they've got a big reputation to uphold.  Atomic prides themselves on hiring the best artists in the industry and they'll work with you on creating a great tattoo.  Their locations include....

South Tampa - 112 North Dale Mabry Highway

Brandon - 210 South Kings Ave.

Westfield Brandon Mall - 59 Brandon Town Center Store 844

North Tampa - 1512 Fowler Ave.

Town and Country - 8238 W. Waters Ave.

By now you probably realize you've got options when it comes to getting a tattoo in Tampa.  Do your research, ask around, be patient, and you'll be rewarded with a tattoo that'll impress for a lifetime...or until you get all old and wrinkly and simply become the coolest grandma or grandpa ever.  Win win!