Tattoo artists: 'Don't try this at home'

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HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - Tattoo artists have a message for those who want to bypass the parlor: 'Don't try it at home.'

Jeffrey Brad Peterson's tattoo looks like one you'd get at any parlor, but it's there to cover up what he calls a mistake he made long ago.

"I started by doing my initials when I was 13," he explained, pointing to his left tricep, where a tattoo of a panther now sits. "[The initials] expanded and went out of shape."

Another man, who asked for us not to use his name or show his face on camera, says he also tried the 'do-it-yourself' method. A small, faded tattoo on his chest now serves as a reminder not to dabble in the practice again.

"It just goes on different than it does on paper," he said. "You can be the best artist in the world but if you don't have no experience behind a [tattoo] gun, then you ain't got no business there."

"You can buy professional looking tattoo machines, but they're not necessarily always professional," Dustin Fragmin, a tattoo artist at Thinkin' Ink Tattoo Studios in Clarksburg, cautioned.

Fragmin says it's common for as many as 15 people a week to walk in with a story about a tattoo gone wrong. It may sound a little like this:

"'I've seen other stuff he did, those all looked good...I don't know what happened to this one,'" Fragmin said, relaying some of the stories he's heard in the shop. "Or 'I got drunk, passed out, and woke up with this.'"

But the implications can be serious.

"When they finished, I had a bunch of torn tissue, and they went too deep," Dale Baker, 37, said as he recalled an infection he suffered after he and his friends tattooed each other when he was about 12 or 13 years old.

Without properly sterilized equipment, people risk the chance of infection, Hepatitis, or HIV.

Baker's tattoos have faded somewhat, but they're not completely gone.

He has wrestled with the idea of covering the tattoos up, but as he and Fragmin explain, the process is expensive and difficult. You can watch that part of the conversation in the video above.