Last year, the Pew Research Center released a study labeling young Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 as Generation Next – a generation defined by their development alongside a technological revolution that witnessed the preponderance of personal computers, cell phones and the Internet.

The study explained the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace as a result of a “look at me” generation expressing itself. It is not surprising, then, that more young Americans today are turning themselves into canvases by getting more tattoos and piercings than in years past.

According to a 2006 study by the American Academy of Dermatology, more than one in three Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo, up from the national average of 15 percent.

Whether it is a sign of rebellion, a rite of passage or a bonding experience, college seems to be the perfect time to get inked. The study found that two-thirds of people who had tattoos got their first one before the age of 24.

Whatever the occasion, the Central Coast has a variety of venues for Cal Poly students who want to set their decision in stone – or skin, as the case may be – and scratch that inkling for a tattoo. Here’s a look at some pros and cons of the most popular spots:

Traditional Tattoo – San Luis Obispo (956 Foothill St. #C)

San Luis Obispo’s only tattoo parlor opened a second location three months ago on South Higuera Street, an ideal location for a tattoo parlor.

“The cool thing is we got to design the layout ourselves, so we had more say in what it looked like,” piercer Jeremiah Vasquez said.

The building has large glass windows that let in a lot of light, dispelling the usual grunge feel of a parlor. The couches are big and clean, making the waiting experience comfortable.

Sample artwork is available, but the gallery atmosphere is enhanced by the artwork hanging from the walls. The artists working at the South Higuera location lean toward large custom pieces that require more time and skill.

The original location at 956 Foothill St. is close to campus. It is a “traditional” tattoo parlor in every sense of the term, from the red and black walls to the heavy metal blaring from the stereos.

The large space is negated by the lack of privacy, but as long as the work remains PG-13, this presents no problems.

According to artist Ken Fischer, the customer base is mostly students with a few locals mixed in. A piercing costs between $35 and $40, and tattoo work varies but works out to $120 per hour.

“We offer good, solid artwork and consistent customer service,” Fischer said.

Both locations are open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Cherry Blossom – Atascadero (8459 El Camino Real)

The waiting room is an ode to pinup girls and rockabilly, with a touch of Asian culture to throw things for a loop. With a staff of five artists, each with separate booths, the experience feels very individualized.

For those unfamiliar, Cherry Blossom provides an invaluable tool: notebooks containing pictures of actual work done by each employee to help with the decision-making process.

Nestled into a strip mall on El Camino Real, the shop can be easily missed, but the building opens up quite nicely and does not feel cramped like some other places.

Manakin – Pismo Beach (361 Pomeroy Ave.)

Tucked around the corner from Main Street, Manakin boasts a friendly staff and, most interestingly, does not post the same pre-made designs prevalent on the walls of nearly every other tattoo parlor in the area.

An emphasis is placed on unique, one-of-a-kind designs that, when combined with the stylistic decoration of the shop, makes the atmosphere much more like an art studio than a tattoo parlor.

Mothership Tattoo and Piercing – Pismo Beach (751 Dolliver St.)

The first thing that stands out upon entering Mothership is the bright, psychedelic colors that radiate from every surface.

“We like it to look like a circus on acid ’cause that’s what appeals to people with tattoos,” artist Josh Salazar said.

Sandy floors give away the store’s location less than a block away from the ocean, and Salazar said business picks up in the summer when everyone descends on the beach.

Mothership operates with a $70 minimum and specializes in custom tattoos and use of color.

Tiger Rose – Pismo Beach (590 Dolliver St.)

Though small, it is one of the most well-known tattoo parlors in the county. As one customer put it, “It’s where the locals go.”

The artists are an experienced and close-knit group that keeps the environment light-hearted and relaxed. The store is open from noon to 8 p.m. daily, but appointments can be scheduled.

Located a block away from the pier, this parlor and its trademark tiger on the window have become a local landmark for Pismo Beach.

Other Locations:

Never Enough Tattoo (5435 El Camino Real, Atascadero)

Deep Blue Tattoo & Piercing (1328 W. Grand Ave. #B, Grover Beach)

Tried and True Tattoo (1037 E. Grand Ave., Arroyo Grande)

Central Coast Tattoos (501 Morro Bay Blvd., Morro Bay)

Alley Cat Tattoo & Piercing Co. (491 1st St., Avila Beach)

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