In the last twenty years or so tattoos have become more common than at any time previously. Tattoos used to be quite seldom seen, and then only in certain types of people such as seamen. Tattoos usually carry a message or meaning which symbolizes the wearer’s lifestyle or personality. As such they are important to the person wearing the tattoo and should never be applied without all due consideration of the consequences. Tattoos are made by injecting colored inks under the surface of the skin. They are most often applied using a tattoo gun which can move the needle very rapidly in and out of the skin hundreds of times per minute. A small drop of ink is injected with every penetration of the skin. A single needle tattoo gun is the most common type in use.
Disinfection of the tattoo equipment between tattoos is extremely important. Unless this is properly done there is a high risk of spreading infection. Dangerous diseases such as hepatitis and aids can be spread with a poorly sterilized tattoo needle as well as less serious skin infections. The needle should be removed from the tattoo gun after every tattoo and replaced with either a new needle or a properly sterilized needle. Ideally needles should be disposed of after a single use.
Before you learn how to tattoo, you have to familiarize yourself with the tattoo machine. These machines are how modern tattoo artists create their skin art creations on their clients but they work using basically the same method that has been used to apply tattoos since time immemorial – a needle injecting ink into the dermis using an up-and-down motion. The machine, however, moves the needle at a rate of several hundred or thousand vibrations a minute and applies the tattoo ink at a depth of one millimeter in order to ensure a long-lasting tattoo that will last for years with only minor fading.
The various tattoo machines are as follows:
1. The liner machine makes the base for the tattoo, creating the basic outline as well as fine details such as line work. It uses a group of needles usually arranged in a circle.
2. The shader machine colors in the outline as well as to add depth and shading. It uses an increased number of needles that are arranged in flat rows.
3. The rotary machine can be used as either a liner or a shader, but utilizes a wheel to drive the needles rather than the coil that drives other machines.
4. The Neuma is the most advanced tattoo machine on the market. It uses a compressed air system to run the needles and can automatically sterilize the machine, something that is not possible with earlier models.
If you want to start learning how to tattoo, you can get a basic beginners kit so you can practice your skills. The kit costs a few hundred dollars and includes, apart from the machine, liner and shader needles, tube grips, tattoo ink, ink cups with holder and a tube of disinfectant cream. Practice working with the machine until you feel comfortable with it before you use it to apply a tattoo.
Before working with a tattoo machine, always put on a pair of latex gloves to prevent infection. Here are the basic steps in operating a tattoo machine:
1. Attach the tube grip to the front of the machine to serve as a guide for the needle. Make sure that the tube grip fits your hand snugly to prevent cramps while operating the machine.
2. Insert a new needle and dip it into the ink, which will be sucked up into the machine using a tube system. The needle should be sterilized before you place it on the machine and should be screwed on as tightly as possible. Not using sterilized needles can give your subject and yourself hepatitis or staph infections.
3. Test the foot pedal by pressing down on it. This pedal acts as an on/off switch for the machine. Exercise caution since the slightest pressure on the pedal will cause the machine to start.
4. Hold the machine tightly while tattooing your subject. If you are working with the machine for the first time, be careful since the vibrations are surprisingly powerful and can cause the machine to vibrate right out of your hands.
Before attempting to give someone a tattoo with a machine, you should have completed an apprenticeship with an experienced tattoo artist in a professional tattoo shop.