Some advices. “Don´t work more than two or three hours on a large tattoo”

Establish a regular pattern of working hours. During your slow periods, you’ll find many ways to occupy your time. If and when you have a day when you’re tired, distraught or ill, go to bed or go fishing, tomorrow’s another day.
On a busy day, work customers on a rotation basis. First in, first out. Don’t offend anyone by taking on someone else before their turn comes.
You’ll find it better to do large pieces by appointment outside your regular office hours. Some artists work exclusively by appointment, but they are usually well known and established. It’s not a good idea to work more than two or three hours on a large tattoo anyway, it is advisable to spread the work over several or more sittings. Don’t touch it again until the previous work is healed.
You will be approached by people you would prefer not doing business with. There is always one out of ten that are just plain trouble. Don’t be arrogant with them, just explain in a firm way that if you’re not accepting their money, you don’t owe them anything.
From time to time, you might be approached by the media looking for what they like to call a human interest story. While it may be in your interest to cooperate with them, don’t forget that publicity is a double-edged sword. Once they get their foot in the door, they can write it the way they see it. There are those who swear that publicity promotes business, but it would be hard to prove that those customers wouldn’t eventually have found their way to your doorstep anyway. Give it your best thoughts, because in the end, it’s a decision you’ll have to make when you are confronted with it.
Spend some time building good public relations in your community, having friends on your side always helps.
A question that comes up is one about tattoo removal. Tattooists all have their special removal techniques, but you should be advised to stay clear of them all. The best answer is to have the name and address of a reputable dermatologist who specializes in tattoo removal, and send the client there. Your thing should be putting them on correctly. Let someone else’s thing be in removing them correctly.

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Prices and Selling tattoos

What will you charge for a tattoo and what will it work out per hour? Walk into any legitimate tattoo shop and you will notice that the price of a good tattoo is not generally cheap. That is, not inexpensive. When considering the price of equipment, today’s inflation, the skill involved, and the cost of overhead and floor space, tattoos are not exactly a bad deal either. The fact is that they are a permanent artwork investment that will go everywhere the customer goes. Other than the free tattoos on friends in the beginning in trade for advertisement, the prices of your work should be consistent. Don’t start off underselling yourself and then later raise your prices. People will come back years later and expect the same low prices. Try to set a standard as soon as possible. One way to do this is to visit the good tattooists in your area, and take a look at what they are charging. Compare different tattoo sizes and try to get a pricing guide down pat in your head. This can be used as a reference for your own prices. Don’t try to undersell the local established tattooists in your area, because besides being unfair to them, you don’t want to cause an uproar as the new kid on the block. It can cost you many friends.
Also, it’s not too good to quote prices over the phone. Most people that call are just curious, anyway. Some are shopping for the cheapest price. Just tell them to come down and visit you and that it will be worth the trip.
Another way of pricing, which is very popular, is called the A-B-C method. The basics to this are quite simple. Make up a card or posters to hang over the design sheets with the following information on it. Let’s say you have figured out that your basic commercial designs come in three size ranges. Small work is $25.00. These you list as “A” designs. Medium size work is $35.00 and is listed as “B” designs. Larger pieces are $50.00 and they will be put down as “C” designs. Make this large and plain on the poster, the price and letter designations. Now all that is left to do is to place the appropriate letter sticker on your corresponding flash sheet designs. On one sheet, for example, you will have some that have an “A” next to them, some with a “B” or a “C” depending upon their size. This way, prices don’t clutter up your flash sheets, and it gives the customer a chance to decide what they can afford to work around their pocketbook. An alternative method is to have designs illustrated in books. This is useful if you lack sufficient wall space.

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Tattoo Bandaging Summary

1.    After tattooing, clean whole area with green soap and white paper towel.
2.    Spray it with alcohol and hold a paper towel on it.
3.    Apply film of Bacitracin ointment.
4.    Cover with bandage of Handi-Wrap and securely tape it on.

General Healing Instructions
1.    Bandage should stay on for at least two hours.
2.    Remove bandage, rinse gently with cold water and blot dry.
3.    Apply Bacitracin ointment four times a day and blot out the excess.
4.    Keep tattoo fresh and open to the air. Do not bandage.
5.    For the first week, avoid swimming or long soaking in water.
6.    For the first month, avoid too much exposure to the sun.
7.    Do not pick or scratch scabs.
8.    Itching is relieved by slapping or alcohol.
9.    Keep tattoo covered with clean loose clothing.

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A Word About Green Tattoo Color

It seems as though everyone in tattooing at some time or other has had a problem putting green into the skin. Of course there are many and varied reasons for this. I will go into this in detail because I think it is a very important part of tattooing that every artist should know. A tattoo machine is only as good as the artist behind it. For starters, a good running machine with a new set of needles is a must. The most common mistake with green is that the artist doesn’t know when it’s in the skin. This happens because most greens are mixed with white and when tattooed into the skin, appears more white than green. (Example – Spaulding & Rogers Bright Green). The inexperienced artist will overwork the area, thinking he hasn’t got the color in because it doesn’t appear to be green enough. When the area is overworked, the color will just go into a bubble on the skin which will be mostly blood. When cleaned off, the skin will have a fuzzy look, and chances are there will be a thick scab and a sore tattoo to go with it. This you don’t want. So, although your green color may take on a very white look, don’t worry, it’s in there. Another good rule is to work it slowly, the skin will only accept it so fast and beyond that, it’s lost motion.
These same methods apply to all blue colors also. Always use Vaseline on the skin while working colors, it makes clean up more easy. If you find that your green has heated with little white spots showing throughout it, these are called “holidays” and usually comes from working the color too fast. In other words, there are spots you have missed due to an untrained eye. Yellow color is notorious for this and most always requires to be gone over twice during the process of the tattoo. It’s not a hard color to put in, it’s just deceiving to the eye.

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Brush Shading. A not familiar type of shading in the tattoo business.

This is a type of shading that is not familiar to everyone in the tattoo business as is common sweep shading. The reason is it’s quite a hard technique to master and requires a lot of practice. It also takes a super running tattoo machine. The effect you can get with brush shading on a tattoo is very outstanding and puts the artist in a separate class of his own. After you have accomplished this technique, other artists not so fortunate will look up to you with envy. Some will even want you to teach them how to do it. The most unique thing about brush shading is that you don’t have to stand on your head or get in a bent-out position to do it. You can work your shading forwards, backwards or to the side and get all the same effects with little effort. You can practice with a pencil on paper or if you want to be real technical, you can fasten a pencil to the tube on a tattoo machine. This way, you will have the weight of the machine in your hand the same as if you were actually tattooing. The technique is all in the movement of your wrist as is sweep shading, but the brush shading is done from a very slow movement to a very fast movement. As you pick up the needles from the skin, you must turn your machine sideways, moving slowly, and putting the black in solid to start with. As you want to feather out the shading, you pick up the speed of your wrist movement back and forth and at the same time, picking up on the machine while going away from the solid black area. This can be accomplished by going in a forward or reverse position but must be done fast to get the effect desired. Use a low power on your machine, and if you must go over it again, be very careful because you can get too much black into it and ruin the effect of the whole tattoo. Refer to diagrams.

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Blood at the time of tattooing

With all these small holes being made in the skin, some bleeding is quite natural and should be expected. If it is overly excessive, double check the needle depth and check the needle points. Try a slower power on the machine. Bleeding would be called excessive when it drips down the arm or when an area is finished and the only thing that can be seen when the tattoo is wiped off is blood.
As sections of the tattoo are completed and wiped, a thin coat of Vaseline might help the situation. Occasionally, carefully wipe away the bottom of the tube tip where excess ink and Vaseline tends to accumulate. Some customers bleed a lot regardless of how well the machine is tuned. Some body parts tend to bleed more than other parts due to differences in skin texture. Bleeding must be accepted and do the best possible job, wiping a lot.
To shade properly, make sure the bridge is set and stable (consult Chapter on Holding Machines) as should be always done. With the machine running, set the needles down gently in the skin along the outline. All four or six needles should be in line with skin surface at all times. No one side should be any deeper than the other side. With the machine running and the needles riding against the outline, make sure the tip of the tube is touching the skin before starting. Right at this point, the machine is swept away from you with a flick type wrist motion. This sweeping motion brings the needles up and away from the skin.
When this happens, the needles go from full depth in the skin to gradually getting shallower and finally out of the skin at the end of the motion. Hence, when at full depth, full strength black is inserted and while the needles are swept away, the black ink gets toward the surface of the skin and creates grey tones. That beautiful effect is called feathering or shading. If the shading is to be light, the sweeping motion should be quicker paced. Don’t let the machine dwell on the outline for any length of time. If it is to be dark, a slower motion is needed. How much shading is achieved or the quality of feathering is determined by the speed of the sweep and the angle of the machine which is being “whipped” out of the skin. It does require a certain feel or touch, and many hours of practice are needed to fully acquaint oneself with the results that are desired.

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Some advices for doing a good tattoo

If you mentally think about the line that you are about to tattoo, your hand will automatically carry it through. Don’t hesitate, or stop and start again. Let the lines flow smoothly without interruption. Before a really long line, get an ink refill so you won’t run out in the middle of it. If you know the beginning of a line, and the end of it, the middle of it will take care of itself.
Start on the beginning of a line and not in the middle of it. It’s hard to reconnect lines to match perfectly. A perfect sweep is better than broken sections.
When you do points or tips with one stroke instead of two, lift up a bit and lighten up on the pressure so you won’t get a heavy dot at the tip.

Eagle tips, fangs and claws, etc., can be done in one single sweep, but take care that the needle points aren’t ruined and make sure that you have enough ink. On the lines of ribbons or banners, do it in one clean stroke. If not, stop at intersections or places where if you make a bad joining, it can be easily shaded out later.
In ribbons, scrolls and banners which will hold names or lettering, don’t tattoo in the top line of the banner until the lettering is done. That way the top line can be readjusted if need be. Bad lines can usually be hidden by some sort of shading.
The quality of the outline largely depends upon the quality and condition of the needles. If good results are not obtained, check those needle tips carefully with an eye loupe, both the tips and their motion.
When the outline has been finished on the tattoo, give it a green soap wash and gently wipe it with a clean towel. Examine it carefully and see if there are any spots which need touching up. Any disconnected lines or forgotten spots? If so, touch those spots up. Wash it again and coat with Vaseline. Shut off the power pack and give yourself and the client a short break. Mention that the worst part is over. Remove the tube and needle bar from the machine and place the tube in a tray of soapy water so the ink doesn’t dry. Place the used needle bar in a box labeled “used” for later washing and sterilizing for reusing, or for later soldering off and disposal, or to be resoldered with another new needle.

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Outlining. An important aspect of a good tattoo

Outlining by itself just might be the single most important aspect of a good tattoo. It takes special attention and concentration while performing. A cleancut line done with confidence displays professionalism and is the solid foundation for a great tattoo. The world’s greatest foundation is useless if the bricks are faulty, and the greatest quality outline is only as good as the pattern. In other words, as important as good outlining is, the outline itself is only as good as the line on the stencil. So, the first important step in outlining is taking the time to make the best possible stencil that can be made. Keep the stencil simple. In the case of a complicated design, use only the major outlines to establish the design and the other detail type lines can be added later by freehand.
Assuming the preparation of the skin has just been finished and the area of the design is lightly coated with carbolated vaseline (see Chapter on Sterile Techniques first), just the design and not too much beyond it, so the hand won’t slip around and the bridges will be more stable. The first real step is to fill the reservoir of the machine tip with black tattoo ink. To do this property, the machine should not be running and lightly dip the tip into an ink cap holding black ink. Careful pains must be taken not to touch any surface of the cap with the needle tip. The end of the tube will fill up. This supply of ink does not last very long and must be frequently dipped back into the cap for a refill. Run the machine over a paper tissue to test the ink flow. If the machine spurts and spits out ink, stop it for an adjustment. (Check Chapter on Machine Setting). Usually adjustment of the bands will correct the problem.
Always tattoo either forward or sideways with the machine. Outlines and shading both are done like this. In this direction, the needles have a slight backward pressure on them against the skin, which keeps the needles in the bottom of the tube where the ink is. Rubber bands keep this position in check, but tattooing in this direction keeps the needles working where they belong and does not work against the natural function of the machine. It makes nice tattooing easier. Using a square tip tube is a plus.
Outlining is done from the bottom up, since sweat, blood and ink run down, it makes sense to start at the bottom to avoid smudging while working up. Since wiping the area continuously while doing the tattoo will remove the stencil, starting in the bottom position will prevent this.

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Variety and styles of tattoo lettering

Tattoo lettering is varied and endless in its styles. After you have a few traditional alphabets under control, you can experiment and create your own designs. Certain styles are more suited to personal tastes than others. You can get quite fancy if it is practiced first on paper. With practice, anything is possible, even slick looking Old English style.

Personalized letters are great trademarks, and eventually everyone will letter differently, even when doing the same alphabet. A few different alphabets are illustrated above to give you some examples and stimulate your imagination.

When actually tattooing names and letters, on the skin. You will still need some sort of guidelines on the skin. Very few people tattoo without them and get satisfactory results. The guidelines are drawn on the skin with a skin type marker or a fine line ink pen.

These lines are not to be tattooed in, but used just as a guide for the letters. Later they will be wiped off to leave just the letters in perfect height. Do not guess with the spacing of letters, they rarely come out right. Always remember the sign “plan ahead.”

Remember that spacing isn’t always a mechanical measurement between each letter but a flowing style of placing letters together which look correct to the eye.
When tattooing letters that are inside of banners, be sure to tattoo on the letters first and then the banner second. This is done so that if the banner has to be adjusted at the last second, it could be.

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Finishing adhering the stencil

When finished adhering the stencil, it should be cleaned up. Grasp it with a set of medical tongs and hold it in the ultrasonic tank for a few seconds, then wash it good under the faucet. It then should be dried with a paper towel and then filed away.
If you can get a good Xerox of something, it can usually be reproduced on skin. It’s difficult to reproduce a photograph, but there have been done some good likenesses of peoples faces.
Do tattoos from drawings because that way it’s easier to get lines for the stencil. If you’re doing a back piece the exact size of a record cover, tape two spirit masters together to make the design side by side, tape the tops and bottoms together. Then staple Xeroxed copy on top of the spirit masters, white side up. Do this on a clean, flat, hard table. Just trace over all the lines and there you have a perfect stencil. Remove the staples after checking to make sure all the lines are traced over. Then carefully remove the carbon paper from the sheets, being careful not to dislodge the tape holding them together exactly.
All these methods in this chapter work really well and should be used with each other. Choosing the right method depends upon the circumstances. It can only be stressed that the beginning tattooist practice making stencils and transferring them until perfection is attained. The stencil is very important to tattooing since a clean stencil is easier to tattoo from and a sloppy one produces sloppy results. Perfect stencil making is a requirement to professional tattooing.

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