A Word of Advice about tattooing industry

Whether we like it or not, the tattooing industry has a lot of jealousy within its ranks. There is countless reasons for this and some of them will give you the impression that a certain individual should have his head checked. His attitude won’t really register with you until you have been into tattooing a short period of time. Some people will think they own a whole town, city or county and tell you there is no room for another artist in that area. In some cases there isn’t enough business for only one, but if he is established and doing good work, he really has nothing to worry about, but you can’t tell him that. He already has all the answers. Just be very selective here, you pick your location. Never knock your competition even though he might be giving you the bad mouth all the time. It only makes proposed customers curious and they will check it out, believe me. Some tattooists get along fine together, they sort of run in a click, and if you fit into that particular click and are accepted, you’re all set.
One thing in this business that will get you accepted quickly is to turn out exceptional tattoo work. At this point, your competition knows that you’re better than he thought and his attitude towards you might even change, especially if he figures he can learn something from you after seeing some of the super work you’re turning out. Don’t brag about your work, you get a reputation in the tattoo business from other artists, not the customer. Strange as it seems, this is true. Always do your best, conduct yourself in a professional manner and above all, be a nice guy. Public relations is a very important part of tattooing, it has a lot to do with how much you have in your pocket at the end of the week.

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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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Shading Tips and Tricks

•   Black ink goes in much easier than colors.
•   You might have to run a shader a little faster than an outliner.
•   Grey shading a Japanese sky is gaining popularity. This is accomplished by having a cap filled with black ink diluted with distilled pure water. The more water, the weaker the tone, creating a light, washed out grey effect. Another way of achieving this grey effect is by using undiluted black in the machine, and using distilled water on the skin. You basically wet the area (using a soft brush) before you sweep across it. This is a good way on larger pieces such as the back. Practice this, like in any technique, elsewhere to perfection before doing it on a customer.
•   Single needle and outline needles are used to make fine hair and wispy effects. Dotting effects are also achieved by this method.

•   Shading or feathering also work well with some colors too, especially red and brown.
•   On human figures, use brown or tan shading to show form, curves or muscle bulges. Use the natural skin tone as a highlight and shade to enhance the natural skin.
•  Most of the commercial design sheets have designed shading on them. It is an individual matter to change shading by adding or subtracting to suit one’s artistic tastes. This should be done anyway to put an individual stamp on each tattoo.
•  Just like the outliner, the needle bar loop must be snug on the armature bar nipple. The shaft of the needle bar cannot come in contact with inside of the tube.
•  When you change shader needle bars, you will see a series of grooves in the tip. File these out before putting in a new set of needles. A good tool for this is a specially designed mini file available from Spaulding & Rogers Mfg., Inc. By doing this, it doubles the life of the shader tip.
•  When moving the needle bar shaft up and down manually, it should feel smooth and free. If you feel a rub, correct it. The needles may be off to one side and not parallel to the tip or not spread correctly. Another rubber band may also correct this problem. Needles may be bent slightly down to hug bottom of shader tip. Never bend the needle bar.
•   You may also wish to experiment with a round shader. These are also available from your supplier and hold as many as 14 needles. In appearance they resemble an outliner with a large tip. They have advantages in that they are not prone to cutting the skin up too bad and they can put in a lot of ink at a rapid pace. You will not get the shading effect with the round shader that you will get using a flat one.

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Black shading. Next step in the tattoo process after outlinding

Shading must be mastered because, not only does it really make a tattoo stand out, but many tattooing errors and tattoo cover-ups can be hidden and corrected by proper shading. Black shading is the next step in the tattoo process after outlining. All the black work must be done before any color can be put in.
The tattooing spectrum goes from dark to light. That is black first, then the next darkest color, etc., and the lightest colors for last. If not done in this order, the dark colors mix with the lighter ones in the pores already made from the machine and a bad smudged mess will result. So, all the black work must be done first, and after the outline is finished, that means the shading is next.
Black shading can be so attractive that some tattooists use this style exclusively. They feel that a black tattoo (one done only in black ink, no color) is the only way to show a tattoo and that the addition of color only hinders the design. With some of the quality work out nowadays, especially single needle tattoos, it’s not hard to appreciate this point of view. Black tattoos take on an aged “patina” with time, and after a few years, if the tattoo is retouched up with more black, a certain quality is obtained which cannot be reproduced in any other way.
The tattoo machine should have the four or six needle shader bar set-up properly with the corresponding shader tube. Let the needles stand out about 1/32 inch. The two outside needles should touch the sides just enough to eliminate any side to side motion but not enough to make them tight. Check it running and adjust so there is no side quiver (see Machine Set-Up Section for solutions). Now the artist is set-up to do the black shading. Start by washing the outline with green soap and apply another very thin coat of Vaseline over it.

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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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Practice and be professional on lettering tattoos

When outlining letters, a good general rule to follow is that the less stops and starts you make, the better the lettering. It makes for a more consistent flow. Blot away the ink after each step so you can see what you have done and where you are going for the next stroke.
Some customers prefer names in a handwriting style. If they have better handwriting than you do, they can write what they want on a guidelined piece of paper, which you set-up, and then you can copy it and stencil it on the skin. This appeals to some, because their tattoo inscription will be in their own handwriting.
Discourage the use of girlfriends’ names in tattoos. These names are usually outdated in the majority of cases, and it leaves the customer with a name they no longer want on themselves. When people insist on it, just say no. If a compromise must be made, tattoo the name in a light red ink so when they return to get rid of it (and they will), you can tattoo over it to hide it. See Chapter on Cover-ups for more details on this.
One more important thing to bring up is spelling errors. You would be amazed at how many people are walking around with misspelled words tattooed on them. This looks bad and is very unprofessional. Never guess at a word that you don’t know and have a dictionary handy to look them up. Be positive at what you are spelling. If they are foreign words, have the customer spell them out for you, and the same goes for names.
Be careful and practice every night, and you will soon master lettering, an important category in professional tattooing.

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CLEANING TUBES AND NEEDLE BARS ON TATTOO MACHINES

We have 2 types of cleaning here; one is for re-usable and the other is for disposable items. The process is the same except for packaging the items for the autoclave. After 30 minutes in the ultrasonic cleaner, cleaning needle bars and tubes is a snap. Simply brush off any debris with a denture brush and green soap or soap powder. Hold the needles in your left hand against your index finger for support (points away from you) and brush away from you, never towards yourself. Roll the bar over and clean the other side. Rinse the bar under running water and examine it with an eye loupe for damage (barbs, excessive wear, etc.).

If it can be re-used place it on a towel and clean its respective tube. There are several devices that make this easier. One is a pipe cleaner, others are nylon brushes and special denture brushes all available from good tattoo supply houses.

Cleaning, first use the brush, then bore swabs. The pipe cleaners are pulled through it like a bore brush then rinse. The nylon brushes enter through the back (open) end of tube – the special denture (with variable tips) do a great job from entering in from the needle end – then always rinse. See Figure 8.
Place it with its needle bar. Do the same for all remaining bars and tubes. If a needle bar cannot be re-used after the cleaning, drop it points first into a glass test tube. Using machine rack test tubes, push a cotton ball (not rayon) to the bottom of the tube and place the re-usable bar in its respective tube gently, points first, onto this cotton ball. Plug the open end with another cotton ball and place it in a plastic autoclave bag with a tag to identify it e.g. 3 needle liner, etc. Heat seal all of these bags and put a small piece of autoclave tape on the bag with the date on it. Plug the tube with the bad needles in it and seal it for autoclaving.

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Soldering shader groups on tattoo machines

When soldering the shader groups on the shader bars, you can use the same needle bar jig, just switch bar heads for shader groups. The rules are the same, with the loop of the bar facing to the right and the bar riding under the needle group. Remember to use the flat needle bars for shaders.
The final touch on the shaders will be the spreading of the needles. This process will also apply to four needle flat shaders. It is a known fact that spread or forked shader needles (whichever you prefer to call them) will put ink in the skin faster and better than a set of needles that are not spread. Also, spreading of the needles takes up the slack in the tube tip and does away with any side motion of the needles which could cause splattering or possibly cutting of the skin. When spreading the needles with a thin bladed knife, be very careful not to snap the outside needle. If you do, you can always trim the needle off, likewise the other side and use it for a four needle shader. Do not overspread the needles or they will bind inside the tube tip and the results will be that there is such a drag of two metals rubbing together, your machine will not function properly. Refer to needle spreading diagrams.
Take your time when practicing. Check all needles with an eve loupe in all phases of needle making. Extreme care should be used when handling needles in needle making or very few indeed will make it to the sterilization. With practice, your needles will be something to be proud of, perfect in uniformity and professional in their usage as a tattoo instrument.

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Suggestions on making needle bars on tattoo machines

The first step is to sit down and organize your equipment in front of you. Use a good strong light and work on a flat and sturdy surface. Don’t rush through anything since these needle bars are basically your livelihood and entire bread and butter.
At this point, it is assumed that the tattooist has an intimate knowledge of using soldering equipment. This is not a chapter on how to solder, so a book on this subject should be read, and practice should be done on scraps of stainless steel or old needle bars to acquaint yourself with this process. When it is determined that you can handle your equipment with confidence, then and only then commence with practicing needle making.
Begin by soldering off the old needle groups from their respective bars. Do this over a garbage pail. Solder them off and let them drop into the pail never to be used again. Clean off all residue from the bars and set them aside. Line them all up, liners on one end of the table and shaders on the other end.
The next preliminary step is to choose your needles. In front of you is a small package containing 1000 stainless steel #12 sharps needles. They will not all be perfect. Up to twenty percent or more will be unusable as tattooing needles, but can be used as riders when making single needles. Remove a dozen needles from the package and lay them on a smooth surface. Extreme care should be used in making bars. These are very delicate, and caution should be used to make sure they stay perfect through the entire process. Go back to the last chapter and memorize the drawings on what bad needles look like when under the eye loupe. Inspect all the needles you have just pulled out of the package for such bad ones. Use a strong light, a good eye \oupe and take your time. Keep the good needles separate and on the bad needles, carefully file off the points With the file. Save these because they are going to be used when making single needle liner bars.
The first needle bar we will discuss making will be the three needle liner. You will need a needle jig for these needles. These jigs are the small metal ones with a little handle on them. They have a small shelf on the end with a hollow tube soldered on at right angles to the handle.

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Plain steel needless and steel needless on tattoo machine

The actual needles that get soldered on the bars come in two types. Plain Steel needles and stainless steel needles. Stainless needles are better to use because you won’t have to worry about rust or pitting. Many tattooists use different makes of needles, but the industry standard is the #12 .014 sharps needle. This is what you will get from your supplier, already perfectly soldered onto the needle bars. You must make it a habit to constantly check the ends of the needles for perfection. Many things can happen to them. A vital part of your equipment is the eye loupe. They are like a microscope, but for just one eye. A high powered, high quality one is a wise investment and a definite must. They are used so you can always check the end of the needles for flaws. They must be checked right when you fírst receive them, right after you have sterilized them and while you are tattooing. A needle can get bad at any time. It doesn’t take much at all to spoil one.
Tattooing with a bad point results in: The ink not going in properly, excessive paín for the customer, skin damage and ripping, leaving scar tissue and a terrible tattoo. The needles you get from a supplier are usually perfect, but always check them anyway. They could get damaged in shipping, while sterilizing them or just careless handling in setting up the machine. They must be treated with extraordi-nary care at all times. If not, you will not last long as a tattooist. The causes of needle damage vary and can happen at any time. Rough handling while washing or sterilizing will do it also. They can get damaged while running the points into the bottom of the ink cap. Too tight a ñt of the shaders in the tube end will do it also. Be careful and check them often with the eye loupe. Pay attention to the tattooing. If the customer starts flinching or the lines come out wrong, stop and check your needles. Bad needles look like this as seen through the eye loupe.

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