5 Tattoo Lessons Every New Tattoo Artist Should Master
As an aspiring tattoo artist, you are probably interested in the tattoo lessons that will help get you on your way to being a pro.
There are so many different aspects of tattooing that it’s hard to choose just a few to focus on. After all, you need to know about the obvious things like inks and needles; but there are a lot of less obvious, but still important, tattoo lessons that need to be learned.
We’re going to take on some of the biggest tattoo lessons here, with the idea of moving step-by-step through the tattoo process, from preparing the client to applying the tattoo to follow-up care for proper healing.
If you take the time to master these five tattoo lessons, you will definitely know the basics required to start you on the path to the pros.
Tattoo Lesson One: Preparations
The workspace, the artist, and the client all need to be properly prepared before you ever even pick up the tattoo machine. Preparing in advance is one of the best time-saving tattoo lessons you can learn, and doing it properly helps make sure that everything that follows will go as smoothly as possible.
In order to protect yourself and the client, start by doing some basic housekeeping. Make sure that the work area is clean before the client even arrives. All of your equipment should have been sterilized, and your tools should be laid out and ready to go. A good idea to keep in mind is that fabrics and fibers provide places for bacteria to live and grow, so it’s best to avoid carpets and curtains in the tattooing area. Also, make sure you clean and disinfect the floors, walls, and furniture on a regular basis.
To prepare yourself for the tattoo process, make sure your hair is pulled back, that your fingernails are clean, that you don’t have any loose clothing that might drag on the client’s skin, and that you’ve removed rings and other jewelry. Sanitizing soap is the best way to clean your hands and arms, and you should use a brush to make sure you’re getting under your nails. It’s a little like a doctor scrubbing in for surgery! Follow this procedure by putting on a brand new pair of latex gloves.
Finally, you’ll want to prepare the client. Allow him or her to get into a comfortable position. In many cases, the client will need to remain in the same position for a long time, so finding a comfortable one up front will be helpful. Expose the area to be tattooed, and clean it thoroughly with sterilizing soap. You will also want to remove hair from the area. Always use a brand new disposable razor, and throw it away immediately after shaving the client. Clean the area again with an alcohol solution, and follow this up with Betadine. To keep the area clean, cover it with a sterile pad until you’re ready to get started.
Lesson Two: Transferring the Stencil
Another of the most important tattoo lessons is the importance of proper stencil placement. Getting the image onto the client properly is the first real step in getting the tattoo from the planning stage to the permanent design stage. The stencil itself is the basic outline of the design, and by transferring it from paper to the skin, you are giving yourself a pattern to follow with the tattoo needle.
The stencil itself will often be drawn in ink or graphite on tracing paper. The image will be backwards on the page so that when it is pressed to the skin, the design will appear facing the right direction. The actual transfer is accomplished by applying a light layer of a sticky substance to the skin and then laying the stencil on top of this spot. Deodorant and green soap are two common substances to use.
Rub the back of the stencil thoroughly, and the image will be transferred off of the tracing paper and onto the skin. You now have a clear image to follow when it comes time to do the lining.
Lesson Three: Outlining the Design
The next of our tattoo lessons is where you actually start to ink the client. The outline provides both the foundation for the tattoo and some great contrast for the final product. Using special lining needles, which are made up of sharps arranged in a round grouping, start by dipping your needle tip into the ink. The rule of thumb is to start with the darkest colors first. This can be easy with outlining, as it is often done all in black.
Do a nice small line at the beginning to make sure you’ve got a good feel for what you’re doing. Each client’s skin will be a little different, so you’ll need to adjust for each person. At this point, you will find the right depth, angle, and speed. Begin at the bottom right and move toward the top left to keep from smearing or wiping away your stencil lines as you work.
Lesson Four: Shading the Design
Shading a tattoo is what really helps to bring it to life, and mastering the various tattoo lessons regarding this subject can add all sorts of textures and effects to your work. Shading can be done with either a special “shader,” or by using a liner in a circular motion. Again, you want to start with the darkest colors first and move your way into the lighter ones.
Take your time to make sure that you’re getting good coverage and adjust the size of your circles if needed. You don’t want to have to go over the same area more than once, as that can chew up the skin, cause excessive bleeding, and keep the ink from staying in the holes. As you go along, wipe the tattooed area to remove any ink, blood, and sweat that might obscure your view of the work. (Be sure to read, The Ultimate Tattoo Black and Grey Shading Guide)
Lesson Five: Aftercare
In order to ensure that your work heals properly, you need to teach a few tattoo lessons yourself. As a tattoo artist, it will be your job to make sure the client has the best possible outcome from the work you’ve done. This means that you want him or her to take great care of the new tattoo, keeping it clean, dry, and out of sunlight.
In addition to going over aftercare instructions with the client, be sure to pass out a sheet with the most important information on it. This should include advice on how to clean the area (and how often) and things to avoid, such as direct sunlight, swimming and baths, and picking at any scabs that develop. While it is the client’s responsibility to take care of the new tattoo, the final outcome of the work is going to reflect upon you and your abilities.
Perhaps the most important of these tattoo lessons is that you are always going to be represented by the work you have out there, and the higher the quality, the more new clients and repeat customers you will attract.