Get the Tattoo

Once you’ve chosen your design and talked with the artist, he or she will typically make a ditto or an outline for your skin, unless they are free handing the design. The artist will then prepare the inks and equipment for your design and prepare your skin. The area will need to be cleaned and sterilized. If the area is hairy, it may need to be shaved. When the skin is ready, the tattooist will place an outline of the picture on your skin. This is usually done using special papers and inks that work sort of like temporary tattoos. You’ll have the chance to approve the placement of the design before any permanent work is done.

When you’re comfortable with how the tattoo is placed, the tattooist will pull the skin taut and begin inking the design into your skin. A tattoo machine uses tiny needles to place the ink just below the skin’s surface. The needles move rapidly up and down, a little like a sewing machine. The artist guides the needles to create fine or bold lines, shadows, and/or blocks of color. Usually, he or she will begin by outlining the picture in black ink, and then will fill in the outline with colors and/or shading. The artist may switch needle types during the tattooing process, depending on the need for fine lines, fill, or shading.

Inking takes anywhere from a couple of hours to several days of sessions, depending on the size and complexity of the design. For example, a small design like a piece of tribal in black or a small black and grey flower could take as little as 20 minutes. However, a larger piece or those with full color and details can take an hour to several hours, depending on the complexity. Large sleeves or chest pieces with intricate details can take hours to several sessions to complete. Additionally, most tattoos can also require touch up sessions after the initial healing process.