Written by IYNK

We have made a list of some of the equipment, techniques, and lingo that you might encounter on your tattoo journey, to help you understand the tattoo world in all its wonderful glory.

Let us start with the types of tattoos that there are.

Custom Tattoo This is traditionally the most common type of tattoo. You want a specific design and you work with a tattoo artist to create it, usually, you would provide some examples or additional images for the artist to work off.

Flash Tattoo The opposite of a custom tattoo. Tattoo artists pre-design tattoos for the client to choose from. They are typically pre-valued so the client knows how much each piece would cost them. There is a huge Flash tattoo revival since the popularity of Ignorant style tattoos (see below) and the increase in tattoo artist exposure due to Instagram and apps like IYNK.

Cosmetic These tattoos are not supposed to look like tattoos, but to substitute makeup permanently or to reduce flaws on the skin. On women, you find these tattoos in order to give shape to the eyebrows and to create permanent eyeliner. On men, you’ll generally find micro pigmentation in the scalp as a way to simulate growing hair in bald men.

Cover-Up/Laser Removal A tattoo cover-up is the act of tattooing over a previously unwanted tattoo with a new tattoo. It is usually seen as being one of two options of removing an unwanted tattoo; the other option being Laser removal. Covering up an unwanted tattoo is generally cheaper than tattoo removal. In order to do a cover-up, the old tattoo must be workable. This means that the colors can be too fresh and strong. Before a cover-up, generally, some fading has already happened.

Tattoo Techniques:

There are multiple ways an artist would apply the tattoo, each technique results in a different look, most artists would specialize in one.

Stencil A tattoo stencil is used to accurately transfer a design from paper to your skin. Your skin will be cleaned (and shaved if necessary) to help the design transfer better when a stencil is applied by an artist. The artist will then trace the stencil with a tattoo gun for a precise, perfect tattoo.

Free Hand When no stencil is used by the artist to mark the lines that will be the tattoo. The artist draws directly on the skin.

Stick and Poke A hand poked tattoo, also known as stick and poke or stick ‘n poke, is basically exactly what it sounds like – a tattoo created by poking the ink into your skin using a needle attached to a stick (like a chopstick) instead of the usual mechanical gun. Hand poked tattoos are generally simple designs that have an indie, DIY feel about them. The method is also great for creating dotwork tattoos.

Single needle A single needle tattoo is a variation of a fine line tattoo. It is, essentially, the finest of fine line tattooing. That means that, unlike the standard use of multiple needles when tattooing, there is only one needle being used. This results in super thin, dainty, and detailed pieces.

Scarification Not a tattooing technique, as no ink is inserted in the skin, but a method of permanent body modification that consists of intentionally scaring, etching, cutting, or burning the skin in order to create words and designs.

Tebori A hand-poke technique that originated in Japan. The tattoos are made by hand with a small handle-like instrument. Originally it was made with a bamboo stick.

Yantra / Sak Yant A hand-poke technique that originated in the Khmer Empire and was later introduced to several countries in Southeast Asia. They used to be applied with a bamboo stick or a metal rod dipped. It consists of sacred geometrical, animal, and deity designs accompanied by Pali phrases that are said to offer power, protection, fortune, charisma, and other benefits for the bearer.

Ta Moko A technique used by Maui tribes that made a resurgence in the 90s. Traditionally the skin is carved by chisels, not punctured, resulting in skin groves rather than a smooth surface.

Pointillism An art form that consists of the use of a technique where several dots are put next to each other, without ever touching, creating the illusion of a bigger picture. Different colors and shades must be well placed for the image to come to life.

Artist Equipment:

A list of what you would expect to see at a tattoo studio.

Tattoo Machine Also called a tattoo gun. A tattoo machine is a hand-held device generally used to create a tattoo, a permanent marking of the skin with indelible ink. Modern tattoo machines use electromagnetic coils to move an armature bar up and down. Connected to the armature bar is a barred needle grouping that pushes ink into the skin. The coils create the resistance which is essential to properly regulate the machine's speed and power.

Pedal Instrument controlled with the feed that starts and stops the movement of the needles in the tattoo machine.

Autoclave Instruments used to sterilize needles and tattooing instruments. It’s mandatory to have one in every studio in most countries. Always make sure that the equipment used is clean and sterilized!

Tattoo chair A large, typically leather, adjustable chair that you will sit on whilst you are getting a tattoo. The artist will cover it in clingfilm before you get the tattoo.

Tattoo Terminology:

Ever sat at a tattoo studio or with your best friend who knows all the slang and wondered, what do these words mean? We have. Here are some common words or phrases used by the pros.

Aftercare The process of taking care of your tattoo and skin in order to promote proper recuperation.

Blowout A blowout is the result of a tattoo artist pressing the needle too hard and causing the ink to be pushed into deeper layers of skin than is required. After being pushed too low into the skin, the ink spreads out into a layer of fat. This produces the blurring effect often associated with a tattoo blowout giving it a “shady” look around the main design.

Fading When a Tattoo loses some of its original colors. This is constantly happening as soon as the tattoo is finished, but the process can be slowed down. Fading can be accelerated by external elements such as friction, exposure to water, UV light and chemicals, and laser light or by organic processes.

Ink The material with which tattoos are made. Can also be used to refer to a tattoo.

Illustration Drawings made on paper that were created as being potential tattoos. Artists make these to practice their technique, try different styles and expose new ideas. Many of them will end up as a Flash tattoo.

Patchwork When a person has several unrelated and not connected tattoos on the skin, making it look like a set of seperate images was put together.

Portfolio A collection of the artist’s works. This can be composed of only tattoos made, as well as include illustrations and flash works. Artists can upload their portfolio to IYNK for free!

Saturation The level of ink and color that was absorbed successfully for a tattoo into the client’s skin.

Scratcher A scratcher, basically, is someone who taught him/herself the art of tattooing without the benefit of an apprenticeship under a professional artist. ... Many times, they are new to trade themselves and are using "apprenticeships" as a way to create revenue, rather than as a way to create future masters of the trade.

Stencil The instrument on which the template of the tattoo is first drawn in order to later transfer it to the skin.

Studio / Parlour / Shop The official spaces where tattoos (and other types of body modification) can be legally made. Studios can have fixed tattoo artists, known as residents, as well as guest artists, who travel to the studio to practice their art with new clients and alongside other artists. Studios can work with employment contracts, but it’s more frequent to rent their space to the artists or have them pay compensation for every client. In the UK, If you own or run a business and wish to carry out tattooing (including semi-permanent skin coloring) then you will need to apply for a tattoo license.

Tattoo Styles:

You can find our ultimate style guide here.

There are undoubtedly loads more things we could have included in this section, but hopefully it gives you a decent understanding of what to expect the next time you are thinking about your next tattoo. If you have any questions or need some more information, you can contact us on [email protected]