I’m thinking about becoming a tattoo artist and was wondering if there’s anyone on here who is one that wouldn’t mind if I asked a few questions (mostly about equipment)?
A friend of mine does hand poke–and gave me a whole crash course on how to do it–but I’m more interested in using a tattoo machine.

Because I’m self-conscious and over-thinking this post I’ll just come right out and say that my intention is to teach myself and not go through the usual method of finding an apprenticeship. This is something I’ve wanted to do since I finished my undergrad but could never actually break into the subculture enough in the places I lived in (and at the times I lived there) to actually befriend one of those wild horses in the dessert …Which is what it feels like when you’re an introvert, broke, and an outsider. Anyway, I’m done not being able to tattoo myself, so here begin-eth my journey.


I’ve thought for years about getting a tattoo, but I’m so indecisive I never actually pick anything. I think if those “invisible” blacklight glow tattoos worked better I’d go for that; I like the idea of a hidden secret image.

When my spouse decorated my new modular case with a pyrography design, inspired by a diagram of black hole evaporation, I thought one of the main elements of that would make a neat tattoo. I still didn’t really make a decision though.

Now I’m reading A Closed and Common Orbit. There’s a scene where a main character is talking to a tattoo artist, and asking about the reasons people get tattoos. The one that resonates with the character (and with me!) is a sort of mind-body unification – making a mental image into a physical part of the body. Exercising the will over a body that is otherwise damn stubborn about doing its own thing instead of fitting one’s identity.

Anyway. It’s got me thinking about a tattoo again for sure.


There is a whole subculture of ‘outsider’ tattoo artists now, operating outside of the mainstream, usually self taught. You will find a bunch if you have a look for ‘ignorant tattoo’ - might be some good info for outsider beginners too. These guys tend to be looked down on, but there is some really, really cool ideas coming out of it. Some of it is like kids drawings, pop-culture mashups with fat, clean lines, also see a lot of a e s t h e t i c styles too. I think even if you don’t want to do an apprenticeship, it is worthwhile to find someone you can trust to answer questions, especially considering health and safety implications. Other than that, if you’re ever in Australia, you can practice on me, plenty of other people have.


Not directly on point regarding technical aspects, but I always thought that if I got a tattoo, it would be an Om symbol :om: which largely embodies my spirituality and musicality in one beautiful shape…

Favorite one I ever saw IRL was a woman with the cat in the hat on the nape of her neck…

‘Ignorant tattoo’—that’s really helpful. Some of the people who’s work I like fits that profile but I’d never seen/heard that term before.

Totally. My friend who does hand poke spent the most time on this. He works out of his living room but it was a very sterile setup with the right kind of bins to dispose of stuff responsibly too. Super important stuff.

Excellent. Aaaaand noted.

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the main thing to know really is how to deal with working with blood around. take a bloodborne pathogen training course if you can, otherwise look up all the info shared in the ignorant style tattoo community! i’ve tattooed myself loads and not had any problems yet.

one of the biggest things here is that handpoke is remarkably safer if you dont have access to sterilization equipment. with stick and poke you use a tattoo needle and once its done you dispose of the needle. using a machine involves many parts that will spray tiny amounts blood all over itself and you need to have the right equipment to clean it. in anycase make sure to get familiar with hot-zone theory!


highly recommend these needles:


This community never seizes to amaze.


My tattoo was given to me at a climate protest by a member of the Liberate Tate activist group. My tattoo-giver told me they had received private training in the basics of tools, techniques and health & safety concerns by a professional tattoo artist. One of the group volunteered to be a human practice canvas for the rest of them (she said, quote, “You really wouldn’t want to see my legs”!); when they felt comfortable with the basics, they gave each other their protest tattoo. After that, they simply took the show on the road, so to speak.

One thing that does stick in my mind regarding equipment was the group’s forward planning in taking a car battery and inverter(?) so they didn’t need to ‘steal’ electricity from the venues in which they held their protests.

Sorry that’s such a tangential and fact-free reply but I guess it proves the point that the ‘outsider’ artists mentioned up-thread can and do bring an extraordinary amount of creativity (not to mention dedication!) to their art.

9 Likes, 0 Comments - Helen G (@helen.g313) on Instagram: “On 13 Feb 2016 @LiberateTate gave me my #Birthmark #tattoo ... #OTD atmospheric #CO2 was 402.88ppm…”


The lines on that “313” are great though! Both Rod and I have had work done by professionals where the lines are much splotchier (your 313 has no splotch!).


All the tattoo-givers took their work very seriously and I think that shows in the results. That said, the ink has ‘spread’ a little over time, although I’m actually fine with that - partly because of the metaphor (oil spills don’t stay neatly contained/constrained, either) and partly because of the choice of the font (‘Travelling Typewriter’) which is intrinsically splotchy (“chosen for its connection to the evolving technologies of ink on page and screen”, as it says on p14 of the consent form at the bottom of the blog page I linked before).

Interesting, too, that the tattoo-givers called the slight thickening on the bottom curves of the ‘3’ (an extra stroke on top of the main curve), “kisses”. Just the lightest touch from the tattoo pen, “kisses” is an amazingly apt description!

Edit: That should have been a reply to @Angela - sorry, folks, I still haven’t got the hang of replying…


I have a very distressed typewriter font for the huge blood red “herbivore” tattoo I got on my stomach when I was 20. It has aged, eh, pretty so-so, but its message holds, so at least it isn’t entirely embarrassing.


We postin’ music related tats now?


I have a stick and poke on my right index finger made with a bic pen and India ink. It was fun.

Let’s have a look at that bad boy

my only ink as of yet (two enso circles). really really want to get more but money is tight and I haven’t settled on a next idea.

edit: I employed a philosophy of “once you have an idea, sit on it for at least a year, if you still want it after a year, you can get it” for this one, and I’m glad I did. And definitely a thing I’m going to stick to. I know way too many people who went crazy with tattoos (especially after getting their first) and ending up just littering their body with stuff even they know they’re gonna regret in just a few years.


I have a slightly different philosophy: don’t regret ; )

My very first tattoo meant absolutely nothing, and that was the point. I was driving down the road with one of my friends, made a u-turn, pulled into a tattoo parlour and picked something (it could have been anything) off the wall, again trying not to over think. That’s been my approach to many traditionally ‘big moments’ in my life too (quick aside: at 15 one day at the beginning of art class I decided I was going to have sex for the first time with literally the next person that sat down next to me. And I wouldn’t change a thing about either of these experiences.)

Related; a tweet I saw: “my tattoos signify when I had money those months”

I’m not saying this is better than any other way, just that this way of thinking about some things works for me.


After the first tattoo it feels much less dramatic, at least it did for me. I was very happy with it and instantly felt like I wanted to get some more. There is something oddly pleasing about knowing that this will be stuck on your body for the rest of your life.

Since sound and synthesis is pretty much my obsession I plan on getting tattoos that visually represent sound but using actual sources or in some way technically correct methods to visualize it.
I only have one so far, and it’s of the very most basic form of FM synthesis (or actually phase modulation, as in the DX7 etc), just 1:1 2OP modulation that goes from 0 to double the carrier’s amplitude in 8 steps:

It’s made in matlab, and if you measure the periods they would be around 22kHz in the air so to speak, haha. Not so much about the actual sound itself for this one, but more how it was made and what that entails.

Next I would like to get something with additive synthesis, but haven’t found the ideal representation yet. Any ideas? :wink:


i’ve known what my next 2 tattoos will be for years but i haven’t yet figured out where on my body they will go.

Equally, to people that say they could never make such a commitment—to have an image on their bodies for the rest of their lives—I like saying that making the decision to be tattoo-free is no less a life-long commitment.
(I’m not saying being tattoo-free is worse (that’s a silly thing to say) I just like to point out that it’s also not a neutral position.)

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