Tattoo Colouring Technique
Colouring a tattoo demands a very specific technique that can only be truly mastered with practice. Brightness of colour is dependent on several important factors, not least on the skin type of the person you are tattooing. Human skin, as with everything else relating to the human body is as unique as the person to whom it belongs. Some skin types are extremely receptive to the tattooing process while others may present more of a challenge. Generally speaking, fair skin will be easier to colour than darker skin but this rule is by no means true in every case.
Good quality pigment will help to produce the best possible results but by far the most important factor is technique. Correct technique involves placing the maximum amount of pigment into the skin with the minimum amount of skin damage. Overworked skin will reject much of the pigment during the healing process and leave the rich vibrant colours of the freshly inked tattoo looking dull and faded when healed.
Here’s the most important bit of information I can give you to help you master the technique of colouring a tattoo:-
Please remember that drawing on paper involves working from the wrist and rubbing a pencil or colouring pen across the surface of the paper.
Many beginners naturally use the same technique to try and colour a tattoo and are disappointed to find that the results are bleeding skin with little or no colour in it. Always be mindful of the fact that you are not drawing on paper, instead you are using the up and down motion of the needles of the tattoo machine to push ink into the skin. Don’t be discouraged if your first few attempts on the skin produce results that are less bright than you had hoped, preserve and you will soon get the “feel” for now, fill your ink pots with the colours you intend to use and beginning with the darkest colour, usually black, buzz the needles of your colouring machine into the pot load with nozzle with pigment. When colouring a tattoo you must work through the colours from dark to light. For example you may start with black, move onto dark blue or purple followed by green, light blue, red orange and yellow, finishing with white. Wiping away excess ink is a consistent necessity during the tattooing process. Darker colours will overwhelm lighter colours so; starting a tattoo with yellow, for example, and moving on to a darker colour such as blue will leave the beautiful vibrant yellow parts of the tattoo looking an odd shade of green. Remember that a dark colour “wiped” across skin freshly tattooed with a lighter colour will spoil the appearance of a new tattoo.
Once again, as with the outlining process, depress the footswitch and dip the nozzle of your colouring machine into the inkpot for a few seconds. Stretch the skin with one hand and touch the area you want to colour with the needles of the machine. You should, providing the machine is running correctly and the skin is sufficiently stretched, be able to feel the needles “drumming” on the skin and see the ink begin to flow from the nozzle. Apply the tiniest amount of pressure (the weight of the machine should be enough) and, holding the machine at an angle begin to colour the tattoo.
Remember to work from the shoulder, not the wrist. Your wrist should remain fairly rigid to keep the needles at a constant and even depth in the skin and with a “pushing” rather than a pulling action, move the needles in tight little circles. Work slowly and deliberately moving those little circles side to side and forwards. Try to imagine that you are colouring the squares on a piece of graph paper one by one.
Always remember that your aim is to push the maximum amount of ink possible into the skin, causing the minimum amount of skin damage in the process. Although you must work slowly and deliberately, it is important not to overwork the skin by going over the same area again and again. You will, no doubt, discover bits you have missed altogether and other bits that appear to be lacking in sufficient density of colour and will have to remove trace your steps to a certain extent.
Go back and re colour as necessary but try to keep this practice to a minimum, remembering that it is better to get it right the first time. Remember that this is living skin that you are working on, not paper and that repeatedly trying to push ink into an area of skin that doesn’t appear to be accepting the colour will only make the problem worse. You will cause excess bleeding that will dilute the ink and wash the colour out as well as causing further damage to the skin which will greatly increasing the risk of the tattoo becoming infected. Leave the area alone, you can always reach colour the tattoo once it has fully healed. Tattoo’s must be left to heal and settle for at least three months before attempting to re colour.
Continually clean the skin as you work using your spray bottle and paper towels, you won’t have much choice about this as you will find that excess ink soon prevents you from seeing what you are doing. Ideally, once you have wiped away the excess you should see skin that is evenly coloured with rich dense bright colour. Remember to apply a small amount of vaseline each time you wipe the area clean. The frequency that you dip the needles into the inkpot for a refill must be judged by you, it is likely that you will need to dip the needles after you have completed an area of colour around half to one centimetre square.
Once you have finished applying one colour, you must clean and remove any pigment from the nozzle of your machine before you can move onto the next colour. With your machine running, buzz the needle into the first cup of water containing detergent and “switch” the machine around for a minute or so. This should dislodge most of the pigment. You may find it necessary to help the process along by brushing inside the recess of the nozzle with a soft toothbrush. Once you have removed most of the pigment from the nozzle,repeat the process using the second cup of water containing Dettol and finally the third containing only water. With the help of a clean paper towel, make sure the nozzle bis completely dry before dipping it into the next colour pot as any residual water will dilute the ink. Repeat this process every time you need to make a colour change and always remember to work through your colours from dark to light.
Depending on the number of colour changes required, you may find it necessary to change the water in cups at least once.
Certain tattoo designs, tribal work for example, involve tattooing large areas of the skin with a single colour, often black. Frequently dipping your nozzle into the ink pot for a refill will transfer blood (sorry but there’s always going to be at least a bit of blood) via the machine nozzle, from the skin into the ink pot, this diluting the ink. Levels of bleeding will vary from person to person, as mentioned earlier everyone’s skin is different but you can minimise the bleeding in every case by using the correct technique.
Diluted ink will prevent you from achieving good strong, bright colours and leave your customer with a tattoo that looks pale and “wishy-washy”.
Change the inkpot regularly, even though there may be plenty of ink (and blood) remaining, by throwing away the whole pot and replacing it with another filled with fresh ink.