Tattooing: The Process of Applying Colour

The process of applying colour to a tattoo is a relatively easy process if one remembers, simply apply a few key rules and give it enough practice. Firstly you have to choose what needs to get done, a solid one shade piece of colour (colour packing), or colour with a bit of a gradient (layering).

Also, keep in mind what type of skin (area of the body) you will be working on. Softer skin can be overworked easily and will heal terribly. Hand speed, machine speed and how the skin is stretched while working are all factors playing a big role on how the tattoo will look at the end of the day.

Applying a solid shade of colour is almost the same process as doing solid black. Black ink seems more readily accepted by the skin than coloured ink, though. A small circular motion is required, and machine and hand speeds are crucial. Having your machine running too fast and deep while the hand is working slowly will overwork the skin, which will cause more bleeding and more scabs.

While a machine running too slow with a fast hand speed will barely deposit any ink into the skin, leaving it patchy and colour not as vibrant as planned. With this steady paced circular motion, working off the tip of the needle one can cover a moderate area efficiently. Remember not to overwork the skin and only go over an area once or twice until the colour is nice and solid.This form of colour packing works great with American traditional and a few other styles. NB never keep the running needle stationary on one spot! Can anyone say minced meat!? Yikes.

Colour layering is a little different. Running the machine a little slower (or depending on your hand speed and needle depth) and with not such a long stroke, you can ‘brush’ the area that needs to get coloured with the base colour. This ‘brushing’ over the skin ‘opens’ the skin up and deposits a soft layer of that specific colour into the skin. Because the skin is hardly worked one can do multiple rounds with different shades of the same colour to achieve the gradient and blending you desire without overworking to the skin.

At the end of the day people can tell you 100 different ways to apply colour into the skin, and when you get to it you will probably do it in completely a different way, for some it is trial and error, and some people’s skin take ink a lot different than others, then different techniques need to be applied. As long as the colour is applied solid and consistently then the client will be a happy chappie!

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