Body art has been around for thousands of years. Until recently having a tattoo meant you were either a sailor or serviceman, a member of a gang or someone not to be messed with. Things have come a long way in a short time. Today, for many people tattoos are now mainstream decoration, for both young and old. Where this writer originated – the North East of England – having a tattoo is part and parcel of life, even for young women. Some go for a small and delicate tattoo, others for outlandishly elaborate decorations.
The rising popularity of tattoos in the USA – as elsewhere in the world – means that even the most respectable of professionals are now looking for an original piece of body art. That means more demand for quality tattoos; hence many more people are training to become tattooists. It’s a satisfying profession and one in which you will meet a varied clientele. In this article we will talk about something that is often taken for granted: the proper technique for holding a tattoo machine.
Why Technique Matters
We’ll try and be brief here, but the technique for holding and using a tattoo machine matters greatly. Poor technique will affect the quality of the artwork, and good technique means more beautiful results. Quality tattoos are not cheap – and for the amount of work that goes into them that’s no surprise – so the customer expects the tattoo artist to know what he or she is doing.
A tattooist is an artist, just like the talented people you know who can draw and paint. In those disciplines there is a correct technique to holding and using the brush or pencil, just as there is in tattooing. Another factor that can affect the results of a painting, for example, is the quality of the brush and paints.
The same applies in tattoos, and quality tattoo equipment is a must for the best finish and satisfied clients. Take a look at the range of quality and yet affordable tattoo machines and accessories at DefianceManufacturing.com who are one of the leading names in the field. Now that we understand why technique matters, let’s get on to talking about that technique.
How to Hold and Use a Tattoo Machine
Remember that when you are applying a tattoo, unlike the artist who is painting on a lifeless canvas, you are decorating a live person. This is another reason technique is important, as you want to make the experience as pain-free as possible. The way you hold your machine can influence this in many ways.
Let’s talk about the grip: this is the part of the gun or machine that you hold, and that allows you to move around as you would a pen or pencil. Most grips on good machines are stainless steel and are ‘knurled’ – this meaning they have grooves cut in for better grip. We recommend this type of grip as it is non-slip, therefore protecting both you and the subject. You can get plastic grips, but these tend to be cheaper machines, and they do not lend themselves to sturdy grip.
Next, the way you hold your machine. The part you hold – on which the grip is engraved – is known as the needle tube. Pick it up as you would a pencil you are about to write or draw with. You now have the basic grip for a tattoo machine – we’ll call it the pencil grip. But it’s here that some differences come into the grip, and some may be personal preferences.
Practice Makes Perfect
Now that we know how to hold the machine in basic terms, we need to talk about how to move it. You will know if you have already held and tried a tattoo machine that they are quite heavy. Far, far heavier than a pencil! So, the way you hold it may be similar to holding a pencil, but the way you move it will be very different.
As it takes some getting used to, we suggest you practice by holding and moving your machine as you would when creating a tattoo, but in the air. This will not only help you get used to the weight, but will also condition the muscles in your hand that are going to be moving the machine around. Be aware that for complex pieces you could be holding the machine aloft for a number of hours, so it pays to get used to it in advance of starting your tattooists’ career.
All of the above are reasons why you need to take time and care if you are buying your own tattoo machine. You will find that some manufacturers offer ‘lightweight’ tattoo machines; these may be lighter than a standard model, but they will still be heavier than you expect, and will still need conditioning to before use. Try some in the shop and ask around your local tattooists for advice, as they are the people who know what it’s all about.
Some Final Tips
When crating a tattoo, rest your hand gently on the skin of the client, as this is the natural position to be in. Use the palm as a pivot to move the needle where it needs to go – another technique that takes practice and experience to perfect – and never press too hard. As you are holding the needle tube like a pencil and resting your palm downwards, the bulk of the weight will be above the knuckles and the rest of the hand. Once you perfect this you have achieved making what tattooists call ‘The Bridge’ and it gives you the most comfortable and easy to move position to work in.
Tattooists are always gaining experience, and none are ever fully trained, but those who have been in the game a long time know the best ways to reach the perfect technique. Talk to the masters and follow instructions on many online videos and workshops, and you’ll soon get the knack of holding a tattoo machine properly.