Lining isn't as easy as you may think. You need to put a lot of time and consideration into lining. Lining is not a race. Usually the lining of a tattoo will take you longer than shading or coloring it. Now that your machine is set up you can attach the clip cord. It doesn't matter which way. Run the machine and check the tuning. You may have to do some last minute adjustments, but your machine should have been tuned before hand. While running the machine, check to see if the needle tip is jumping around. If it seems loose and not quite seated in the tip then stick another rubber band on the machine. They should be of equal distance apart between the back of the tube and your armature bar. If you put them too close then you will bend the needle bar. The rubber band might also cause the machine to run differently than expected. Once the needle, tube, and rubber band are in the machine;
test the stroke by touching your thumbnail to the grommet while the machine is in motion. If the stroke feels weak then you may have to readjust your machine. With the machine together and tuned you need to use the extra plastic baggie to put over the machine; this will help guard your machine from biological matter that might contain a virus. You do this by tearing a small piece out of the baggie's corner. Then slide the machine needle first into the hole till the baggie gets past the grip of the machine, and simply cover the machine with the rest of the baggie. Watch the tip of the needle so you don't end up with plastic on it.
When you tattoo a line you will have extra pigment left on the skin, this is normal but a pain in the ass. While you tattoo you will constantly have to wipe the pigment away so you can see what has been put under the skin and what has not. The more the needle protrudes from the tube the less excess pigment will be expelled, but the shorter the line you can make before re-dipping. The black pigment is thinner than any other pigment. When you wipe it away you will smear black over everything you drag the paper towel across. If you think about it for a second then you will soon see that the pattern is a light purple line that can easily be wiped away. This leaves a difficult problem. When tattooing over a pattern you can't just start in the middle, because after two or three lines you will no longer be able to see the pattern or what you are doing. You have to start from the bottom and work up and away from your predominant hand. I'm left handed. This means that I would work up and to the right. The side of your hand will rest on the client's skin; you will get black on your hand. If you tattoo left to right, and your right handed, then you going to smear black over the pattern. So if I were tattooing a small square I would do the bottom line first. Then wipe with a dry paper towel down, in the direction away from the center of the pattern leaving any inside lines untouched. Then I would tattoo the far Left line (if your right handed it will be the opposite) wiping the extra pigment left. Then I would tattoo the right line, and then the top, wiping each as I go. Let's say I'm lining a bigger square with a small square inside of it. Then I would line the outside bottom line in two pieces. Then the outer left line while wiping away from the center as I go. Next I would line the inner left line wiping left. So next for me, would be the inner right line because I don't want to smear pigment over the lines left. After wiping I would line the outer right line, top inside line and finally the top outside line. This method will allow each line to be perfectly visible as you line the entire piece.
When you line a tattoo you need to view each line as an individual tattoo. Let the piece fall together by it's self. If you pay attention to one line at a time then the piece as a whole will be perfect. I would tattoo a larger line in sections because when you have to extend the reach of your hand then the contour of your mussels and bone will want to naturally curve inward toward your arm. A larger circle, for example I would break into eight sections while a smaller one would only be four. No matter how big or small, never tattoo a circle as one line. A circle is the absolute hardest thing for and artist to draw, do not take a chance. When the Catholic Church asked Michelangelo to paint the Cisteen Chapel to prove his artistic ability when asked he drew a perfect circle free hand in one stroke. He was no longer in question. Let's say you have a long straight line.
Look at every line with a starting point and a stopping point before you ever tattoo. When you stop a line and continue it there is a small section that will be lined twice. In tattooing this spot will be wider than any where else. Think of tattooing like a sponge. If you just touch the corner of a sponge to water it will be wet, but it you touch the same amount of sponge to the water and hold it there for a second the entire sponge will be wet. So the slower your line work is the thicker the line and the faster you go the thinner and lighter the line will be. That spot in the center of the line will be too dark so you need to start at the opposite end and meet the two together in the middle to avoid this. Remember that lining is all in the fingers. You should plant both hands on the client, then line only using the available motion your fingers allow, this will provide a very steady line. The arm and wrist should not move at all while lining. If you can't reach an area then stop, move your hand, and continue. Let's say the first line is A to B, and the second line is C to D. It would go as follows.
As you line B, you want to drawl the needle out of the skin past the point you want the lines to meet. This will lighten the line at the end of it. Then do the same going from C to D in the opposite direction lightening the line at the end. Both sections that are lighter will combine to make a solid, single, darkened line. So if the A to D point is 100% black and the D to B section in the first stroke is 50% Black. Then the same from C to B and so on then the section between D and B will be 50% + 50% = 100%, the perfect width and darkness all the way across. Because the skin will absorb the pigment similar to a sponge you want to pace yourself. If you line to slow then your lines will be thick and you will eat up the skin causing scarring. If you go too fast then your lines will be thin and most of them will disappear when healing. You will need to find a happy medium speed. Once you find you speed of movement you want to use that speed with every tattoo. This way if you ever have to touch up a tattoo you don't need to fish for the right speed to match up the line work. I tell my students to practice on a spaghetti squash and a banana. The banana will fell just like human skin down to the damage over working causes, this way you can get use to the cutting sensation. As you tattoo human skin you will feel a very slight vibration from the resistance of the needle touching the skin. After time you will get to know what feels right and what doesn't. The best way I can explain this is that when done properly, lining feels smooth. It just feels right. When too light, lining feels squirrelly and unstable, and when lining too hard, you fell like your machine is choppy or running roughly. The banana will help you find this, and the skin on a banana is about as thick as human skin so you can better prepare for the proper depth of the needle work. The spaghetti squash feels nothing like tattooing human skin, but it does take pigment the same. You can use spaghetti squash to practice shading, grey wash, and even mag work. It blends almost perfectly like skin. So the combination of the two will get you on your way. Don't bother buying fake skin from the magazines. They may progress with time but for now they are just light pieces of rubber. They look like human skin but you have to dig the hell out of them to look right, so if you practice with these then when you tattoo a person you will cut there leg off.
If you, at some point happen to get pigment smeared over the pattern then use a clean and new paper towel sheet. Put a little bit of water on the paper towel, just enough to dampen the towel on a corner. Never use green soap until the entire pattern is tattooed or it will remove the pattern. Take the damp towel and lightly wipe over the pattern that's blackened. If you push too hard you will remove the pattern, you're just trying to wipe off the black. Then use a dry part of the paper towel to dab, not wipe, the pattern dry before continuing. After the entire outline is complete then you can clean all the extra pigment off of the tattoo. Spray the paper towel with your green soap and your water; you don't want to send any viruses up to infect you. Check your line work and make sure it's all smooth; if you need to darken some then this would be the time. Other than that you are done with the outline. The key points to lining are study and practice before you tattoo human skin. Pace yourself and Work form the bottom up of the pattern while wiping away from the stencil. Every time you dip for pigment, black or color, you should barely touch the tip of the needle to the paper towel at an angle. This will remove most of the extra pigment and allow you to better see what you are doing. Other than that, the more fine tuned your machine is the smoother the lines. Heavy machines like cast iron will provide smoother lines, but lighter machines will not hurt your hand or back while tattooing. Good luck mutilating fruits and vegetables.
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