How you apply the tattoo pattern will directly affect the over all outcome of your finished tattoo. If it's not dark enough you will loose most of it during the tattoo process and have to free hand the rest. The main thing to remember about your tattoo pattern is that where ever you place the pattern will be the location of the tattoo for the entire life of your client. Take time and consideration while placing the pattern. You have a location and you have a pattern by this point. Now you have to look a little closer at the location. Some one points to an area of their body and says, "Put it here." There are a few things no one thinks about. Most just say ok, and stick it on. It's not that simple. You need to look at the area you are applying the pattern to and then look at the pattern it's self. It's very rare for the pattern to be the same shape as the body part. You need to line up the tattoo to the body. This means that you have to make sure it's straight and also pay attention to muscle formations. If you have an exceptionally large pattern you may want to cut it in two pieces and apply each one. The number one thing that kills me is the arm bands that are too high on the arm. Every tattoo you need to think "What if they plan to add on this?" If an arm band is too high then you'll end up tattooing the arm pit. There will not be much room for additional tattooing. Line up the tattoo pattern so it looks best on the selected area. Some times a tattoo will look a thousand times better it's turned just a hair. Say you're doing flames on the left side of the chest. Going straight up and down will look a little out of place so you may want to angle the top of the flames toward to ball of the shoulder. This will give the flames the illusion of motion toward the shoulder.
The best way to see where you want to place a tattoo is to hold the pattern up to the skin and turn it slightly one way or another until you and the client are happy on the location. Do this with every pattern before you apply any transfer chemical. If you apply a transfer solution then lay the pattern on and spin it all around them you will have to make a new pattern while the clients get a huge purple blob. When you are content with the location you need to set the pattern aside and apply the transfer solution. If you have a spray or liquid chemical (which I recommend) then apply a small amount. This stuff goes a long way. If you're using "speed stick" deodorant then you need to use a new stick for every client and throw each one away when you are done. If you go to your local everything store then you will find small sticks made for traveling. These are about fifty cents each. Get these so your not throwing away three fifty every tattoo. Remember that if you reuse the speed stick then each client will leave their bacteria on them so you will spread disease faster than you can imagine. Apply one thin layer to the skin covering all of the shaved area. This will make sure you didn't miss any spots. If you do miss a spot with the transfer solution then your pattern will not copy in that location. If you use liquid or stick transfer, either way you need to use your gloved hand and smear the solution on the skin, this will spread the chemical easily and ensure you didn't miss any spots. The transfer will dry, so once you spread it with your hand you need to apply the pattern right away.
Hold the pattern about a half an inch away from the skin using a hand on each side. If you use one hand only, then the pattern will slip causing it to smear. Line up the pattern to the decided location and gently touch the center of the pattern to the skin. The transfer solution will hold the pattern on the skin for you. Let go of the pattern. Now you need to use both hands and lay them flat on the pattern slowly at the same time. You want to work your way out from the center. If your pattern is long like an arm band then once you apply the center you can apply pressure to both of the sides using one hand for each side. The trick is to apply equal pressure to each side at the same time. Pressing on the center of the pattern will help the pattern from slipping or smearing. Hold the pattern on the skin applying medium pressure and count to ten. You have the give the carbon time to soak in the skin. After you count to ten then remove the pattern from one side to the other. Never just pull the pattern off because it will smear every time. Set your pattern aside and check your lines. Make sure that the pattern transferred well. If not the clean off the pattern with green soap and start again. Be a perfectionist, make it right. As long as you don't put six pounds of transfer solution on the skin then your pattern should hold up to four or five transfers. Because of this if I know I'm going to be tattooing say fifteen stars then I only make three patterns, using each a few times. If your adding to an already existing tattoo then use a razor knife, like the ones you buy at a hobby store, to cut as close to the patter as possible. This way you can better line up the new pattern with the old tattoo. If you're doing something with a circle in the center like a tribal then cut out the circle so you can better see. After a while you will get more efficient at applying a tattoo pattern. Its one of those things that gets easier with time. It's not uncommon for even veteran artist to have to apply a pattern three or four times to get it right. Always change gloves after you apply a pattern. The chemicals in the transfer and the speed stick include petroleum. This will eat your gloves as talked about in Chapter 4.
If you are doing custom work or free hand work then use a single use pen, throw it away when you are done. A pen will soak up bacteria and disease just as much as anything, if it's felt tip then even faster. Be careful what kind of pen you use. Some artist like using felt markers or ball point pens. If the tattoo is lighter sometimes they can show through and many types of pens can be toxic and cause an allergic reaction. They make special kinds of pens for this called a skin scribe or surgical scrip. The ink they use is the same thing the carbon in the pattern will be made from. These scribes get expensive compared to the price of a ball point, but again you can only use them once. When doing custom work or adding to an existing tattoo you never want to use black. If you use black you will not be able to tell which is tattoo and which is pen. I recommend a light color like purple, red, or green. Free hand work does not mean take up the machine and go. When someone says "free hand tattoo" that means the artist drew the pattern on the skin without a stencil. Do not ever attempt to tattoo without a pattern of some kind. You cannot erase a tattoo.
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