Skin Preparation and Pattern Placement

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Skin preparation is the first step in tattooing that has interaction with the client. The first thing you will need to do is wash and dry your hands, then apply gloves. Always keep a small box of gloves other then latex because some clients will be allergic to latex. You tattoo supplies should have already set up properly, going by the guide above, before the client ever enters the room. Before you ever sit the client down you should have already found out what they wanted and where. You need to figure out how the client will be sitting for the course of the tattoo. I use a combination of a regular barbers chair and a folding padded massage table so I'm going to go by that. You can spend more and get a chair made for the use of tattooing and just apply what I suggest to the tattoo chair. Different locations on the body require different sitting positions. Let's look at the body position versus the sitting position as well as some tips.

The Arm

This area is by far one of the more simple places to tattoo. Your best bet is to set the client in an up right chair so they are comfortable. Depending on the location of the tattoo you will have to raise or lower the chair to get the area to be tattooed to the level you are most comfortable with. Your chair should have proper arm rest for client comfort and to keep the tattoo straight while performing. While working on the arm if the client should be wearing a t-shirt then you will need to roll up the sleeve. Rolling the sleeve under will stop it from rolling down while tattooing. Top of the arm and inside the lower are best if resting on the arm rest of the chair. A folded paper towel under the arm on the arm rest of the chair will prevent slipping. Another way to tattoo the arm is if you should have to do, say, old English down the arm from wrist to elbow. You want to have the client rest there elbow on the arm rest of the chair with their arm pointing upward.

Under the Arm

One way to apply a tattoo under the arm is to have you client make a fist and with the elbow bent, place there hand knuckles down on the center of the leg. It will kind of look like a child making a bird or duck gesture. Sticking the elbow in the air makes the arm in a kind of square shape. You will have to use this position and have the client place there hand on the opposite side of there head trying to cover there ear. This will allow you to reach under that arm for arm bands. This method is best used for tattoos where most of the pattern is on the facing of the arm.

If you are going to be tattooing on just the inside of the arm then you need to lay them down on a tattoo bed. Laying flat on their back have them reach out to you with a straight arm, then bend at the elbow moving the rest of the arm out of the way. Usually if you ask them to lay their arm flat on the table and then point to the top of their head it gets the best position. The arm will be flat on the table and you can tattoo without having to worry about the client's arm getting tired while holding it up. You can also apply the pattern in this same position. While working on the arm if the client should be wearing a t-shirt then you will need to roll up the sleeve. Rolling the sleeve under will stop it from rolling down while tattooing. You may want to put a drop cloth or a paper towel under their arm to absorb any excess fluids like water. They can take a shower when they get home, you don't need to provide one.

The Chest

For men on one side or the other its best to lay them down on the tattoo bed and have them lay their arm along side their body. If they lift their arm then the pattern will stretch and possibly leave the tattoo looking strange after it's done. The best way to work on the chest of a female is to sit them up in a slightly reclined position. If you lay them flat on the tattoo bed then the breast will fall to the side pulling the skin to an odd shape. If you have to tattoo the center of the chest on a male or female then the suggested position is flat on their back. For a male or female you will have problems reaching them if they are sitting up. With a female lying on their back is ideal for the center of the chest because most of the time the weight of the breast will help pull the skin. Any work on a male or female's chest needs to have the shirt and bra removed. Clothing restrict the skins so a tattoo might look straight but if a female removes a bra then it will stretch as the breast drops. Always tattoo at the most natural position. Do not let a female hold one breast out of a bra, the tattoo will be not level and have a strange shape. They need to remove the bra and shirt. Try to keep modesty but you also need to work properly.

The Stomach and Pelvic Area

Laying the client on their back is the better choice for the stomach and pelvic area. For the clients comfort and to have the arms out of your way have them put there hands behind their head instead of along there sides. The arms up causing skin stretch will not affect a tattoo this low. While working on the stomach or pelvis you will need to fold a paper towel over the edge of the client's pants to protect them from pigment stains. While tattooing on the pelvis you will have to keep a few things in mind. You need at least two inches of space in all directions to work. Don't be timid in asking the client to lower clothing. You have to be in a comfortable position to work well. While working on the pelvis you will be better off to have the client unbutton the pants and roll them under to prevent them from being in the way. If you just pull them aside you will fight them the whole time. Pants and underwear need to be out of the way. You're working on skin not dying clothes.

Another thing you will have to pay attention to is the stretch line of the pelvis. One the pelvis of a female you will notice a small line in the skin like a wrinkle. This is from the bending of the waist. Anything above this line will stretch when pregnant; any tattoo under this line has less chance the lower you go. Make sure to inform your client of this so they don't get a tattoo of tweedy bird and have it look like big bird on drugs after a pregnancy. This applies to the stomach as well; strongly advise against stomach tattoos to females that plan on having children. Do not tattoo around the navel of any female under eighteen for this reason.

The Upper back, Shoulders, Back of the Head. And back of the Neck

The upper back and shoulders are also simple. You want the client low so don't sit them on a stool, they will be too high for you to reach. If your chair has a low back then you are fine to just have them sit up straight in the tattoo chair. If the back is to high or the pattern to low then have them sit backwards in the chair. You can also lay them on there stomach but it might be harder for you to reach what you need to. You must take t-shirts off; females can lower their low cut shirts as long as they are not in the way. If any bra straps are in the field of tattooing then have them drop the strap and remove their arm. If they lower it but they still have their arm in the strap they can pick their arm up and make the strap pull the machine causing extra lines. You don't want extra lines. For the back of the neck make sure to get all hair out of the way and shave properly.

Center and Lower Back

For the center and lower back you may have the client sit on a metal stool not wood, there is no proper way to sterilize wood. If they sit on a stool have them lean on the back of the tattoo chair raising it to the level they need for their arms to be comfortable. They need to lean on something or they will run away. For females with less weight you can lay them on their stomach. Females with more weight will not be able to do this because you will have problems stretching the skin to tattoo. The lower back will curve inward making tattooing impossible. They will need the stool or to sit backwards in the tattoo chair raising it to the level you may need. Something to remember with the lower back is that it stretches as the client sits. If you apply the pattern while they are sitting then the pattern will be squished together when they stand. Always apply the pattern to the lower back while the client is standing. When they sit this will just help you stretch the skin for easier tattooing. If your client is standing in front of you and their lower back curves inward have them bend over a small amount bending at the hips to apply the pattern. Again, the pants and underwear need to be out of the way, so you almost always have to have them sit on the ledge of their pants. If you can't see crack then the tattoo is too high for the normal lower back position. Also make sure to fold a paper towel over the pants to avoid pigment stain.

Rib Cage or Side

The side is one of the most painful places to tattoo for the client. For this reason it is also one of the hardest places to tattoo. Your client will want to move and squirm so you have to make sure they are in a secure position. From my experience the best position to work on the side is to lay a client on flat their back and roll them away from you until you can reach the tattoo field. You will have no choice but to have the client raise their arm to get to the side, this will stretch the tattoo pastern so be careful of what you do. Take your time and pay attention to what you are doing. When you apply the pattern to the side your client will have to be standing up. Leaving the arm to their side, raise it just enough to get your hands under their arm to apply the pattern. You can also have them raise there arm straight out in front of them and then bend at the elbow to point at their other shoulder. This will pull the skin a little but not to bad. Also make user to fold a paper towel over the pants to avoid pigment stain.

Side and Front of the Neck as well as on the Head

For the side of the neck you want to lay the client on their side and put a full roll of paper towels under the other side of the neck. This helps hold their head in position. Some artist will set the client up in a tattoo chair and use the paper towel roll in the same way. I personally find it hard to get where you need to and prefer laying them down. For the front of the neck you want to lay them on their back and put a paper towel roll under the other side. Make sure to place the roll between the shoulders and the head. If you just rest the head on the roll of paper towels then you will not have enough room to work. Both of these positions you need to apply while standing and relaxing the shoulders. If you don't they will not be straight. Remove the shirt or use a paper towel to keep pigment from staining the shirt. Make sure to throw away the roll of paper towels used for a pillow. This can get blood and pigment on it. Throw it away. Do the same for the face. For the top of the head, Lay them on their stomach or back and adjust the tattoo bed as high as it will go.

The Legs and Feet

Some tattoo artists sit the client up in a chair and have the place there foot on a stool for the leg or foot. This does work, but I find it much easier to just have them sit on the tattoo bed and lay which ever leg you will be working on as flat as possible. Often you can get them to lay down which is better but they usually want to watch. The only thing you really need to pay attention to with the leg is to have the client remove their shoe. Shoes are dirty and by touching them and then the tattoo field you can spread infection.

For the tops of the feet just have them sit the same way and place the foot at the very edge of the tattoo bed with their knee in the air. Place a paper towel under the foot to avoid sliding.


When it comes to tattooing the buttocks just lay the client on the stomach. You will have to remove the pants as low as you need so don't be shy. Make sure to pattern while standing. Use a paper towel for the pants as to not stain and also make sure to watch where you spray the soap and water. No one likes a wet ass. When it comes to tattooing the male and female genital just lay the client on their back and have them slide as far off the edge as you can leaving as little of the buttocks as possible. You may want to pick up a couple of stools for them to set their legs on. You will have very little call for this kind of tattoo but if you should here are a few things you need to know. The vagina naturally has more bacteria on and in it than any other part of the female body. Always leave a one inch area around the inner labials not tattooed. If you do tattoo up to the vagina the pigment will not want to stay properly and you have a higher chance of infection. Larger females are not recommended for this kind of tattoo because they are hard to get to the tattoo field and the also have more bacteria because their bodies create more moisture due to the amount of body fat pushing everything closer together. It will heal slower and have a higher possibility of infection. The penis will also heal slow and take less pigment. It is also difficult to tattoo the penis due to it not being erect because of pain. The tattoo will never be right. When limp it will be smashed together and when erect it will be stretched to far out distorting the image. The testicals take pigment better but are hard to work on due to the nature and flexibility of the skin. It is my advice to not tattoo the vagina, penis, testicals, or anus due to the possible complications.

Under side of the Hands and Feet and inside of the Lip

The under side of the hands and feet are not recommended for tattooing. The skin rejuvenates faster on the bottom of the hands and feet than anywhere else on the human body. This means that the pigment will not stay for long. Even the best tattoo artist will have to touch up a tattoo in these areas about every three months for them to look right. With the use of the hands and feet the healing process is a difficult one causing pain to your client for a tattoo that will just fade away. The inside of the lip has the same reaction only harder to tattoo. My advice to you again is to stay away. You should only tattoo what you can guarantee. These areas you cannot.

Skin Preparation

Once your tattoo is set up and you bring the client into the tattoo room you want to wash your hands, dry them, and apply gloves. With a few exceptions you want to apply the pattern while the client is standing in a straight position with the arms and hands dropped to their sides. Never let your client put their hands in their pockets while you pattern. It can cause a tattoo to be out of shape. First you tear off a paper towel sheet. Then you remove the safety cover from the disposable razor. While holding the folded up paper towel under the tattoo field, generously spray the green soap solution on the entire are to be tattooed plus about two inches. From the bottom, shave upward. The easiest way to shave a client is to make quick and short movements up and down against the grain of the hair growth. After time you will get this technique down and be able to do so without ever nicking the client. Shave the area upward until the entire tattoo field has no hair on it. You should shave the area to be tattooed plus two inches all around the area to make sure you have plenty of room. Always shave every client. If they look like they don't have hair, I assure you they do. The reason we shave the area is because the tattoo machine is a stabbing device. If it pushes a single hair under the skin the hair will become infected thus infecting the entire tattoo.

Once you shave the area you need to dry it with a new paper towel, wiping in the same direction you shaved. If you drag the now loose hair over the smooth shaved area the hair will stick to the client and you will have to more time washing off the hair, this is not easy. The use of green soap during the shaving does two things. The green soap will lubricate the skins so you don't cause razor burn and green soap is anti bacterial. It kills germs. Every client must be shaved and prepped. If I'm tattooing on my fiancé and I just saw her shave her legs this morning I will still do so before a leg tattoo. This is called common practice. Everything that you will do on every client is called common practices. This helps you make sure everything is done. After time it will become reflex. Right now I'm at the point of everything is a reflex until the machine is together and in my hand.

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    Do you tattoo an elbow bent or straight?
    8 years ago
  • johan
    What do you use to cover the arm of a chair when tattooing?
    6 years ago
  • keith
    When tattooing a chest positioning the client?
    5 years ago
    What are the different positions you sit in for tattoo?
    5 years ago
  • Battista
    Do I have to lie down whilst having my arm tatooes?
    5 years ago
  • birikti
    When doing a thigh tattoo is the client supposed to be standing up or sitting down?
    5 years ago
  • biniam futsum
    How will my arm be positioned for my tattoo?
    5 years ago
    How do i make a tatoo on my lower back that does not stretch when i bend?
    5 years ago
  • carmen
    When tattooing back of neck whats best position to lay client?
    4 years ago
  • gorbadoc
    How would you position someone for a lower back tattoo?
    4 years ago
  • rose
    How should I write a tattoo in such a way that it does not bend when the arm fold?
    4 years ago
  • zula
    How to lean ur vigina wkth latex glovs?
    4 years ago
  • jo
    How to place klient for tattoo on side forarm?
    4 years ago
  • therese
    How to position your client for collorbone tattoo?
    4 years ago
  • ghenet
    How tattooist put the design on the skin during prep?
    4 years ago
  • Polo
    Are leg tattos done sitting or laying down?
    4 years ago
  • michael
    How to learn tattoo placement for clients?
    4 years ago
  • angela
    How to set position in hand with apply permanent tattoo?
    4 years ago
    How to get forearm tattoos straight?
    4 years ago
  • Kacie Jones
    Which position is better when intersect upper arm on wattgovernor?
    4 years ago
  • Agnes
    Do you lie down having a tattoo under your boob?
    3 years ago
  • Christin
    How would i be positioned to get a tattoo on the inside of my thigh?
    3 years ago
  • lois burns
    Can you get a tattoo on your vigina?
    3 years ago
  • paula
    Do pants have to come down for lower back tattoo?
    3 years ago
  • jeanette
    Does below. breast tattoo made in lying postion?
    3 years ago
    How do u sit for a shoulder tattoos?
    3 years ago
    Does position affects tattoo pain?
    3 years ago
  • Clara
    How to position client to tattoo inner bicep?
    2 years ago
  • Roman
    What position when having upprr arm tattooed?
    11 months ago

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