Lining a tattoo is one of the more difficult things to do properly. Most artists just assume you tattoo over the purple. This is true but it's like saying you just step on the gas and clutch to drive a standard transmition vehicle. To properly line a tattoo you have to choose your weapon of choice. Lining will most often be a five round or an eight round. Look at the original picture and see if the line work is a thick line or a thin one. Thinner lines need a five while thinker takes an eight. You do not want to use a three for lining a tattoo. A three is too small of a line. You will be able to see every little shake or bad spot. The only thing I use a three for is to tattoo single strands of hair in a portrait or small detail. If you insist on using a three to line with then you tattoos will take hours when they could have been done in much less time. Also using a three for the bulk of lining or shading will make you have to over work the skin causing the client to scar. Unless a tattoo is very small I almost religiously use an eight. The lines are a nice and smooth, and they are so much easier to use. There are four types of lining. The first is just lining. The second is grey lining which is where you use water to dilute the pigment so your out line has a grey look instead of black. Bold lining is considered a new school trick. It's where you give just the outside lines of a tattoo a very thick black out line. Some artists also call this cartooning. Last you have blood lining. Blood lining is a more advanced technique used for making an outline without any pigment. The skin turns red, kind of like a scratch. The artist will shade from this line and once the tattoo heals it will be gone completely. We will get more into the application of each as the lesson progresses.
So you're staring at a pattern on the skin of your client with a full set up tattoo. Now what? The first thing you will need to know is how to put together your machine. It's not hard. The first step is opening the tube you plan to use first. If you look at the tip of the tube you will notice an open spot on the tube itself. This is called a washout. It was designed so that past artist can work beside a sink while they work and simply run water through the washout to remove all the pigment so they can change colors. Now with so many cross contamination issue we stopped doing this but the tubes stayed the same. This is what the cups of water are for and why you need one for every color pigment. If you use one or two cups of water then your white will look pink if you wash out the red first. The side with the washout is the same side the needle comes out. The other end you need to put in your tube vice. Tighten it down just enough to hold it; you will have to move it around later. The tube should be placed in the vice so that the washout is pointing straight up. Now take the needle you plan to line with out of its package. Look at the tip where the needle head is. You will notice that if the eye loop in the back is flat then on one side the needle head is on top of the needle bar, and the other way the needle head is on the bottom. The needle head needs to be on the bottom of the bar. The reason for this is because when the needle rest in the tube it will be flat against the bottom of the tube. If you turn it so the needle head is on top then your needle will sit in the center of the tube and shake everywhere while the machine is running. I suggest setting up a machine before you ever try to tattoo so you can see what I'm talking about. Now take a grommet. Usually I get the nipple grommets. They look kind of like a small top hat. The grommet will go on the needle so much easier. The other grommets are called full grommets. These have rubber on both sides instead of just one. You have to pinch the grommet with your finger and thumb to make it flat. Then you push one side of the rubber into the needle loop and use your finger nails to pull it the rest of the way through. It's a pain in the ass. Instead just get the half or nipple grommet and they go right on. The grommet holds the needle on the machine and also acts like a shock absorber for smoother operation. You want the rim or flat part to be on the bottom of the needle. So if your needle head is down then the rim of the grommet needs to be on the same side.
Now you put the tattoo needle in the tube. You want to feed the entire needle bar into the back of the tube, the side closest to the armature bar. Don't force it to go, sometimes it wants to stick. If you force it to go down the tube then you can push the sharp part of the needle into the tube. Metal is sharpened by removing metal, the sharp point of the needle head are very thin and bendable. If you bend these, then you have to get a new needle. If you tattoo with a needle that tips are bent you will scar up the client and the tattoo will bleed like crazy. Basically instead of tattooing you will just turn their skin into ground beef. I find that holding the machine so the tube is pointing at the ground then flipping or tapping on the side of the tube will almost always make it fall right into place. You can also place the needle in the tube before putting it in the tube vice, which many find easier. Now grab the needle loop and grommet. Put the needle and grommet on the nipple for the armature bar. Make sure the needle is turned so the head is down and against the tube. The grommet rim or flat part needs to be against the armature bar or down as well. You can put the grommet on the armature bar first but unless you have a small armature nipple then you are going to have problems getting the needle on the grommet like that. Now you have a needle attached to the armature bar of your machine. Now you need to place a rubber band on the machine. The rubber band should sit in the middle of the armature bar and back of the tube. Under the machine the rubber band should be in the band holder if you have one or just put it between the spring saddle and the rear binding post. Only apply another rubber band if the needle is jumping around while the machine is running. The less rubber bands the better. If you use too many then they will bend you needle bar which will cause your needle tip to not sit in the tube properly. Too many rubber bands can also slow your machine by applying too much force downward.
cause your needle tip to not sit in the tube properly. Too many rubber bands can also slow your machine by applying too much force downward.
Take a look at the tip of the tube. Chances are the needle is sticking way out or not out far enough. You can run your machine one of two ways. These are called "running flush", or "hanging the needle". To run flush you need to loosen the tube. Then slide the tube forward until the tip of the needle is the same length of the tube. The tip of the needle and the tip of the tub should be flush, hence running flush. The advantage of running flush is that the tip of the tube stops the needle from going to deep. It acts like a safe guard. Many artists swear by this method. The disadvantage of running flush is that as soon as you touch the tube to the skin pigment will go everywhere. It makes it really hard to see your pattern. Another down side is that you have to push the tube along the skin of your client to get the right thickness of line. After a few minutes this will be really uncomfortable for the client. So you decide if you want to run flush but I recommend against it. The other way is hanging the needle. You line the needle up flush just like before. Then you move the tube back just a hair. It should be just enough to make the needle stick out about the width of the needle bar. You'll have to play with this too see where you like it to be. Just don't run the needle too far out or pigment will not get on the needle during tattooing. You'll have to dip he tube in pigment about every inch you tattoo. The up side of this method is that you can see what you're doing. There will only be a small amount of excess pigment while you tattoo. It will look kind of like writing with a sharpie marker. Another up side is that you aren't grinding the tube on the client, so the tattoo will hurt them less. The only down side to this is that you can go too deep. If you go too deep in the skin you will hit a dermal layer of spongy tissue that will absorb the pigment. This will give you what we call a "blow out". A blow out is a spot in the tattoo line that get really fat in one spot. I'm sure that you've seen them if you know anyone with home made tattoos. They make your tattoo look like crap, so you have to have a light hand and tattoo just enough to get the line as dark as you want it. Personally I recommend this method for all artists, not just beginners. It allows you to do much more with the tattooing. Like less restricted movement, and the ability to see what you are tattooing compared to touching the needle to skin and only seeing a black blob twice the area you're trying to tattoo. Now your machine is set up, next lesson.
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