How to Tattoo

How to tattoo is a big topic and we will cover many parts here on
This site if for you that want to learn everything there is to know about tattooing, we assume that you are already on your way to become an apprentice / is an apprentice or have some serious mentoring by a artist. This resource is a compliment not a replacement for practical training and guiding by a artist.
For you who want to do some self study and reading at nighttime and to be a little more prepared around the basic knowledge and facts.

First step in How to Tattoo – Getting to Know Your Machine

The first step is to handle your tattoo Machine, this is the most important when you starting out to become a tattoo artist. The ink flows through the machine and the patterns that you create will begin to take shape and form a work of art, like the brush of an artist’s tattoo machine is essential for the tattoo artist.

And while the tattoo machine is the most important part of the process, its still the skills of the tattoo artist that makes the tattoo and how the end result will look like. To understand and learn to use a tattoo machine intelligently and efficiently is important, but the machine can never take the place of time spent learning the art of tattooing.

Because the machine is the main tool you use, it is important to have a basic understanding of how the machine works before you begin. Many machines might have different appearances but are basically the same and built the same way with the same functions.
Study the Photo bellow for more information about the different parts or read here
The purpose of all machines is to drive the needle up and down to penetrate your skin into the first skin layer to “plant” the ink in between first and second skin layer.

Its essential for the artist to control the machine to follow the contours or applied design to complete the tattoo. And you need to know exactly what angle or needles and pressure to use.
More about this you will find on this site

The 5 basic “P”: handling of the tattoo machine:

  • # 1  Proper angle.  Important that you use a 45 degree angle for the ink to get into the skin in the most efficient way. If you have the needle to vertical its a great risk that the ink will not stay in the hole pierced out by the needle. And if your angle is too horizontal there is a great risk that you will miss your outlines and the tattoo will look bad.
  • # 2  Proper depth. If you tattooing too deep you might cause much unnecessary pain and the ink will not stay in the right position. But on the other hand if you tattoo too shallow much of the ink will be likely to disappear after the tattoo have healed 7-12 days.
  • # 3  Proper mounting. When you learned how to easily and properly put your machines and tools together fast without mistakes, this will eliminate a number of problems for you in your future career when you learn how to tattoo. Practice this by repeatedly put your machines together and apart. This will be important in the future when you have customers. Whiteout effort put everything together will look good and you can focus your attention to the motive and the customer.
  • # 4  Proper machine strokes. You should learn to seamlessly balance and control your machine with small smooth movements. If you attempt to freehand tattoo without support from the rest of the arm, the end results will neither make your or your customer satisfied.
  • # 5  Proper training. Practice until you get a result, so you only do tattoos that both you and the client can be proud of. Practice until all basic rules of performance is clear and natural


When you and your client have agread on a design and a price. Then its time to prepare for starting tattooing. You need to be well prepared before starting regarding the hygine for both you and your tools. Be absolutly sure everything is sterile or use one use tools. Dont have long messy hair and keep your nails short and clean. Nails can hide a big verity of germs and . Clean clothes are a must. No long sleeves that may come in contact with your customer or instruments during your work. Of the same reason,  avoid using any type of jewelry when you work. Make your hands clean with a strong soap and a clean brush. It is very important that you scrub your forearms up to the elbow when there is a high risk of contact with the tattoo you are making during the session. Was your arms up to the elbows and be sure no soap is left on your body. After this , you are ready to put your gloves on and start to assemble your machine.

Always be sure to do your work areas clean, in good time before you have any work to do. To keep your work surfaces as clean as possible requires a major effort, but is well worth it. The area where you tattoo should be private so nobody can look at you or your customer and have some basic privacy. Carpets and rugs is strictly prohibited in this area’s

Best tables to work with is steel tables or glass tables, they are easy to clean with disinfection. When not using the workbench should be covered with a slightly longer tablecloth in wax or plastic to prevent dust and dirt to gather.


Preparation of client

Wipe the skin area to be tattooed with a pad covered with green soap. Make sure to work in circular motions, inside and out. Remeber better to clean a too big area than a too small one. After this its time for shaving, even if you maybe are not able to see the body hair it might still be there. Use a disposable razor for this puropse. After shaving, wash the area one more time with one of the following

  • # 1  Alcohol solution
  • # 2  Antiseptic solution.


Apply Stencil

Stencils are often used to help tattooing to create the perfect tattoo. The lines of the tattoo design is transferred from the stencil paper to the skin in a sharp purple hue, so the artist easy can track the lineart on the skin. Because they serve as a guide throughout the tattooing process stencils are necessary accessory to have during your carrier.


Necessary items before application:
Finished Designspirit
Stencil Paper
Pen (Ball point)
Surgical Tape
Surgical marker pen
Dust-free paper
Disposable razor
Green Sweep
Stencil liquid (Stencil Stuff electricity. Stencil Pro)
Latex Gloves. Nitrite gloves



# 1  Creating a tattoo design. Either drawn on a sheet of paper, or create and printed from your computer. Online has many different ideas that you can use for art or inspiration.

# 2  Place the design of the stencil paper. With the help of surgical tape ensure that the design does not move. Use a hard and even pressure on the pen to follow the line art in your design and transfer it to the stencil paper.

# 3  Cut out the stencil, trim off any excess paper from the design.

# 4  Moisten a piece of paper with green soap. Clean the area that you plan to put the tattoo.

# 5  Shave the skin with a disposable razor. Wipe the skin area with a piece of dry paper and clean it, then moister the area again with green soap.

# 6 select any kind of Stencil solvent (encourages StencilStuff electricity. StencilPro)
NOTE: Always be sure to shake the bottle before use! Spread the liquid over the area where the stencil should be placed with a circular motion.

# 7  Put on a pair of gloves. Place the stencil on the skin (the purple side down). Smooth out the stencil and remove any bubbles.

# 8  Let it sit on the skin for about 20 seconds and then gently remove the stencil from the skin. Allow the skin to dry completely before you start tattooing.

How to tattoo


Before you start with this part you need to make sure your customer is comfortable , sitting or lying down.
You will probably work for a long time and if the person you are tattooing is shaking or moving then the result of your work will suffer.
Remember that the outline is the foundation to the entire tattoo. If the outlines are bad, the whole tattoo will be in the same condition. Make sure your machine is 100% working and all your material is in order before you start.

Before you start, there are some guidelines to follow.
Tattooing is always forward or sideways. This ensures that the needle has a constantly push back so there will be a continuous flow of ink. Remember, tight skin is a must for the perfect tattoo. The hand that does not hold  the machine will keep the skin tight. If you ignore this and tattoo on soggy skin its impossible to see what you are doing.

The first step in tattooing the outline is to dip the tip of the needle in the ink you have decided to use for the contour, which is usually black. This should be done before the machine is turned on. Your color cup should be filled so that you can get started with the lines of fast and easy. However, avoid filling it to the brim because of the risk of spills and accidents. Start tattoo outline the bottom and work your way up. When the initial lines are ready then make sure that there are no problems such as weak and unclear lines etc.

After a good start you will need plenty of refill inks for making the shading and contours. Remember to always use long smooth movements with your machine and to dip the tip of the needle in the ink in a few seconds in between. To prevent the needle to go dry and you making lines with weak color after heeling.
Also be careful not to press to hard when you are tattooing, this forms lines that will become uneven after healing. Also start in the middle of a line. This make the end result better than if you start in the end or in the beginning of a line.

Now when your tattoo outline is made its time for a break and to rest your hands. Take the opportunity to check all the lines that you make so you are sure no additions are needed. After this its time for step 2. Shading



The shading is what gives the tattoo a new dimension and make it feel more alive and real. But to do shading is not easy and is a art form just by itself. And if you are going to make realistic or portraits and most other “real” looking tattoos this part is vital for your success.
The key is to understand the light and a great deal of this practices can be done with a pen and a paper to get a grip on where the light exists and where shadows exits.


Basic steps in shading

You need change the needle based upon the area you will be working with. ( Usualy Round Magnum , or a shader needle ) The rule of thumb if large areas you are going to shade use a big needle. If area is small then use a small needle. The size of the needle can also affect the intense of the color you are shading with , a smaller needle and the ink color will be more intense.

Remember to fit the needle to the area that you are going to tattoo. Lager needle to lager area. The tip used for the needle should be 0.6-1mm maximum from the needle when the machine is in its largest state. That’s equal to the thickness of 4 papers stacked on top on each other. More distance than this can hurt the skin and tattoo.

When you begin to shade you should start in the darkest area of the shadows and work outwards. Work in a circular motion and be sure not to overwork it.

A technique known as “sweep” is suited for both Black and Color shading. The needle will sweep inside and out of the tattoo area. And you need to make a flick with your wrist upward and outward. Search more about “Sweep Shading technique on and you might find it.
This requires a lot of practice and precision to do this in a successful way.
But we totally recommend you to learn it because then you can create more natural shading and have natural fading lines

The key to the best resautls for color and shading is circular and steady motions. Shading damages the skin far much more than just a simple lineart and is far more painful because of the motion pattern, so we sugest that you try to get the shading correct the first time so you dont need go over the same area twice. And dont push so hard as you do when you are doing the outlines.
After you finish wipe of the excess ink and have a look on the results and if you satisfied.

Be observant that you need to follow a certain color order to achieve the best possible results with the tattoo and to make it look as good as possible.
The colors should be inserted in a specific order to avoid strange mixture of colors.
Have a look at the color chart bellow and keep in mind, opposite colors generally look good together if you want something bright and a color combinations that attracts the eyes. And if you want keep the colors sudden and flowing then you need to use the colors that is closest to the main colors you use on the chart.
Opposites: Good Combination if want something Bright and daring
Close: If you want neutral color combinations.

Necessary for a session

After one session, it is important to prioritize the order and hygiene of your equipment and your work area. Let your machine accessory treated in ultrasonic bath for about 30minutes.  Meanwhile, dry and clean all surfaces that has been used with antibacterial cleaning or spray. Even the floor surface to be cleaned with some green soap or floor cleaning.
All disposables must be discarded and needles should be blunted or secured.
Close the entrance of the garbage bag with staples to make sure noone get in contact with it.

After the ultra sonic cleaning everything should be scrubbed and checked carful, note that ultrasonic bath doses not sterilize your equipment but only remove ink, skin and blood parts that have accumulated.

If you not use disposable products they MUST be sterilized in a autoclave. To just boil it in hot water is not enough. This treatment leaves the most horrible stuff still alive such as Hepatitis and HIV. As you can imagine this is not something you want connected to your name or future studio / dream career.

In conclusion
1# Use aluminum or steal but then you must have autoclave.
2# Use disposables, pay a little extra but throw everything away after use and sleep safe.

We hope this helped you with steps to learn how to tattoo and hope that you will check our other guides and resources for anyone starting out.
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