How to Tattoo Yourself at Home

Thứ bảy - 27/04/2024 01:13
Everything you need to know for safe, DIY ink Looking to get into the tattoo business and need somewhere to start? Or maybe you just want to give yourself a unique piece of body art. In either case, you're probably aware that it's a huge...
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Looking to get into the tattoo business and need somewhere to start? Or maybe you just want to give yourself a unique piece of body art. In either case, you’re probably aware that it’s a huge commitment, but it’s fairly easy to get started with a little safety know-how. We’ll show you how to prep your tools, give yourself that parlor-quality ink (with a machine or stick-and-poke needles), and how to clean up and care for it afterward.

Warning: The risk of blood-borne infection is much higher when you're doing a tattoo at home. Sterile conditions, new needles, and proper care are essential. It's recommended that you get all tattoos at licensed parlors.

This article is based on an interview with our tattoo artist, Michelle Myles, co-owner of Daredevil Tattoo. Check out the full interview here.

Things You Should Know

  • To tattoo yourself, you'll need either a tattoo machine or stick-and-poke needles, plus tattoo ink, nitrile gloves, stencil paper, and tattoo ointment.
  • A tattoo machine offers thicker and more uniform lines, but is a fairly expensive. Stick-and poke tattoos are more beginner-friendly and cheaper.
  • Practice tattooing on a silicone practice patch or false skin to get a feel for it before you tattoo yourself or others.
Part 1
Part 1 of 3:

Prepping Your Skin & Tools

  1. Step 1 Decide if you’ll use a tattoo gun or do a stick-and-poke.
    If you're looking to go pro one day, start with a tattoo machine, commonly referred to as a "tattoo gun." These operate via electromagnetic coils attached to an armature bar that moves a grouping of needles up and down rapidly. The needles are dipped in tattooing ink, which is applied under the skin.[1] Tattoo starter kits with sterile supplies are available for around $100.
    • Alternatively, give yourself a tattoo without a gun by opting for the stick-and-poke style, which consists of manually depositing ink under the skin with a single needle. It’s a bit less daunting and more beginner-friendly.
    • Or, save a bit of money by making your own tattoo gun, though we recommend using proper equipment.
  2. Step 2 Choose a simple design to execute.
    For your first go at tattooing, avoid complex or large designs with lots of colors. These are difficult to execute, and you might be discouraged by your results. Instead, choose a tattoo design that’s only 1–4 inches (2.5–10.2 cm) large, and ideally only uses black lineart, without shading.[2]
    • Good first tattoo ideas include handwritten-style lettering, small line drawings of animals, or basic shapes like stars, hearts, or crosses.
  3. Step 3 Lay your gloves, needles, and other accessories on a flat surface.
    Choose a well-lit, flat surface and use a disinfectant wipe to remove any trace amounts of bacteria.[3] Afterward, lay down a thick layer of paper towels all over your work area to prevent stains. Arrange your supplies on the surface for easy access. Since the risk of blood-borne infection is much higher in tattoos done outside the parlor, only use brand-new, just-out-of-the-package, sterilized supplies to give yourself a tattoo.[4] To get started, you'll need:
    • New tattooing needles
    • Ink cups
    • Isopropyl alcohol
    • Cotton balls or soft batting
    • Nitrile gloves
    • Saniderm or plastic wrap
    • Tattoo ointment (such as A&D) or Aquaphor for aftercare
  4. Step 4 Shave the skin you’re tattooing, then shower to cleanse the area.
    Using clean strokes with a fresh blade, shave the tattoo area, plus the surrounding 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm). Shave even if there doesn't seem to be any hair—the razor is more accurate than your eyes. Then jump in the shower and wash the area with an exfoliating cleanser to remove any dirt or grime.[5]
    • Hop into a set of clean but disposable clothes that you don’t mind staining.
  5. Step 5 Apply the design to your skin with stencil paper or freehanded.
    If your design is a bit loose, draw it directly on your skin with a washable tattoo marker. Otherwise, draw your design onto stencil paper with a marker. Then rub stencil lotion onto your tattoo area and press the stencil ink-side down onto your skin.[6]
    • Let the stencil stick to your skin for 1-2 minutes to let the design transfer before carefully peeling it away.
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Part 2
Part 2 of 3:

Tattooing Yourself

  1. Step 1 Put on gloves and prepare your tattoo gun or needle.
    Assemble your tattoo gun according to the instructions on its packaging. Then, put on rubber or nitrile gloves and load your prepackaged, single-use needle into the gun (or just take it out of the packaging if you’re doing a stick-and-poke)—to start, use a #12 gauge (0.35 millimetres (0.014 in)), which is perhaps the most common gauge and will give good, sturdy lines.
    • Have the box of gloves on hand and be ready to change them regularly, as your hands get sweaty or your gloves become stained with ink.
  2. Step 2 Pour either tattoo or India ink into your ink cups.
    After you’ve finalized your design, decide which colors you’ll need and pour several drops of each into a plastic tattoo ink cup. Only use specialized tattoo ink or carbon-based India ink. These inks are natural and react gently with your body, making the process safe and sterile. Never use other types of ink, which may contain toxins or other contaminants, for tattoos.[7]
    • As a beginner, stick to black ink until you get a feel for tattooing. Throwing additional colors into the mix too early might make for a runny or discolored tattoo.
    • Some people have allergies to specific ink ingredients and pigments, but this is usually only true of colored inks. Before you dive in, tattoo a small dot of ink on a concealed area of skin and wait 1-2 weeks to check for reactions.
    • Use less ink than you think you’ll need—you can always top up your containers later.
  3. Step 3 Load the needle with ink to get started.
    When you're ready to start tattooing, dip your needle—whether using a machine or doing stick-and-poke—into the ink and position the needle over your skin, with your hand resting away from the design.[8] Turn on the tattoo gun and line up the needle with the stencil line. For a basic design, start at the top and work down so you can keep an eye on your progress without your hand getting in the way.
    • Start the machine to get the needle moving before you attempt to start the tattoo. Never stick the needle into the skin before turning it on.
    • Using your free hand, stretch your skin as taught and flat as possible. It's very important to give yourself a good canvas on which to tattoo. The flatter the better.
    • Some tattoo guns can be auto-loaded with ink by screwing a canister of tattoo ink directly into the gun. If you have access to one of these guns, you don't need to dip the needle.
  4. Step 4 Press the needle into your skin and pull it along the stencil lines.
    Sink the needle about 2 millimetres (0.079 in) into your skin at a 45-degree angle—it's very difficult to push a tattooing needle in too deeply because the design of the needle will keep it from happening, but you do need to make sure it goes deep enough. As you do, start moving it along the outline of your design.[9]
    • Your skin should tug just a bit on the needle when you pull it out, but bleeding should be minimal. If your skin doesn't resist when you pull the needle out, it's probably too shallow. If there is a lot of blood, the needle is too deep.
    • Because the needle is difficult to see, it's usually better to tilt the needle at a diagonal to the skin.
  5. Step 5 Tattoo along the outline of your design first.
    Move the needle slowly down your stencil line. Don't go farther than a few centimeters along your outline before you remove the needle, wipe the excess ink off your skin with a damp paper towel, and keep going. Take your time and look closely at the line quality to make sure you're giving an even tattoo. Work until all the lines are laid down and solid.[10]
    • If you’re doing a stick-and-poke, manually poke the needle into your skin in close intervals. Closer poke will resemble more solid lines, while sparse pokes will look more like dotwork.
    • If your design includes blocks of solid color, use gentle, circular motions to fill in those spaces after you’ve completed the linework.
  6. Step 6 Dip the needle again when the lines start to fade.
    Whenever your lines grow faint–laying ink down gray rather than black—turn off the machine and dip the needle in the ink again.[11] In addition, any time your lines start to appear less tidy than usual, wipe down the tip of the machine with a paper towel soaked in hydrogen peroxide or green tattoo soap to keep your tool clean and operating properly.[12]
    • Every few repetitions, use a soft paper towel dampened with green soap to wipe away excess ink and seeping blood from your skin. Use a fresh towel each time.
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Part 3
Part 3 of 3:

Cleanup and Aftercare

  1. Step 1 Clean the tattoo with green soap and ointment.
    As soon as you're done, wipe down the tattoo with a paper towel dampened with green soap. Then, apply a thin layer of tattoo ointment, typically A&D or Tattoo Goo as soon as you're finished to minimize the risk of infection. Avoid thick lotion or petroleum jelly on a fresh tattoo. These clog the pores, draw the ink out, and keep the tattoo from healing effectively.
    • Only use a small, pea-sized amount of ointment for most tattoos to let the tattoo breathe, seep, and heal naturally.
    • Alternatively, use a pea-sized dab of Aquaphor to moisturize and protect your tattoo, in place of specialized tattoo ointment.
  2. Step 2 Tape a single layer of cling wrap over the tattoo.
    Stretch a length of transparent plastic wrap over the tattoo to protect it for the first few hours. Be gentle, as the area will likely be somewhat tender from the tattooing process. Loosely but securely bind it in place with blue painter’s tape or medical tape.
    • Leave the bandage on the tattoo for at least the first 2 hours, if not the rest of the day. This is when your tattoo is most vulnerable, so it’s important to keep it protected.
    • Alternatively, bandage your tattoo with Saniderm, which is a self-adhesive dressing that tends to stay in place more easily than plastic wrap.
  3. Step 3 Clean your workspace and place the needles in a sturdy container.
    Throw away the ink in your vessel, the gloves, and the rest of the accessories that you used, save for the needles. Place the used needles in a plastic container with a lid and drop them off at your nearest used needle disposal center, often located in a nearby hospital or police department.[13] Your tattoo waste cannot be reused. Only use new, clean products when you're giving a tattoo.
    • Used needles pose safety risks and may expose others to blood borne illnesses when disposed of in the trash. In many areas, it’s even illegal to dispose of needles this way.
  4. Step 4 Remove the bandage and gently clean the tattoo with water.
    The first time you clean your tattoo, use a small amount of cool water and mild, unscented hand soap to gently clean the surface of the tattoo using your fingers. Then reapply a thin layer of ointment. After, to care for a new tattoo, wash it in the same manner with warm water and hand soap 2-4 times each day for 6 weeks.[14]
    • Avoid pools, lakes, or soaking your tattoo in general for these first 6 weeks. After the first rinse, go ahead and wash it in the shower.
    • Keep a close eye on things to make sure there are no signs of infection, like raised red areas or discolored discharge. Visit a medical professional immediately if you think your tattoo may be infected.
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  • A tattoo is essentially permanent. Even a bad tattoo that drops out and fades will still be partly visible decades from now, and even laser removal usually leaves faint scars. Be absolutely sure you want to ink your own design before you commit to it.
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  • If you slip up and injure yourself while giving yourself a tattoo, stop and seek medical attention immediately. It's better to be a bit embarrassed at a hospital than risk more serious injury or infection.
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  • Tattoos always come with some degree of pain. While some areas may hurt more than others, there’s no way around a bit of a sting.
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  • Wait until you’re 18 years of age or older to tattoo yourself. Before then, your body may still be growing, which can lead to inconsistent or lopsided tattoos in adulthood.
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  • Never re-use or share a tattoo needle. Treat every drop of blood as though it's poisonous.[15]
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Things You’ll Need

  • Tattoo machine or stick-and-poke needles
  • Tattoo ink or India ink
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Stencil paper
  • Stencil lotion
  • Green tattoo soap
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Tattoo ointment or Aquaphor
  • Saniderm or cling wrap

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