Reinventing The Tattoo - Part VI Review Questions

Part VI Review Questions

1) What would be a good reason to hand-trace a stencil? Although hand-tracing a stencil takes much longer than simply running the design through the stencil machine, at times it can be advantageous. For starters, some designs are too large for the stencil machine, and some tattooists don't like working with multiple sheets of stencil paper taped together, which can be messy or flimsy. In the course of working on a drawing, often this involves using layers of tracing paper and retracing the design once or twice to refine it; by placing stencil paper under the tracing paper during the final refinement pass, the stencil will happen automatically during the retracing process, making for no extra work. In addition, some designs can work best with a crosshatched stencil, which is best if done by hand.

2) What is a disadvantage to using a stencil made on inkjet paper? What are some advantages? Inkjet paper is stiffer than stencil paper or some of the thinner types of tracing paper, so it doesn't conform to curved body parts as nicely as these thinner types of paper and can make for a messier stenciling process. This doesn't tend to be an issue except in areas of the body where there's a lot of curvature, such as the top of the shoulder cap or the knee. In the case of any design that is composited in the computer and needs to be traced over to make a stencil, tracing directly onto the inkjet paper (as opposed to tracing it with tracing paper and then feeding it through the stencil machine) allows for better visibility and accuracy when tracing.

3) Under what circumstances is a one-shot stencil preferable? How about a two-shot stencil? A one-shot stencil is always preferable but not always possible; any time a stencil is larger than about 6" wide, swinging it into place all at once can result in it landing crooked. A two-shot stencil is far better at keeping the stencil in a particular place and making sure it lands the right way; however, it will always have a seam down the middle where the fold happens, and this seam needs to be handles carefully to make sure there isn't a hard-to-read strip down the center of the design.

4) How and why is tape used when applying a stencil? Masking tape or medical tape can be used to hold a stencil in position during stenciling, and should be placed so the stencil can swing easily away from the skin. The tape must be put on securely on dry skin or the stencil could fall off during a critical moment.

5) What is an advantage of using soap instead of Speed Stick for applying stencils? I prefer using soap instead of deodorant for applying stencils for 2 reasons: because soap comes in a liquid form, it can be put in a squeeze bottle and diluted to the right consistency for stenciling, where a deodorant stick will end up being handled multiple times and touched to people's skin, which is unsanitary. In addition, I prefer the chemical purity of the soap over all the extra ingredients that are in deodorant sticks.

6) What is the difference between a flat and a magnum? What makes a magnum preferable? A flat needle group has only one row of needles, where a magnum will have 2 or more rows. Magnums are a better shape for coloring not only because they have more needles but because the needles are in multiple rows, the group is less like a small blade and can be used with more versatility.

7) What is the difference between a stacked magnum and a spread magnum? Why is the spread magnum possibly better? Some magnums are simply stacks of flat needle groups, while others have their needles spread out into a multiple-row structure. I prefer spread magnums because the extra space between the needles reduces their skin resistance and makes them easier to use while less likely to produce trauma.

8) How are spread magnums made? A spread magnum begins as a flat needle group with an odd number of needles, 5 or more, soldered only halfway up the shafts. A razor blade is then woven back and forth between the points to get a spread pattern, and the solder is drawn the rest of the way up, stopping 4-6mm short of the points. The row of needles with the least number of points is the side that is soldered to the bar, so the wider row of needles is the one that rides the back of the tube tip.

9) What is the main advantage of using carbon needles? What are some disadvantages? In addition to having longer-lasting points than plain stainless needles, carbon tips are lightly textured in a way that seems to push color into the skin more easily, allowing for full saturation with fewer holes poked in the skin. The major disadvantage is that they can corrode unless special steps are taken to prevent it. Because of this, very few suppliers bother with selling them.

10) What component of a machine do we feel when judging how it's running? How is the machine held while doing this? The nipple of the armature bar is the part that drives the needle, so its action is the most important thing about a machine. Its movement can be judged by setting up the machine with a tube and needle and then, while holding the tube backwards, pressing the tip of the thumb lightly against the nipple while the machine is running. If no tube or needle is available, hold the tube vise with one hand while feeling the armature nipple with the thumb of the other hand.

11) How is tension added to a spring? Why is it a bad idea to subtract tension? Tension can be added to the backspring by loosening and removing the binding post to get it out of the way and then pulling back on the armature bar in a way that bends the spring. Tension should be added gradually, testing it after each pull on the spring by replacing the binding post and running the machine. Tension should never be subtracted by pulling the spring in the opposite direction, or the spring will become weak and snap, often within the first tattoo after making the adjustments.

12) What can happen when the rubber bands are tangled instead of being arranged neatly? This can add extra resistance to the machine, causing it to work harder and affecting its smoothness.

13) What do we feel with our stretching hand? Why is this so important? In addition to making the skin tighter and allowing the needle to enter more easily, the stretching hand has another very important job: To feel the vibration of the needle striking the skin. The strength and smoothness of this vibration is an accurate gauge of how tight the skin is and how efficiently the needle is doing its job.

14) How is a three-point stretch performed? The first two points are made with the stretching hand, by placing the thumb on one point and the fingers on the other, and stretching them in opposite directions. The third point is made with the tattooing hand by placing the heel of the hand against the skin and then pulling it away from the first two points, creating a tight spot in the middle of the 3 points.

15) What are some ways of supplementing our stretch? On body parts where the skin is loose or hard to stretch, the tightness of the skin can be supplemented, in addition to the use of a 3-point stretch, either by positioning the client in a way that the area is naturally tighter, such as reaching the arm across the chest to get the back of the tricep tighter, or by having them put on a glove and help to stretch the area by pulling on one edge of it to increase the overall tightness of the skin there.

16) How can we protect our stencil when we have to place our greasy fingers all over it to get a good stretch? A dry paper towel can be placed over the area of the stencil that is in the most immediate danger of being accidentally wiped off; this area can even be handled and stretched using this paper towel, as long as it is dry and the stencil underneath is checked periodically to make sure it's not fading too fast.

17) How can it be made easier to switch back and forth between machines? Multiple machines can be switched between more easily by using a power unit that has multiple settings; that way, instead of having to adjust the power each time a machine is switched, instead the unit is switched to the built-in settings for that particular machine. Some power units allow for 2 or even 3 machine settings.

18) What are some advantages to switching back and forth between machines numerous times during the course of a tattoo? Tattooing is broken down into individual processes; in the most basic kind of tattooing, there's the outlining and then the shading, using two machines, and the piece is then done. By allowing for more switching between machines, they can each be used for a wider variety of jobs. For instance, a small round group can be used not only for lining but also for detailing, color work and highlighting; however, this is only possible if the machines are traded multiple times rather than just once.

19) Why would an artist want to spend extra time tightening a tattoo when they can get away without doing it? I guess another way this could be worded: Why start doing this new thing to every tattoo I do when generations of artists have gotten by just fine without this extra step? Well, remember that this book is not a summary of how things have always been done in tattooing. This new step allows for new capabilities: Cleaner edges, higher contrast along edges of shapes, better longevity, better durability on lower-contrast shapes, more subtlety in all levels of the application. Extra time means extra results.

20) When would it be desirable to soften an edge? How is this done? Some shapes are meant to be fuzzy along the edges, sometimes because they are blurry and in the background, or sometimes because they are atmospheric effects such as smoke or light rays where a soft edge is more appropriate. This is done by moving along the edge of the shape using a magnum and medium-sized quick oval strokes, making sure not to color too far inside any negative space areas but trying to overlap half inside and half outside the boundary of the shape to create a soft airbrushed look.

21) What are some advantages and disadvantages of using a barber chair? How about an office chair? A barber chair can be very comfortable and hold the client steadily in a fairly relaxed position. The pneumatic raise/lower features can also be very helpful. However, they can be limited in the number of positions available, making them inappropriate for work on backs and other body parts. In these cases, you are then stuck with a very heavy chair that's blocking your station and making it hard to position a massage table or other alternative. Some artists prefer using large office chairs that have neck support and can be raised and lowered. They are quite flexible and can be used in combination with armrests and massage tables for most circumstances, but tend to be less comfortable over the long term than barber chairs.

22) In what ways can you improve your shop setup for better comfort and lighting? There's a whole list of things that can be improved. Making sure that both client and artist are in comfortable chairs benefits everyone. Good sturdy armrests that raise, lower and can be angled are helpful, and a decent adjustable massage table is a must. Having good general lighting in the room supplemented by a color-balanced worklight that is positioned directly above the work area will make for the best experience and cause the least amount of eyestrain.

23) What are some good types of lamps to use? What kind of bulbs? Do you know of any others? Color-balanced bulbs will give you the most accurate view of your color work. Some swing-arm office lamps have an incandescent bulb surrounded by a circular fluorescent bulb, making for a large, even and fairly well-balanced light. Some modern compact fluorescent lights, such as Ott-Lites, are expensive but make a very nice light and last a long time.

24) What part of a tattoo process is often the most painful? What can be done about it? Often the wiping ends up being almost as painful as the tattooing. The best way to prevent this is to use folded paper towels, not scrunched ones, that have been dampened and to use smooth, gliding motions when wiping, to wipe as little as necessary, and to change the towel regularly so you aren't re-smearing ink as you wipe. In cases where dry ink is creating a crust over an area, wet the area and loosen the pigment with your gloved hand before using the towel.

25) What are some advantages to using squeeze bottles instead of spray bottles? Because the squeeze bottle doesn't put out an aerosol mist, it is less likely to put aerosolized bloodborne pathogens into the air. In addition, it's no fun being sprayed with a spray bottle when you're getting tattooed. Last but not least, aerosolized green soap is a very irritating thing to breathe.

26) What are some advantages to working small areas of a design to completion? What are the advantages of working the piece as a whole? Both of these approaches have their advantages, but you can't have it all at once. If you choose to work areas to completion, you can really focus on the rendering of individual features in the design without being involved in larger processes. Working small areas is also much more comfortable for the client, as too much skipping around can be irritating. On the other hand. working the entire design as a whole, although not as comfortable for the client, allows for the entire image to be approached as a whole, which can make for a more balanced approach to shading and color use.

27) What are some ways to make a client more comfortable? In addition to having a good chair or table, pillows and other items to get them comfortable and well-braced, the environment can be a big factor. music that everyone can enjoy is important, but it's also good to keep in mind that your client will be sitting there a while with nothing to do, so it's good to have stuff for them to look at, whether it's art on the walls or a DVD setup with a library of stuff to watch. Temperature is also important- remember that you may be in a position to dress warmly, while they may not be- and that your handling of them, whether it's smooth and thoughtful or abrupt and jerky, can affect how well they sit.

28) What are some advantages and disadvantages of using topical numbing gels? How are they best used? Skin numbing agents, which often are based on Lidocaine or some other related substance, can be useful in tattooing but also have their drawbacks. Generally I prefer using simple over-the-counter products such as Bactine or the equivalent product made by Band-Aid. These products are strong enough to make a difference but dilute and inert enough that they are unlikely to cause healing problems. Used properly, by applying over areas that have already been worked sufficiently with the needle and letting it soak for a minute or two, these substances can make a dramatic difference in the level of irritation and can result in longer, more productive sessions. I usually limit my use to 3 times per area, not because of any healing problems but just so the clients don't keep asking for it to the point of being obnoxious.

29) How can the negative side effects of these topical medications be minimized? For starters, use the stronger substances, such as any product containing epinephrine, with great care and only on people who can't sit any other way. In those cases, rinse the skin extremely thoroughly after the substance has sat on the skin and before working. None of this stuff should be driven into the skin. On the other hand, weaker solutions such as Bactine don't pose any real risk, although with repeat applications some redness may occur. One thing I definitely don't recommend is to put plastic wrap over the skin when it has any of these numbing solutions on it.

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