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What Equipment a Tattooist Uses

Aug 3, 2008
The mental decision that you want to get a tattoo is often easier than going into a tattoo shop and getting it done. For people who have never gotten a tattoo, the equipment in a tattoo shop can seem a little intimidating. You know there are inks and needles involved, and you have a vague idea what an autoclave is, but other than that may not really know much about the tattoo equipment your artist works with every day.

The first thing that you should know is that a good tattoo artist will be happy to show the tattoo equipment to you and explain how all of the things she uses help to create not only a quality tattoo, but a healthy result as well.

The first piece of tattoo equipment we will discuss is the autoclave. The autoclaves in tattoo shops are the same as the ones used at hospitals in order to sterilize surgical equipment. They use steam and pressure in order to sterilize equipment.
Autoclaves are used in tattoo shops in order to sterilize reusable equipment such as the tubes and grips of the tattoo machine and tattoo needles.

The tattoo machines are the pieces of equipment that most people are the most leery about when they get their first tattoo. For most tattoos, your artist will use two different machines, a liner and a shader. The tattoo machine powers the needle bar up and down so that the needles can penetrate your skin. The needle bar is controlled by the artist by a foot pedal. To answer a common question among people who are getting their first tattoo, the pedal is simply an on/off switch and doesn't increase the needle's intensity if the pedal is pushed harder.

Tattoo needles are made to be either liners or shaders. Liner needles can be one needle, for fine linework, or several needles grouped in a round configuration. Shader needles can be arranged in either a round or flat configuration of anywhere from a few to several needles.

Your tattoo artist probably has a strong preference regarding the brand of ink she uses. This is because some inks will begin to break down in the skin a lot faster than others. Before beginning your tattoo, your artist will put the required amount of ink into ink caps. The artist will dip the tattoo needle into these small ink caps while doing your tattoo. When the needle penetrates the skin, a small amount of ink is deposited, creating the tattoo. The needle deposits the ink below the top layer of the skin, into the dermis. When you see a tattoo, you are actually seeing through the top layer of the skin (the epidermis) into the dermis, where the ink has been deposited during the tattoo.

In the tattoo shop you will also see a variety of other pieces of equipment and preparations, such as sterile gloves, spray bottles, ointments and soaps. These are all used in order to provide you with a quality tattoo as well as keep your tattoo equipment sterile.
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