One of the most common questions we get asked, and one of the corrections we have to make most often, is regarding what tools we use. Is it really called a tattoo gun? Do we pierce with a needle or a gun? And what is that blue stuff?! Here, we hope to clear some of that up.
TATTOO MACHINE: No, it’s not a gun. While a lot of people refer to it as one, the accurate name is simply “tattoo machine”. There are several types of machines, from rotary to coil to liner to shader, and artists often use a variety of types.
PIERCING NEEDLE: All of our piercings, and all piercings done at any reputable shop, will be done with piercing needles. I’ve written at length about the many issues that come with piercing guns, and am happy to say we have never used them. Piercing needles come in a range of gauges, but the most common are 16 and 14 gauge.
TRANSFER PAPER: Also called “stencil paper”, this is what we use to create the stencil that gets applied before your tattoo begins. There are several types of transfer paper, but all do the same basic thing, and have the benefit of being re-applicable, meaning we can wash the stencil off and reapply it if you aren’t happy with the first placement. And, because we get asked this a lot, too: no, we won’t sell you any. Tattoo supply shops, however, will.
GENTIAN INK: The blue stuff! Its full name is actually “gentian violet ink”, but it’s almost always shortened to just “gentian”. Anyone who’s had a piercing has likely seen it – it’s what we use to mark your skin before piercing, to ensure you are happy with the placement, and to make it easier to duplicate the placement if you are getting more than one piercing at a time (both ears, or both nipples, etc.). Gentian is an antiseptic ink that has been used since the 1800s, and is not only used by piercers, but by medical professionals as well. Because of its antifungal properties and long-lasting results, it is considered the safest, most efficient ink in medical and body-mod procedures alike.
GREEN SOAP: While not all tattoo artists use green soap, and there are safe, well-liked alternatives, we’ve included this on our list because of its distinct scent – for many, the smell of green soap and the thrill of getting tattooed go hand in hand. Green soap is used before, during, and after a tattoo to clean the area before tattooing, apply the stencil, wipe away excess ink, and clean the area again once finished. A medical grade soap, green soap is also environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and generally considered hypoallergenic. And, to many of us, it smells wonderful.
These are just a few of the common tools we use to make your tattoo and piercing experience safe, fun, and as painless as possible. Over the next few months, we will continue this series, giving you random peeks at the tools of our trade.