Branding is the graphic art of body arts. Lines must be simple without any overlaps. Human skin scars when burned and lines and dots will spread two to three times in size, another factor that must be considered when contemplating getting a brand. Most importantly, branding must be done by someone with training as both design and temperature must be adjusted if an aesthetic outcome is desired. Branding has to happen at temperatures in the neighborhood of 500 degrees to both make a clean strike and help the procedure to be less painful.
Placing and Transferring the Design
Body areas that are relatively flat and more muscular take branding better. Softer body areas have skin that is too “buttery” and lines burn wider and more unevenly. The body surface must be shaved smooth before putting on the design, both for a clean transfer and to get rid of any hair that would singe during the branding process. Tattoo transfer paper, called spirit paper, is used to put the design onto the body.
The person receving the brand has to be fairly immoblile during the procedure. Photographic sandbags, which normally hold tripods steady, are a great assist. Wedged around the subject, they provide a comfortable and reliable support. The body artist can also use them for a reliable support while working.
Striking the Brand
With the artist and subject in position, the brander usually takes a few moments to line up each strike before heating the iron. The sectional branding irons are easily held with pliers. Once the exact placement is found, the artist wants to not move their hands and wrists at all, just raising their forearms at the elbow away from the subject. The assistant will bring the lit blowtorch to the branding iron, holding the flame to the clamped metal piece. The iron takes about 20 seconds to heat to red-hot. It is this super-heating that will make the branding less painful, killing the skin nerves on contact. (That ultra-painful burn you got on your finger from the stove was more like a 200 degree burn).
Once heated the artist calls ready and the assistant moves out of the way. Within two seconds the brander should cleanly, and with slight pressure, strike the mark. The burn should go through the epidermis, through the dermis, and just hit the subcutaneous layer. If there are any hesitations, the iron should be cooled in water, the brander should reposition and then reheat the iron before trying again. The process is repeated for as many strikes as is necessary for the design.
The lines will spread and join as they heal, hence there need to be tiny spaces between strikes. If you strike the lines right to each other, you get extra bumpy bits where two bits of scar tissue forms. The more perpendicular to the skin the brander can position the irons, the better chance they have of making uniform burns.