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How is a Tattoo Done?
How does getting a tattoo differ from getting an injection? Why do homemade tattoos look blurry and how come they seem to fade so much? Just how do tattoos stay permanent the way they do when so many other things done to the skin are temporary?
The first thing to understand is how the skin holds the image. Your skin is not a single layer. It is composed of several layers, each with a different cell structure. The outermost layer, which is rather thin, is the Epidermis. This is the layer that holds everything in and acts as a protective barrier. Below that is the Dermis. This thicker layer is the 'meat' of your skin, and is where hair is attached. Below this is the Subcutaneous layer which contains fat cells and is the transfer layer between the skin and the bloodstream.
Your epidermis is constantly being replenished and if you get too much sun, it turns red and peels. If you get a scratch or cut, it usually heals and goes away. This wouldn't be good for a tattoo - as soon as your skin refreshed itself, your tattoo would be gone! The tattooist pushes through the epidermis and leaves the tattoo in the dermis. Your dermis pretty much stays the way it is for your entire life, so a design put there is permanent. If tattoos are done too deeply, into the subcutaneous layer they often loose clarity as the inner layers also don’t hold the ink, absorbing it instead of sloughing it off.
The modern tattoo machine is primarily a motor attached to a tube that contains a bar with a needle arrangement on the end. The motor pushes the needle up and down, up to three thousand punctures per minute. The depth is set very shallow, just down into the dermis layer, and the ink runs into the hole from the fountain-pen like tip of the tattoo machine. All of these little 'ink dots' that are in your skin make up the picture. Homemade tattoos, often done with single needles, leave teeny dots and it makes hundreds of punctures with a steady hand to get a clear line. Tattoos that get infected while healing are left with blotchy white areas where the ink “heals out” and you will have to get the tattoo redone or touched up to fix the damaged areas.
When the ink is done being punched into the skin, the tattoo is essentially done! The ink is now permanently in the cells of the dermis layer of the skin, and will stay with the wearer for the rest of his or her life. Procedures to remove tattoos are three to four times as expensive as getting the original tattoo, and very often some form of skin mark or scarring remains afterwards. Think before you ink!
If you're looking for more information on how to tattoo, you might like
Tattooing A to Z: A Guide to Successful Tattooing
by Huck Spaulding
Advanced Tattoo Art (How-to Secrets from the Masters)
by Doug Mitchel
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