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Basic Tattooing Materials for Putting Together Your First Kit

What essential items to include in your tattoo kit from day one

Tattooing is not just any art. Not only does it require incredible precision, given that the results can’t (easily) be erased, but maximum hygiene and sanitary care. Every tattoo artist must get to know their tools and products inside out to achieve great results and take care of their clients in the best way possible.

Polilla (@polillatattoo) is a tattoo artist and digital designer who has her own studio in Santiago de Chile. One by one, she talks us through the different items that make up a basic tattoo kit and what we should keep in mind when assembling our own.

1. Tattoo machines

There are coil machines and rotary machines. Rotary tattoo machines have motors that make the needle move back and forth. Coil machines are powered by an electromagnetic coil, which moves an armature bar up and down.

It is not that one of these machines is better than the other, they are simply used for different techniques and results. The main difference is that there are some rotary machines that you can use with any type of needle to create lines, shadows, fills, and dots. However, coil machines are designed for more specific uses.

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The machine is an essential tool in a tattoo kit.

It is important to know that, when it comes to creating different effects, with rotary machines, you only need to change the needle you are using, but with coil machines, you have to change the machine and adjust cables. The latter can be far more cumbersome.

Each machine permits the needle to move a certain number of millimeters. Each technique requires the needle to move a certain distance, and therefore it’s important to get good advice about the machine you are going to buy to make sure it will allow you to work in the style that interests you.

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Polilla explains the different types of tattoo machines and power supplies you can use.

2. Power supplies

Power supplies send electricity to the machine so it moves the tattoo needle. There are different types available:
Polilla uses one that connects directly to the power source through a plug, such as the Critical. The latter has a digital display showing the voltage and other information that we can regulate. There are also wireless options or analog power supplies that don’t have digital displays.

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An example of an analog power supply that doesn’t have a digital display.

3. Cables

When it comes to cables, we have different types of clipcords. The clip cord sends the power from the power source to the machine.

Each machine has different inputs. Often you might encounter compatibility issues that need to be solved and will have to adapt what you have.

4. Needles

There are traditional needles, which are mainly used in coil machines, and there are cartridge needles. The latter is used with a special grip and can be used with every type of machine.

Choosing tattoo needles is similar to choosing paintbrushes: there are different types of tips and finishes. There are different needles for fine lines, color fills, and shading.

Needles are categorized by thickness and the number of needles that are soldered together to make them: many tattoo needles comprise a set of needles that are tightly packed together.

Cartridge needles use the same measurements as traditional needles. However, it is important to know that each brand has different needle numbers.

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Choosing tattoo needles is similar to choosing paintbrushes.

Needles should always be handled with gloves.

A rubber nipple is attached to one end of the needle to attach it to the machine.

Many tattoo artists find ways to manipulate the movements of their needles to achieve certain effects, such as using elastic bands to create more tension and make the needle more firm.

5. Grips

Your grip is where you rest your hand and hold your needle. It has a tip which is where the needle rests inside.
Grips come in different sizes which are suitable for different types of needles. You can buy all sorts of different grips or use rubber grip covers to change the surface.

When our needle is already inside the grip, we can set up our machine.

You can either get disposable grips and metal grips. Metal grips will need to be disinfected.

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Your grip is where you rest your hand

6. Black ink

Black ink can be used either for lines or fills but not all black inks are suitable for both.
There is also Greywash. Greywash is a black ink that dissolves in different solutions. In addition, the Shader Solution allows us to dilute the black and achieve our own custom shades of gray.

To mix different shades of gray, we can use capsules. Capsules are tiny pots into which the ink is decanted to use while we’re tattooing. The capsules get contaminated with blood so it’s important that they are thrown away after each tattoo. Fortunately, a lot of tattoo supplies are biodegradable.

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Black ink can be used either for lines or fills

7. Thermocopier paper

A thermocopier is a machine that uses heat to copy the design that we send via wifi, Bluetooth, or using a USB cable. We can either buy one or make one at home out of a fax machine.

8. Disposable materials

These materials will prevent cross-contamination.

–Plastic film: it’s important to cover every surface and everything we are going to touch with the gloves.
–Pipette: where we put the soapy water.
–Plastic cups with distilled water: these will be used to clean our needles.
–Plastic: to cover the clip cord cable.
–Vaseline and tongue depressor sticks: we need these to apply the vaseline and avoid contamination.
–Dental bibs: these are placed on the table to protect it from dripping ink.

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Razor and gloves are two essential items that you will need to start tattooing.

We also need:

–Razor to shave the area of the client’s body that will be tattooed.
–Cohesive bandage to make grip to be more comfortable and easier to grip.
–Adhesive tape to fasten everything in place, such as the tongue depressor and the dental bib.
–Nitrile gloves, which are powder-free and do not irritate the hands.
–Disposable mask, in case ink or blood splashes.
–Alcohol to disinfect the area of the body that will be tattooed.
–Antibacterial soap to clean all body parts involved.

Polilla recommends technically training to become a tattoo artist and to always consult with your tattoo shop about any doubts you have. If you want to learn more with Polilla, check out her two courses, Tattoo for Beginners and Botanical Tattoo with Pointillism.

English version by @eloise_edgington.

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