How Does a Tattoo Gun Work?

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What is a Tattoo Gun?

  • A tattoo gun is composed of a needle, tube for ink, and a motor. The motor is very basic. A tube is attached over the long needle for holding ink. Most have a foot pedal to control the motor as well. When the foot pedal is depressed, the motor starts. The motor makes the needle vibrate up and down.

The Needles

  • There are needles used for shading and needles used for lining. Needles used for lining can be single needles up to seven. Shading needles are grouped in four to nine. Needles can be purchased with various tips on them. The type and amount of needles used is generally a matter of preference for the tattoo artist. However, some styles of needles are dictated by the type of tattoo being done.

The Tattoo

  • A tattoo artist must have a steady hand to glide a tattoo gun over the skin. It is similar to sewing, but without a presser foot guiding you. The end of the tube is held just above the skin. The mechanism in the tattoo gun pushes the needles in and out of the skin 100 to 3,000 times per minute. When the needle moves upward into the tube, it picks up a bit of ink. Ink is injected into the second layer of skin--the dermis. This must be done because the top layer of skin--the epidermis--sloughs off constantly. Loading ink is done by putting the tip of the needle into an ink well and tapping the pedal. This causes the needles to dip into the ink a few times. Each time they come back into the tube, they allow ink to be stored there.

  • Photo Credit kevinrosseel - morguefile
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