How to Make Tattoo Ink

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When a tattoo artist says they make their own ink, they may simply mean they mix ready-made inks together to create unique colors. They can also mean they take dry pigments and actually mix their own inks instead of purchasing ready-made inks. Creating liquid ink from dry pigments can be quite challenging and you should do a lot of research before attempting this process yourself.

Things You'll Need

  • Standard color palette of premixed ink
  • Black ink
  • White ink
  • Distilled water
  • Various colors of dry pigments
  • Witch hazel, 100 proof vodka or Listerine
  • Medical grade glycerin
  • Propylene glycol
  • Sterile Blender
  • Sterile bottles for mixed ink

Blend Pre-Mixed Inks

  • Create new colors by mixing ready-made liquid inks. With a little practice, you can learn which colors to mix to make new colors or how to dilute colors to make them lighter. This will allow you more color choices without having to purchase every color of tattoo ink ever made.

  • Make tattoo ink darker. To make a specific color a shade darker, add a small drop of black. The darker you want it, then the more black you'll add. Don't add too much at once though, as a little goes a long way, especially if you're looking for a subtle change.

  • Make tattoo ink lighter. To make a specific color a shade lighter, add a small drop of white. The lighter you want the color to be, the more white ink you'll add. Again, like black, a little goes a long way, so you don't want to add too much at once. Some tattoo artists will also experiment with adding a little distilled water to lighten inks. This is especially common for grey washing a tattoo.

  • Make a completely different shade or color of tattoo ink. Experiment with adding two totally different colors together to discover new colors that may not be readily available or to allow you to offer more color choices without having to stock each and every different color available.

Make Tattoo Ink from Scratch

  • Mix liquid ingredients. A common version of making tattoo ink includes taking 7/8 quart of witch hazel (which can be substituted for 100 proof vodka a.k.a. ethyl alcohol or Listerine), one tablespoon of glycerin and one tablespoon of propylene glycol and mixing them until the contents are clear.

  • Find a clean, sterile blender. Place about one to two inches of your powdered pigment into the blender and add the liquid until you have a thin mixture of both ingredients into what's commonly referred to as a slurry solution.

  • Blend mixture. Once you have the consistency required for your mixture, blend it on low speed for about 15 minutes and then turn the blender up to medium for an hour.

  • Pour mixture into sterile bottles. Using a large syringe, turkey baster, funnel or other object that allows you to siphon the now mixed tattoo ink into your clean, sterile bottles for storage.

  • Add a sterile bearing. Place a sterile ball bearing, marble or other item in the bottle to help mix the ink each time you use it.

  • Store your ink. Tattoo ink should be stored away from sunlight and fluorescent lighting which can cause alterations to the pigments.

  • Practice sanitary procedures consistently. You must keep a germ-free environment not only when making tattoo ink, but all the time. Allowing any kind of contamination into your tattoo ink or tattoo area can lead to spreading infections to each and every client. If you ever have any doubt of the sterility of any product or item being used, then don't make your own tattoo ink.

Tips & Warnings

  • The best way to learn how to make inks is from someone who's been in the business and made their own inks for some time. Don't just read an article and think you can do it without any other assistance.
  • Order dry pigments from a reputable tattoo supplier.
  • Tattoo ink manufacturers are not required to reveal what ingredients are included in their inks. Professional tattoo inks may include metal salts, iron oxides, plastics and even plant sources. So, even when using premixed inks, you should research any allergic reactions reported in certain brands or colors within a brand.
  • Tattoo inks consist of a pigment and a carrier. Pigments can be made of various substances, not all of which are good for injecting into a person's skin. Carriers can include ethyl alcohol (vodka), glycerin or glycerol, propylene glycol, witch hazel or Listerine and their purpose is to disinfect the dry pigment, keep the mixture evenly mixed, prevent clumping and provide easier application during the tattoo process.
  • Never heat-sterilize ink pigments.
  • Learn some basic chemistry and acquire as much experience as possible prior to making your own inks from scratch.
  • Avoid using rubbing alcohol as your carrier. Although it's used by some, it's considered toxic. There are other carriers you may find suggested that are also considered toxic. Do your homework.
  • In "Prison" tattoos, the tattooist will make their ink any way they can with whatever ingredients they can find. This may include burning paper to create ink or using the ink from a ball point pen. This practice is not recommended when making ink either for yourself or for a professional environment.
  • This is strictly general information on a common version of making tattoo ink. it by no means should be used exclusively and the writer assumes no responsibility for the outcome of using this mixture nor endorses a person making inks without gaining extensive knowledge on the subject first.

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