Applying a tattoo, From Sterilization to the Bandage

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The main focus of the tattoo application today is safety. Any puncture wound, this is what a tattoo machine is doing to your skin, bares the potential for an infection or disease
The best and only acceptable method to sterilize tattoo equipment today is an Autoclave. An autoclave is a heat, steam and pressure unit, also used in hospitals, achieving and maintaining up to 132 degrees Celsius (270 degrees Fahrenheit) under 7 Kilograms (15 pounds) of pressure for 15 minutes. Others maintain 121 degrees Celsius (250 degrees Fahrenheit) under 5 Kilograms (10 Pounds) of pressure for 30 minutes. Most autoclave are running 55 minutes from a cold start to ensure a complete sterilization. To eliminate the possibility of contamination almost all tattooing materials like ink cubs, needles, ink, gloves etc. are just used only once but there are some reusable materials as the tube or the needle bar which must be sterilized. They are put into special pouches with indicator strips on them and then left in the autoclave for a complete circle. The indicator strips change the color once the sterilization is completed. Sterilizing with an autoclave ensures killing every living microorganism. The sterilization usually takes place before the customer comes into the parlor and will probably not be seen by him. The only thing you will see is the pouch the needle bars were sterilized in, but this will be explained more exactly later on

Other tattooing equipment like spray bottles, clip cords and the tattoo machine itself is supposed to be covered by plastic bags to prevent contamination

Before beginning the actual procedure of tattooing itself the artist will wash his hands and disinfect his working area with an EPA approved disinfective, put on new gloves and follows this guidelines
He puts new plastic bags over the spay bottles, the tattoo machine and the other equipment described above takes out new ink caps and puts tattoo ink in themOpens up a sealed pouch autoclave sterilized equipment and clamps it onto the tattoo machine disinfects and shaves the area to be tattooed . Moistens the area and places a stencil with the outlines of the tattoo on it .

After taking of the stencil again he will let it dry for a couple of minutes and the start the actual tattooing procedure depending on the width of the outlines the artist uses different tipped needles and starts going over the stencil with the machine. Right handed artists usually start at the bottom of the right hand side and work up, while left handed artists usually start from the left side so the stencil of the outlines won't be lost when cleaning a permanent line. For outline work a thinner ink is usually used than the ink for shading and coloring because it can be easier wiped away from the skin without smearing. As he is going over the stencil and is working the ink into the skin, the tattoo machine is buzzing and smooth clear lines should be appearing where the needle pierces the skin

Once the outlines are done the tattooed area is cleaned with antiseptic soap and water. If needed the artist will go over some outlines again to make sure the outlines are the way they are supposed to be

After that and possibly a little break the shading is added. For the shading he will use a different needle and probably a different machine than he used for the outlines. Each artist works differently and using a different machine is up to the artist depending on her or his experience and preference

When the shading is done the tattooed area is cleaned again and is now ready for color. When applying the color, the artists usually goes twice over each colored line to ensure a solid and even coloration with no "Holidays". On uneven looking areas the color has either faded during the healing process or the artist missed an area of the skin. This does not mean he or she did a bad job, it's just that you can't really see those spots during the application

After the coloration the tattoo is sprayed and cleaned again. The artist will then use a disposable towel to remove any blood and plasma excreted during the tattooing procedure. Bleeding always occurs during tattooing even under normal circumstances, but most of it stops after a few minutes. If alcohol or illegal drugs have been used prior or during the process the bleeding could hold on longer and there could be other complications. No tattoo artist will tattoo a person under the influence of alcohol or drugs anyway

When done cleaning the tattooed area for the last time, the artist will then apply a bandage over the tattoo to prevent it from bleeding any more, getting blood and still excreting tattoo ink on your clothes. This bandage is supposed to be taken off about 2 hours after completion