Technology takes tattooing to the next level 

Before electric tattoo machines appeared in the 1890s tattooing was a long and monotonous process.

Tattoos were and sometimes still are applied by cutting designs into the skin and rubbing the resulting wound with ink, ashes or other agents. Some created tattoos by hand-tapping the ink into the skin using sharpened sticks or animal bones, now replaced by needles.

handtapping tattoo


Although this ancient technique is still used most tattoo machines today are electric, operating either with a direct rotary drive or a two-coil electromagnetic motor.

The first improvement was made thanks to New York tattoo pioneer, Samuel O’Reilly, who in 1891 borrowed the idea from Thomas Edison’s electric pen and created a first electric tattooing device.

A lot of modern tattoo machines are based on this basic concept but as demand on tattoos grows manufacturers keep coming up with new improved and more advanced models that make application of tattoos easier and smoother.

edison pen 1st tattoo machine


Also, tattoo inks evolved dramatically over the years from charcoal or ashes through powdered pigments that had to be mixed and prepared by the artist before tattooing on the today’s organic premade inks that come in all different shapes colours and sizes.

Tattoo market of the 21st century is full of fancy equipment that makes tattoo artists job easier and safer.

Thanks to that they can more precisely than ever transfer their art from paper onto human skin.


tattoo inks intenze

But is it still a paper that today’s artists use?

Consultation, drawing, research and preparing the design is something that most of the clients take for granted.

Something they do not often get to see therefore often under appreciated and not paid much attention to.

But many tattoo artists put a lot of work and effort into tattoo designing process.

Some custom tattooers spend hours drawing the design for only one client. A small piece might only take a half hour or hour, but a sleeve can take days of redrawing and reworking.

Because traditional design process is so time absorbing and somehow also limited more and more tattoo artists like Charly Huurman, start to use newest technologies in their everyday designing.

”We say that in our tattoos design is like 60% more than the actual tattooing. This is the importance I give to the design.

For me, technology is such a changing factor. Computers are better because most of the time when I start designing, I don’t know what exactly I am going to do.

With the computer, I just can try many different things fast. If I have to draw those things it would take me much longer.

Technology also allows me to see more. For sleeves when I am using the 3d arm, the arm on a computer, it helps me to see much faster how it is going to work.

When I am designing on a computer I can just throw images, one on top of another, click, move things around, just try. That gives me a sense of freedom when I am designing with pencils like I used to. I didn’t have that freedom; I couldn’t try so many things. I couldn’t find out so many things.

It came to the point, that when I start designing I before I do the design I don’t even know how I am going to do it.

I just go with an empty mind and play with it and I can not do that so much with drawing because it is so much slower.

It has really opened my mind in so many ways towards designing.

It is unlimited. Technology is unlimited while my hands and my drawing are really limited. That’s how it feels like.

With the computer, you could discover new things, techniques and there is so many I have to discover for designing, still…

With drawing whatever it is just pencils and paper for me is very limited.

Technology is very important part in the designing for me.”

Charlie says in the video. You can watch him working magic on the design of a portrait for one of his clients. Truly amazing.

Products like Wacom tablets, Photoshop or other digital design tools offer benefits for both tattoo artists and their clients.

Tattoo artists like Charly can now use digital 3D body part where a customer wants a design applied, digitally overlay the tattoo design over the body part, edit it as necessary to make it look exactly the way a client wants and show a client what their finished tattoo will look like once completed.

3d tattoo design arm

What is more, he can now prepare complicated portrait stencil on the computer and then just print it with one click. Stick it into a stencil machine and off you go. A situation where the size or placement of the stencil needs to be changed does not mean another hour of preparing a new stencil anymore. He can just adjust the size on the computer and print it again.

No matter how experienced and good artist is, tattoos are still handmade craft but thankfully to available technology artist can digitally create flawless designs with perfect geometrical proportions.

All this when performed manually, can take many hours!

All this gives artist more artistic possibilities and bigger field to try new things and to create! It also helps their clients to feel much more comfortable with their tattoo decisions being able to see the exact result on their body without the touch of a needle.

tattoo designing drawing

But technology in tattooing goes even further than this.

A team of French design students adapted a 3D printer into a tattooing machine! Software turn tattoo designs into digital files that can be downloaded to the device. The user then inserts a limb into the printer and the needle draws the design into their skin.

At the moment, it is only able to perform simple designs and probably it is not going to replace a real tattoo artist for a long while but it already exists and it’s continuously improved.

3d tattoo printer

There is also a possibility of ferromagnetic ink tattoos that respond to electromagnetic fields. With this technology, your phone could ring and you could feel it through your tattoo.

Bio tattoos that help to monitor your health or mic tattoos for your throats that are currently in the development stage.

Technology is a wonderful, enabling development and stimulating creativity thing and when aiming for perfection in tattooing constant learning, constant practice and following trends are required.

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2 thoughts on “Technology takes tattooing to the next level

  1. Dick chau 3 years ago

    You will have the chance come back to Hong Kong