i get a lot of questions about my stick and pokes, so here’s a little tutorial about my method. i’m not a professional tattoo artist, so please make sure you do thorough research before trying to tattoo yourself. there are always risks of infection or allergies, and you must treat a new tattoo as if it is an open wound (it is).
here is a link to some information on safe tattoo practice and healing, please read this and other articles before tattooing anyone (including urself)
i don’t claim this is the BEST method, it’s just my method! i learnt everything i know from looking online, and trying it out myself after i was confident that i knew what to do.
stick and poke tattoos are PERMANENT! don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. at all times make sure you are practicing good hygiene! clean everything, clean your skin, be sterile and be safe. know about the risk of infection and what you can do to stop it! ok cool!
this is a tattoo i did a little while ago now, one of my first, and i’ve never been quite happy with it. i did it with a sewing needle and i found it hard to keep the lines accurate. so today i’m going to go over the lines and tidy it up and make it better. i’ve drawn over it with pen with the changes i want to make to it, then taken a photo and washed it off.
this is what i want:
* you will need India ink or tattoo ink - these are the ONLY suitable types of ink to put into your body
* don’t bother with sewing needles, get some tattoo needles - they are very cheap from eBay. I use a 3RL (round liner) which means there are 3 little needles grouped together in a round formation. i bought a pack of 20 for about $5. they are disposable and come in sterile packages.
* cotton thread to wrap the needle - this helps to draw the ink up and keeps the needle inked up so you don’t have to dip it in the ink as frequently
* a razor if the area you want to tattoo is hairy
* some type of antibacterial liquid - i use dettol wound wash spray which is very refreshing on your skin and does the job. rubbing alcohol is the best choice.
* something to strap your needle to so you can grip it - i use a wooden dip pen nib holder which is just the right size and feels good in my hand. it has one flat side which make it ideal to tape my needle to, so it’s secure and doesn’t wobble
* some tape (any kind - to secure your needle to your holder)
* a bunch of cotton makeup remover pads
* antibacterial soap and a cream to apply to your skin once you are done. i like bepanthen (nappy rash cream) to put on it for the first couple of days after a fresh tattoo, then i switch to lush ultrabalm. this stuff is the best for all healing and healed tattoos!
* the skin of your cute self or a cute friend
tape the needle to your holder to keep it secure
wrap the needle with your thread (don’t touch the tip of the needle with your fingers - keep it clean) and secure it back on to the holder with more tape
clean everything. clean it good. clean whatever you are going to put your ink into. CLEAN.
i’m going to go over these branches and leaves and make them stand out a bit more and add some definition, as they went quite fuzzy (that happens a lot if you use a sewing needle).
start by cleaning the area of your skin thoroughly with rubbing alcohol / antibacterial spray.
if i’m doing a fresh tattoo, i draw it on my skin first with a marker (i use a red faber castell pitt pen for this - they are India ink markers so you know they’ll be safe for skin) then i go over the entirety of the tattoo with light pokes to mark it onto my skin so i can wipe the drawing away.
a few pokes to mark the line
when you are poking, go slowly, be thorough, be patient, and methodical. i firstly poke the rough line in with a few dots to make sure i am on the right track. once you have done a line once, let the ink sit there for a sec, and wipe it away so you can see your line again. you can go straight in with the needle, or at a slight angle - going at an angle can help you be more precise, in my opinion.
after that, i go over each line/section thoroughly before i move onto the next.
do a little bit at a time
do a quick pass to lightly mark your lines in
go back over the lines and add more dots to any parts of the line that need it. i find that each line needs about 4 passes over it to be nice and solid and black.
i prefer to finish a line/area before i move onto the next part - your skin will raise up and it’ll be more painful if you revisit an area later that needs more work. get each line done right the first time, so you don’t have to go back over your lines too much.
you should be able to feel what depth is correct. you want the needle to just pop into your skin - you will feel this. if you wipe it away and the ink isn’t staying, obviously you are not going deep enough. go into the skin a little way, just with the tip of the needle.
keep applying whatever antibacterial you are using and wipe away the excess ink as you go, so that you can see your lines clearly. this helps for accuracy.
when filling in areas, just do a lot of dots (a LOT of dots). you can buy shading needles in flat or round sizes - but i’m just using a 3RL for this.
it is done! all the lines are gone over and i’ve shaded the moon part. it’s not perfect, and you can still see some smudgy lines from the parts i did with the sewing needle. but there’s more contrast now, which helps them to make them less visible.
my tips for clean black lines:
* go nice and slow, be patient
* use a tattoo needle not a sewing needle
* keep your hand resting on the skin firmly, grip the needle holder as close to the tip as possible. i usually keep my finger pressed down on the top of needle to make sure it’s not bending around.
after you are done, throw out your disposable needle, and wash yourself and your hands with a nice antibacterial soap. dry your tattoo with tissue/toilet roll, not with a towel. apply a very thin layer of bepanthen, or some other suitable tattoo cream (avoid anything with fragrance. the first tattooist i ever went to used haemorrhoid cream… don’t use that.)
the healing process is the same as any other tattoo - try not to touch it or pick at it, keep it out of the sun for a while. after a few days of putting bepanthen on sparingly, maybe 3 or 4 times a day, i like to switch to lush ultrabalm. it’s really great for tattoos, all it is is jojoba oil, candelilla wax and rose wax.
i hope this has been helpful, and happy stickin and pokin! if there’s anything i’ve missed or that you disagree with, please let me know!
check out more of my stick and pokes here