Tattoo Slang Terms

Blog By M. Mitera

Hanging around at the Live Free Or Die Tattoo Expo is sure to be an informative experience for anyone who does not work in the body modification industry. With so many artists in one place, there’s a lot of terminology that gets tossed around that some people might not be too familiar with. In this blog, we will go over some of the more popular terms that artists use at the expo so you will be able to understand a little more about the tattoo/piercing world.

Autoclave: A machine that utilizes steam and pressure to sterilize the equipment used to tattoo or pierce before each session.

Blowout: When a tattoo is put too deep in to the skin, the ink can cloud around the tattoo. This gives the entire tattoo a blueish haze around it, effecting the overall aesthetic of the tattoo.

Canvas: Many artists refer to their clients skin as a canvas for them to display their artwork.

Coil: These machines are more complicated than rotary tattoo machines and are the ones that make the familiar buzzing noise associated with tattoo shops. The coil machine utilizes an electromagnetic current passing through a pair of coils to trigger a draw and release the machines armature bar.

Flash: These designs are usually predrawn ideas that an artist would like to tattoo. Many tattoo artists at the LFOD Tattoo Expo bring flash sheets with them so that clients have an easy time picking something out that they would like to get!

Free Hand: Not all artists use a stencil when laying out their tattoos. “Free hand” refers to when a tattoo artist draws directly on the skin, rather than using the stencil paper.

Rotary Machine: This style of tattoo machine is powered by regular electric motors.

Saturation: Used to describe how well the color settles on the clients skin. Tattoos with high saturation are extremely attention grabbing.

Scratcher: A scratcher is what tattoo artists call someone who tattoos but has no proper training, uses the wrong equipment, or has not gone through the proper channels to be a licensed tattoo artist. Scratcher tattoos are usually less than awesome looking and many professional tattoo artists look down upon this kind of practice.

Stencil: When tattooing, artists sometimes use stencil paper to transfer the design that they are working on to the skin.

Tattoo Machine: The correct terminology to refer to the device used to put tattoos on skin. It is based off of Thomas Edison’s design for the electric pen. The most common forms of tattoo machines are coil and rotary.

Tebori: This is an ancient style of tattooing that originated in Japan. The name means “to carve by hand”, as each tattoo is carved in to the clients skin, as compared to the traditional tattoo machines.

HONG KONG – OCTOBER 02: A woman receives a tattoo in traditional Japanese Tebori tattooing at Hong Kong International Tattoo Convention on October 2, 2015 in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Over 100 tattoo artists are attending the convention, which is now in its third year. (Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images)

There are many different terms that you are sure to encounter while wandering around the expo. The ones listed above are just a few. We cannot wait to see everyone this year at #LFOD19! #lfodtattooexpo

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