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After finding the correct tattoo artist, then comes the proper tattoo equipment that is important for the artist to use. Not all tattoo equipments are the same, not in quality, price or purpose. Thus, it is important to make sure you have the right tools before attempting something as permanent as a tattoo. The parts of a tattoo machine are the frame with attached pieces, the tubes, which can be removed for sterilization for each tattoo, and the needles that are inserted into the tubes stick out the tubes opening at the end. The tubes also have a handgrip on them, which is where the tattoo artist holds the tattoo machine. These tubes are usually stainless steel, with the hand grips the same, or a hard plastic. These tubes do not actually touch the customers` skin, but ink and blood are exposed to them, which is why they can be released from the rest of the machine and autoclaved. The tubes can come in many different sizes in relation to the tip where the needles are held being very small to extremely large. The tube end that connects to the tattoo machine is always the same size so that they are interchangeable.
There are two types of tattoo machines, a liner and a shader. These are dedicated to what their names imply, with little variation. There are minor differences in how they are built, with the liner having smaller coils, and an upright position. The shader is made in such a way so that it can be held in an angled way, and has larger coils.
The liner is used to hold only liner needles, which are needle bars with only small amounts of needles attached into a tight group at the end of the needle bar. The needles stick out of the tip of the tubes that attaches to the tattoo machine. The liner, as a machine, brings the needles up and down into the skin, which perforates it, and deposits ink into the said perforations. It is used to do line work and small details. Most liners can handle needles as small as one needle, or as many as ten. The shader is used to fill in larger areas of skin, and needs the larger coils with more power to do so.
A power chord attaches to the tattoo machine and into a power source. This power source then plugs into an electric outlet (or in some rare occasions, a battery pack). The power source has a dial on it that allows the tattoo artist to adjust the amount of power that the tattoo machine gets. The power source also makes sure that the tattoo machine gets an even measure of power, so that the tattoo quality is consistent.
A foot pedal that stays on the ground also plugs into the power source. This is stepped on to make the tattoo machine run, and released to have it stop. It is just an on/off mechanism and not pressure sensitive like a car gas pedal. Then, the needles are dipped into ink caps of the color desired. It is much like a paintbrush being dipped into the paint. When it is time to change colors, the tattoo needles are rinsed in a cup of water, and then re-dipped into the new color.
The tattoo inks break down into two groups. The first group all has the same base, just different pigments, and the second group all has different bases. Inks can be water or alcohol based. The first group makes mixing colors quite a bit easier, but the second group is able to produce bolder, more "pure" colors.
There are a few reasons why people might care about what kind of ink that is used in their tattoo. If you want an all white tattoo, you will want to get it done with one of the pure pigment group inks. If you are health conscious, you might want to make sure the tattoo ink does not contain Antimony, Arsenic, Beryllium, Cobalt, Lead, Lead compounds, Nickel and Selenium. These are collectively referred to as toxic metals, each of which is a toxic chemical that is known to be carcinogenic and/or may result in reproductive harm. Also, animal rights activists and vegans who don`t want any animal products in their ink can only use Starbrite inks, as all other brands use animal glycerin instead of vegetable ones.
It is very difficult to find out what is in your tattoo ink. Since it is not a food or drug, ink companies do not need to divulge their ingredients list. They however need to have a warning at their site if they contain any toxic metals or chemicals. Ask your tattoo artist what brand of ink/pigments they use, and then you can go to that company`s website.
If you are allergic to a lot of pigments and chemicals that are in most beauty products, you might have trouble with some inks. Most companies are producing hypo-allergic inks now, but so far, no company has produced a hypo-allergic red ink. Since red is a primary color, the only way to avoid using it is to choose a design that does not use red in it at all. Luckily, orange and purple are completely different pigments and not actually mixed with red, unless your tattoo artist has a very limited color palette.