by Sarah Hannah Fisher
If you don't already know about home-made tattoos, the chances are you're not involved enough with the art of tattoos and the process of getting inked to do your tattoo safely at home. Nevertheless - it's good to know of the existence of home-made tattoos.
Once upon a time having a tattoo was seen as a rebellion against society. They were the domain of prison gangs, sailors, bikers and hardcore punk kids. But today it seems that almost everyone is getting inked - from housewives to lawyers.
Getting a tattoo no longer sets you apart from mainstream society. You can walk into a tattoo parlor, pick a generic design and end up having the exact same tattoo as someone else - albeit one you love. Maybe getting a home-made tattoo will become the new form of individual body art? Something you (or you and your friends) have personally inked on yourselves will always have an individual resonance. This is only conjecture; it's worth noting that a home-made tattoo is unlikely to be as safe and professional as the tattoo you'd get in a parlour unless you are very, very careful about the process. However, a home-made tatto and all the risks it entails does have the resonance of danger - and once again places the tattoo in the sole province of the outcasts - the hardbitten rebels and jailbirds of the world. Or the very drunk college students.
A home-made tattoo refers to any design that isn't done in a professional tattoo parlour. It can refer to a store-bought tattoo gun used in the privacy of your own home or tattoos done with pen ink and the use of a needle or safety pin.
A quick Google search on home made tattoos will lead you to hundreds of 'how-to-sites', often complete with YouTube footage. You can learn how to wield a tattoo gun or the best ink to buy.
But this article isn't going to give you step by step instructions. I am here to explain the facts of both sides of the story. There are people who will condemn the very notion of a home made tattoo and people who will sing its praises - and both opinions are valid. It is important to remember that, as with all body art, a home tattoo is a personal choice and like all tattoos, it is permanent. So, with that said, make sure you want to be inked for life, and that you are willing to have that permanent ink etched into your body with all the skills you do (or don't) possess.
Home made tattoos have a personal, intimate feel to them. They have a ritualistic approach to them and the process and energy of your own creation is something that home made tattoo aficionados cherish.
By getting a tattoo done professionally, you have a tattoo artist who knows what they are doing, who has done an apprenticeship and become accredited. You don't need to worry about shaking hands, sterilizing your equipment properly or running out of ink half way through. While it is true that you can get a bad tattoo by a professional, you do have the choice of shopping around and using an artist you trust. And by going to a tattoo parlor you have a cleaner atmosphere as you know there are strict health codes they must stick too.
A professional tattoo artist, a good one, will be able to work with you on your design to customize it. They will be able to tell you if it is going to work, how long it will take and if the placement is the right choice. They can advise you on colours, on how it will fade and how best to care for it. Paying for piece of mind is never a waste of money, especially since your tattoo will be with you up until you are covered in wrinkles and your hair has thinned out.
If you are going to take the leap and tattoo yourself or your friends, you have to keep in mind that there are more limitations and also health risks than going into a tattoo parlour.
Sterilization is the most important factor of a home made tattoo. There is always a slight risk of bacterial infection whenever the skin is broken, but if equipment isn't sterilized properly there is a chance of contracting a scary blood-borne infection like hepatitis C. If you are tattooing someone else, or them you, it's probably a good idea to ask about their bloodwork. And sterilize all your needles meticulously. Throw away each needle after every use. Never try to re-use or re-sterilize a needle. Just don't.
Be aware of the limitations of a home made tattoo. Don't attempt any elaborate designs; leave that to the professionals, unless you are one. That includes any sort of shading or huge, intricately coloured pieces. Keep it simple. While you can obviously get touch-ups at a professional parlor, it kind of ruins the whole point of being home made.
Keep in mind that there will be blood. You are essentially puncturing through layers of skin to permanently dye it. Considering that it takes a lot of 'pokes' to make up a line or coloured area of the tattoo, you are going to bleed and it will hurt.
As with all tattoos, aftercare is essential. Do not pick or scratch at your homemade tattoo and stay out of the sun and water for 2 weeks. You will need to watch your tattoo carefully, and keep it moisturized. If it starts to itch unbearably or looks even the slightest bit infected go and see a doctor immediately.
If you do end up taking the leap and decide to ink yourself, please just be careful. Do your research. And do it well.