Tattoo Jargon

It may not seem like it at the time, but getting a tattoo is a huge decision. That ink really is permanent and will be there for the rest of your life. Even if you opt to have it removed, you will still have a scar or traces of ink at the very least. It’s very important that you put a lot of thought into the design you want and the placement of your new tattoo. You should do a lot of research into the process of tattooing and choosing your tattoo artist. As with any specialized trade, there’s a certain amount of jargon, or terms specific to the practice, used. Study up on this; you can’t make informed decisions if you have no idea what the experts are talking about. Here’s a short, and by no means complete glossary to help you get started.

1. Autoclave – a machine that uses pressure and hot water to sterilize tattoo equipment. The autoclave is also used for medical and dental tools. A lot of shops keep the autoclave in plain sight so potential clients know they are using clean supplies. If you don’t see one ask. If you aren’t satisfied with the answer, look for another shop.

2. Body Suit – a full body tattoo. It typically starts at the neck and covers the rest of the body down to the ankles. Hands and feet are usually excluded. Japanese tattooists are known for their artful applied body suits.

3. Cockamamie – one of those cheap temporary tattoos applied by wetting the paper backing and pressing against the skin. Cockamamies were popular in the 1940s and 50s and were often found as prizes in Cracker Jack and cereal boxes.

4. Devotion tattoo – a tat that symbolizes its owner’s love for a significant other, parent, pet, favorite band, favorite food, etc. The possibilities are endless.

5. Cover-up Work – What happens when you change your mind about that devotion tattoo. Cover-up work involves either incorporating an old tat into an new design or covering it up totally. Good cover-up work is hard to spot and is a prized talent among tattoo artists.

6. Flash – The sheets of designs that hang on the walls of tattoo parlors. These designs aren’t necessarily original to that particular artist and are probably fairly common. A shop purchases the flash from the vendor and the rights to legally reproduce it into a stencil so that no copy write laws are broken.

7. Jailhouse Tattoo – a homemade tattoo usually characterized by fine, black or blue lines.

8. Scratcher – a bad tattooist

9. Stencil – a template of the tattoo you’re about to get, usually drawn or traced on your skin so that you have a good idea of what the tat will look like on you and the tattooist has something to go by.

10. Lady Luck – this tattoo is traditionally popular at war time. The central figure in the design is always a beautiful woman surrounded by other signs of good fortune like a four leaf clover, a rabbit’s foot, etc. The tattoo was thought to bring luck to the owner.

11. Men’s Ruin Tattoo – pretty much the opposite of Lady Luck, this design also features a woman, but depicted as the source of men’s troubles. She’s often accompanied by representations of vices that can bring a man down such as liquor, drugs and gambling.

Now that you have a decent foundation to at least ask intelligent questions, you’re one step closer to a tattoo experience that with produce a design you will love for a lifetime and preventing the regret that often comes with a tattoo that wasn’t particularly thought out.

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