Anyone can give a tattoo, but only a well equipped tattoo artist can create art. Preparation, such as attention to the depth of the tattoo needle, is key to this process. A knowledge of how tattoos work and the proper equipment will make this task much easier. Not only is setting a tattoo needle to the correct depth important to the formation of a visually attractive tattoo, but it is also a factor in the level of pain, cleanliness and healing. These instructons will help you set the depth of your tattoo needle. While these instructions are beneficial in the initial stages, the ultimate goal in setting the depth of the tattoo needle is learning to control you touch and depth by feel.
As with all aspects of tattooing, there is a lot to learn about tattoo needles. Most tattoo artists will tell you to learn from the learned: Work an apprenticeship. Others will tell you to go jail and you will learn everything you ever wanted to know about tattooing. Of these two options, apprenticing with an experienced tattoo artist will teach you how to set the depth of the tattoo needle and much more. There is more to setting the depth of a tattoo needle than exact measurements and layers of skin. There are skills that have to be taught and practiced.
In addition to setting up the needle correctly a tattooing technique called “riding the tube” will ensure consistency of needle depth. Without bearing down on the skin, seasoned tattoo artists can “feel” the depth of their needle without actually seeing the needle.
Familiarize yourself with how tattooing works and how this relates to human anatomy. Tattoo needles only need to penetrate the first of seven layers of skin, the epidernis, and go no deeper than the second layer of skin, the dermis. This depth of the second layer of skin varies from person to person but is usually 1-to-2 deep between the thickness of a dime and a nickel and slightly less shallow than a hair gollicle. Determining the thickness of skin will take parctice.
After considering the thickness of the skin, the depth of the needle needs to be set. The tattoo needle should stick out of the gun between1/16 and 1/32 of an inch.
If the purpost is outlining, the depth should be about the thickness of a Canadian dime, 1.22mm. If the purpose is shading, the needle should be set at 3/32 on a 10-wrap machine,1/16 on an 8-wrap machine.
Once the depth of the needle is set, it should be tested. Experienced tattoo artists can eyeball the needle and know if it is correct, but a novice should test out the set-up. Grapefruit is recommended for this step. If the grapefruit shreds, then the depth is too great. On a person, among the signs that the depth is too great is excessive bleeding.
Experienced tattoo artists will recommend that novices take their machine apart and put it back together again several times. This get you used to visually gauging the depth and getiing a feel for the machine.
Once all the set-up has been configured, proper force is necessary to ensure that the needle reaches the correct depth– the second layer of skin. The force needed will vary from machine to machine, taking into account factors such as the type of needle.