We have created this page to help you understand some of the tattoo terminology. As you read this page you will begin to understand what some of the things are or referred to in the tattoo industry. Please take a brief moment to read this page if you are planning on going to a tattoo parlor to get some inking done.
Words commonly used in tattoo parlors
After care: What you do with your tattoo once you get home.
Apprentice: Someone who is learning to tattoo
Art: What your tattoo should be. Why do some people spend more time picking out their wall art then they do their body art?
Autoclave: A machine used to sterilize tattoo equipment.
Backroom: A dirtbag’s work place. (see scratcher)
Blackwork: A tattoo done only in shades of black and grey.
By Appointment Only: Translation: Don’t just show up at the studio.
Body: SEE CANVAS
Bodysuit:Complete coverage of the body with tattoos.
Bold:A design that makes a strong graphic statement.
Call Ahead:An important step if your artist works by appointment only.
Canvas: The client.
Carve: Scary slang for tattooing.
Clean: A technically perfect tattoo. (solid line-work and color)
Color: Perky pigments. (see also Solid)
Cover-up: A new, hopefully better, tattoo that gets placed over an existing and unwanted one.
Custom: A tattoo designed especially for you
Dermagraphics: Art on the skin
Done: What you really want to hear the tattooist say after you spent a few hours getting tattooed.
Epidermis: The outer layer of the skin.
Explosions: Splotchy, uneven lines in a tattoo.
Fall Out: Rapid Fading, usually of color, of a new tattoo due to improper application. (see scratcher)Fall out can also refer to the fading of any tattoo. Besides improper application, the usual cause is age, or improper aftercare. It can also occur when a tattoo is placed on a body part that does not hold ink well, i.e. inside lip, bottom of foot.
Fineline: A tattoo done single needle style. Does not have the heavy black outline of traditional tattoo work.
Flash: Pre-drawn designs that often hang on the walls of a tattoo shop.
Gloves: Disposable medical style hand wear that should be used by tatooist during thetattoo installation.
Gun: A tattoo machine. (or a tool that assists in bill collection.)
High Energy: “New Style” tattooing, often based on classic comic graphic styles, but can refer to any tattoo work that is bold and colorful.
Homes: An affectionate form of greeting used by a small group of tattooists. (you guys know who you are!)
Holidays: Skips (bare patches) in the color of a tattoo.
Ink: The pigments placed into the skin during the tattoo process.
Idiot: Someone who gets tattooed by a scratcher.
Itch: What your new tattoo does besides scab.
Jailhouse: A style of tattooing that was developed by inmates and was the root of blackwork. Can be used in a derogatory sense to refer to a tattoo that lacks sophisication or was badly applied. Also called Joint style.
Kinky: What most non-tattooed people think tattooed people are.
Lines: They should be straight and consistant.
Love: (See Vow.)
Mush: A tattoo that has lost definition.
Naked: Skin without tattoos.
Name: See Vow (also see coverup)
Needle: The sharp pointy thing that connects you and your tattooist.
Old School: Tattooist who served a traditional appenticeship and adhere to the tattoo world’s traditional codes of behavior.
Oriental: A style of tattooing that is carefully thought out and utilized the entire body, as opposed to the western method of arbitrary pieces scattered about on the skin with no overall plan. Often incorporates swirling patterns and imaginary from Japenese mythology.
Ointment: Creams used during the aftercare process. (see Itch)
Parasite: (See Scratcher).
Portrait: A photo-realistic reproduction tattoo of your favorite person or beast.
Primative: Relating to early times or original state of something.
Quiet: What you should be while you’re getting a tattoo.
Rate: What your artist will charge you for your tattoo. Attempting to reduce the rate will only result in a twisted tattooist.
Readable: A tattoo that is easily decipherable from a distance.
Realistic: A true to life tattoo piece.
Rebuff: A abrupt refusal. Which is what will happen if you attempt to lower the artist’s prices (see Rate) or come into the studio intoxicated.
Scratcher: A person who attepts to tattoo, despite the fact that he or she has no knowledge of technique or sterilization procedures. Strangely enough, scratchers often believe that they are God’s gift to the tattoo world.
Skin: (See Canvas).
Skips: Breaks in the lines or uneven color in a tattoo.
Stencil: A pattern, often made of acetate, used to transfer a design onto the skin.
Sterile: Free from disease causing germs. All equipment used to tattoo should either be disposed of after one use or sterilized by autoclave.
Style: Particular genre of tattooing; such as Tribal, Traditional, etc.
Solid: What your tattoo should be: when referring to color it means a tattoo with no patchy areas or skips. Also used to refer to a technically perfect tattoo.
Tat: Pet name for skin art.
Tacked Back: Heavily tattooed.
Traditional: A style of tattooing that utilizes bold black outlines, strong black shading and bright primary colors.
Tribal: Bold, black, silhouette style designs.
Underground: A tattooist who is unable to work openly, often due to legislation banning tattooing in their area.
Vow: A vow tattoo is a design that incorporates a name or slogan (“Mom”, “Betty Sue”,”Harley Davidson”). Most coverups are placed over vow tattoos.
Wow: This is what your “Mom” tattoo says when you’re standing on your head.
Xerophthalmia: A disease that causes abnormal dryness of the eyeballs. (So sue me, I couldn’t think of any X words!)
Yow: Exclamation made by someone who is getting a tattoo on their ribcage.
Yuppies: An annoying group of people who have recently decided that tattoos are cool.
Zero Hour: The time of your appointment for your first tattoo.