Most tattoos are done with a standard tattoo machine. Call it an iron, a gun, or simply a machine if you will — but, it’s how ink gets into the skin in a efficient and fairly pain-free way (okay, everyone’s pain threshold is different, but you get the point).
Historically speaking, the tattoo machine is a fairly new arrival to the tattoo scene. It originates from Edison’s electric pen in the late 1800’s and has become ubiquitous at tattoo parlors around the globe. But tattoos are in no way a modern invention. They go back millennia with independent origins across virtually every culture. Even Ötzi the Iceman — the 5,300 year old ice mummy that was found in the Tyrollean Alps — was covered in tattoos (61 of them, to be exact).
The point being, as soon as we started making tools, we started scarring ink into our skin. Not at all surprisingly in the Nostalgia/Artisan Era, some of the old tattooing techniques are starting to make a comeback. Let’s look at a few:
One needle, some ink, and a design is all you need for a hand poked tattoo. Well, a fair amount of time will also be necessary. A single, medium-sized needle is continually poked into the recipient’s skin to create a wicked design. You’re 100% reliant on the tattoo artist’s ability and strength to get the correct depth into the skin each time. So be patient and choose wisely.
Hand poke is probably the easiest to source if you’re looking for a non-machine tattoo. The designs will tend to be line-based and you should probably be a big fan of negative space. So don’t go in expecting a lifelike Mel Gibson portrait.