by John Bradley of
Captain Jack's Tattoo
This tech tip is not about how to outline, its more about expanding your horizons by utilizing the correct outline for the style of tattoo that you are doing. For example, have you ever seen a tattoo that was just too weak because of its outline....or a tattoo that just had too many lines and was too complicated...?
In this tech tip Ill present some outlining strategies that when used appropriately can make the difference between a good tattoo and an outstanding tattoo. Back in the 70's when I started tattooing all I used was a 4 needle outliner and I used it on everything I did. It was versatile, it could have the appearance of a 3 needle outline(fine line) if I worked off the tip or a 5 needle outline (solid bold line) if I just worked it right...
I worked this way for many years.... I did this because this I the way that I learned to do things. It worked fine until I got involved with doing larger pieces. When I did larger work I noticed that something was just missing and could not figure it out. I started studying the master tattooist of that time period and what I notice was that they were using different outlines in the same tattoo. It wasn't the design, or the shading or the color (although they all contributed to a great tattoo) it was the use of varying outlines in the tattoo that did it.
I started asking around to fine out how to make those different size outliners and got a lot of help from some old time tattooist that I knew. They showed me how to make a jig and then how to assemble the different needle groups. They also showed me how to make the different tubes to use with them. Now anytime that I do a tattoo that is bigger then the size of a baseball... use at lease two different outliners.
When I take on large size pieces I will start with a five the beef up some lines with a eight and the beef up even some more with a fourteen needle outliner...and if I have to I will finish the job with a 3 for the real fine line detail. There is one thing that sticks in my mine that an old time tattooist once told me...if you cant make out what a guy has tattooed on him from across the room then it ain't worth the skin that it was put on. By using different size outliners in a tattoo it gives the design more of a three dimensional look.
If I could use graphics in this tech tip I would show you some examples (I will talk to Gillan & Gena about using some graphics in the future) but for now you will just have to use some of your artistic abilities to figure out where to use thin lines and where to use thicker lines. Until the next tech tip...keep the ink flowing.
P.S. Just remember what I told you in my first tech tip..if you increase the amount of needles that you are using then you will have to do one of two things...turn up the power or use a tattoo machine with a larger amount of coils!
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by John Bradley of Captain Jack's Tattoo
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