Tattooer's Top Kit
The unprecedented rise of tattooing in the last decade has opened the doors for a wealth of new tattoo products to hit the shelves: artists and clients have more choice than ever, from innovative iPad apps to an ever-expanding range of aftercare products.
But what do the experts recommend? We spoke to world-class tattooers to find out their favourites, and their top tips for healing your tattoo without a hitch.
Gorsky, Ushuaia Tattoo
Can you introduce yourself and describe your style?
My name is Damian "GORSKY" Gorski and I am a resident tattoo artist at Ushuaia Tattoo in London. I can also be found at numerous tattoo conventions around Europe, and Seminars about abstract realism, where I explain the way I work. I've been tattooing since 2012 and my favourite style is colour abstract realism, but I also enjoy greywash tattoos. Apart from tattooing I love snowboarding which is my second love and passion.
What are your favourite tools or products to use when tattooing?
Which products have been the biggest game-changers in recent years?
Personally, I feel the biggest game changer has been Saniderm, Dermalize and the effortless tattoo aftercare it provides. As far as designing goes, I think that the iPad Pro has really streamlined and improved the way artists create designs digitally.
What aftercare would you suggest to somebody freshly tattooed?
Saniderm or Dermalize is my go-to product to help the healing process. I also like using H2Ocean for longer term aftercare.
Steve H Morante, Fudoshin Tattoo
How did you discover a love for Japanese style tattooing?
I've always been in to Japanese culture, even as a kid. My main push into the style of Japanese tattooing came from starting my sleeve with Jason Saga, who is sadly no longer with us. He really opened my eyes to how beautiful and how dark the mythology and folklore can be.
Which tattooing products can't you live without?
I’ve come from building my own machines and making my own needles. I still make my own grey wash now, but I definitely enjoy the fact I don't have to make needles every night anymore!
If it's what I love using, right now it'd have to be Inkjecta Nano, Rotary Works, Solid Ink and the Big Sleeps grey ink set. It definitely makes what I do a lot easier and I enjoy not having to think about anything other than tattooing.
What aftercare advice do you offer to your customers?
I always advise to leave clingfilm on for a couple hours, take it off and clean with a low PH soap, making sure the water is warm as possible to open up the pores. Then pat dry with a clean kitchen towel, leave for ten minutes and wrap again with clingfilm until the morning. In the morning, take off the clingfilm, clean again and apply a very small amount of cream - too much prolongs the healing. Once you've applied cream, there's no need to wrap again, just cream 2-3 times a day, ensuring you wash the tattoo beforehand. We use Sorry Mom Tattoo Balm, it's really good at protecting the tattoo and most of my clients are healed within a week or so.
What is the most important thing a first-timer should know before getting tattooed?
Other than finding the right tattooer, you need to have good references too, but be sure to let the tattooer do their thing. If you're unsure the tattooer won't do a great job, then you haven't done enough research. The reason you've gone with that tattooer is because you love their work.
And I always advise people to eat well beforehand - regardless of the time of day!
Paul Talbot, Modern Electric Tattoo Co
How would you describe your style?
I call it 'KarmaPunk' or 'Trash Polka with an English accent' - everything I do is rooted in the traditions and ethos of graphic design rather than fine art. It looks unusual at first when you compare it to more traditional styles of tattoo, but the history of graphic design is longer than the history of art in many ways and it has its own set of rules when it comes to composition etc.
How did you learn to tattoo, and what is the best piece of advice you picked up along the way?
I had a very short and informal apprenticeship from a couple of good friends who were tattoo artists that encouraged me to take my graphic design/music background and bring it to the world of tattoo art in a fresh and unique way. The best piece of advice I've ever had was 'Do what you can, use what you have and start today'.
Which tools do you use to create your digital designs?
For the longest time I used Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator but in recent years both programs have become a bloated mess of unnecessary updates, and they no longer feel like the cutting-edge tools that they started out as (and neither of them have an iPad companion app that’s any use to a pro). So recently I've switched to Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer - both the company and the products feel like modern design tools equipped for the modern world that run on my MacBook Pro and My iPad Pro. I'm enjoying using them immensely.
What are the best aftercare tips you could share with our readers?
Listen to your tattooist and no-one else! Your artist will have developed an aftercare regime that suits both their work and their clients. All tattoo heals are affected by the style and the technique of the artist and every artist has their own preferred way of healing your new tattoo. It just isn't a 'one size fits all' kind of deal so listen to their advice and follow it. No matter how many tattoos 'Dave down the pub' has, he doesn't understand healing as well as your artist!
Can you name a favourite tattoo product or supplier?
Wow! there are so many! But for me personally the most game changing device and the one I couldn't live without would be the Brother PJ printers. They have revolutionised the making of stencils and, once the stencils fluids catch up, could very well revolutionise the way we make stencils completely. I work closely with Brother on the devices and I'm very excited to see what innovations they'll bring to tattooing in the future.
Robert Borbas aka Grindesign, Rooklet Ink
Can you introduce yourself and the kind of work you create?
My name is Robert Borbas aka. Grindesign from Budapest, Hungary. I own and work at my shop called Rooklet Ink in the heart of Budapest. I have been tattooing since 2012.Before tattooing, I used to work for bands as a freelance illustrator. I'm still doing it, but I focus mostly on tattooing!
My style is a mix of gruesome horror and more grim, melancholic occult scenery. I cannot really put it into words if it's a specific style, but illustration had a huge impact on it. I try to incorporate new elements by not following the trends and doing my own interpretation of any kind of topic.
What inspires your designs?
Literally everything I see, hear, or talk about. Lately I'm obsessed with witchcraft and old heraldic illustrations. I am a fan of comic books, so those illustrators and painters influenced me a lot especially - Todd Mcfarlane. Music is super important for me, so a good record on the turntable and a nice coffee always turns my brain on!
What are your favourite tattoo products to work with?
Beside the products I use on a daily basis, like Kwadron needles, H2Ocean soaps and aftercare products, I'm obsessed with machines. My all-time favourites are the Redmond Irons and Pirates Machines coils and rotaries. I love my TattooMe rotary as well. Lately I started using Dan Kubins and I could not be happier with those machines. Powerful, effective, easy to work with (but not for beginners!).
What is the best piece of tattoo advice you could give a potential customer?
Trust your tattooer! Give her/him creative freedom, brainstorm with the tattooer and the end result will be 100% satisfying for you both.
During the healing process, what is the most important rule a freshly tattooed customer should follow?
For the style I do, I always recommend keeping it wrapped for at least one overnight. After that wash it carefully with the H2Ocean soap I give to my customers, at least 3-4 times a day. Clean it carefully and keep it moisturized with Aquatat. If you keep your tattoo clean and don't let it dry out the peeling process will be easy and fast. Usually, my tattoos are "healed" after 2 weeks. Of course, different advice will apply for colourful pieces, which are always a bigger impact to the skin and take longer to heal.
What projects will you be working on at The London Tattoo Convention?
I will start a full sleeve on Friday for an amazing customer, and on Saturday and Sunday I will do a collaboration back piece with the legendary Victor Portugal, which I’m more than stoked about!