Tattoo Glossary – A to C 

Ever felt like you need to Urban Dictionary some of the things you hear around a tattoo studio? Or on blogs like this for that matter? We decided to do a thorough run-through of all the jargon and terminology you may come across while hanging around a tattoo shop, be that on a virtual adventure planning your next tattoo, or in real life. 

A

Aftercare — the process of caring for your new tattoo. It is absolutely crucial to the longevity of your new ink, not to mention your health. It involves cleaning it regularly with unscented soap, applying lotions, staying away from saunas, baths, pools, sunshine and rough fabric clothing. There is also a moratorium on scratching of any kind!

Unique skull design by apprentice artist Cara in Sutton Coldfield studio

American Traditional — also known as Old School. Bold and iconic, it is characterised by clean, black outlines, strong colours and minimal shading. 

Apprentice — a dedicated individual learning the tattoo trade and art from senior artists at the studio. They begin by learning how to take care of the equipment and work stations, slowly making their way to putting needle to skin, first artificial, then the actual live human variety.

Autoclave — a machine that uses high pressure and steam to sterilise the tattooing equipment between clients. 

B

Black and Grey — a style of tattooing that works with only black ink, watered down to create different shades, or sometimes pre-made grey wash tones. A fantastic showcase for shading skills, it lends itself well to realism.

Black and Gray Statue Tattoo by Clayton

Stunning Black and Grey statue by Clayton from the Birmingham studio

Blackwork — originally a form of embroidery using only black thread, blackwork in tattooing refers to a style that uses mainly black ink (duh, although sometimes there can be a hint of red or other, often bold, colour). The artist will make use of negative space to create the design, often in very impressive and creative ways.

Blowout — what you do not want to have happen. This occurs if the artist has pushed the needle too deep into the skin applying too much pressure, or gone over the same area too many times. The ink then flows out, making the piece blurry around the edges, 

Body Suit — when someone’s body is nearly all covered in ink. The world record holder, Lucky Diamond Rich, counts as having 200% of his skin covered, as he has gone over every area with at least two layers. 

C

Carving  don’t be alarmed, it’s just another word for tattooing. 

Collector  an ink aficionado who deliberately seeks out renowned artists to get pieces specifically by them. Kind of like their own personal body art gallery. 

Custom skull and Butterfly by Dorian from Vivid Ink Birmingham

Cover up — as we have recently covered (see what we did there) on the blog, cover ups are a genre all to themselves. As the name implies, they are done to cover up an old tattoo that for some reason you no longer wish to be a part of your story. They require custom designs and some flexibility on the client’s end.

Custom — speaking of custom designs, not all tattoos will be. Back-in-the-day, flashcards used to be the way to go, with clients picking out a design from a folder or from images mounted on the walls of the shop. While that still happens, more and more people will work with their artist to create a piece that is entirely unique to them.