Jaycel Adkins

Stencils vs. Drawing directly onto skin

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Hello,

I came across an opinion that using a stencil is preferable to drawing directly onto the skin, which was deemed basically tattooing a first draft.

Is this a common opinion among the posters here at LST?

The opinion was in this book:

Amazon.com: Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories, and My Life in Ink (9780385530521): Jeff Johnson: Books

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It seems like it kind of just depends on the tattooer and the design. I have had people draw stuff on me a couple of times but most of the time stencils were applied. There are a lot of guys out there that do amazing work and they choose to draw the design on in certain cases. However the term "free hand ", has become kind of a buzz word among some customers and a gimmick by people who need one in my opinion.

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Like the other said, it all depends on the person tattooing you. Richard Stell can do almost any animal with no stencil or reference other than his brain and it comes out amazing. Scratcher guy down the road can do anything you ask for with no stencil and no reference and it will look like total shit until you get it lasered and covered.

Or, for example, when I got my back done, he draw all over it for a while, took a photo and then used that as reference for the real drawing which he then tattooed with a stencil.

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Hello,

Thank you for the replies: Perez, Ursula Thomson, and David Flores.

I picked up the book in the store because it was compared to Kitchen Confidential, which is a book I know pretty well. There is a lot of yes and no situations in that book as well.

Looks forward to anyone else with comments, etc.

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Hello,

Jade1955: Do you feel the quality of the tattoo was in any way influenced or effected by whether it was drawn on, stenciled, or a combination? Do you think that one of your tattoos would have been executed in a better way had another method been used, other than the one that was? Or was the Tattooer/Subject the overwhelming factor?

briankelly: I ended up not purchasing the book and can't speak to it being accurate narrative of a typical shop, but thought it was well written from what I did read and pretty funny and interesting. But I am not a tattooer, so it's all, at the least, pretty interesting/unfamiliar to me.

Best

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I have two tattoos by Mo Coppoletta. One is an owl done using a stencil and other a severed head, without a stencil. Both in my humble opinion, executed superbly. Same artist two different methods same end result. These are both in my gallery, Jaycel, if you want to have a look.

As for the merits of stencil v freehand I feel this is a question to do with tattooing technique and can only be answered, objectively , by a tattooer. No disrespect to you Jaycel, but the subject of tattooers discussing the technicalities of tattooing on an open forum has already been answered.

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Hello,

Jake: To the point, great!

jade1955: Thank you for your reply. Nothing can really beat a comparison like the one you presented. Your tattoos look great!

Per the technique question: My concern was about the idea of having a 'first draft' being permanently tattooed on me. The book that was cited listed this among some points for people who wanted to get tattooed to be aware of/beware of.

No more, no less. :)

I got my question answered, thank you everyone.

But anyone else is free to post their opinions, as well.

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I agree with the opinion that it depends on the tattooer.

The only i have to notice is that there are some tattooers who "sells" "freehand tattooing" as something that needs special skills or something that proves his artistic skills.I know that i may be misunderstood because its very general as i m saying it but maybe some will understand.

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Per the technique question: My concern was about the idea of having a 'first draft' being permanently tattooed on me. The book that was cited listed this among some points for people who wanted to get tattooed to be aware of/beware of.

I just wanted to make a comment on the idea that getting a tattoo drawn on is getting a first draft - it's not.

When someone spends an hour drawing on you they are doing more than one draft. What I have seen working in shops is this : They do a quick kind of first sketch on the skin and then spend the next 'whatever amount of time it took' to refine that drawing and don't start the tattoo until that drawing is where they want it to be.

If you go to a shop for a walk in tattoo that needs to be drawn from scratch they are doing the same thing, just on paper. Some tattooers don't need to do 10 rough drafts before they get it right.

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he only i have to notice is that there are some tattooers who "sells" "freehand tattooing" as something that needs special skills or something that proves his artistic skills.

"Freehand Tattooing" implies to me some sort of party trick or that an experiment is about to be performed on you .It does seem a current catchphrase for abnormal ability funnily enough .

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I just wanted to make a comment on the idea that getting a tattoo drawn on is getting a first draft - it's not.

When someone spends an hour drawing on you they are doing more than one draft. What I have seen working in shops is this : They do a quick kind of first sketch on the skin and then spend the next 'whatever amount of time it took' to refine that drawing and don't start the tattoo until that drawing is where they want it to be.

If you go to a shop for a walk in tattoo that needs to be drawn from scratch they are doing the same thing, just on paper. Some tattooers don't need to do 10 rough drafts before they get it right.

Then there are guys like the late Pinky Yun, who will tattoo a full sleeve dragon no stencil, just start outlining on bare skin.

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Then there are guys like the late Pinky Yun, who will tattoo a full sleeve dragon no stencil, just start outlining on bare skin.

I wish I could just look at a bare arm and go... "Yep, the giant dragon is going to sit right there." and have no issue or hesitation about it.

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Then there are guys like the late Pinky Yun, who will tattoo a full sleeve dragon no stencil, just start outlining on bare skin.

I think there's a video of Horiyoshi III in the blog section of this site doing the same thing

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from my understanding, the term "freehand" really does mean to use no stencil and no drawing, but to just freehand onto the flesh. drawing an image onto someone and tracing it is not really freehand. sometimes i get customers that ask questions like, "did you freehand this tattoo?" while looking at pictures of my tattoos, because they've heard the term and want to seem like they know some stuff about tattooing. they also seem to think that freehand is better than using a stencil.

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from my understanding, the term "freehand" really does mean to use no stencil and no drawing, but to just freehand onto the flesh. drawing an image onto someone and tracing it is not really freehand. sometimes i get customers that ask questions like, "did you freehand this tattoo?" while looking at pictures of my tattoos, because they've heard the term and want to seem like they know some stuff about tattooing. they also seem to think that freehand is better than using a stencil.

Same here. The only time I heard this was when my friend had his dragon tattooed with no stencil or drawing pre-tattoo. All the artist did was put a line at the top and bottom of his arm where he would stop so as not to go too far down his arm.

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Personally, being that I'm trying to mix dotwork shading and linework in one, I tend to rely on stencil. I feel like keeping the geometry is so important that I never want to risk wiping away any ink from a pen or marker. If I need to make adjustments and really don't want to clean the area again and relay the stencil, I'll take a tattoo pen from saltwater supply and just add it in. Only problem is two wipes and the ink is gone if you don't give it time to dry with the rest of the stencil.

To all the talk about free-hand, I had a buddy get some japanese stuff. Just your run of the mil stuff and said it was all done free-hand and that the artist went on a rant about it. Saying basically what you'd hear on any Nat Geo program, but used pens. Not sure that's freehand. I mean, here in LBC we still have pioneers from back in the day literally tattooing you with no markers, no pens, and no stencil. Correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't that be the correct term for a "Free-hand" tattoo?

I don't think it has any adverse effects on the tattoo (if that's what we're still talking about) unless they're using a speed stick straight from the tube on 50+ people in a row. Then it's just germs you're messing around with.. When I took by pathogen class through DMS in I asked about the actual carbon in stencil paper and if it could be harmful and create irritation, I got a swift no and a explanation that the only way this could be an issue is if you're just being messy. (going back and forth on carbon paper after it's already touched a client, speed stick issues, not being sterile with stencil solution, using the same pen on multiple clients, so on and so forth). Which I would assume saltwater tattoo released their pens in the first place. Disposable, single use pens, yatta yatta yatta, and all you've gotta do I know what you're doing and keep it clean. Maybe I went a little off the rails with this. Sorry. xD

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There is a time and place for both.

I've had experiences with stencil, sharpie-on-the-skin and various combinations. But regardless, a tattoo will always look a little different once in the skin.

I have a polka dot dragon by a fellow named Scott Rusnak. He stencilled the overall layout of the dragon but did all the polka dot scale circles direct on with the machine. It was nuts.

The sharpie-on approach works well with for another one of my tattooers. We have a good tattoo-trust built where we both feel comfortable with him using the sharpie-on method on me. It makes for a different type of tattoo-experience and excitement.

I still have the stencil for my L arm, it's 1 complete, huge, wrapping stencil. Blows my mind how perfect I feel all the elements of the tattoo land on the skin and body contours. This tattooer in particular is a stencil monster and everytime I smell speedstick original I think of that particular perfect stencil experience.

Stencil placement...that is a fine art on it's own!

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