The 3D Printed Tattoo

I recently saw a video of a 3D printer that had been modified to become an automated tattoo machine. It’s basically a MakerBot with a tattoo machine attached to it, but really this is only a prototype that serves as proof of concept.

What worries me is that as the technology advances software will become increasingly user-friendly to the point that even a child will be able to operate it. Not all tattoo artists need a Fine Arts background, but I think we can all agree that some knowledge of a Color Wheel sure does come in handy when designing a tattoo, if it has color anyway. For the ones that don’t contain color, what about things like composition? If you’ve been watching Ink Master (especially from the first episode) you learn about placement and composition. Technology will allow you to apply really well-drawn tattoos in bad areas using shitty colors except you will be able to do it in the privacy of your own home.

You can argue that digital technology has had the same impact for musicians. MIDI keyboards gave way to programs like Frooty Loops and Garageband so now people with absolutely no talent can make a song in hours.

The above is a prime example of that end of the spectrum. This young man fearlessly steps out and embraces 21st Century tech to let the world know he is unashamed of his total lack of talent at any aspect of music or music video production. He has a camera, a Macbook, and an Internet connection so by God he is going to use them!

This is the part where I start to sound like an elitist, but I don’t really care. I just happen to believe that the permanence of the tattoo process was part of the appeal. The pain was part of the experience. These things were important.

Life lessons can be learned in the idea of getting a bad tattoo. You made a mistake and how you choose to live with it tells a lot about you as a person. If you continue to wear it proudly then you are saying you don’t care about your mistakes, the opposite if you keep it covered. And if you choose to go get a new tattoo to cover it, then you are saying that you are willing to go back into the flames to recover yourself.

And if you chose to have that tattoo removed?  Holy shit you had some fucked up options to choose from:  acid, salt rubs, skin removal, or if you were feeling particularly festive, you could go for skin injections. Yeah, see as soon as they figured out how to add ink to your skin they realized they could use things like wine, vinegar, or pigeon shit. Yeah, all of those were used to remove tattoos, with results varying I’m sure.

That is important.

Now, instead of surgery to remove a tattoo we have efficient laser therapy to rid you of that unsightly tramp stamp you got because you were 22 and stupid. Instead of having to go see a newer, hopefully better, artist and once again enduring the pain of the needle to cover your mistake, you just shrug and say “Meh, I’ll just get it lasered” and move on, no lessons learned. No intellectual or emotional growth needed.

I don’t agree with that. Call me crazy, I just think that it is far better for people to take time to consider the long-term consequences of things before they do them. Not always, but occasionally, especially with regards to important, life-affecting decisions.

Tattoos have been around for thousands of years, as soon as people learned to make ink they figured out how to get it into their skin. And that shit fucking hurt, man. Here’s a video of an old-school Pacific-rim method of tattooing.

Apparently it hurts less than the modern method, but it’s still not painless. The natural instinct for most people is to avoid pain, so the more tattoos you had, the higher your pain tolerance. As the techniques were perfected the art got more elaborate and you could tell different stories without having to say a word.

Skulls, Grim Reapers, demons, unicorns, roses…these are all important symbols and each carries a significance that is readily understood by a large population. And prisons have their own language told in tattoos, so it’s a good idea for anyone in the criminal lifestyle to brush up on them. As to anyone who doubts the importance of symbolism, they have no business being in a tattoo studio if you ask me.



The Shootout

For the second time Tatu Baby found herself in the Final Four, the title within her grasp. All skills would be tested as the artists used custom designs from past celebrity judges Chuey Quintanar, Troy Dennings, Corey Miller, and  Seth Ciferri.

They would also be tattooing the same canvas at the same time. Then the artists will get a fresh canvas completely open to whatever the artist wants. No excuses that way.

Each tattoo was designed to test the particular flaws of the artists, and some of them came through just fine. Others, like Kyle and Tatu Baby, struggled. Oliver came dangerously close to telling Tatu Baby that she’s been trading on her looks for the seven years she’s been in the tattoo business. She clearly has talent, and skill, but she just as clearly swerves from good to bad and routinely misses the fundamentals.

Design by Troy Dennings rendered by Tatu Baby

Kyle absolutely killed the  Seth Ciferri tattoo that he was assigned. Unfortunately, his original came out too dark and hard to read. They decided it wasn’t good enough for the final three.


The fuck is going on here?

The fuck is going on here?


The judges made their decision, and Kyle was sent on his way, which kinda sucks. America had sent Tatu Baby back, she was going to go as far as they could let her go without shafting a more deserving competitor. Yes, including Craig Foster, who just could not do Black and Gray, and that is why he won’t be in the top three.

Kyle, however, is a different story. He had been in the middle of the pack, occasionally bobbing to the top. Tatu Baby, however, kept jumping up and diving down the whole season. At least Kyle will have an opportunity for a second chance at the live finale.

The artists, on the other hand, would be going home to a Master Canvas waiting to receive a 35 hour tattoo. Let’s see what they come up with.


Public Enemy

Joshua continues to irritate the remaining contestants as he refuses to be honest with anyone. Instead he continues to play clever little games with everyone which just results in a lot of general cattiness.

Flash Challenge

The flash challenge today was two-fold:  each canvas wanted a bar code, and each artist would have to assemble their tattoo machine. Seth Ciferri provides the machines for this challenge, and he will be the guest judge the line work this week. 90 minutes was allotted to assemble their machines, then design and apply the tattoo.

Most of the artists struggled with the first part of their challenge, with Tatu Baby and Ally both failing to get their machines to work. As Seth points out, a good artist knows their tools as part of knowing the craft entire. I think this served as a wake-up call to a lot of tattoo artists because this could be the thing that costs them $100,000.

Bar code by Craig Foster

Bar Code by Craig Foster

 To others, however, this challenge meant nothing. Ally Lee being completely dismissive about the idea that she should have to know how to build a tattoo machine. If it breaks, just pick up one of your spares, right?  After all, last episode Oliver Peck said he never left the house without eight machines. Yet, I somehow doubt that he doesn’t know how to take one apart and put it back together, blindfolded. He just seems like he came up in that kind of shop.

Elimination Tattoo

Since line work is the order of the day, the judges have decided that Celtic tattoos would be just the thing. Tatu Baby and a couple others looked uncomfortable with this, and Craig decides to give the hardest tattoo (a Celtic starfish on the ribs) to Josh.

Tops and Bottoms

Josh comes out on top with his controversial (for the artists) Celtic starfish. Several of the artists, especially Jime Litwalk, were pissed.

Celtic Starfish by Joshua Hibbard

Celtic Starfish by Joshua Hibbard


The one the artists would have picked was done by Joey Hamilton.

Celtic art by Joey Hamilton

The human canvasses, however, sent Ally down for her sub-par Celtic cross.


Celtic Cross by Ally Lee

Celtic Cross by Ally Lee


She wasn’t alone at the bottom, Jason was standing right beside her. I don’t think he will be with the show too much longer. Although I think he will outlast Chris, only time reveals.