No, it is very difficult to tattoo yourself. There are physical and psychological barriers you have to overcome when tattooing yourself. It isn’t easy at all.
To tattoo yourself there are some major problems that you will face. It is not just difficult, if you do it wrong it can be dangerous and cause physical damage.
If you have ever tried cutting your own hair you will know that keeping everything even is very hard. If you have a beard you will know how easy it is to end up with a much smaller beard than you planned because you just kept trying to even it up. Now imagine that problem when you are doing a tattoo.
If I Am Good At Drawing Can I Tattoo Myself?
You might be a really competent artist with excellent drawing ability, but most tattooists have spent years developing their skills. Tattooing is not something that you should try and learn just from watching instructions videos.
It might look easy but it isn’t. Yes you can go and buy a tattoo gun and inks easily enough, but using them well is something that is best learned from a professional who has experience. The ink needs to be worked into a very specific layer of the skin called the dermis.
If you don’t go into the skin deep enough the tattoo wont last very long. If you go too deep then the ink can spread through the fat layer and will look awful.
Learning how to work the ink deep enough to get vivid color without going too deep is not easy. Being a great artist will not give you these skills. Going too deep can also cause scar tissue which will also make the tattoo difficult to cover.
It is also physically demanding to try and get yourself into a position where you are able to tattoo the area of your body you want to.
Designing and drawing your own tattoo for an experienced artist to tattoo you is a different matter. In our article Drawing tattoos for beginners we teach you how to best present your work for the tattoo artist.
Is It A Good Idea To Tattoo Yourself?
No, it’s not a good idea to tattoo yourself, especially if you aren’t an experienced tattoo artist. Even if you are a good tattoo artist there are problems you will face when tattooing yourself that you don’t need to consider when tattooing someone else.
There is the physical problem of getting into the right position. Trying to tattoo yourself on your arm means you loose use of your second hand which means you can’t stretch the skin. Even tattooing your own leg can be hard unless you are very flexible.
Also, when your body experiences pain, it has an immediate reaction that tries to make you stop what you are doing. This can be overcome, but it makes it very difficult to go in far enough for the ink to penetrate the dermis properly. This can be ignored for a while, but not many people can overcome it for long enough to finish anything but a small, simple tattoo.
Things To Consider Before Tattooing Yourself
If you aren’t already a tattoo artist there are many more things to consider. No tattoo looks the same when it has healed as it does when it is first done. The color of the ink in the bottle is not the same as how it will look in the finished tattoo.
Keeping lines and color even in a tattoo is very hard when your own body’s reactions are telling you to stop what you are doing. Lines can easily end up looking bad with thicker and thinner sections. Shading can also be particularly hard for an inexperienced tattoo artist.
Some colors just have more pigment in than others. An experienced tattooist will know how to use the inks they have, to get the best results. Even just resting your hand on the tattoo when the ink is still wet will affect the final results.
Everyone has a different skin type too. This will affect the way the colors look when the tattoo heals. The right colors for one person will not work so well on another persons skin.
The best idea is always to leave the job to a professional. Saving some money is great, but living with a bad tattoo is not. If you start and find it hard, don’t struggle on. A good tattoo studio will finish the tattoo and almost certainly make a better job of it.
Take time to find a good artist. In our article How to Find the Right Tattoo Artist we have some tips on how.
If you need some inspiration for the tattoo you can find some great articles here.
Can I Tattoo Myself At Home Legally?
Yes, you can tattoo yourself at home legally, but in general for the reasons detailed above it isn’t a good idea. In addition to the reasons above there are health and safety considerations you need to think about.
A tattoo creates puncture wounds in the skin over and over again. This means that any bacteria has an easy route into the blood of the person being tattooed. This increases the risk of infection and however clean you try to make your home it will never be truly sterile.
This can easily lead to skin infections which will affect the tattoo. At worst this can lead to serious infections like cellulitis or septicaemia which can both be life threatening.
A good tattoo artist knows how to minimise these risks. Their business depends on them maintaining a hygienic work space and knowing how to protect their customers from the risks.
A tattoo studio should be licenced and certified as safe by the local, municipal or national trading standards organisation.
This licence to trade as a tattooist will not be issued unless the studio has all the relevant safety equipment in place and keep the environment hygienically clean.
What Will I Need To Tattoo Myself?
If you do decide that you are going to tattoo yourself at home you need to treat everything in the room as a potential source of infection. Use sterilised stainless steel trays for all equipment and do not use the area for anything else during the time you are tattooing.
Basic equipment you will need to tattoo yourself
1- Paper towels and sterilising wipes are essential and you will need a good bin to dispose of them safely.
2- Fresh distilled water in sterilised containers. You will need at least two open tubs. One for washing the needles during use and one for diluting any ink when necessary.
3- Green Soap is something that is also essential and you will find it in every tattoo studio. It is a concentrated sterile liquid soap. You will need to dilute it for use. Use fresh distilled water to avoid any contaminants. The soap is used to clean and shave the area to be tattooed and contains glycerin and vegetable oil. You will also need it to clean any excess ink off the area being tattooed and to clean the tattoo up after you have finished.
4- A tub of petroleum jelly and spreader sticks to lubricate and moisturise the skin.
5- Aftercare ointment for treating the skin after the tattoo is finished.
6- Stencil paper for transferring the design from the paper to your skin.
7- You will need two good tattoo guns (one for lining and one for shading).
8- Good quality inks.
9- Various needles. Fine liners for line work, flat bars for shading and magnums for color packing.
10- Grips for the tattoo guns. These should be comfortable in the hand and provide a counterweight for the body of the tattoo gun.
11- Surgical gloves to wear at all times when you are tattooing.
12- A sonic bath and an autoclave for cleaning and sterilising equipment
If you add up the cost of the equipment, the price of a home done tattoo will not look so cheap after all.