Knowing your tattoo/piercing lingo can really help when you are in a studio talking to an artist. He or she may use certain terms and slang that you don’t fully understand.

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Here is the list of tattoo/piercing terms and slang:

 

  • Abstract - This is a modern style of art, it usually doesn’t have any type of outline or any real structure. It breaks away from the traditional representation of animals, people, and the world around us.

  • Aftercare - The directions that the tattoo artist gives you for keeping infection and bacteria out of a new tattoo. After you get a tattoo, make sure you follow the tattoo aftercare instructions exactly.

  • American Traditional - refers to a Western or traditional American tattoo style featuring bold black outlines and a limited color palette

  • Apprentice - The bitch of the tattoo shop. The person who answers phones, constantly does bitch work, cleans up after everyone including themselves and gets paid $0. A tattoo apprentice can be male or female, either way you're still a bitch.

  • Autoclave – A machine that uses high pressure and hot water to sterilize equipment used for tattooing before and after each session.

  • Bio-Mechanical - A modern form of art, which depicts the human anatomy in the form of mechanical parts.

  • Black Work/Black& Grey - A style of tattooing that uses only black ink in varying shades and typically uses a single needle

  • Blowout - A tattoo artist with heavy handedness can allow the needle to go too deep into the skin or at a slanted angle which allows the ink to spread to neighboring tissue.

  • Body Suit – A full body tattoo that usually starts at the neck or collarbone and covers the entire body to the ankles, hands and feet do not usually get tattooed.

  • Bridge piercing – A horizontal surface piercing of the tissue at the bridge of the nose.

  • Cadaver – Someone who does not talk while getting a tattoo.

  • Canvas – Your body, your skin, the spot getting the tattoo. ‘The tattoo artist is using you as their canvas.’

  • Captive Bead Ring (CBR) – A ring-shaped style of body jewelry with a gap that holds a bead or other decorative object that can be removed to insert and remove the ring from a body piercing

  • Cheapskate - Somebody who buys cheap in favor of higher quality or better stuff. ‘FUCK $20 TATTOOS!’

  • Christina piercing – A vertical surface piercing placed through the pubic mound, above the female clitoris.

  • Coil - Tattoo machines use electromagnetic coils to move an armature bar up and down.

  • Conch piercing – A piercing of the ear conch, which is the lower inner ear cartilage, in between the earlobe and the upper rim of the ear.

  • Copy machine – A tattooist with limited artist ability, but who can copy and tattoo another person’s art.

  • Cover up – The use of new tattoo art to cover an older one up.

  • Crispy – A word used to describe a tattoo with clean, crisp lines.

  • Custom – Artwork that has been designed especially for you or altered by the artist giving the tattoo.

  • Dahlia piercing – A pair of piercings placed to the left and right sides of either corner of the mouth (also known as Dahlia bites or Joker bites). This piercing gets its name from the grisly Black Dahlia murder, in which the victim's mouth was cut at the corners.

  • Dealers – Customers who try to bid down the price of their tattoo, like they are at an auction.

  • Dermis - The thick layer of living tissue below the epidermis that forms the true skin, containing blood capillaries, nerve endings, sweat glands, hair follicles, and other structures.

  • Devotion tattoo – A tattoo that symbolizes love, death or that symbolizes just about anything.

  • Dot Work or Stippling - A creation of a pattern with varying solidity or shading using small dots or specks, rather than using lines or solid areas.

  • Flash – Legally reproduced sheets of artwork that hang on the walls of most tattoo shops and studio’s.

  • Free Hand - When a tattoo artist draws a tattoo design directly onto a client's skin without using a stencil.

  • Green Soap -Professional tattoo artists use the brand Tincture of Green Soap before, during and after a tattoo procedure. A medical level soap, green soap is not available in stores, only from medical and tattoo supply companies. It is called "green soap" by tattoo artists, who place the soap into a spray bottle and dilute the soap with water for use during/after the tattoo.

  • Gray Wash - This is when the black ink is diluted to lighten up the tint. Usually the black ink is diluted at different degrees to have a wide range of shading densities.

  • Gun – An inappropriate slang term often used for the tattoo machine, the instrument made of a door bell assembly and a needle used for tattooing.

  • Gang tattoo – Tattoos done to represent gang affiliations.

  • Holidays - Lighter, or not filled in, spots in a tattoo’s shading or line-work.

  • Hood piercing – A piercing of a women’s clitoris/clitoris hood. This is the most popular type of vaginal piercing.

  • Human Larva – Children running around a tattoo studio.

  • 'Ink' – Another name for a tattoo or the process of tattooing.

  • Irons – A tattoo artist affectionately will refer to a tattoo machine as the irons.

  • Jailhouse – A tattoo that usually is done with a make shift gun at home or in jail.

  • Labret piercing – A type of lip piercing that's centered below the lower lip.

  • Lady Luck tattoos – A beautiful woman usually placed in the middle of other signs of good fortune like a horse shoe, or rabbit’s foot.

  • Mag – A mag is a tattoo needle with two rows, one on top of the other.

  • Medusa piercing – A piercing which is placed centrally below the septum of the nose and above the upper lip.

  • Monroe piercing – A piercing placed through the left or right side of the upper lip, mimicking an upper lip mole.

  • New Skool (School) - A tattooing style originating as early as the 1970s and influenced by some features of old school tattooing in the United States. The style is often characterized using heavy outlines, vivid colors, and exaggerated depictions of the subject.

  • Old English – The most popular lettering font for tattoos.

  • Old Skool (School) - A Western or traditional American tattoo style featuring bold black outlines and a limited color palette.

  • Pounding Skin – Yet another term for the tattooing process.

  • Pussyball – A tennis ball given to customers to squeeze while getting a tattoo because they will not stop whining.

  • Realism - Realistic tattoos are inspired by the Realism Art Movement which was launched in France in the 1850s. The objective of Realism was to fight the tendencies of the previous Romantic period, which focused on fancier subjects and included extreme emotionalism and drama.

  • Rook piercing – An ear piercing placed through the upper-inner rim of ear cartilage that runs over top where a daith piercing would be placed, above the conch.

  • Rotary Machine - A traditional coil tattoo machine utilizes electromagnetic current passed through a pair of coils to trigger a draw and release of the machine's armature bar. 

  • Saturation - A measurement of the level of ink and color in a tattoo that has absorbed successfully into a client's skin.

  • Sharps Container - A hard plastic container that is used to safely dispose of hypodermic needles and other sharp medical instruments.

  • Stencil - A tattoo artist creates a stencil of the tattoo design before he takes a needle to the skin. The artist draws the stencil with a special ink that transfers to the skin.

  • Scabbing - As the skin heals, it is completely normal for a tattoo to have some light scabbing or have white, flaky skin develop over it. At this point it time, it is usually extremely itchy as well. ... It means that your skin is repairing itself.

  • Scratcher - An awful tattoo artist that inks too deep or has an unsteady hand, usually uneducated and working out of his mom’s basement.

  • Showcase – A customer who wears a lot of one artist’s work.

  • Sleeve – A full arm tattoo that runs all the way around the arm to the shoulder. 

  • Smiley piercing – A type of web piercing placed through the upper lip frenulum, which connects the upper gums to the inner upper lip.

  • Snug piercing – A piercing of the antihelix, which is the rim of cartilage that runs along the outer edge of the conch.

  • Stencils – Template of a tattoo that is applied to the skin, so the tattooist has a basic outline.

  • Surface piercing – A type of piercing that goes beneath the surface of the skin, through the dermis, and that has no natural entry or exit points the way that lip and ear piercings do.

  • Tac – Another name for a tattoo, as in tac it on.

  • The Look – The smile a customer gets after first looking at the finished tattoo and loving it.

  • Tight – A way to describe a great tattoo.

  • Tragus piercing – A piercing of the tragus, which is the flap of cartilage that protrudes from the side of the head where the center of the ear connects to the head.

  • Trash Polka - a style of tattoo art that began at Buena Vista Tattoo Club in Würzburg, Germany by Simone Plaff and Volko Merschky. The style resembles fine art collages in that in combines realistic images with smears, smudges, and kinetic designs that generate a discordant, chaotic look to the piece

  • Tramp stamp – A tattoo done on the lower back.

  • Tribal – Artwork of all one color usually designs without much detail.

  • Tubes, Tips & Grips - Tattoo tubes, tips and grips are core elements in every tattoo artist's toolkit.

  • Watercolor - Bright, bold, abstract-not for the traditionalist or the wallflower-color. The style of watercolor ink is modeled after the style watercolor painting in which water is the vehicle for the pigment rather than oil. ... A watercolor tattoo is applied the same way any other tattoo would be.

  • Wook – A tattoo artist or client with questionable hygiene, emitting offensive odor.

  • Works – Needles and tubes used by a tattoo artist.

  • Wrastler – A person who is getting a tattoo who faints and comes up fighting.

  • Yo Man – A potential customer who comes in and says, “Yo man. I got $25. What tattoo can I get?”

 

This list of tattoo/piercing terms should help when asking questions at a studio. There are several terms used that have been derived from other words or simply made up. If you do not understand something in the process of the tattoo/piercing, do not be afraid to speak up. The artist wants you to be 100% happy and you should be well informed. The communication between you and the artist can mean the difference between a good tattoo/piercing and a mistake.

© 2019 by Red Dragon Tattoo & Piercing