Description: Some tattoo terminology and slang can be informative, useful or just amusing, depending on how you look at it and how often your tattoo artist uses it.
Keywords: tattoo terminology, tattoo slang, tattoo words, tattoo word meanings, slang meanings, terminology explained
When you want a new tattoo regardless of whether it’s your first tattoo or your tenth you can find some of the tattoo terminology used by some tattoo artists but more frequently some of the phrases and expressions you might find online.
Terms artists generally don’t like;
Everyone has pet peeves, tattoo artists are no different, but there are some words that when used are almost certain to get on the nerves of a serious tattoo artist. It probably isn’t a great idea to use them with confidence feeling like you know what you’re doing.
Tattoo Parlour – this is an American phrase, in the UK they are known as Tattoo Shops or Tattoo Studios, not parlours.
Tattoo Gun – This is a crude machine, not like the tattoo machines that registered artists use but more frequently associated with dangerous and illegal backyard tattooists sometimes known as scratchers.
Carving / Scratching / Pounding Skin – these are slang terms for the tattooing process but are more commonly associated with poor tattooing by scratchers.
Terms for People;
As with everything else there are sometimes phrases used for specific types of people, whether that means the job role or the customer. They might not be used often, or by many tattooists, but they can be rather amusing.
Tattooist / Artist – this is the person who put the tattoo on your skin and often designs it, unless you select flash or bring your own design with you.
Scratcher – a tattooist who isn’t properly trained or works poorly, usually inks too deep or not cleanly enough and causes unnecessary pain and bleeding during the process, also more likely to cause an infection and produce a poor quality tattoo.
Cadaver – the sort of customer who doesn’t talk while getting their tattoo. Most artists appreciate a little bit of conversation.
Dealer – the sort of customer who argues the price of the tattoo.
Larva / Human Larva – children in the tattoo studio. Seriously though – don’t take your kids with you.
Showcase – the sort of customer who has a lot of tattoos by one artist.
Wrastler – the sort of customer who faints while getting a tattoo but decides to continue anyway.
Terms for Tattoos;
Different types of tattoos can be referred to as different things, they probably don’t offer any amusement the way the people terminology might but they can be useful for explaining what you want to your tattoo artist.
Sleeve – the sleeve is a tattoo that goes all the way down the arm, this is usually a combination of many tattoos that slowly come together as one. Generally sleeves will go from the shoulder to the wrist; the area that would be covered by a long sleeved shirt.
Back Piece – A tattoo that covers all or most of the back, this could be one large tattoo but is more commonly a collection of tattoos worked together to become one design.
Body Suit – The body suit is a tattoo that coders the whole body, other than the areas such as head and hands that would not be concealed by a suit.
Horimono / Irezumi – a body suit that is created with Japanese influences, this is the most common type of body suit and was originally associated with members of the Yakuza. This often includes a dragons, koi and clouds incorporated into the design, sometimes with Japanese characters, sakura and other artistic pieces depicted in a Japanese style.
Flash – A tattoo design that is relatively standard and can be resold multiple times, most Tattoo shops have a book of flash or a wall with flash designs you can choose from or take inspiration from.
Custom – a custom tattoo is a tattoo that is designed specifically for you and will only ever be owned and used by you, this is usually something your artist and you will collaborate with to produce however there are those who commission artists to produce custom tattoo designs on the internet and specific websites.
One Point Tattoo – a single, stand along tattoo, this is not mingled or incorporated into any of your other tattoos and is literally just a single point on its own.
Tribal – tribal tattoos are just black tattoos using solid lines to produce patterns or images, these were incredibly popular in the past but are currently starting to fade.
Cover / Cover up – a cover up tattoo is a tattoo that is placed over and old tattoo or sometimes a scar to hide it. These are becoming particularly popular on scars, with some famous ones appearing in stories about cancer patients who use the tattoo to feel good about their bodies again, they can also be a great way of hiding a tattoo that wasn’t well done or no longer has the meaning you want it to.
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