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Ask Guy Aitchison

Ask Guy 6

Q) I was wondering what type of markers you use to draw on the skin? Your drawing are fairly well detailed before you begin... how do you get it to stay on for long periods? I'm having trouble finding a marker in Australia that will stay on the skin. Any tips about type and ways to getting a drawing to stay for long periods on the skin will be much appreciated.

A) I've been using Sharpie markers for a long time, along with many other tattooists, and have found them to do well with their longevity during the tattoo process. I like them for several other reasons as well: they come in a wide array of non-toxic colors, and they can be used to blend already dried color on the skin, almost like using watercolors. Since my drawings on skin tend to be fully shaded renderings instead of just line drawings, this is especially helpful (see my book, Reinventing The Tattoo, for more information on this freehand technique, including video footage). I DO NOT recommend using red Sharpies or any other red marker, as these dyes, although labeled as non-toxic, tend to cause issues with the healed tattoos, sometimes years later. The rest of the Sharpie colors have been extensively tested by many tattooers without problems. I recommend starting your drawing with a light green marker to rough it in, then move to a medium and then a dark marker as you develop the drawing further; this eliminates the need for most erasing. When your drawing is done and fully dried, you have the option of using Spray Stuff (developed by Mike Devries and Mario Rosenau, who brought you Stencil Stuff) over the drawing, which can help protect it from wearing off prematurely. If you can't find Sharpies in Australia, I recommend that you put pressure on a local tattoo supplier to start carrying them. I don't, at this point, know of another line of markers that performs as well for this job.