How to Set Up and Tear Down a Tattoo Station

Every new tattoo artist has to learn how to set up and tear down their station in a sanitary way. If you don’t use the proper safety precautions, you put your client and yourself at risk for bloodborne pathogens.

This article will cover every step you need to take to tattoo safely. We recommend practicing this process with fake skin if you’re at home. 

If you are tattooing actual customers, you should be in a sterile environment with nonporous floors and furniture.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to set up and break down your tattooing station
  • Which products you need to tattoo safely
  • How to keep your clients and yourself safe

Make sure to wash your hands at the beginning and the end of the setup process. Anytime you're going to put on gloves or you take off gloves, you want to make sure you're washing your hands with antibacterial soap.

The method in this article is the “one dirty hand, one clean hand” method. So with one hand, you’ll be touching all of the things that will come in contact with blood, ink, and anything else that could cause cross contamination. 

Your dominant hand won’t touch anything besides the clean stuff that is already sterile.

Cover Up the Station

After you’ve sterilized your work environment with MadaCide (let MadaCide sit for 5 minutes before wiping away), washed your hands, and put on gloves, you want to use a dental bib or saran wrap to cover up your station so it stays as sterile as physically possible. 

Even if the barrier remains perfect and catches all the ink, blood, etc. during the tattoo, you will still need to use MadaCide or CaviCide whenever you are done.

Protect Your Machine

You need to set up and completely cover your machine. For example, in the video above, the Cheyenne Sol Nova would be covered with a pen machine sleeve. However, because there’s a big hole in the bottom (and ink and blood can still get into it), you would want to put a piece of barrier film over the top and squeeze the film down to secure it. You can then wrap that with sports wrap.

Bottle Bags

Make sure that your soap bottle is completely wrapped.

Paper Towels

Rip off the paper towels you’ll need for the tattoo and place them on your station.

Vaseline

Put Vaseline, Green Glide, etc. onto your station using a popsicle stick so you’re not actually touching it. Putting a little bit on your station will give your ink caps something to stick to.

Ink Caps

The number of ink caps you’ll need depends on what you’ll need for the tattoo. If you only need a little bit of a color, you can use a smaller ink cap.

Needles

Place your cartridges (still in their packaging) onto your station.

Pour the Ink

Shake up your ink before you pour it by putting a paper towel on the top so it doesn’t spray everywhere. 

When pouring ink, we recommend doing it in the same order every time. For example, starting from the right with straight black, and then working your way down for gray wash (eight, six, and three drops, then distilled water). This way, you’ll never have to guess which graywash is lighter or darker.

Gloves

Place a fresh pair of gloves on your station for the tattooing process.

Wrap Your Arm Rest

Wrap your arm rest with saran wrap or barrier film. Make sure it’s covered up so everything stays sterile underneath and you can clean it well with MadaCide or CaviCide when you’re done.

Put a Paper Towel on the Arm Rest

You can put a paper towel down on the arm rest. This will catch extra ink, blood, plasma, sweat, etc. so it doesn’t drip onto the floor.

Station Breakdown

Wash Your Hands and Put On New Gloves

After you’re done tattooing, make sure your hands are washed and put on a new pair of gloves. 

When you’re breaking down your station, we recommend using the “one dirty hand, one clean hand” method. 

If you are right-hand dominant, we’d recommend having your left hand be the “dirty” hand and your right hand be the “clean” hand. (The instructions below will use the right hand as the “clean” hand and the left hand as the “dirty” hand.)

Remove the Soap Bottle From the Bottle Bag

Use your left hand to pick up the bottle (around the dirty bottle bag) and use the finger of your right hand to hook the clean top part of the bottle and pull it out of the dirty bottle bag.

Remove the Tattoo Machine from the Machine Bag

Use your left hand to pick up your machine (around the dirty machine bag) and work the bag down with your left hand. Hold the uncovered part of your machine with your right hand. Use your left hand to remove the needle cartridge and machine bag.

Throw Away Barriers and Disposables

At this point, everything else needs to be thrown away. Use your dirty hand to wrap everything up and dispose of it in the trash or appropriate biohazard container. (Needles and razors go in a sharps biohazard container).

Remove Your Dirty Glove and Clean with MadaCide

Once you’ve disposed of all trash, take off the dirty glove. Spray everything down with MadaCide. Let the MadaCide stay on for five minutes. MadaCide can be harsh on skin, so use your hand with the clean glove on to wipe your station down with paper towels.

Take your glove off and your station is ready to go for your next tattoo.

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

Learning to tattoo safely is an important step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

However, finding the straight-forward information you need to progress is difficult. And with so much out there online, it’s hard to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.

This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to start tattooing full time faster…

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
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  • Private mastermind community
AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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