Home Tattoo Station Setup

As a beginner tattoo artist, the more practice you get, the faster you’ll learn. That’s why it’s helpful to be able to practice tattooing fake skins in your home.

Even though you’re in a house and not in a tattoo studio, you still want to practice tattooing exactly how you’d tattoo a client. That means having a proper tattoo station setup. 

If you’re not sure how to create a tattoo station that is exactly like one you’d use in a tattoo shop, you’re in the right place. 

In this article, we’ll break down:

  • All the equipment you need for a tattoo station
  • How to set up your plastic barriers
  • How to prepare and pour ink the right way

How to Make an At-Home Tattoo Station

To create a tattoo setup, you’ll want to make sure you have all the equipment you’ll use during a tattoo session. Other than your fake skins, you will need:

  • Vaseline
  • Tongue Depressor
  • Paper Towels
  • Dental Bib
  • Plastic Barriers
  • Spray Bottle
  • Green Soap (or Dial Soap) Solution
  • Bottle bag
  • Paper Towels
  • Ink Caps
  • Tattoo Ink
  • Tattoo Machine
  • Needle Cartridges
  • Machine Bag
  • Grip Tape
  • Stencil Paper (we recommend Spirit Stencil Paper)
  • Stencil Primer (Speed Stick can be used on fake skins)
  • Nitrile gloves

Note:

Even if you are tattooing fake skins, you should be wearing gloves. This not only makes your fake skin tattooing session feel more like the real thing, but it will also keep ink and stencil stuff from getting on your hands (it is very difficult to wash off). 

You should also wear gloves while you’re setting up your station. (You’ll put on a new pair of gloves before you begin the tattoo.)

2

Lay Down Plastic Barriers

Wrap everything with plastic barriers (we recommend Saran wrap) exactly like you would if you were tattooing yourself or a client in a tattoo shop

Wrapping up everything that you are going to use during the tattooing process is important, even if you’re just working on fake skins, because it will help your set up process become muscle memory. (This will keep you from forgetting anything important when you do start tattooing real skin). 

You can spray some water on your station’s surface before laying down your Saran wrap to give it something to stick to. This keeps it from sliding around while you’re working on your fake skins. 

Place your dental bib on top of the plastic wrap.

3

Put on Your Bottle Bag

Place a bottle bag on your soap bottle and set it down on your station. Some people have a bad habit of wrapping the bottle from the top. This is not safe. If the bottom of your bottle is exposed, then when you put the bottle back down on your station, it will be exposed to any blood, plasma, ink, etc. that is on your station. 

The top of the bottle can be open because you will not touch that part of the bottle while you’re tattooing.

4

Wrap Your Tattoo Machine

How you wrap your tattoo machine will vary, depending on the style of machine you use. For pen machines (like the Cheyenne SOL Nova Unlimited that Brandon is using in the video), you will use a pen machine bag. 

Then, use grip tape (or sports wrap) to wrap the grip as many times as you like until it’s comfortable for you. 

Then, put your needle cartridge in the top. If your machine uses a clip cord, make sure you wrap it with a clip cord cover sleeve.

Note:

No matter how well you wrap your machine, ink and plasma will still get into the grip. If your pen machine does not come with a disposable grip option you must have an autoclave to properly clean the machine between clients. When you’re using fake skins, you can just use a barrier to keep ink from getting all over the machine.

5

Set Out Miscellaneous Tattoo Equipment

Paper Towels: Tear off and fold several paper towels so they are ready to go during the tattooing process. 

Vaseline: Using a tongue depressor, put down some Vaseline on your dental bib. You’ll be using it to protect your stencil and to clean your fake skin at the end of the tattoo. Then, use the tongue depressor to put a line of Vaseline down for your ink caps.

Ink Caps: Set out as many ink caps as you will need for the tattoo. Press the bottom of the ink cap into the Vaseline you put out to keep them from moving or spilling while you’re tattooing. 

6

Pour Tattoo Ink

Always shake up your ink bottles before you pour them. The best way to shake your ink without accidentally spraying it is to hold a paper towel over the tip.

Then, you’ll pour your tattoo ink and/or mix your gray wash.

In the video, Brandon has one ink cap of solid black, one ink cap with six drops of black ink, and one ink cap with three drops of black ink. Make sure to use witch hazel or distilled water to fill the gray wash caps to the top with water. 

We recommend having a separate bottle with distilled water for this purpose. This is not the same as your soap bottle. Make sure your bottles are clearly labeled. 

7

Lay Down Your Fake Skin

Now you’ll want to put the fake skin you’ll be tattooing on the station. We recommend using your stencil paper and stencil primer to place your stencil on the skin a few hours before you plan to start tattooing, since it’s very easy to rub a stencil off of fake skin. 

Our favorite fake skin brands are Reelskin, Frankenskins, and Pound of Flesh.

8

Pick Out Your Tattoo Needles

You want to make sure you’ve picked out which needles you’re going to use before the tattoo so you can save time and avoid any cross contamination with your clean equipment during the tattoo. You’ll also want to set out your disposable grip if you’re using one.

In the video, Brandon picked out an 11 Round Liner and a 15 Curved Mag. 

Before you actually start tattooing, you want to make sure that you put your cartridge in your machine and set your needle exactly where you like it.

Set Up Your Station the Same Way Every Time

Any time you set up your tattoo station, try to do it exactly the same way every single time. This will give you muscle memory so you know where everything should go without having to think about it. This will keep you from forgetting important items and safety precautions, even if you’re anxious or tired. 

For example, if you set up your gray wash the same way every time, you’ll never accidentally use a darker or lighter wash.

Additional Considerations for Real Skin

The setup in this article is for fake skins only. If you’re tattooing human skin (even your own) you would never want to use a wooden table, work near food or carpeting, etc. 

You must use a metal table that you can sterilize with Madacide or CaviCide. Additionally, the chairs and floor must also be able to be sterilized.

Become a Tattoo Artist With the Artist Accelerator Program

Having a career in tattooing is not only fulfilling, but it’s also the most stable way to make a living as an artist. However, for decades, the process to become a tattoo artist has been notoriously difficult. 

The apprenticeship process requires aspiring tattoo artists to work 50-60 hours a week without pay for 2-4 years. That, combined with the toxic culture of abusing apprentices, makes getting into the industry almost impossible for newcomers. 

That’s why we created the Artist Accelerator Program. Our online course provides a simple, structured way of learning to tattoo that has been proven to work by over 2500 successful students, with many of them having gone on to open their own shops all around the world. 

Inside the program, we’ll take you through every step of the tattooing process in 9 clear, easy-to-follow modules and support you along the way within the Tattooing 101 Mastermind online community.

In the Mastermind group, you’ll collaborate with other students, get answers to your questions, and receive personalized video feedback on your artwork and tattoos from professional tattoo artists. With this friendly community of both new and experienced tattoo artists, you’ll never be stuck again. 

When you join the Artist Accelerator Program, you’ll have instant access to the full course and the Mastermind community, as well as our 30-Day Flash Challenge and recorded interviews with tattoo artists from all over the world. 

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

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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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