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How To Mix Your Own Tattoo Ink

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The chemical composition of a tattoo ink can be very simple.

The chemical composition of a tattoo ink can be very simple.

Paul Anderson, morguefile.com

These are instructions for preparing a tattoo ink. The tutorial should only be used by persons who have received training in aseptic techniques. Otherwise, use this information to help ask informed questions of a tattoo professional. Does your tattooist know exactly what is in his ink?

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 1-1/2 hours or so

Here's How:

  1. Use clean, sterile materials (see note below), put on a paper mask and gloves.
  2. Mix until clear: about 7/8 quart vodka, 1 tablespoon glycerine, and 1 tablespoon propylene glycol.
  3. In blender or jar that fits on blender, add an inch or two of powdered pigment and stir in enough liquid from step 2 to create a slurry.
  4. Blend on a low speed for about 15 minutes, then on a medium speed for an hour. If you are using a jar on the blender, release pressure buildup every fifteen minutes or so.
  5. Use a baster to siphon ink or pour it through a funnel into ink bottles. You may add a sterile marble or glass bead to each bottle to aid in mixing.
  6. Store the ink away from sunlight or fluorescent lighting, since ultraviolet radiation will alter some pigments.
  7. Keeping track of the amounts of liquid and powdered pigment will help you make consistent batches and improve your technique.
  8. You can use smaller amounts of glycerine and propylene glycol, but probably not larger amounts. Too much glycerine will make the ink oily and too much glycol will form a hard shell on top of the ink.
  9. If you are not conversant with aseptic techniques, don't make your own ink!

Tips:

  1. Obtain dry pigment from a tattoo supply house. It is much more difficult to order pure pigment directly from a chemical supplier. One natural pigment is carbon black, obtained from completely burning wood.
  2. You may substitute Listerine or witch hazel for the vodka. Some people use distilled water. I don't recommend rubbing alcohol or methanol. Water is not antibacterial.
  3. While your supplies should be clean and sterile, do not heat-sterilize pigments or their mixtures. The pigment chemistry will change and may become toxic.
  4. Although pigments normally are not toxic, you need a mask because breathing pigment particles can cause permanent lung damage.
  5. You can use mason jars directly on the blender as long as you unscrew them periodically during mixing to prevent overpressure breakage from heating.

What You Need:

  • Dry Pigment
  • Vodka
  • Glycerine, medical grade
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Blender
  • Safety Equipment
  • Sterile Ink Bottles

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