This blog post is mostly written for tattoo artists who perform areola restorative tattoos on breast cancer survivors. Of course I invite our breast cancer warriors to read it as well, as it will help you understand the thinking process of your areola artist.
I like to approach areola tattooing in a "painterly" fashion. I don't rush, I'm not in a hurry to get done and move on to the next client. I schedule two hours for each appointment so that I can devote my full attention and focus on my canvass. If you've ever seen a portrait tattooer working on a client, you see this same concentration and focus. They NEVER rush a portrait. . They understand that they have ONE shot to get it right. The following photo is a tattoo of Tom Petty done on my leg by photorealism artist Zhang Po. It took Master Po seven hours to complete my work. He worked slowly and methodically, never rushing. His tattoo machine was on a low voltage setting so that he could gently layer color into my skin. I fell asleep at one point during the tattoo. But mostly, I paid attention to his technique. He told me that the gentler you are on the skin, the better results you will have. I've watched many other portrait and black & grey tattooers who work the same way. Notice his use of white pigment to create blonde hair, highlights on the nose, lips, glasses frames, well I could go on and on. The white used on the nose was done in the exact manner I'm going to describe in the rest of this article.
Great art takes time. How long did it take Michelangelo to paint the Sistine chapel? One year, two years, three years? No, it took Michelangelo FIVE years to complete his work. It takes time and focus to create exceptional realism. Which brings me to the subject of this blog "the use of white pigment in 3D areola tattooing". Have you tried gently layering white into your areola tattoos? I'm not talking about doing pointillism. I'm not talking necessarily about lining with white, although that can be an option as well. I'm referring to a gentle layering of white pigment to create contrast with your mid-value and dark value pigments. My favorite needle is I Love Ink's .30 3RL. This needle gives me complete control with a finger grip, so that my whip shading is effortless. Take a look at the following healed nipple tattoo. At the center of the nipple you can see the healed white pigment reflecting light:
I've been challenged a few times by other areola artists on my technique. They say that my technique will "over-work" the skin. Really ! Results speak volumes. Look at the masters like Zhang Po, Bob Tyrell, and others. They are not rushing and blasting the color in with their machines running on high voltage settings, their magnums chewing up delicate tissue. Yes I use magnums when I want to pack color in certain areas of the areola. But I still mostly work on a low voltage setting, allowing me to gently layer my white into the skin. My CPS (cycles per second) on my machine is important as well. But wait, that will be covered in another post.
When I layer white, I use a low voltage setting with a medium to short stroke setting on my machine, and around 80 to 90 CPS. Here's a screen shot of the users manual for the Axys Valkyr, and some tips on creating different effects. Notice is says "lower voltage = softer hit, shorter stroke = softer hit.
In my opinion, by experimenting with voltage, CPS and different strokes on your machine, you can achieve different effects.
My favorite white pigment? As of late it has been Raw White from the pigment company Rawpigments.co. This white goes into the skin effortlessly, and heals in beautifully. It never looks "heavy" , like some whites do. Here are a few more photos of areola work I've done with the beautiful Raw White: