Recently I have been tattooing a lot of freehand snakes. More than in the last month than I have done in my whole career. So I thought I would do a post about my process, how it works and why I tattoo this way.
First off, equipment...
Range of Markers - different types for different jobs
Spray Stuff - this fixes the ink from the pens not eh skin for longer
Dragons Blood Tattoo Balm. - instead of Vaseline. it keeps the drawing on the the skin for longer
I use a range of pens that do different things. Standard Sharpies in pale colours work best to start with. It’s good to keep a range so that I can work on different skin tones. I first mark out the general area, especially when working around existing tattoos. Then, I can then go over the area in a slightly bolder colour like pale blue (still kinda pale) to get he general shape of the snake down.
I then use a TomBow brush tip in red to confirm the thickness and curls / twists of the snake body. Also head shape, teeth, eyes etc. this is also a good time to confirm the centre line of the body. ensuring it twists and rolls with the body around bends and loops. This is the most important line I use. The scales will all flow from this point. it helps ensure the scale makes sense, and stay uniform throughout the snake.
Now the fun part! (its not fun), the scales.....
Starting at the head, where the first scales are made, and the focal point of the whole tattoo, I use the centre line as a kind of fold in the body, drawing diagonally across the body (HINT: if you find the lines are going at 90 legs to the body, your going wrong), the diagonal lines should vary from straight, to 'C' shape, to 'S' shape as you move around the body. this ensures you are getting a 3D effect or a roundness to the body of the snake and scales.
One of the hardest parts of getting scales right is around bends. This is usually always a 'C' shape curve, emanating from a fixed point. So as you work around the bend all the lines should arrive roughly at the same centre point. this gives the effect of scales rolling underneath the body and being twisted too.
Once the rough criss-crossing of the scales is done, I refine these with a fine line Edding or ball Point. ensuring they are even throughout the entire body, bigger in the middle, smaller at the head / tail. maybe adding a few detailed scales towards the head and other areas as highlights.
Leave the markers to dry on to the skin properly. Making sure the client isn't too hot, as sweat / clammy skin can ruin it. Then give them a light dusting with Spray Stuff to help fix the markers. another 10mins drying while I set up and I'm ready to tattoo!
I tattoo this way as redrawing will help me work and rework a design to make sure it perfect, but what's the point if I will have to redraw again on the client to ensure it fits properly? So, I have trust in myself that I can do this direct. It is just practice and confidence you can make it looks good. I do practice snakes, drawing heads and sections of the body to help make my snakes better, more detailed or more varied. but I don't need to draw the whole thing every time.
Below are the stage I tattoo in. This is the easiest part of the process as all the hard drawing work has been done!
If you would like any more info on freehand tattoo, drop me an email. If you would like a freehand snake tattoo for your self, this example took about 10hrs to complete. You can use the booking form to enquire about appointments and prices.