Tattoos have been around for a very long time. They have been used for thousands of years for many different reasons. It is believed that tattoos can be linked to treating arthritis in ancient days, and Tofi women wore swirl patterns on their faces to indicate their family lineage. Kat Von D currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most tattoos given in just 24 hours, which is 400. Tattoos have been used to express everything from personal interests to rites of passage. But creates a tattoo?
Ink Carriers and Colorants
Tattoo inks are basically solutions that are comprised of a carrier and a colorant. The carrier is the fluid that is used to get the colorant to the desired location for the application. It can contain water with hazel, glycerin, or isopropyl alcohol.
Artists and Their Inks
Tattoo inks can be made of many different ingredients, and it can be hard to tell for certain exactly what an ink is made of. The only way to really know what tattoo ink is made of is if a professional tattoo artist mixes their own inks from pigments and they are willing to share their secrets. Then they would know the composition of the inks.
Metal in the Mix
Most tattoo inks are not really inks but are actually metal salts. Some pigments are even plastics, and some are vegetable dyes as well. The pigment is what gives the dye its color. The job of the carrier is to help disinfect the pigment suspension, make it easier to apply, and keep it all evenly mixed.
The Rise of Organic Pigments
Tattoo inks used to be derived from pretty much anything, such as minerals and other geological sources. These days, organic pigments are the most commonly used. In fact, over 80% of the colorants used in our day and age are carbon-based. Tattoo inks these days also contain many additives to help keep pigments in suspension and to prevent microorganism growth.
Different Colors Contain Different Materials
Natural black is made from magnetic crystals, powdered jet, bone black, wustite, and amorphous carbon from combustion. Brown is made from iron oxides mixed with clay and red is made from iron oxide. Orange is made from organics, and yellow pigments come from plants in the ginger family. Green comes from mixtures like potassium ferrocyanide and ferric ferrocyanide.
Blue pigments come from minerals such as copper carbonate, calcium copper silicate, and cobalt aluminum oxides. Violets are especially photoreactive and can lose their color after exposure to light, but purple pigments made from Dioxazine and carbazole are the most stable. White pigments can be derived from rutile and anatase. They are typically used on their own or diluted to help dispel their intensity. The least reactive white pigments are titanium oxides.
Tattoos are an Art Form
Regardless of what goes in them, tattoos remain a popular way to express and communicate stories without ever saying a word. A picture is worth a thousand words and bodies are canvases ready for living art. Tattoos can be used to remember loved ones, to celebrate life, or to reflect one’s personal interests. They’re an art form that has evolved over many decades of life on earth, and one that is still evolving today.
If you’re interested in learning more about the art of tattoos, visit the San Marcos Tattoo Emporium in San Marcos, TX.