Now that we’re in lockdown, you’d think the world would slow down. Well not when you’re in the tech industry. In fact, it got quicker and a little overwhelming to be honest. Every day it’s just slack threads after slacks threads and endless video calls. Don’t get me started when the internet fails me. I honestly have a love/hate relationship with technology at this point, I kid you not. 

Being a designer in tech, I find it challenging to be inspired or to stay creative especially during lockdown. One of the ways I stay creative is doing hand poked tattoos.

Why Hand Poked tattoos?

I started learning hand poked tattoos in 2019. The reason why I picked that up was that I was interested in inflicting pain on others – No, I’m kidding. LOL. 😂  I was hoping to learn a new skill and came across a site that was selling hand poked tattoo kits, so I just bought it. I’m also a big fan of body art. To me, it’s a form of self expression and also, creating a personal narrative through tattoos interests me so much when I started designing my own tattoos and telling my story through them. So, I wanted to design them for people as well, because it brings a lot of satisfaction and motivation to be able to produce something meaningful for someone and what’s even cooler is that it stays forever.

"Every poke is permanent. – Sounds like a lot of pressure but it teaches me to slow down and it trains my patience and concentration, which is exactly what I need."

Patience and concentration

The first person I tattooed on was myself. I know, crazy. But that is how I think it should be. That’s how I learn to control the pressure I apply and how deep I want the needle to puncture into the skin, in order to achieve a good result. I used to practice on fake synthetic skin but it was not the same. Other artists practice on pigskin as it is the closest to human skin but I would rather eat them. Sorry not sorry. 🤷‍♀️

Plus, I am in complete control of the needle. Every poke is permanent. – Sounds like a lot of pressure but it teaches me to slow down and it trains my patience and concentration, which is exactly what I need.

The challenges

I think the biggest challenge is tattooing on different skin types and having to switch between the pressure and speed. One of my clients has really soft skin and I had to be extra gentle and go really slowly so as to not bruise her skin. However, there was another client who has really firm skin that was so easy to tattoo on. So, just imagine using a needle to poke a soft tofu and a firm tofu many times and see which falls apart first. Therefore, being adaptive to different skin types as I tattoo and also having a steady hand helps in tackling this challenge.

The similarities

I guess what’s similar between being a UI designer & doing hand poked tattoos is collaboration. Well, of course, the perfect brief is when the client says “I’d like a tattoo, anything is cool.” – Literally every designer’s dream. But what I also enjoy is designing the tattoo together with my client – Collaboration is key.

My process starts from:

1. Getting a brief design from the client and where they want the tattoo inked.

2. Collaboration Part 1 – Design
From there, I’ll do some research, sketch a few variations and run it past the client to make sure I’m on the right track. We then tweak and adjust the fine details of the design together.

3. Collaboration Part 2 – Size
Once the design is confirmed, I’ll print them in 3 different sizes (sometimes more) to test the placement. It’s just like choosing the right couch size for your living room. 

4. Collaboration Part 3 – Placement
When the size is confirmed, I’ll then create a stencil to transfer the design onto the skin accurately. This takes a little back and forth. It’s like moving pixels – a little to the left, a little to the right, you get the gist.

5. When the client confirms the placement, then the pain tattooing begins.

The differences

But I guess, in comparison to being a UI designer, there are also a few differences.

Time – Being in a fast paced industry, the time that each team player has in a project to accomplish their tasks is determined by the length of the project and the deadline from the clients. My designs are one of the dependencies of a developer’s work progress. So if I take my own sweet time to design something, the developer will have less time to build. 

Ownership – With hand-poked tattoos, on the other hand, I’m the designer, I’m the developer and I’m also the printer. – How amazing is that? This gives me the power to ensure that every dot of ink that is punctured into my client’s skin is absolutely considered because there’s no undo button. 😬

Check out my Instagram for my other tattoo works.
If you’re in Melbourne and want to get inked by me, hit me up! :nerd_face:

Jo Tan

Senior UI Designer,Melbourne

Jo Tan

Senior UI Designer,Melbourne