Ever been confused by certain phrases your tattoo artist is using? Maybe you’ve been too afraid to ask what certain words mean?

If you’re new to the tattooing world or just want more information about the inking practice, we’ve got a three-part glossary for you to gain a better understanding of the words your tattooist is using. Here’s our first part, from A-F.


Aftercare is one of the most important words your tattoo artist will say to you, and it’s definitely one you shouldn’t ignore. Aftercare involves everything you do to your tattoo while it’s in its healing process. This could involve creams, gentle washing and wearing baggy clothes.


Antiseptic helps to clean the body of things that could contaminate an area, like bacteria. Your tattooist will wipe the area that you’re about to get tattooed with antiseptic before they begin. This will help fight any infections caused by external factors.


An autoclave is essential in a tattoo parlour as it cleans and sterilises any tattoo equipment before and after it’s been used.


This is certainly not a word you want to hear after you’ve gotten a tattoo. A blowout is when the ink is tattooed too deeply into the skin. It creates a cloud-esque look around the design, which ruins the aesthetic of the tattoo.


The coil is a type of tattoo machine used in parlours. It’s the most common mechanism used and is powered by an electromagnetic coil.


A cosmetic tattoo is one that enhances aesthetics, usually for make-up purposes. For example, many individuals get their eyebrows or lips tattooed on for a more permanent look.

Cover-Up Tattoo

A cover-up tattoo does exactly what it says on the tin. It completely covers or is a reworked design of an old tattoo. People usually choose to get a cover-up tattoo if the original design has faded, or they really dislike it.


This is the second layer of skin that the ink is tattooed on to. It takes a lot longer for the cells on this layer to regenerate, so that’s why anything that gets tattooed onto it, stays somewhat permanently.


Disinfectants are applied to surface areas to destroy potentially harmful microorganisms. They are used throughout tattoo parlours to keep the shop clean.


Dotwork is a popular tattoo style that involves the artist tattooing dots that make up a design. It’s very aesthetically pleasing and works well with geometric style designs.


This is the first layer of your skin, that protects the dermis below it. Tattoo needles penetrate through this to get to the second layer. It acts as a barrier to prevent bacteria and harmful infections to the skin, so is cleaned with antiseptic before tattooing begins.


Flash is a collection of pre-designed images that tattoo artists can purchase and use as templates. They are normally used to showcase around parlours but are useful for apprentices to use too.

Free Hand

Free hand tattooing is when the artist tattoos straight onto the skin without using a stencil.

Written by Wayne Grant