What's a Line Drawing?

You may not know much about the process of receiving a tattoo. There are many things that go into making a good tattoo and one of those things is preparation. Now you need to understand that different artists work in different ways and we'll cover the main methods here. Some artists may even blend between the following methods:

1. Absolute Freehand- There are a few rare tattooists out there that will just start tattooing directly onto your skin without any drawing at all. This is a very risky method and we highly recommend researching any artist that claims this ability very well. They may have a specialty that they are successful with this method while they are just plain not very good at others. 

2. Freehand- Some tattooists will draw your design on you using skin pens or skin markers (single use is a must). Though not as risky as absolute freehand we still recommend researching your artist before taking this road as well. This method will at least give you something roughly to look at and see how it will fit or flow on your body. You can look at the images below for an idea of how this works.

a. Sketch and Refine.
Freehand Sketch
b.Lines are applied.
c. The design is shaded.
Finished Design

3. Custom Pre-drawn- Quite a few tattooists will design your tattoo, typically for a fee, and make a line drawing in order to make a stencil out of it. This stencil will then be applied to your skin with one of many methods (not a deodorant stick, once again single use is very important) and it will give them a guide to use upon your skin. 

4. Other Artwork/Flash- The vast majority of tattooists will take designs that they either have in stock or that you bring in and will make a line drawing from them. Their stock images will typically have line drawings already but other artwork will require one to be made. This is done either digitally or by tracing the image manually. If you have found a design that you like and have a line drawing already it will greatly simplify this process.

Here we have the base image of a cross.

And here we have the line drawing of that same design. This is used for the stencil and greatly simplifies the process.

So as you can see line drawings are involved in two of the four ways that a tattoo is typically done.They are a simplified version of the design that shows the lines or edges of the tattoo and sometimes even gradient markings to help the artist see how the contours flow. They are a great tool in the process of modern tattooing.

Fun Fact: Some of the first uses of stencils in tattooing derive from the island of Borneo. The locals would carve tree bark into positives of the design and then use a berry juice concoction as dye to lay it on the skin prior to tattooing, similarly to doing a woodcut print. :)