How to Load Ink Into a Tattoo Machine

Updated April 17, 2017

Clients walking into a tattoo shop choose between flash or custom artwork for their design. Displayed in racks or binders in the tattoo shop, flash artwork consists of sheets of designs of a specific subject matter or tattoo style. Custom artwork requires a client to consult with a tattoo artist and provide artistic references for the tattoo artist to incorporate into a design.

Don a pair of gloves. Insert the sterilised tube and needle into the tattoo machine. Attach the machine to the clip cord and power supply.

Place the number of disposable ink caps necessary for the tattoo on the barrier of your set-up. Each colour for the tattoo requires a separate ink cap. Fill the disposable ink caps with ink from the housing bottle. Avoid touching the inside or rim of the ink cap with the tip of the housing bottle to promote aseptic technique.

Dip the needle in the colour for the outline. Press down on the foot switch of the machine to make the needle move in and out of the tube to remove any excess ink that may clog the tube.


Clean any excess ink off of the housing bottles immediately to prevent dried ink from clogging the tips. Change your gloves after cleaning and shaving the client's skin before beginning the tattoo.


Never perform a tattoo unless you are a licensed professional in a tattoo shop.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Tattoo machine
  • Sterile needle
  • Disposable ink caps
  • Ink
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About the Author

Maude Coffey retired after 10 years working as a professional body modification artist in the tattoo industry. She is certified in principles of infection control and blood-borne pathogens. Coffey received additional training and classes, such as anatomy, jewelry standards and aftercare, from the Association of Professional Piercers. Coffey aims to educate about safe tattooing and piercing practices while writing for various websites.