TATTOOS have become mainstream in the Philippines nowadays, unlike before when this kind of skin art is frowned upon or hidden under long sleeves and pants or skirts.
Now, members of the younger generation proudly show off their ink, and some have even started becoming tattooists themselves.
Joshua Ramos, 23, is a Gen Z production specialist and tattoo enthusiast who is now inking designs on clients. He started a year ago, and he shared with republicasia his journey toward becoming a tattoo artist.
How did you become interested in tattoos?
Matagal na ako nagdo-drawing ng comics so parang na tripan ko magka tattoo kasi parang ang cool din niya para sa akin, personally. When I was 19, I got my first tattoo, a mandala, sa left arm ko.
I have 10 tattoos now.
How did you start becoming a tattooist?
Nag start ‘yun sa friend ko. Gumawa siya sa akin ng tattoo na sobrang ganda. It’s a snake wrapped around the skull of a crow.
And then a few months later, May 2021, nag-ask ako sa kanya paano mag start.
Bumili siya sa Lazada. Nung tinry niya, walang kwenta yung P1,000 na kit. So bumili pa rin siya ng power supply na maganda, and the machine itself.
I tried the same process she did. The machines can cost from P300 to P15,000 above.
Nag stick ako sa rotary machine instead na coil. It’s just a personal preference. Rotary is more direct and yung coil may softness, yung bar niya is flexible.
The kits are complete. Pwede ka na mag-start, yun nga lang, cheapipay yung gamit. Don’t use it on people, sa fake skin lang. For practice lang, lalo na kung beginner ka. Siguro kung professional ka, tapos ginamit mo yun, kaya pa. But still, don’t use the free ink they gave you. Di ko trust. Bumili ako ng ink na ginagamit ng most people.
First, I practiced on fake skin. Second, on myself. Third, on my friend. And then fourth, on my clients.
What kind of training do you need?
Pwede ka mag self-taught just to start using the tools.
But to actually do it on a client, kailangan mo umattend ng seminar, webinar, at least. Kasi they’re going to teach you how to prepare mga gamit mo sa pag tattoo.
Pwede ka din magpa-mentor, which is what I did. It’s still ongoing up to now. I’ve always wanted to learn so nasa process ako ng enhancing, pagpapagaling.
I practiced on myself first. Gusto ko lang din madagdagan mga tattoo ko. Most artists practice on their thighs, which are accessible. And you need both hands.
There’s no school for tattooing. There’s only experience.
Basically, there’s no license and registration required. There’s no regulation yet, as far as I know. Most artists sumasabak sa “Dutdutan Festival” [an annual tattoo exhibition].
What equipment do you use?
You need the tattoo machine, and the power supply. You need to regulate the power so you can turn up the voltage to make the machine go faster or slower. Some are battery powered. Wireless na.
You also need the needles and the tip, the inks. And then the tattoo glide para pumasok ng maayos yung needle.
I have kitchen tissue, and then a dental bib where I place my things and which I use to catch spills.
I have a spray with green soap to clean the tools
Actually, you at least need to know how to draw. Sabihin na lang natin na if you’re really good at drawing, you should probably try tattooing.
But tattooing is not at all like drawing. It’s a form of applying ink to skin in a proper way talaga. Drawing, magkamali ka, burahin mo lang. Ito wala ng balikan. Remedyohan mo kung nagkamali ka.
How do you attract clients?
To get clients, reference and word of mouth, and portfolio.
Referrals, thats really how it starts, and social media, IG.
How much do you charge?
Nung una, di ako nagpapabayad kasi test subject yung tropa ko. Up to now di ako nagpapabayad sa one friend ko na yun kasi lagi siya G sa akin magpagamit ng balat. But he trusts me, so I thank him a lot.
Nag start ako from P300, for a 2×2 design. Hanggang sa naging P1k na yung 2×2 ko.
I think P2,000 to P2,500 pa lang biggest na charge ko.
Anything bigger, I’d probably decline for now. Namimili din ako ng clients. I’m sure some people would prefer someone super good talaga, ako wala pa ako doon.
What’s your process in working with clients?
Hinihingi ko design peg nila, or kung may design sila, sine-send nila sa akin. Kung galing Pinterest, sasabihin ko babaguhin ko ng konti kasi pag dumaan ka sa street, baka may kamukha. Umiiwas ako sa ganun.
Pag nag-print ako ng size, madami na, from small to big. Tapos ilalapat ko anong size gusto nila, saan nila gusto.
Pag naka decide na, yung piece of paper na yun, ita transfer ko sa carbon paper for tattooing. Then lalagyan ko ng pang transfer, yung Speed Stick which is just deodorant. But it’s very widely used in tattooing. It just works for transferring. Pag natuyo siya, stencil mo, di na mabubura masyado. You can also use stencil solution.
Pag andito na yung design, pwede ko na i-trace, whether there’s shading or lines. But right now I tend to focus on lines kasi shading is totally different from lining.
When you’re doing lines you do it once lang. When you’re shading you need to make big circles to fill in within the lines, you have to do big motions, needle mo iba din.
How long does a session last?
Small tattoos can be one hour minimum. Or less kung maliit yung tattoo. Yung prep time baka mas matagal pa.
How do you make sure the procedure is safe and hygienic?
I prefer everything disposable. Yung needles, tip, ink cups.
Yung needles, di mo basta-basta tatapon sa basurahan. Iipunin mo siya, sa plastic bottle or something, then itatapon mo sa dedicated tapunan ng needles, yung pang medical syringe. It’s harmful to leave it in a trash bag.
You also check before hand if straight yung dulo ng karayom. Kung nakabaluktok, sasabit yung gloves mo dun.
It’s always nice to have cling wrap on everything. Keep everything covered, so once you’re done, take away the cling wrap, dispose of it. Everything is clean. Alcohol mo muna before I-cling wrap.
Is getting a tattoo painful?
Masakit din, depende sa part. May parts na super sakit like leeg, tuhod, anywhere na mabuto. Mafi-feel ng buto mo yung needle. Collar bone super sakit siguro, di ko pa natry.
Least painful yung fleshy parts, like thighs and forearms and sa gilid ng calf.
What are the popular tattoo designs now?
Flowers, floral designs. Not just girls. For eveyrone. Kahit ako I also like it. I think it’s a trend.
Also the traditional style. Basically, it could be anything, but the design is traditional, like American traditional, mukhang sailor tats, not too cartoonish.
Do you get better as a tattooist over time?
I think so. Every time I make mistakes, I can tell what I did wrong. Pag nag-heal siya lalo na.
Sa sariili ko yung mistakes, mostly, hindi sa clients. I tend to pick my clients, pick the designs. If it’s simple I do it, if It’s too complicated I decline. I’m very picky because I’m a beginner.
Do you plan to keep on designing and doing tattoos?
Yeah, lalo na may work na ako, may pambili na ako ng gamit. I would probably attend more webinars because those can cost up to P5,000. May certificate na.
But alam mo, ang tunay na credibility dito sa Pilipinas yung “Dutdutan Festival” mo na awards.
With the growing popularity of tattoos, it’s no surprise that more and more young people are joining this industry and mastering the craft of putting art on people’s skin.