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The Beauty and Violence of Tattooing In Slow Motion

Think about how violent getting a tattoo really is. It’s a battering ram of needles filled with metal-laced pigments injecting past the layers of skin that will eventually slough off. Tattooing put like that sounds pretty rough, but the actual needling happens so quickly that you can’t see it or think about it.  You get to enjoy a wonderful piece of permanent art without the fear that accompanies something like hypodermic needles.

Science YouTube channel Smarter Every Day is back with a new video showing the process of the tattoo up-close and in glorious slow motion. It’s like seeing a Xenomorph mouth deliver ink straight into your dermis. It’s the only part of the process cooler than the tattoo itself:

I was just as intrigued as Destin was to learn that a tattooing needle doesn’t come to one point — the end looks more like a bundle of arrows.

Even cooler is the fluid mechanics at work. The needles themselves aren’t like the hypodermic ones that would inject a vaccine into your arm, tattooing needles are there only to puncture skin. Once there are hundreds of tiny holes leading down to your dermis — the layer of skin between the epidermis (outer layer) and subcutaneous tissues — the ink between the needles is drawn into them by capillary action. In short, the surface tension and forces holding the ink together encourages the ink to seep into the holes left by the needles.

Smarter Tattoo FEAT

There’s a sort of violent beauty to the process of tattooing, which Destin’s incredible Phantom camera lets us see. In his next video, Destin promises to show us how tattoos are removed with lasers.

Editor’s Note: The title of this post has been changed to better reflect the content, and to not be so unintentionally anti-tatt.

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  1. Bob says:

    Now I wonder what the original title was…

  2. Not going to watch this until after I get my (second) tattoo tomorrow. Otherwise I’ll psych myself out, haha.

  3. That is really awesome to watch. My sister is a tattoo artist and it is interesting to know more about how she does what she does.

  4. This article/video makes me wanna go get MORE ink! I LOVE the feeling and the sound of a tattoo.

    • Shamanatdawn lostherbraincells says:

      I’m sure you love the smell of gasoline too. 

      • wow, just gonna insult me for no good reason? Also, I was born without a sense of smell, so no, I do not love the smell of gasoline. A LOT of people enjoy getting ink, it’s not unusual.

      • HorrorNerd says:

        Woah, who are you to even make that comment?? I’m really heavily tattooed and I love getting tattooed so if you don’t know what you’re talking about you should probably shit your mouth.

  5. Hey Author, You should RETHINK the title of this article, unless NERDIST is anti-tattooing. Come on!

    • Adams Nightmareislogic says:

      Maybe they’re just pro-common sense?

      • TheVoiceOfReson says:

        Or maybe you should worry about your own insecurities that cause you to berate others about personal choices 🙂

    • Kyle Hill says:

      Just did! We here are definitely not anti-tattoo — we have a weekly column devoted to it! I didn’t mean to antagonize or shame. I’m getting one next week! Apologies.