Eli5 why do tattoo machines not cut your skin?

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I see it all the time in videos. The tattoo artist pulls a line on the skin, but the needle part needs to be deep into the skin to deposit the ink, so how does it keep pulling the line without cutting the skin?

In: 12

The needle doesn’t stay in to cut the skin open. It goes in and out at a very rapid pace “poking” the ink in to the skin.

You can barely see as it’s too fast but the needle goes in not that deep and pulls out quite far so it stabs in and as you move pulls out, there’s a speed that you do it that allows it to move fairly smoothly, if you did it really fast it probably would damage the skin maybe ripping.

It does cut the skin, although pierces might be more precisely accurate. It breaks the skin and injects ink underneath

It is possible to cut for a variety of reasons. Like if the machine is running too fast, running the same area too many times or barbed needles.
There’s actually a scarification method that uses tattoo machines to scar the skin.

But it wouldn’t happen if the artist is half decent. And no. Tattoo needles don’t cut. They puncture/pierce.

On a side note. Catheter needles and piercing needles/blades do actually cut rather than pierce.

Welp im a tattoo artist so i guess i better weigh in here

Technically you are “cutting” (puntcuring is more accurate) the skin every time you tattoo, tattoos are really just fancy wounds with ink deposits when you think you about it. However i get the premise of your question, why doesnt the needle cut the skin like a knife through butter in a line, well the simple answer is, the needle is moving up and down at a fast pace, the needle needs to puntcure the outer layer of skin and insert the ink BUT not go too deep. You arent cutting, you’re puncturing.

Basically this is the process

Needle up

needle down

puncture skin

Insert ink

Repeat process

All at a rapid pace, it may look like a line but its really just dots of ink all being connected drop by drop (or more accurately puncture by puncture)

It is VERY possible for someone to get cut or hurt with tattoo needles, which is one of the million reasons why you should ALWAYS get a tattoo done by a professional.

Watch a video of tattooing slowed down — they aren’t pulling a blade or wire through the skin in a straight line, that’s a tiny needle that’s moving up and down very fast. It goes in and out of the skin but isn’t cutting a continuous cut. It’s more like the action of a sewing machine where the needle goes up and down as the fabric moves beneath it, so it just makes a series of punctures.

I suggest watching “Smarter Every Day” on youtube, he has a slow motion video of tattooing.It’s really cool and you can see exactly how is put the ink in.[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G-K7i4tTRI](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G-K7i4tTRI)

He is also very good at explaining how things work. I hope this helps just a little.

edit: be aware there is blood and needles going into skin… obviously.

The tattoo needle is motorized and goes in and out super fast. By the time the artist’s hand has moved a fraction of an inch the needle’s already pulled out and is getting ready to go back in.