What is a “free-hand” tattoo?

Freehand tattoo by Instagram @richardlazenby

Freehand tattoo by Instagram @richardlazenby

You may have heard the phrase before, but what exactly is a ‘freehand’ tattoo? Tattooist Kat tells all!

Freehand tattooing is when the tattooist creates a design on you at your appointment and then goes straight in to tattoo you. No pre-drawn designs, no stencils, just skin, a pen and maybe some reference material. The method can apply to both large and small tattoos.

Lately I’ve been looking myself at freehand tattooing. I really admire how organic the creative process is. You turn up, the artist draws on you and then goes straight in with the needles. I love that the method takes art back to it roots, where nothing matters but being present and creating something in the moment.

Freehand tattoo by @tomwagstaff

Freehand tattoo by @tomwagstaff

Ever since I started tattooing it’s been an ambition of mine to do a freehand tattoo. As I used to do henna freehand, it’s kind of the dream for me to now use this freehand process in a real tattoo, and the other week the opportunity finally arrived!

It was quite scary at first, I’m not going to lie, but in the end it was really rewarding to be able to do a tattoo in a creatively liberated environment. There is a comfort in using stencils and drawing up designs first, as you’ve laid down the preparation… but with freehand tattooing, you have to trust yourself, which as an artist is actually quite hard – artists are known for striving for perfection but being their harshest critics of their work.

My first attempt at a freehand tattoo!

My first attempt at a freehand tattoo!

Drawing the design on Lucie's leg

Drawing the design on Lucie’s leg

I am super grateful to the people who trust me with their skin, and Lucie was no exception. I was honoured to make a start on her Mehndi-inspired freehand leg sleeve tattoo. As well as watching my boss Aaron Porter work in this way, I was keen to check out other artists who are dong freehand tattoos. I came across Jay Freestyle’s work and it’s incredible, he does every tattoo freehand!

Tattoo by Jay Freestayle

Tattoo by Jay Freestayle

Tattoo by Jay Freestayle

Tattoo by Jay Freestayle

Tattoo by Jay Freestayle

Tattoo by Jay Freestayle

Have you had, or created, a tattoo that was done by freehand? How did it make you feel? Get in touch or comment below, we’d love to hear your experience!


Words: Kat Winifred 

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