Posted By Jo Harrison on 12th December 2017


In terms of ideas for the tattoo; I love your input, references and design ideas no matter how many you have. What are your thoughts behind the design and any possible future plans for other work. It all helps me to get a bigger picture of you, what you are about and how you see your body. The tattoo is representing YOU, so the better I can get that then the better the tattoo. I’m a visual person so it really helps me to have some pictures to work from, even if it’s other tattoos that you like, or elements of some pictures, colour ideas etc. It’s useful to send me pictures of any existing tattoos around the area we are working next to. I will only ever use what you show me as inspiration and I wouldn’t copy a design exactly, it would be my take on it for various reasons. For my own artistic integrity but also if you have found the design so will other people and you could very easily find someone else with the same tattoo. Years ago people would go into a studio and choose a design from a piece of flash on the wall, nowadays this is not the case but google/pinterest has turned into a piece of flash, with people choosing exact designs or even copying other peoples tattoos without realizing how many people actually do the same!

Something that is essential to all the tattoos I do is that it will work if it is extended. The scale of the piece and the design flow options have to be right. Eg: if you want a lower leg sleeve then the layout and scale has to work in case you decide to have a full leg sleeve, a backpiece, foot, even a bodysuit! It’s important that the piece works in its own right but can be extended seamlessly. If I don’t do that I am doing my clients a disservice because no one stops at one tattoo and I don’t want to make a jumble of someone’s body. That’s why, if we can tackle each tattoo in as big a section as possible it gives the best results. So rather than trying to finish one piece then add the next one, we would be better to plan the whole piece then work through it in stages. That’s also why it’s important if you have plans for other work to let me know, it may be that we can have better tie-ins and flow-throughs if this is planned in advance. Or even the merging of some ideas to make a better and more cohesive tattoo.


Firstly it’s important to know that I freehand all my work. I do this because it is truly the best way to get the design to fit and flow around the body. Also rather than you telling me your ideas and me drawing when your not present, we get to work on the design together until we are both happy with it. Ideas often come from this process that wouldn’t have been possible if I was designing the tattoo alone. It’s more of a collaborative process and I LOVE that. I feel that you should be involved in that stage of your tattoo.

Anyone who has been tattooed by me will know that I design the piece in a particular order; yellow, orange, red sharpie then blue pen to get the final lines. I also tattoo in a definite order; outline, power line and fine line, grey shading then finally colour. And even the colours have an order! This is so that as we work session by session the tattoo ages in the right order. If the main focal points are completed in the first session, then during subsequent sessions we are working on the background. The focal point is softening and aging and the background will look sharper, newer and will appear to be more of the focal point.


Here is Loran’s tattoo session by session to illustrate:

We were covering a scar on Loran’s leg. The first session generally needs to be a full day because of all the drawing on, to make sure we have enough time to get the design right for you and get the lining done on that day.



I aim to get the drawing on by lunch so the afternoon can be spent getting the initial lining on. The first stage of lining is with a medium sized line and we are almost sketching it on, fluid flowing lines are really important to my work so that’s how I get the most expressive lines. Once they are done I go through with a larger line and power line each main element in the design; leaves, flowers, bird, etc. Then we can go through and add fine lines and extra details. As this piece was on the smaller side we managed to get a lot done in the first session. On larger pieces the aim is just to get the first sketching stage of the lining on then build up the lines in the next sessions.




Here you can see we have all three stages of lining done and the grey shading that goes through the piece to give it flow and depth. This was the end of the first session and was a full day.



Next will be all the green leaves to form the background stage of the colour, this was completed in a half day session.



Then the flowers, another half day session.



And the final session of a half day on the bird, the main focal point to finish the tattoo.

Loran’s tattoo was completed in 1 full day session and 3 half days, thanks Loran, well done!



So that’s how all my work is done, depending on how big the piece is, how detailed and how well the person sits will depend on how much we get done in each session, but the order will be the same.



Here are some more tattoos at various stages to illustrate. These are all works in progress so you can watch them develop further on my Instagram or Facebook page.

The drawing on complete.


The end of the first session of a full day. Drawing on and all three stages of lining complete.



The drawing on complete by lunch ready for lining in the afternoon.




The end of the first full day session, drawing on and first stage of lining, the sketching on lines.




This is the first stage of lining.




Here is a good example of the power lining part of the tattoo. This has had the first 2 stages of lining done, we still need to do the fine lines.




This has had all lining done, grey next.




These next pictures are all showing the grey shading stage for the depth and flow through the piece.








Here we are starting to layer the colours through.





Well I said why I tattoo in that order; to work with the tattoo and the skin as it settles and ages through the tattoo process rather than working against it.

Why do I use the lines, grey shading and colour the way I do?

I started tattooing at a time when all tattooers had to be good all rounders; doing any design people would ask for. We obviously had our preferences and hopefully we got to do some of those tattoos a week but we still enjoyed doing a variety of work. I have developed through various styles over the 20+ years I have been tattooing and I think there are elements of those still visible in my style today. I went through the new-school movement and was at the forefront of the realism movement in the UK for a number of years. I really felt as I watched the realism work age in my clients skin that it was missing some strength, especially when looking at it on the scale of the whole body and it took me a number of years to tie all the loose ends together and develop the tattoo style I have today.

I love nature based tattoos, and even nature based with a mythical twist. I also have a huge passion for Japanese tattoos. I have visited Japan several times and always find it incredibly inspiring and intriguing. I feel that when it comes to how well any particular style of tattooing fits on the body, the Japanese have cracked it! The strength, flow and structure of a Japanese bodysuit can’t be beaten in my mind. So they are all the influences that have come to my style of tattooing. I feel the Japanese influence gives it enough strength to hold up when viewing the whole body from a distance, with a flow that compliments and fits the body. The realism influence gives the tattoo enough delicacy to be viewed closely and complexity of colour that I love. The new-school element is still visible in my choice of lining. It took many years to develop this system and I am really happy with how it translates to any design concept that has been presented to me, giving me a consistent body of work no matter what the subject matter.

Hopefully you made it to the end of this pretty mammoth blog! Thanks for looking and hopefully I’ll see some of you soon for your own bespoke tattoo!

All the best, Jo x