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How a Tattoo is Done - Watch Lal Hardy Famous Tattoo Artist at Work

I've always loved creativity. In art and craftwork, I can embroider, knit, crochet, make clothes and earrings, paint, draw, and decorate.

Tatoos, Body Art and Inking--How The Tattoo Artist Does a Tattoo

This article is all about the process of choosing, designing, transferring and executing two tattoos which were done with the specific intention of covering up existing poor quality inking. There are lots of photographs to show you the whole process.

Being curious myself, I accompanied my friend to the studio and took these photos when he got two new tattoos to cover up some rubbish writing on his arm done long before by some kids as a schoolboy prank. Oh, very funny, I don't think.

Tattoo by Lal Hardy

This is my friend's tattoo after Lal Hardy , a popular London tattoo artist, started work covering up his old tattoos

This is my friend's tattoo after Lal Hardy , a popular London tattoo artist, started work covering up his old tattoos

Have You Ever Wondered What it's Like in the Studio of a Tattooist or "Inker"?

  • How do you decide on the artwork?
  • How does the artwork get transferred on to you?
  • What happens next?
  • What's the result?

Watch Lal Hardy in Muswell Hill, North London, he's an expert in tattoo art.

The Background Story: Tattoos Are Permanent so Don't Trust Your Friends--Go to a Professional

James close-up before tattoos

James close-up before tattoos

One of my friends, James, had the most awful amateur tattoos on his arms, done by drunken teenagers back in Scotland (that's what they do for laughs up there). He considered having them removed, but this could have left scars as unsightly as the stupid writing, which fortunately had paled over the years. Above is a close-up of those old and embarrassing tattoos before corrective work started--see the daft schoolboy scribblings up his arm.

I had heard that our local tattooist, Lal Hardy, was one of the best around London and, as his studio was nearby, we went to have a reccy.

This all took place in 1992 and I am afraid Lal Hardy looks somewhat older now - but his New Wave Tattoo Studio is still flourishing in Muswell Hill, North London, most deservedly I would say--he's a real enthusiast.

This is Lal Hardy drawing out the design before starting work on the tattoo itself

This is Lal Hardy drawing out the design before starting work on the tattoo itself

First We Discussed Requirements,Then We Choose a Tattoo Design and the Design Had to be Drawn Out

The designs looked good, and Lal confirmed that as the existing tattoos were fairly light in colour, he would be able to cover them over with an appropriate design.

That was good news, and so an appointment was made for a few days' time--oh yes, you couldn't just walk in and have a complex design done on the spot--it takes a bit of time to discuss and do.

We looked at loads of different designs and settled on an eagle, which was large enough to cover all the writing. It was a good choice, and James was always very happy with it.

This is Lal tracing out his design - He takes a lot of care doing this

This is Lal tracing out his design - He takes a lot of care doing this

So Far no Pain Is Involved

but plenty of time to think about it with apprehension!

Meanwhile you can study Lal's arms to see if you love or hate his tattoos.

I wonder who did them--I mean he couldn't have done them himself, could he?

Lal transferring the drawing to James's arm

Lal transferring the drawing to James's arm

The Outline Tattoo on James's Forearm Is Now Completed

But keep your eyes on the job, Lal --this could turn into body piercing!

Scroll to Continue
Tattooist keep your eyes on the job

Tattooist keep your eyes on the job

Not much to see yet but ready to begin

Will James squeal or wince?..............Wait for it!!

Just starting the tattoo--needle at the ready

Just starting the tattoo--needle at the ready


Not a wince, nor even a flicker of the eyelids (maybe that's why James is wearing sunglasses). Is this a man or some machine? Those men from North of the Border are tough...or is it just a case of where there's no sense there's no feeling?

Glad it's not me, anyway

Tattooing in progress

Tattooing in progress

No Looking Back Now!

Too late to change his mind! But it's beginning to take shape and look interesting.

"Je regret riens", as Edith Piaff the famous French singer would say.

Whose tattoo looks better - James's or Lal's?

Whose tattoo looks better - James's or Lal's?

The Tattoo is Beginning to Look Good Now

The colours go on one at a time. But it's not nearly finished yet.

Tattoo colours being added

Tattoo colours being added

The Detail of the Tattoo is Coming on Nicely

I think this body art is about half way now--I hope Lal doesn't get tired - he's been working for a long time.

Still, I suppose he's insured (that's the lawyer in me talking - sorry!).

More filling in colours and detail on the tattoo--it's taking shape now

More filling in colours and detail on the tattoo--it's taking shape now

I prefer James's tattoo to the somewhat crowded aspect of Lal's arm--I think it stands out better, you know, more is less and all that sort of stuff about not over-gilding the lily.

This second tattoo on the other arm is a small Celtic design

This second tattoo on the other arm is a small Celtic design

James Wasn't Originally Planning to Have a Tattoo on His Other Arm

But it just seemed like a good idea, again covering some existing stupid hieroglyphics. The Celtic design is symbolic of his Scottish origins.

And Here are the Finished Tattoos

The finished tattooos

The finished tattooos

Good, aren't they?

James was really chuffed when he came out.

In the first few days scabs form wherever the lines were drawn. They have to be left alone until it has all healed up, leaving the bright colours of the tattoo to take.They must be kept scrupulously clean, to avoid infection.

The Final Photo--A Close-up of the Eagle and Snake Tattoo --isn't it a Fine Piece of Artistry?

The tattoo was allowed to develop over the next few weeks and this is the end result

The tattoo was allowed to develop over the next few weeks and this is the end result

This Is What Rachel Kennedy, Writing for Tattoo TV Says About Lal

"He's very old school, and a very respected name. One of the original "London Inkers" in fact, these days a bona fide legend, due not only to his artistic skill, but also his highly knowledgeable voice promoting the art and its traditions.

"Lal got his start far, far back during the Teddy boy revival and on through the punk scenes, the new wave period, the rockabilly chapters and the rave kids. There are decades of experience under this man's belt. He's self taught, his origins in the solid old school genre, honing expertise over time with more styles such as the Japanese Traditional genre - he's created full body suits, back pieces and detailed colour work that masters of the genre themselves would double-take upon.

"Lal is also a dedicated enthusiast and admirer of his fellow tattooists, having recently released a photo-book collection of the work of assorted tattoo artists whom he considers top in the industry ....The book - The Mammoth book of Tattoos (see above) has quickly become an essential addition to those serious about collecting publications that document the very best of tattoo work".

The Mammoth Book of Tattoos by Lal Hardy - All you need to know about tattoos

Some websites relating to tattooing, including a poem I wrote, and also Lal Hardy's own websites, and health advice on maintenance of new tattoos to stop them going septic.


Take This Poll About Tattoos

Interview With Famous Tattooist Lal Hardy (He Looks a Bit Older Now Than When I Photographed Him)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Diana Grant

If You Liked This Article, Great, Please Comment; if Not, You Don't Know a Gem When You See it, But You Can Still Say What You Think

Bill Kasman on October 09, 2016:

I have mixed feelings about tattoos even though I have a couple myself. The reasons for getting a tattoo and the precise one(s) chosen should be the subject of much reflection and questioning of ones' motives - a bad choice can come back to haunt you - and never get your current boy/girlfriend's name tattooed anywhere on yourself!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on July 31, 2013:

@clevergirlname: : Thank you for your message which will be dealt with as soon as possible.

This is an automated reply.

clevergirlname on July 31, 2013:

I've grew up "in the industry". I have one tattoo but have seen oodles of them done (as well as Piercings and suspension.). There's a lot to be said about the art!

termit_bronx on October 16, 2012:

One of my best friends is tattooist as well. I love this art. I have one tattoo, but in the future I want to have plenty :))

oztoo lm on October 15, 2012:

Some people get loads of tattoos and you really can't tell one from another. Less is more in my opinion. Your friends tattoo looks really good although I would never get one myself.

GeekGirl1 on June 24, 2012:

Tattoo is one way of expressing themselves for some people but there are still people like me who prefer without it.

myneverboredhands on November 07, 2010:

I've decided to check out this lens because my oldest son suddenly ask if he can have a tattoo, and not a tiny one but he planed it takes all his left arm! My answer was "no" of course... This lens very interesting and has very nice pictures of tattoo (before, during the process and after its done), but I wouldn't get one...

Liz Mackay from United Kingdom on November 05, 2010:

I'm sure it is all very artistic and clever but I just don't like tattoos.

Samantha Lynn from Missouri on January 23, 2010:

Very cool

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on January 23, 2010:

I once watched a friend get a tattoo--a sun around her bellybutton--and I think it hurt me more watching than it hurt her (although, I could tell it hurt!). Unfortunate thing was, she didn't like it at all once it was done. I think many tattoos are really neat, but I'd never get one myself. Just personal preference. Anyhow, interesting lens!

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