What Are Dotwork Tattoos?

Dotwork, also known as pointillism, is a tattooing technique where the images and tones are created through hundreds of tiny dots. This is a form of artwork that has existed for centuries, developing from the basic ‘finger-painting’ technique, where concrete images could be formed through blurring layers of small circles.

Dotwork used for shading is known as stippling, where modern tattoo needles can create the visual effect of the ink dots splaying outwards. This technique uses black ink, grey ink, or sometimes the more bold choice of red ink.

Dotwork can be a time-consuming technique, as each dot must be placed individually and precisely. This requires a lot of patience from both the artist and the client, but the result is so rewarding.

It is not uncommon for dot work tattoo artists to abandon conventional tattoo machines in favour of the hand poked technique, which is where one small fine needle is inserted repeatedly into the top layer of the skin to create each tiny dot, one at a time. Hand-poking is more time consuming than using a stippling (shading) needle, however in some cases it can benefit more precise designs. For small, delicate pieces this technique is a great choice.


Types of Dotwork Tattoos

The most popular types of dotwork tattoos include mandalas, floral pieces, geometric designs or spiritual tattoo ideas, but this technique has limitless possibilities. Many clients desire a multi-style design, which combines dotwork with other techniques such as greyscale realism, or bold geometric line work. Black work and negative space tattoos have also been increasing in popularity in recent years. In these hybrid tattoo styles, dotwork is generally used for stippling (shading).

Hand Poked Tattoo Technique VS Coil Tattoo Machines

With most artists turning their hand to both stippling techniques and the popular hand-poking (or ‘stick and poke’) style tattoos, it can be difficult to decide which is best for you.

Hand poked tattooing may have gained popularity in recent years, but it is far from new. This technique dates back to some of the oldest tattoos, with Polynesian tribes and the ancient Egyptians having used it aswell. It works best for intricate, line work- heavy designs, rather than larger pieces that involve a lot of tonal shading. In terms of getting your time’s worth in a tattoo sitting, you may find that the stippling technique via a regular tattoo machine is better for bigger projects.


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