How to Set up a Clean Tattoo Workstation

How to Set up a Clean Tattoo Workstation

Setting up a tattoo workstation properly is very important. Each tattoo artist might set up their stations a little bit differently, depending on their workflow and style, but they will most likely all set up their workstation exactly the same every time.

A workstation should be set up with two things in mind: organization and cleanliness. Organization will help an artist go through the motions efficiently, so they save time and energy. A clean workstation will keep the artist and client healthy and safe. In fact, organization and cleanliness really go hand in hand. A well-organized workstation will ensure that there are fewer accidents and that an artist is prepared in the event that an accident does occur.


What Does a Tattoo Workstation Look Like?

The only thing that a tattoo workstation is used for is tattooing. Internet research, consulting, drawing, paperwork, and quite literally any other activity should be done in a separate area. A tattoo workstation should be kept as clean as possible even when there isn’t any tattoo action happening.


The basis of a tattoo workstation is a non-porous surface. Everything within a tattoo workstation should be made of glass, metal, vinyl, plastic, etc., and should be clean and well-kept. If there are any tears, deep scratches, cracks, or other imperfections on the surfaces of your workstation, those items should be replaced immediately.


Your tattoo workstation should also have the following items:

  • Antibacterial soap
  • Paper towels
  • Medical gloves
  • Medical-grade disinfectant (full bottle)
  • Ink cap jars
  • Rubber band jar
  • Green soap in a bottle (full bottle)
  • Dental bib
  • Plastic wrap
  • Distilled water
  • Razor
  • Tongue depressor
  • Vaseline
  • tape


Okay, now that you know the most important aspects of a tattoo workstation and the items you’ll need, it’s time to get set up.


  1. Disinfect

Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and warm water. Make sure to get underneath your fingernails, around your wrists, and up to your elbows. Dry your hands with paper towels and put on medical grade gloves.


Spray all surfaces with a medical grade disinfectant like MadaCide. Let the disinfectant sit on all surfaces for 3-minutes to ensure all bacteria has been killed. Wipe the disinfectant away with clean and dry paper towels.


  1. Cover Surfaces

Cover all surfaces that you will touch throughout the tattoo process with plastic wrap. This includes bottles, power cords, lamps, etc.


  1. Set Up Work Tray

Line your work tray with a dental bib, with the plastic side down. Use tape to adhere the bob to the tray. You may line your work tray with plastic wrap only, but the absorbent bib will make clean up easier, as you will most likely drip ink and water throughout the tattoo process.


Separate paper towels from the roll and create a stack off to the side of your work tray, but within reach. It’s always better to overestimate the number of paper towels you’ll need so you don’t have to stop the tattoo, remove your gloves, tear off more paper towels, and reapply new gloves.


  1. Get Tattoo Equipment Ready

Lay out the needles that you’re going to be using on your work try but leave them in their package until the very last moment before you begin tattooing. This will ensure they are clean when you start tattooing.


  1. Line up your ink caps

Use a tongue depressor to apply a thick streak of Vaseline to your work tray. Place as many ink caps as you’ll need into the Vaseline. This will ensure the caps don’t slip and slid around while you’re refilling your needle.


Have a small disposable cup filled with distilled water nearby to clean your needle when your need to change colors or dilute a color.


  1. Have Ointments and Sprays at the Ready

Your workstation should also have any and all ointments and sprays ready and within reach. Make sure there is more than enough product in the bottles and containers, so you won’t run into the issue of having to stop and refill.


  1. Wrap Supporting Furniture

Even if you have your client propped up on supports that are covered in vinyl, you may want to cover those supports in plastic wrap. This will make sure your furniture doesn’t get stained and help with fast and easy cleanup.


Important Things to Remember When Setting up a Tattoo Workstation

Of course, the most important thing to keep in mind when you’re setting up your workstation is sterilization and preventing cross-contamination. Close behind that is comfort.


Your workstation should be comfortable and easy for you to move around in. You’re going to be spending many hours and many days hunched over in the same position, so it’s important that you have a comfortable seat that supports your body and allows your feet to rest flat on the floor, you sit with good posture, and that everything you need is within reach.


You’ll also want to be sure that your client is in the right position so that you can maintain proper posture to the best of your ability throughout the tattoo process.


A healthy workstation isn’t only about preventing disease caused by contamination. It’s also about preventing diseases like arthritis, carpal tunnel, sciatica, back pain, neck pain, etc. If your workstation isn’t set up with these things in mind, your career could take a serious hit because your body is unable to perform.


Final Thoughts

A clean, comfortable, and well-organized tattoo workstation is just as – if not more – important as applying beautiful artwork to skin. Even if you are the best tattoo artist in town, your reputation can be destroyed by a single small infection or workflow accident.


This guide to setting up a clean workstation is meant to be a jumping-off point for tattoo artists. You may find that there are specific things that you need and want on your workstation that are different from other artists out there. This is completely acceptable! Every artist has their own style and workflow that works for them. As long as you are setting up your workstation to be sanitary and efficient, you’re in good shape.


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