Fine line tattoos

Tattoo tech, similar to regular tech, is an ever-advancing field, and thanks to these advancements, we tattoo artists have been able to give life to body art that was once thought impossible. Probably one of the greatest tattoo styles to emerge from this is that of fine line, a form so elegant and discreet that only a handful of artists can pull it off.

Luckily for you guys, I specialise in fine line tattoos, and I am one of the only people in all of South Asia to do so.

Fine line tattoos are generally small, monochrome, and are often used to achieve an extremely delicate look, which, when done right, resembles a piece of art drawn onto skin with a technical pen. This has led to fine line being one of the most sought-after styles in the global tattoo community, with it slowly coming into the mainstream in more western countries. 

People are no longer solely opting for the bold look that comes alongside traditional tattoos, but are now seeing the beauty in the subtle sophistication of fine line tattoos. 

How to do fine line tattoos

The style consists of distinct straight or curved thin lines, without gradations in shade or colour to represent 2D or 3D objects, emphasising form and outline over colour, shading, and texture. While some fine line tattoos can have solid pigments and dots, what really distinguishes the style is its ability to pack in a ridiculous amount of details without being “too loud”.

This is what makes the style one of the hardest to pull off; the attention to detail, artistry, and experience that goes behind a fine line tattoo is immense. 

The style avoids thicker, bolder lines, and therefore needs to be done using round liner needles, such as the three-round liner (3RL), which has three-needle tips. More precise needling also gives people more options in design and allows the artist to add minute details to the tattoos. 

Fine line tattooing also has the advantage of being less painful to the clients than other styles, such as traditional tattoos, that boast bold lines. Moreover, the style has been shown to cause less stress on the skin, effectively bringing down the time it takes to heal; unlike colour tattoos, where we need to penetrate deeper and longer into a client’s skin, for it to absorb the colour.

One of the main challenges tattoo artists face with this style is that fine line work lies in a very steady and accurate hand. This is why it is very easy to make mistakes with this style, as opposed to styles that use thicker lines or other less precise tattoo styles. There is very little room for error.

This is why it takes an artist with years of experience to pull a fine line tattoo off. 

Designs for fine line tattoos

Since the style allows for a lot of extra detail and precision, the most popular choices for fine line tattoo designs are often beautiful subjects with elements of intricacy. These may include animal tattoos, such as birds, dragons, elephants, as well as plants, such as leaves, leaves, and flowers. Each of these designs will have extremely detailed textures and can include heavy details such as veins, nails, and detailed creases in the design body. 

The designs don’t have to be limited to animals and plants though. Since the style imitates intricate pen artwork, it can be used to tattoo just about anything. For example, I specialise in using fine line to create tattoos of Sri Lankan artwork, such as the Sigiriya frescoes, kastane swords, and many more.

Single-needle tattoos

Often considered a variation of fine line, it is essentially the finest of fine line tattooing. Being a niche among niches, the style uses only one needle in the tattooing process, instead of multiple needles. This results in super thin, dainty, and detailed pieces, helping the artist achieve a really realistic aesthetic in a tattoo.

This style also allows an artist to achieve a further likeness to detailed drawings, through shading and adding details with a single needle. The result is a stunning detailed work of art.

And unlike in normal fine line tattoos, the artist opts to use a “one round liner” (1RL) needle, instead of a 3RL needle, which gives the tattoos a finer line and an even finer finish. 

All in all, both fine line and its variant single-needle, are two of the toughest styles to master, but also boast some of the best artwork today. This has led to its rapid increase in popularity, with several celebrities choosing fine line tattoos over bigger, bolder styles.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.