How it happens
It has commonly been thought by tattooers that the tattooing ink is pushed into the skin by the needle. It has only been within the last several years that this topic has had the research done which starts to show otherwise. It is now hypothesised that the principal delivery mechanism of the tattoo ink into the dermis is through capillary imbibition.
In this high speed video, shot at 10,000 frames per second, you can see how the ink is not visible until the moments after the needle has left the skin. We used a high bloom gelatin in place of skin to enable backlighting and filming through the transparent subject. You can tell the moment the needle leaves the skin by the ink puddle suddenly dropping as the skin is released from the needle stick.
After that moment the ink can be seen rushing in to fill the puncture that was just created. We conducted this research in house at TATTCOM to make our own observations, as well as to verify the current hypothesis on how ink makes it into the dermis. This research helps keep us on the leading edge of tattoo science and technology, as well as to educate tattooers around the world.