Ask Guy 13
Q) My hands shake a bit; what is the best way to focus my hands during a tattoo? I started using 1 inch grips and that has helped smooth my hand out some, but I was wondering- is there is something I could practice or some exercises I could do to help with my light shaking?
A) Trembling hands are a sign of underdeveloped muscle control. Here's a question for you: How much time do you spend drawing and working in other mediums besides tattooing? If the answer is "a lot", then maybe you could focus on working with your art tools in a way that is similar to tattooing. Try putting larger grips on your pencils, and meditate on using your hands smoothly. The big tube grips can be helpful, but in addition to this, try a couple alternate options. Many artists I know really like the flexible Red Rat grip covers, which cushion the grip in the hand. I personally have been using Morphix ergonomic grips, and I feel that they've made a big difference in my hand comfort. Next, a sort of obvious question: Are you a big caffeine nut? Cut back by half and that may also make a difference. There are also some basic orthopedic stretches you can do to keep your hands limber and prevent cramping- if you are overusing your hands the trembling could be at least partly because of that, and stretching could be the answer. You can speak with an orthopedic doctor or licensed massage therapist about specific stretches (I also have a couple pages on the subject in my book Reinventing The Tattoo, available at this website).
With all this in mind, the human hand does tremble a tiny amount, even in the best of circumstances. Once you pick up the machine and rest the heel of your hand on the client's skin, you should be braced well enough to calm down most of this. But if you are getting shaky lines, try some of these other measures and it could make a difference. One thing I haven't asked yet: How new are you to tattooing? If it's been less than a year or two, then that's really your whole answer: Tattooing equipment is different from any other set of tools and requires a unique set of hand movements. You may simply need more time and practice to get acclimated.