How Mastering Vector Software Can Up Your Tattoo Game

How Mastering Vector Software Can Up Your Tattoo Game


I know it has been a few months since my last blog entry for Fireside. I just wanted to thank Jake for being patient with me when my schedule took off full swing this semester. For those that don’t know, I had an unusual stream of events that resulted in me getting a full-time teaching gig at a local community college here in Memphis. In a way, it is a full circle for me because I am no longer teaching English. I am back to teaching in my original discipline of graphic design.

I had to play catch up on some of my design software packages, which got me thinking about how certain graphics and other software tools have shaped my art in other areas. I also gave some thought to the benefits of these tools in relation to tattooers. This led to the idea of doing a series of entries for which I will review different technology tools and discuss the benefits for tattooers to use as artists and business owners. We will start with vector software.

What is vector?

Since I just taught an entire semester of this, it seems a fitting place to start. If you are not familiar with how art and graphics software works, then this is the place for you. Basically, graphics software is divided into two categories, raster and vector. The most commonly known raster graphics tool is Photoshop, which I will discuss next blog. For today, the most commonly known vector software is Adobe Illustrator.

Vector graphics are kind of a bread and butter tool for designers. Unlike raster, they don’t save every single little pixel, which can result in resolution and file size issues. Vector relies on mathematical markers which correlate shapes in a manner that allows it to just save the markers in the file and fill in between as specified by the artist through the algorithm. This is basically a fancy way of saying that it saves the equation for the basic shapes along with details like color or size and then fills them in when you open your file. This is immensely different from saving every little pixel. You can have a large amount of image in a  small file size. That isn’t even the coolest part. The cool part is that you can size them up and down without losing resolution or increasing size.

Why should I care?

Since most of us are not going to deal with a printer in the same manner that a designer will, I’ll spare you the details of why they use it for branding design and jump straight to the nitty-gritty of why and how this can help you as a tattooer. There are actually several ways you could benefit, but the two I really want to focus on are in terms of shaping how you draw or think about drawing and how you deal with flash art.

First, dealing with a vector software can totally change your approach to drawing and creating a composition. If you don’t have a lot of formal training withdrawing, then you more than likely have a minimal amount based on drawing and tracing flash outlines while you were apprenticing. If you have taken one of our online courses, then you know that most of our drawing is based on breaking down objects into shapes and then applying your shadows based on your light source. Illustrator is no different. While it does have a drawing tool, the cleanest and easiest way to deal with images are based on shapes and lines. With vector, you have specific tools that allow you to create your base shapes, then you can combine and fine tune as needed. You also have a specific tool that lets you deal with line quality and thickness.

Since illustrator works off of the layering of shapes, I recommend starting with a drawing you have already done. Place it as your bottom layer and then add your shapes over it to match it. When you have a good copy on top of it, you can then delete the original layer. However, there are any number of ways to approach this. It just depends on your skill level and level of comfort with the tool.

The other thing I highly recommend a good vector package is dealing with flash art. This can be done from two different approaches, which kind of overlap each other. The first is your creation of flash. The drawing description that I just gave trickles down here. You can do your base sketches by hand and then drop them in as a template. Once in, you can control all sorts of elements in terms of line and shape. This will make a good clean set of outlines that can be stored in digital format. Gone are the days when you have to fill a file cabinet with flash outlines. If you save them in digital format, then you have no physical storage space to worry about. Plus, you can size the art to your specifications and just print it out directly without having to deal with playing with the sizing on a manual copy machine.

If you are designing flash to sell, you can be part of a new generation of flash designers that is straight digital. This means that once you have your software paid for, you don’t have any overhead in your product. You no longer have to deal with a printing service. This means you can utilize and sell on sites like Etsy, Big Cartel, or your own website and never have to handle one physical copy. All you have to do is set it up to automatically send and you can sit back and watch your money be automatically deposited.

So there you have it. Whether you use it for drawing exercises, designing or storing flash, it is a very useful tool. Of course, if you get really industrious and want to put on your designer hat, you can play around with the elements of your own personal brand. You can make your own logo, lay out a business card, make flyers, and much more. The real beauty is that all this comes in a package format along with Photoshop and several other tools that are always worth getting to know. All of which I will cover in my next segment, whenever I get to writing it.

Till the next time, have a Happy Holidays from all of us here at Fireside.


Note: we are in no way affiliated or sponsored by Adobe Software. We simply recognize that they have a record of making a good product that has been the industry standard for creatives for multiple decades. There are other software packages, but remember that Adobe has a plethora of official tutorial videos on their main website, as well as tons of other how to videos all over Youtube. If you are a tattooer, then I know I don’t have to tell you that you get what you pay for.