Thursday, November 27, 2014

No stink, just ink - Southgate Ink and stage two of my full sleeve tattoo

It has taken a while but I finally got around to going back to Southgate Ink to talk through the remainder of my full sleeve tattoo and price up how much it would cost to finish.

People coming to this fresh can read about why I opted to go for a full sleeve tattoo to cover up older tattoos and my experience of the Southgate Ink studio by clicking here. Today I’m going to be writing about stage two, from my elbow down the front of my forearm.

Before I start a few pictures of my half sleeve are below to give an idea of where we started from recently.

Why the delay in going back you might ask? A few reasons mainly, money is obviously a factor at £80 per hour for a complex tattoo means that the remainder will cost in the region of £800. The second is that the original tattoo artist left the studio earlier in the year and I’ve been nervous about making sure the colours and shading match up. The last thing I want is a two tone arm!

As the remainder is on my forearm it is incredibly difficult to sketch up a design, instead I provided a few pictures to the studio and then visited to see what they had come up with.

I booked in for a three hour sitting with Luca, the new tattooist at Southgate Ink. He showed me the design he had sketched of a large stone work face as I had asked and we had a general discussion how we could fill in the gaps later with stonework before we set about inking.

Prior to starting my arm was completely shaved (I never realised how cold a bald arm could get), he rubbed down the skin with disinfectant and then a further wash. Not only this, Luca didn’t set up his needles until I had sat down so I could watch the fresh needles being removed from the packaging and placed into the guns (I’m calling them guns, I have no idea what to call them). I found this incredibly reassuring, especially as I had been reading lots of horror tattoo stories recently.

A few jokes aside - like him in broken English saying he had an eye condition while crossing his eyes and coming at me with a needle broke the ice and the transfer was placed onto my arm. 

The first part of the tattoo which dominates my upper arm and covers the original tattoos hurt a bit, more of a stinging which I could tolerate for hours on end while listening to the music choices of the owner. My forearm is clearly more sensitive and I have to say that I was in pain, uncomfortable pain from the moment he started. Not fun, but also not their fault. Luca sensed this and asked a few times if I was OK. Thoughtful but nothing could be done and we ploughed on.

Using a single needle to outline the tattoo and colour deep lines we moved onto the multi-needle to start the shading. Ouch, ouch and double ouch. 

While uncomfortable it wasn’t as though it was so bad I flinched (thankfully) and as we progressed the pain was replaced by a voice in my head mouthing ‘wow’ as the image started to come to life (no I wasn’t tripping) on my arm.

Three hours on the dot and it was finished. 

Excess ink was washed away, a further round of disinfectant wash was used and then cream and cling film was used. At the time the pain subsided and I walked through the aftercare with the owner of the studio before placing a deposit for the next stage on the rear of my forearm and some ideas for how to finish near my wrist.

I’m delighted with the tattoo from Southgate Ink, I love going to the studio and find that they are well priced for the level of detail I have asked for in my designs, nothing is too much trouble and finally, the studio is clean with hygiene being the order of the day.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, at Southgate Ink you get no nonsense service, honest opinions (they will refuse to undertake tattoos if they think they are unsuitable) and an inking that will blow you away.


Southgate Ink
96 Crown Lane
N14 5PA

Telephone: 0208 920 2517

The studio is located just behind Southgate Underground Station on the Piccadilly Line.

You can see how the inside of the studio looked at the start of the year (it's been refurbished since), my design on the wall and shots of their sketches and tattoos by visiting the video here at Youtube and their page here on Facebook.


  • Don’t be rushed into having a tattoo – a good tattooist will not rush you;
  • Review the portfolio of the artist;
  • Ask for them to draw the design for them to trace;
  • Don’t let someone tattoo directly onto your skin without an outline;
  • Cleanliness cannot be understated – Southgate Ink was spotless and they cleaned around the clock;
  • Always make sure you see the tattooist unwrap fresh needles that haven’t been tampered with;
  • Always follow the aftercare instructions;
  • If you have even the slightest of doubts don’t do it – wait until you are 100% sure;
  • Relax and try to enjoy the experience.
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