Also known as Micro tattoos, these small and understated pieces of art are typically less than two inches in size and characterized by clean, crisp lines. The less detail, the better. Too much detail, the less likely they’ll have staying power.
Hart & Huntington Orlando tattoo artist Stephanie James specializes in these small-scale works of art. She started tattooing full-time in 2010 in Kentucky.
My mentor told me linework is the backbone of the tattoo, so it’s always been my focus. It’s what attracts me to the style I offer: small, ornate or ornamental tattoos with fine detail.
Good linework is the cornerstone of tattooing. It’s what helps them hold their shape over time.
No tattoo is ever perfect, but I do try to get as close to it as possible, especially with Fine Line or Micro tattoos. Colors and shading are also a priority, but line work is my favorite part.
The beauty of Micro tattoos is that you can wear them almost anywhere on the body, behind the ears for example.
But in order for them to wear well with time, you have to take the detail down a few notches. Time dictates detail and placement.
Some areas of the body like feet, hands and elbows exfoliate faster and have an increased cellular reproduction rate, so Micro tattoos placed there can fade and spread. If you’re in the sun a lot, that’ll only cause your tattoos to fade faster.
If you want a high-quality, long-lasting tattoo, be open to placement and simplicity of design. We can recommend an area of the body that will hold the ink the longest. If you’re going small, don’t go overboard on detail if you want it to last long.
When it comes to Micro tattoos, less is always more.
Yes, it is possible to get a highly detailed Fine Line tattoo, but it won’t look good for as long. Eventually it’ll blow out and get muddy, and not all tattoos can be reworked or recovered if they’re super small.
Most people don’t want to have to touch up or evolve their tattoos over and over, so it’s best to stay on the simple side to avoid disappointment down the road.
No matter what, we do our best as Hart & Huntington tattoo artists to ensure you have a tattoo that’ll look good even as time passes.
For Stephanie, that mission is highly personal.
Tattoos make people more themselves. To me, Micro tattoos are like charms or tokens of who you are.
They can be a memory or slice of time, something that means a lot or is just something dainty and nice you want to wear without having to dedicate an entire body part to it.
Fine Line tattoos can have a really large impact without taking up a lot of space.
You can collect Micro tattoos your whole life, and it becomes a visual representation of who you are. They’re pieces of yourself.
Despite their increasing popularity today, Fine Line tattoos have been around for longer than you may think. They started to catch on back in the 90s. Remember those small, ankle rose tattoos?
The approach to executing Micro tattoos has been refined over the years, especially with newer equipment. Lighter machines and smaller cartridge needles have changed the game. The newer machines guarantee they’re going to look nice later.
Stephanie’s spot on. We can accomplish better Micro tattoos now than ever before. In fact, Fine Line tattoos weren’t really a good idea a few years ago, especially if they were detailed.
We know now how your body creates new cells and spreads the ink when you get a tattoo, so we can better create a design to ensure they have staying power. Overly detailed Micro tattoos have a short shelf life.
They won’t be as legible down the road. But Stephanie is here to prevent that from being an issue.
I’m a long-haul girl. I’m putting permanent things on people so it’s important to me for them to look good. The amount of detail I put into them is contingent to them looking right later. Less is more.
For Stephanie, that means constantly learning, growing and refining her Micro tattoo skills, starting with the tools she uses.
I’ve completely switched my equipment this last year from something heavy and cumbersome for my hand to a newer rotary machine, which is much lighter.
Rotaries can better handle fine details without blowing out the lines on delicate skin.
Now I can use very small groupings of tiny, delicate cartridges and take the pressure off my hand. I’m physically using a smaller needle so I can get into smaller spaces and have more control to create delicate, Fine Line tattoos.
The sign of a good tattoo artist is one who listens to what you want. The sign of a great tattoo artist is one who’s willing to change the way they work for your benefit.
Stephanie’s willingness to switch up her entire equipment had a learning curve in it. With more than 12 years of experience under her belt, it meant throwing out some of what she knew in the name of mastering something better.
I knew the older machines were going to have long-term, negative effects on my hand. Changing my equipment has extended my career by years, maybe even decades, and it opened new avenues for techniques as well. It’s the best thing I could do to keep up with my own career and what people want. It’s important to not to get so married to something in your industry to the point where you don’t expand and grow with it.
Stephanie’s agility makes for better, sturdier Micro tattoos. And good thing, because a lot of the tattoos she does are incredibly personal.
I did a memorial tattoo on a lady recently, and she was very adamant that it be a Micro tattoo. With that comes the need for precision, which is very important to me.
When the design is small and simple, you have to be very precise.
There’s little room for error with Micro tattoos—you can’t hide or cheat.
Thankfully, this one came out so wonderfully that she teared up and was all smiles and hugs. It was like she had acquired more of herself. I could tell it meant a lot to her and I was glad I could do it for her.
Stephanie also did a one-inch travel-themed Micro tattoo recently of a heart with an airplane in it.
It came out perfectly! I’m so jazzed about that one. The lady I did it for was here on vacation. She told me how she loves to travel, and she was able to get this little keepsake while she was enjoying her visit in Orlando. It’s a charm of her time here.
If you’re going to get a Micro or Fine Line tattoo, Stephanie recommends getting some references together for your artist ahead of time.
Make a folder of photos and images on your phone. Find tattoos or general imagery that inspire you in general. It doesn’t have to be exact. For example, if you want a specific flower, show me pictures of that flower.
Stephanie, and many of the other artists at Hart & Huntington Orlando, can then bring it to life for you in a small, discreet design with nothing but clean lines.
I also recommend being open minded with the design so that we can make it last for you.
Trust your artist to give you the best version of what you envisioned—or better—down to the very last detail.
I’m future focused for every client that sits in my chair. I want you to have the highest quality, longest lasting tattoo possible. My motto is “I’m here for the people.” I want to help you be more yourself. That’s the most important thing to me.
Stephanie James photos by Kirstie Dunston Photography