Burmese Tattoos (Part 3)

Inks, techniques, and methods applied in Tattooing.  This is the Part 3 of Burmese Tattoos article by Guest Author

[Important Read: Tattoo Risks, Right Precaution & How to Remove Tattoo]

Before entering into the topic ‘Burmese Tattoos’ we should briefly deal with two more topics that belong to the rather general part of tattooing, namely the ink(s) used and techniques and methods applied.


One would think that tattoo ink is an ordinary writing/pen ink and comprises just like any other kind of ink pigments for different colours and liquid as a solvent also called carrier. However, this is not quite so. The fact that it is possible (but for health reasons not recommendable) to make a tattoo with pen ink does not mean that there is the difference between pen ink and tattoo ink. The most notable difference is that in contrast to writing ink/ for the colouring of which dyes are added to the carrier that distributes the ink evenly, tattoo ink is made of pigments (not dyes) to provide colours and carrier that is needed to smoothly inject the pigments into the dermis and have them there spread evenly.

Ancient/traditional tattoo inks did basically use to be a concoction of soot, carbon, calcium and lithium as pigments and water and/or other liquids such as alcohol as a carrier. However, according to and depending on traditional recipes handed down from older generations, availability of natural (organic and inorganic) ingredients these were additionally added. Examples for this are barks from different trees, insect egg deposits, charcoal, metallic salts and albumin as pigment and breast milk (yes, breast milk!) and leek juice as carrier

The Different Tattooing Methods

Since ancient times mainly 3 different techniques/methods are applied in the process of tattooing, namely puncturing, piercing and cutting. What exactly is it that differentiates these three methods of body modification from one another? The answers to these questions are already more or less clearly recognisable in the names. In other words, the names are pretty much self-explanatory.


Puncturing refers to a technique in which a rake-like device and a stick are used as tools to puncture the skin. Protruding from the rake head’s underside are (up to 50!) sharp, thin and pointed needles made of different materials. The points of these needles, also called pins, are placed at a right angle to the skin that is stretched either with the help of the tattooer’s feet or an assistant. The upper side of the head is hit with the stick in rapid succession (several times per second) what drives the ink-dipped needle points vertically into the skin and out of the very hole made by being driven into the skin.

This is repeated thousands of times. During this process, the rake is systematically moved in the directions needed to form the lines, fillings and shadings of the design. For lines of different thickness, fillings and shadings rakes with varying numbers and thicknesses of pins are used.


Piercing refers to a technique in which an up to about 4 ft/122 cm long tapered rod also called tube made of brass, wood or bamboo is used as tattooing tool. The rod is equipped with either a needle-sharp tip or a pronged piece made of different materials at its front end. The handle side is adorned with a tattoo weight in form of a mythical being or magical figure such Mintha (a Burmese hero prince), Zawgyi (an alchemist with supernatural powers) or ‘Belu’ (a demon). These tattoo weights are serving 2 purposes one of which being to give the forward thrust of the rod more force and the other to lend a good measure extra mythical power to the tattoo itself. The tattooing is performed in that the rod with the ink-dipped tip is while the tattooer (with his feet) or his assistant is stretching the skin fast and in an ongoing process (comparable with the movement of the needle of a sewing machine) at a 90 degrees angle to the skin moved back and forth thereby piercing the skin and injecting the tattoo ink into it.

Although different tools are used for puncturing (rod/tube) and piercing (rake and stick) the results are not so different.


Cutting also called scratching or scraping, however, is a method that differs significantly from puncturing and piercing. As the name implies, the cutting method requires that up to 5 mm deep cuts are made literally ‘carving’ the tattoo into the skin, Once the cuts are made the tattoo ink is rubbed in. This method does inflict excruciating pain on the tattooed what explains that the ‘cutting’ of tattoos is not merely seen as tattooing but moreover as an act of sacrificing. [End of Part 3, continued … Part 4]

All of my books are available as Kindle eBooks on Amazon.

For more information visit my website http://www.realburmabyburman.com and my Mark Burman YouTube channel  http://www.youtube.com/user/BurmaByMarkBurman.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Markus_Burman/2114042

Guest Author, MarkusGuest Author @ TangyTalk: I am Markus Burman and am living since more than 25 years in Burma, since 1989 called Myanmar. I know the country, its people, culture and history very well what makes an authority on the subject of Burma/Myanmar. Born, educated and trained in Germany I have spent more than half of my professional life outside Germany. In 2012 I retired and turned full-time writer. Since then I divide my time between my family (wife, daughter, son in law and grandson) and my work as writer, which includes quite some travelling, researching and, yes, lots of writing.

I am writing exclusively on Burma and in my book series ‘This Is the Real Burma’ I have so far written and published four books in eBook format available on Amazon.

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