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Cold Front Tattoo...on my Ribs!

It had been close to five months since getting the F-Bomb tattoo in the center area of my chest. It was a pretty brutal experience, but it was time to get another tattoo. Thing is, I didn't know what to get tattooed. I thought about the upper back piece I had designed. Something about it just wasn't right though, so I killed that idea. I had to think of another design idea.

One night, I had just climbed into bed when the thought hit me. A cold front! To say I'm a weather freak is a serious understatement. A cold front symbol is a blue line with triangle points. Turn on The Weather Channel and you're sure to see one. Cold fronts are big players in rainy and severe weather. They're also good for dropping the temperature 25º in a matter of 30 minutes.

I threw off the covers, found some paper and a pen and excitedly spent about an hour drawing cold fronts. Tiredness soon swept over me and I went back to bed. For the location, I thought about the ribs - I wasn't sure if it was going to go on the right side or the left. The design fit the area perfectly.

This wasn't the first time I thought about getting a rib tattoo. I had drawn another design long ago that I was pretty sure I'd get - but then decided not to. Things happen that way sometimes. One day you draw a design and think it's perfect and the next day, you hate it. This latest idea of the cold front was different. It was about weather, so it wouldn't be something I'd grow tired of. I decided to go for it.

I've heard a lot about how the ribs are one of the most brutal areas to get tattooed. I've talked to people I know who've gotten them and was told how horrible the pain was. Hell, I've heard guys yell in pain getting a rib tattoo. I knew that it would likely hurt. While the whole pain thing had me a bit concerned, I have pretty sensitive sides and my biggest worry was that I would end up squirming around in the chair.

I stopped down at the studio and talked to my artist, Keith, about what I had in mind. When I told him I was thinking about my ribs as the location - he kind of grinned. I showed him the rough sketch of how I wanted it to look. He asked which side I was planning on getting it and I decided on the left side, since it's the more stable of the two. He placed the design right on my left side, to see if the size was good. A little adjusting and it would fit perfectly. We talked about how we'd do it. He suggested doing it without the usual black outline. I agreed. It would be my first full tattoo using that method. I still wasn't sure when I'd do it. Tattoos cost money and with it being close to Christmas and having to spend money on gifts, I didn't really have the cash. I told him that I'd stop down with a better design and we could schedule a time to do the tattoo.

To make the design, I used PhotoShop Elements. The process was extremely time consuming and I shut the program down a few times out of frustration. Once I found some patience however, I finished the design:

I printed it out and on my next day off, I went back to the studio to show Keith. He liked the design. I still wasn't sure when I'd get it done, all I knew is that it would be soon. That's when Keith told me that it was going to be my Christmas present. Seriously, how freakin' awesome is that? So I wrote my name in for December 21st. That gave me two weeks to prepare.

Those two weeks went by pretty quickly. Then the day arrived. I made sure to go to bed a bit earlier the night before, just so I could get some extra sleep. I wanted to be well-rested. I'll admit I was a bit nervous. I've haven't gotten nervous before a tattoo session in quite a while. I got ready for the day and after I was done brushing my teeth, I looked in the mirror and glanced at my left side, knowing that in just a few hours, there'd be a new tattoo there.

I wanted to make sure I had food in my belly, so I ate a pretty decent sized meal consisting of animal shaped processed chicken pieces - better known as BK chicken nuggets. I ate the fries two and three at a time and washed it down with a chocolate milkshake that was thicker than all hell. I got a coffee for Keith and a few bottles of OJ along with a Boston Kreme donut for myself. Then it was time to go to the studio. I got there 30 minutes early, but Keith let me in through the side entrance, since the shop was still closed.

We just hung out for a bit before it was time to get to business. He had set up the station with the machines and had a few empty ink cups on a paper plate. All he needed to do was put needles in the machines, pour the ink and get some
H2O. Before doing that, we stepped outside for a quick smoke.

Once back inside, Keith went to make a transfer of the design. He fed the design through the T-Fax machine, but it didn't work like he wanted. He hoped the machine would be able to tell the difference between the two shades of blue on the cold front. The machine spit out the design and it was basically a big fat purple line. So Keith re-drew it and then made a copy of it before putting it through the T-Fax. He also resized it and made it just a bit smaller. He then got the tattoo machine ready and poured the ink while I went and got a cup of water for him. For colors, he used light Mario blue and dark Mario blue for the cold front and Cherry Bomb red for the L. It was now time to tattoo this sucker on me.

I pulled off my shirt and Keith cleaned the area with Green Soap. Then he applied the transfer. I went and looked in the mirror and I liked where it was placed. He also had a look and agreed. It's not a substantial piece area-wise. The cold front is six inches in length, so it does go over about six ribs on my left side, including the "riblets". The width is pretty narrow - about ¼ inch, except almost an inch where the triangle points jut out. The L is about an inch high and about a ½ inch in width. Keith had me lay mainly on my right side, with my arm up over my head, so the area stretched out. I made sure to use a little extra pit stick in that armpit. I wanted things smelling fresh.

He asked if I was ready. I was as ready as I could be. The machine came to life and soon I could feel the needles stabbing into my side. The feeling wasn't all that bad. I held off on thinking this was going to be a piece of cake though. When I had the center of my chest tattooed, the feeling was similar. Then, as it got over my sternum, it turned brutal. So I waited for the pain. Keith continued with the dark blue outline and the pain I had been waiting for never really showed up. Sure, some spots were on the intense side - but only briefly and this was nothing compared to the sternum. He started at the upper ribs area and worked his way down to the love handle area. As he got lower, the intensity increased. One of the shop regulars came in at this point and winced when he saw me getting tattooed. He had no plans for getting his ribs done. His goal was to finish the sleeve on his arm. Once Keith had the blue outline done, we took a break. That part of the tattoo wasn't bad at all.

Keith sprayed the area and wiped away the excess ink. I checked out the tattoo in the mirror and saw a nice crisp, dark blue outline. I liked what I saw. Then I stuck a paper towel over the area before putting my shirt back on. We had a smoke and then a few customers came in, so I chilled until he was ready. It wasn't too warm in the studio because of some heating issues. I was shaking earlier so when we resumed tattooing I kept my shirt on but just had my left side exposed. It was time for the light blue outline. Again, the feelings were similar to the dark blue outline. Nothing excruciating. It took about the same time to ink this outline and before I knew it, he was done. It was time for another break. Next up would be the filling in of the color, so I was expecting to feel this part more.

This time he started at the love handle area and worked his way up. I was surprised by how little it really hurt. It was more annoying than anything. As he got onto my ribs, I definitely felt it more. It felt like a grating sensation but it still wasn't horrible. With the dark blue fill-in complete, it was time for our third break. Next we'd do the light blue fill in and then the red L.

The light blue fill in was about the same as the dark blue. There was just a bit more to do. I was taking video during the session and I think that, along with watching TV and talking to Keith all helped take my mind off the actual tattoo. At no point did I find this tattoo really painful. Sure it sucked in spots but other times it actually felt strangely good - like when the tattoo needles produced a deep warming sensation when I was cold. Keith told me I was holding out like a champ. I remember saying how good it looked, seeing the two blues side by side. Keith agreed.

The red L was done last and this was the most irritating part of the tattoo. It burned a bit and Keith said it was likely going to suck. It didn't take long to do and when I saw him put the tattoo machine down and grab the bottle of Green Soap, I knew that he was finished. He told me to go have a look. It looked pretty hot. The light blue was insanely bright and it contrasted well with the darker blue. Keith told me that he'd put the shadow behind the L once the tattoo was healed because he didn't want to overwork the area. It wasn't a problem. He also said that a touch-up might be needed because the darker blue color is tricky and tends to take a bit longer to heal.

He rubbed in some ointment and then slapped on a few bandages, securing them with medical tape. Then, I was all set to go. I carefully put my shirt back on and chugged down the rest of my OJ. Since this tattoo was a Christmas present, I decided that I had to return the favor. When your artist takes care of you - you return the favor, it's that simple. So when I gave him a gift box, he was a little surprised. He really doesn't like people getting him things, but he said because it was me, he wouldn't get too upset about it. I got him a Zippo lighter, with an iron cross emblem that closely matched the logo of his air-brushing business. He said it was the first real Zippo he's ever gotten. He genuinely appreciated it.

After a great tattoo session, I headed home. The area was feeling a bit sore, but nothing too bad. I noticed that I had a nice patch of red on one of the bandages, which was likely excess ink, though it could have blood.

I actually stopped back in the studio later that day. Mainly to just say a quick what's up, since I was in the area. Keith asked how the tattoo was and I said it was great. Then he said he wanted to see it. I told him it was still bandaged, but he didn't care, he wanted to see it. So, I started peeling off my top layers. I carefully peeled away the tape. He said that the medical tape he used really stuck to me well. Too well. He said that I actually had a reaction to it. He sprayed green soap on a paper towel and cleaned away the smear of blue and red inks. With the tattoo looking crisp, I looked in the mirror and I was just as pleased as I was hours earlier when it was finished. I showed Gabe - who was tattooing a rib piece (of all things) on a client. He liked how it turned out. I stayed for a bit, but then had to go. I told Keith that I'd see him after the holiday.

Later that night, I gave the tattoo a nice blast of hot water from my shower. Then I carefully dried off the tattoo and used a hair dryer to dry it, using the cool setting. Then I re-bandaged it before going to bed. Just in case the tape came loose, I also wore a shirt, so it would catch any oozing.

Waking up the next morning, the bandages were still nice and secure. I removed them and the tattoo was cleaned. It was looking very good, though I noticed that the L was feeling a bit scabby. Nothing major, but I could feel it when I rubbed my fingers over it. The cold front wasn't as bad, but there were some areas that didn't feel smooth.

As the days passed, the L was scabbed. The scabs weren't raised though and they were mainly inside the L and not along the edges. A few areas of the cold front also scabbed. Overall, the tattoo wasn't healing as well as I would have liked, but it wasn't the worst healing tattoo either. Besides, I was going to have to get a touch-up anyway.

After one week, it's looked a lot better. Only two real problems areas: The L and one area on the cold front. After another week, both areas looked even better. I showed Keith and he was surprised by the red color in the L. Overall, he said it looked pretty good and that a touch-up would take care of any imperfections.

The outline: (Click to watch the short video)

The finished tattoo:


Update:

The tattoo was touched up about a month after getting it done - with far better results. A black shadow was placed behind the L and that slight addition made the tattoo look even better.

Pictures of the tattoo after the touch-up:

Details

submitted by: Anonymous
on: 13 March 2008
in Tattoos

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Artist: Keith+M.
Studio: Peter+Tat-2
Location: Pittsfield%2C+Mass.

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