Inside: Dotwork tattoos explained, the history and inspiration for your own.

What Is Dot Work?

Dot work is a tattooing technique that uses dots to create a design. It is the go-to option for geometric pieces, but the method can also fill gaps, replace shade and add texture to a tattoo design.

Why Is Dot Work So Popular?

Dot work is popular because it can be used to create very detailed designs and can give a 3D effect that other tattooing techniques cannot provide. Additionally, it allows for greater control over the design and how it will look once completed.

Dot work is also the technique most tattoo artists will likely use when starting out. It allows the effective use of a stencil without so much risk of ruining the design. It is also the recommended technique for sensitive skin as the punctures can be fewer than in other techniques.

What Is A Dotwork Tattoo

The Components of Dot Work

Dot work is done with a rotary tattoo machine and needles. The device is set to a single needle, and the artist will carefully apply the dots to create the desired effect. For best results, the machine speed should be 100 – 110 CPS. This makes the nice bold dots without overworking the skin.

The hit on the machine also plays a vital role in the outcome of the tattoo. A light hit will not penetrate the skin enough, and a too-heavy hit will take longer to heal. The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle, where you get consistent dark dots without overworking the skin.

The needle you need depends on the design, but most pros use the 10-03-RL or the 12-03-RL. The needle size also determines how bold or light the dots will be. A smaller needle will create more delicate dots, while a larger needle will make bolder ones.

History of Dot Work

These tattoos have been around for centuries and was used by various cultures for body painting and tattooing. It’s believed to have originated with the dot painting style of Australian Aboriginal art. This painting uses dots of different colors and sizes to create patterns and designs. The Aboriginal people used this technique to tell stories and record their history.

Dot work made its way to Europe in the late 1800s with the arrival of tattooed sailors from Polynesia. These tattoos featured intricate geometric patterns that were created using a dotting technique. The popularity of this trend saw thousands of people get tattoos across Europe.

Dot work has continued to grow in popularity and is now one of the most popular tattooing styles. It’s often combined with other tattooing techniques to create unique and beautiful designs.

Examples of Dot Work Tattoos

The best dot work tattoos are usually a blend of fine line and dot work. But anything is possible with dot work, including:

  • Human faces
  • Natural scenery (like mountains or troubled waters)
  • Floral patterns

Types of Dot Work Tattoos

There are a few different types of dot work tattoos. These include:

  • Geometric: These are the most popular type of dot work tattoo. They often feature abstract designs and shapes such as triangles, circles, and hexagons.
  • Mandala: These designs are similar to geometric tattoos but usually feature a central focal point such as a sun, moon, or flower.
  • Portrait: These tattoos are becoming increasingly popular. They use dots to create a more realistic effect and can be used to tattoo images of people, animals, or scenery.

Dotwork Tattoos Ideas

Dotwork Tattoos Inspiration

1. Very Detailed Dotwork Tattoo

2. Triangle Dotwork Design

3. Dotwork Face

4. Finger Tattoo Idea

5. Out of this Work Dotwork Tattoo

Our Favorite Dotwork Ideas

Dot Work vs. Stipple Shading

Dot work and stipple shading are often confused because they use dots to create a tattoo design. However, there are some critical differences between the two techniques.

Dot work is a single needle machine technique that uses the same-sized dots in equal saturation to create clean lines and shapes. On the other hand, stipple shading is a multi-needle machine technique that uses different size dots and saturation to create a gradient effect.

Also, dot work is often used to create geometric designs, while stipple shading is more commonly used to create portraits with a lot of detail.

Dot Work vs. Pointillism

Dot work and pointillism are two styles of tattooing that use a similar technique but with different results. Dot work is a more precise and delicate style of tattooing that uses white and black, while pointillism is a more painterly approach.

Dot work tattoos are created by making tiny ink dots on the skin, which are then connected to form a design. The result is a tattoo that has a very detailed, almost three-dimensional look. 

Pointillism tattoos are created by making dots of color on the skin and then blending them. The resulting tattoo is more like a painting, with softer edges and more dreamlike quality. Pointillism tattoos are less precise than dot work tattoos, but they can be gorgeous.

Key Takeaways

  • Dot work tattoos create an almost 3D effect when done perfectly.
  • Dot work is done in white and black.
  • Dot work traces its roots to the dot painting style of Australian Aboriginal art.
  • Dot work is not the same as stipple shading or pointillism.