Jakub Pollág designs Personal Tattoo Machine for do-it-yourself body art

| 36 comments

Graduate shows 2015: don't trust someone else to permanently mark your skin? This device by Royal College of Art graduate Jakub Pollág is designed to allow users to self-administer tattoos (+ movie).

PTM DIY Tattoo Machine by Jakub Pollag

Pollág created the Personal Tattoo Machine to allow other enthusiasts to create indelible marks on their body associated with memories and meanings, rather than perfect imagery.

"Personal Tattoo Machine democratises the tattoo industry," he said. "It puts a tool used only by a limited group of people into the hands of enthusiasts, who are seeking an alternative and unique way to permanently mark their meaningful memories onto their skin."

PTM DIY Tattoo Machine by Jakub Pollag

Some of Pollág's own "homemade" tattoos were applied with the low-tech method of poking himself with an ink-loaded sterile needle. Although he appreciates the "raw" quality of these designs and the stories behind them, he wanted to develop a technique that was less time-consuming.

PTM DIY Tattoo Machine by Jakub Pollag

Influenced by the ad-hoc tattooing techniques used by prisoners, Pollág built a device that he intends as a "quality tool that is safe and easy to use" by the artist rather than a second party.

PTM DIY Tattoo Machine by Jakub Pollag

"There is a missing link from the idea that you have in your head – what kind of tattoo you want – to execution done by someone else," the designer told Dezeen.



Running on a nine-volt battery, a small direct-current (DC) motor inside the machine drives a component that turns the spinning motion into an up-and-down pulse for the needle.

PTM DIY Tattoo Machine by Jakub Pollag

The sterile tubes and needles for carrying and administering the ink are outsourced.

Pollág purposefully omitted the different thickness options found on professional machines, and set the speed to be slower so novices can focus on their drawing.

PTM DIY Tattoo Machine by Jakub Pollag

"I wanted to create a product that will again focus on tattoos that are more about the meaning," he said.

Pollág's first prototypes were made from metal, but he quickly moved into 3D printing for later models to simulate the injection-moulded plastic that would be used in commercial production.

PTM DIY Tattoo Machine by Jakub Pollag

He also designed packaging that integrates all the equipment needed during and after using the machine, including instructions, rubber gloves, an ink cup and antiseptic lotion.

PTM DIY Tattoo Machine by Jakub Pollag

To date, the machine has been used to create 30 tattoos on 20 different subjects. However, Pollág still recommends visiting a professional parlour for more accurate results.

PTM DIY Tattoo Machine by Jakub Pollag

"This machine is not aiming to replace tattoo parlours," he said. "It's there to offer a more personal option. If you want a realistic portrait of your, let's say, cat, you should still go to a tattoo parlour and not use this machine."

PTM DIY Tattoo Machine by Jakub Pollag

Pollág is presenting the project at this year's Show RCA graduate exhibition in London until 5 July, where other devices on display include a "power glove" for carving hard materials by hand and a tactile interface for navigating CAD environments.

PTM DIY Tattoo Machine by Jakub Pollag

Improvised tattooing is also possible with Appropriate Audiences' device, which combines a 3D printer with a tattooist's needle to form an automated tattoo "printer".

  • definition

    “Ornament and crime” – Loos. Intelligent people defined this long ago, of course, in our time, Kardashian time, this machine is logical. What a sad society.

    • MM

      Loos was 100 years ago. Modernism needed to happen, but we can move on. Ornament is making a comeback, as people realise it shouldn’t be so nonchalantly dismissed.

      Anyway, if people feel that tattoos enhance them or allow them to express themselves, then why not? That would be a positive implementation of ornament. I am sure you do not live your life free of ornament?

  • Matty

    Graet! Oops… I mean great.

  • Kate

    Tattoo myself? I’d rather drink Lambrini.

  • JayCee

    Tramp stamps are going to be tough to pull off.

  • M. Vitruvius

    This sooooo makes sense. Because no one can really understand your beautiful ideas and original visions and translate them to something that expresses your true identity and shows you as the gorgeous individual that you are, way way WAY beyond the mainstream and the “normcore” people.

  • CadBaboon

    In days of yore, people would doodle on the wee pad beside the phone. With modern mobile communications this is just not possible. So now people scribble on themselves. Now that’s progress.

  • Guest

    “Mark their meaningful memories”. Memories that may well be supplanted next week by even more meaningful memories. But they’ll be stuck with the original memory, and for life, or until some plastic surgeon gets to work. I never understood why anyone would want to ineradicably mark their body.

  • Joshua Young

    This is a little bit silly but I suppose why not? People should probably be warned though. A tattoo machine is not a pen. It’s a very specific artist’s tool that takes a lot of experience with that specific tool.

    I guess if people are, well… I want to say dumb, but for the sake of the argument, let’s say “inexperienced” enough to think that a pen and paper are the same as a machine and skin, then by all means? And hey, I guess everyone has to start somewhere.

  • jade

    You are incorrect to perceive time as linear. It is far from that. Do you not see beyond the veil? Tattoos take away more than they will ever give. It is a very superficial, trendy and crude gesture that is representative of the fear of not fitting into the cool club.

    • IveLostMyAura

      This is not an astrology page. Tattoo machines do not puncture a non-existent glowing haze. Or does your aura suffer every time your scalpel slips? Judging a potential employee on the way they look rather than their skills is just ridiculous and unsavoury.

      • Jade

        How superficial that you do not see that most great architecture is invisible to the eye. As I said before, I do not employ people who tattoo themselves in my architectural office and for a very good reason.

    • Alex

      Failure to see for yourself, tattoos can also be sacred and extremely holy.

      • Jade

        Please elaborate? Those without these surface scribblings upon their skin are in most cases usually more enlightened, sacred and able to see. Why would I need to tell someone about me through cutting into my skin with a crude needle? Showing them temporary symbols and doodles and paying money for that?

        Do not mention the sacred, the tribes and all of that. A lion is a lion because it radiates this truth from the core and not because he or she has it tattooed upon their arm that they are a lion. Understand that and you open the gates to endless potential and not to mention endless creativity.

        • robo

          Why are you wasting your time on here. You’re not a fan of tattoos, we know. I think this idea is stupid too, but I do like tattoos. I learnt not to judge a lion for being a lion or a human with funny pictures against a human with no pictures. I think you should chill and go outside.

  • Kim

    Judging people on their skin is the definition of superficial, surely? You are tarring countless people as lacking self-control and intelligence which would be a gross, and incorrect, generalisation. I’m not even going to begin naming examples of people proving you wrong. Also, I am grateful to work for a practice who are able to distinguish between appearance and professional value.

    • P

      I’m sure the countless talented people with tattoos are glad that you’re taking the time and effort to eliminate yourself and your ignorance from the pool of good practices to work in.

      • Jade

        Work only for yourself.

    • Jade

      My observations are accurate. Please provide me with examples.

  • Margo V

    The biohazard and infectious potential in these pictures are gross. This is why you trust professionals – because you also benefit from years of blood-born pathogen and infectious control training. It’s something you don’t have otherwise you’d know how much grossness and cross-contamination is present in the above pictures.

    The ONLY tattoo that even looks like a decent job is the skull and top-hat sticker on dude’s arm (I know it’s a sticker because I got the same one out of a gumball machine for my kid, oh, and it looks like a sticker).

    The fact that this rotary style “tatty zapper” is sold to untrained people is not any indication of ease-of-use, or quality. Go ahead kids, play with your homemade stuff because you saw how cool it looked on the internet. Your doctor and I will we be waiting to fix you up when you are done with being hipstupid. Your health is worth more than this.

  • JMFM

    Isn’t every tattoo gun DIY?

  • MM

    I totally agree with you!

    • Jade

      Don’t follow him or her. Agree for yourself!

      • Keely

        Haha, you’re funny. Buddhism and Hinduism value tattoos and quite often use them, same with dreads and other things you might find unholy. Understand that not everyone will agree with you, and not everyone believes the same thing.

        You don’t have to tell your life story on your body, you can put a cheeseburger on yourself because you liked the design. I believe only Judaism believes that tattoos are unholy, but I think the only thing you can’t do is get buried in a Jewish cemetery, I’ve heard nothing of the afterlife implications. You tell people to think for themselves yet mock those who decide to do things for themselves.

        Please, tell me more about how they’re for people with less self control. They tattoo something that will be there forever, on their physical body. How is that a loss of self control? They thought about it, maybe for a minute, maybe for a year, but that is none of your business, because they liked it so much they got it tattooed.

        They’re invested in the design, and some don’t want to spend upwards of $300 for a design they can do themselves. And some people tattoo themselves instead of harming themselves, and if that’s selfish, or impractical, so be it. Whatever makes them feel okay. You don’t like them, that’s cool. Don’t get one.

  • Alana Robbie

    As a tattooer I can assure you my years of experience and state health license will lead to a safe tattoo applied correctly (without scaring or infection). I’m not a glorified tracer. I think this is a truly awful idea. The very same as a home dentistry kit.

  • Gre

    Is it any wonder the photographs are all zoomed out? Let’s see some close ups, I want to see the quality of these self-applied tattoos with what is essentially a shit version of something that professionals use on a day-to-day basis. Nothing new at all. It’s a rotary tattoo machine. They range from £5 to £500 and the lower end of the spectrum is available on eBay if you are an idiot and want to tattoo yourself.

    Does he understand why good tattoos cost so much money? Because they are incredibly difficult to make. A well done tattoo that will last a lifetime, looking as good at 50 years old as it did the day it was made, is a beautiful and timeless piece of design. It’s worth every penny, and every little compromise you have to make to your idea. The same way you would compromise with your architect when he tells you you can’t have that antigravity shower that tips you out into a bollock-drying ball pit so you can end up with a beautiful house.

    Also… funny how Jakub’s spent tens of thousands of pounds at the RCA for his qualifications yet places no credence in my experience or undertaking of my apprenticeship and the time spent there for me to become a professional tattooer.

    Arrogant. Ignorant. Cheapskate.

    • dinska

      Also, perhaps trust issues.

      • Gre

        Agreed.

  • Roach PlanNine

    This is stupid. Leave the tattooing to us professionals.

  • decepticonner

    I waited to get my first tattoo until I was 30. It was great. I thought about it, and I got a few more that I also thought about. They make sense to me and I’m happy to have them on me.

    The intelligence you speak of means nothing to me, since they are thoughtful and exist after much consideration. It’s not your thing, good for you, but we don’t all carry your lofty judgemental opinions.

    You know you probably haven’t changed something in your home for at least a year that you don’t like. I had a while and I’m good with what I picked, my home ehhh. I didn’t have as much time to think about.

    • Jade

      As I said before, tattoos take away more than they will ever give.

  • You need another hand to stretch the skin! The only merit I see in this is that it’s cable-free.

  • doug

    Jade is right. Tattoos also can stab the tiny goblins who live in your skin. Why do you not care about skin goblins?

  • Papa Jones

    Democratise the tattoo industry or just makes a joke out of it? Where’s the difference with buying an ordinary tattoo machine? Ah sorry, just one thickness and one speed, sounds great! Of course, who trusts a talented and well-trained tattoo artist (with a real machine)? We all can do it.

    Professionals, why don’t you do surgery to yourself too? Did he design a scalpel too? Can’t really see a concept here apart from a re-designed (barely) tattoo machine case and a rather basic kit. I’ll stay away from it… hipsters! And I’ll focus more on design.

  • Caleb Fiero

    This is a terrible idea. As a professional tattoo artist, I cringed in horror while watching the promotional video for this product. This buffoon did nothing to prepare or protect the surfaces, he didn’t even wash his hands.

    It is impossible for anyone to properly tattoo themselves on the forearm because you lose the ability to stretch the skin with your other hand. Any professional tattoo artist will tell you that stretching the skin is VITAL to being able to penetrate the skin properly, which is why the video shows this idiot brutally digging into himself.

    That digging will result in scarring, which will make it so much harder for a professional tattoo artist to cover when this fool realises he ruined his skin. Jakub Pollag should be ashamed of himself. There are enough Ebay Scratchers out there, the world doesn’t need anymore of them.

  • Mohbar

    A tattoo eraser would have been a better invention.