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Tattooos and Body Art: Tattoos


Braille Tattoos

Bizarre columnist Shannon Larratt investigates lumpy, bumpy skin art that works for the blind as well as sighted.


Can anyone be bothered to translate this? Email us at bizarreweb@dennis.co.uk if you can wade through it...



Both sighted and blind can read braille body art
Not all tattoos are purely visual. Some of them – so-called “Braille tattoos” – have another dimension (literally) that allows people who understand Braille to touch them and read them in a purely tactile way. I’ve seen a couple of dozen Braille tattoos in my life. About half of them were conceptual, but the rest were functional and readable.

If you want a conceptual ‘Braille tattoo’ then a simple ink tattoo will be fine. Someone who understands Braille will be able to ‘read’ the dots, but only visually. A blind person won't be able to read them though as although there is some minimal scarring from a normal ink tattoo, it’s almost imperceptible to touch.

A simple ink tattoo probably isn't the best method for a functional Braille tattoo. If you agitate an ink tattoo to make it scar more, you can end up with a very splotchy tattoo and ruin the aesthetic appeal. You can use a tattoo machine without ink just to create scars, which is called ‘etching’, but if you simply want a raised scar for a functional Braille tattoo there are better methods. Branding is one of them, or skin removal.

The first ‘Braille tattoos’ I ever saw were regular dot/strike brandings done by [branding legend] Blair. Branding the skin leaves a raised scar, but it varies from person to person and if you add some chaos to the process to increase the scarring a branding can heal unevenly.

That’s why you should consider a skin removal. A dermal punch is like a circular scalpel or a hole punch for skin. It’s exactly like a cookie cutter for skin and removes perfect circles of flesh. It’s normally used for doing biopsies and will probably give the most even dots for a functional Braille tattoo.

You can also create functional Braille tattoos with sub-dermal implants. There is the potential for shifting, however if you used a solid piece of Teflon or harder silicon, or even a piece of metal, with bumps on, you could create much finer Braille.

You would be able to position it in a fleshy area, so that it doesn’t raise the skin and wasn’t visible to the naked eye, and could only be felt if you pressed on the skin. That would be the complete opposite of a conceptual Braille tattoo as you wouldn’t be able to see it at all but you would be able to touch it and feel it and understand it.

Why do people want Braille tattoos even though they're primarily for sighted people? I don't know. But is it really that different to English speakers who get Kenji tattoos? In both Kenji and Braille somebody appreciates the shape of the letters visually and the meaning quite separately. Whereas if you’re writing in English, or a language that you’re familiar with, it’s hard to pull the ideas apart in your head.

I think that when you’re communicating in a language that you don't understand, it’s very easy to disconnect the aesthetics of the letters from the actual meaning.

Read Shannon's column EVERY MONTH in Bizarre Magazine 


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between: and

A dermal punch is scalpel-sharp, and removes perfect little circles. This joke braille body art reads 'OUCH!'

Can any Bizarre readers translate this last example? Shannon thinks it says 'CONFIAN-something or other'. Let us know.


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