In this video, Marek dives deep into his creative process and shares a number of timeless gems he has learned throughout his years of tattooing.
Video length: N/A
Tattoo styles: Color, Realism
Availability: Members Only
INTENZE: Where are you from? When did you start tattooing? What were you doing before that?
Marek Pawlik: I am from Poland. I live in a small city called Ruda Śląska. My first encounter with tattooing was between 94' and 95'. Before that, I didn't have a real job, I was just your standard student.
INTENZE: What tattoo styles do you do? Do you have any preference? Why did you choose that?
Marek Pawlik: I do realistic tattoos at the moment. I tried a lot of styles before I found the one that I really enjoy. And the realistic style wasn't a choice, it comes naturally.
INTENZE: What is your creative process? How do you break up the process in your mind?
Marek Pawlik: I always ask my clients what they want, and if they tell me what they want, my second question is where they want it. For me, the most important thing is not only the design but the placement. If you have good placement with good design, you don't need to worry about anything.
INTENZE: Does the process change depending on the tattoo?
Marek Pawlik: Sometimes yes, but basically no. For me, what's always important is both the design and the placement.
INTENZE: What are the most important things you consider when you start a piece?
Marek Pawlik: I think the mutual trust with my client. When the client trusts me, the work is smoother, more relaxed, and everything is great.
INTENZE: How do you draw your stencil?
Marek Pawlik: I'm old-school guy, I just bring my design, put the pencil on the stencil and I use the standard pen.
INTENZE: What products do you use to apply the stencil to the skin? Why do you use those products?
Marek Pawlik: I've tried many products, but Stencil Stuff is the best one to me. It also hasn't been tested on animals which is very important to me.
INTENZE: Are there any stencil application tricks that you use?
Marek Pawlik: Nothing special. After I put on the stencil, I wait like five minutes and I'm ready to go.
INTENZE: What kind of ink are you using?
Marek Pawlik: For my work, I use only INTENZE ink. I think this is the best company in the market. Also, the colors that they have are perfect for realistic tattoos.
INTENZE: What is your favorite thing about INTENZE ink?
Marek Pawlik: All INTENZE inks are bright but when we talk about tattooing, the most important thing is contrast. When you have good contrast, all colors will really pop and be bright.
INTENZE: How do you mix your inks?
Marek Pawlik: Most of the time I use standard colors because it is the perfect palette for realistic tattoos. Of course, when I work I mix them in the ink cups to have best results. In my work, you can see a very dark green background – I prepare this green myself.
INTENZE: What's important to pay attention to when mixing your inks?
Marek Pawlik: I think what is most important is having a standard basic knowledge of mixing colors. You should know that, for instance, mixing blue and yellow gives you green, and so on. If you don't know this, you can study this. You can just start painting with acrylics or oils and this will help a lot.
INTENZE: How do you go from light to dark in a piece?
Marek Pawlik: When I work, I use dark and light tones at the same time. Years ago, everybody told you that you had to start with the darks and finish with the lights, but I don't work like that anymore. Once you have been tattooing for years, you know how to avoid the mess.
INTENZE: How do you get smooth shading transitions?
Marek Pawlik: Everything is about having knowledge and practice. If you know your machine, if you know your inks and needles, then most color transitions will be very easy to do.
INTENZE: How do you make the piece really pop?
Marek Pawlik: It's no secret that contrast is the key to realistic tattoos. All the dark colors are really important. But it will never look good without contrast.
INTENZE: What are some tips and tricks artists can use to improve packing in ink?
Marek Pawlik: I don't have any special tips for that. Everyone should find their own way. I can only say to try different sizes of needles, different machines and so on. Just practice, practice, practice and practice.
INTENZE: What sort of machine are you using?
Marek Pawlik: At the moment I use Dragonfly and Stingray ink machines.
INTENZE: What types of needles did you use? Do you use certain needles at certain parts of a tattoo?
Marek Pawlik: I use both standard needles from a company called Signature. They are from Germany and are very good needles. When we talk about cartridges I mostly use seven, nine, and eleven magnums. When we talk about standard needles, it's usually 8-round shader, seven-liner and five-liner.
INTENZE: How do you adjust your machine speed throughout this tattoo? Do you have general rules of thumb for machine speed with pieces like this?
Marek Pawlik: Usually when I'm in the middle of the tattoo, I don't change my machine speed. Of course, sometimes you must do this because everything is about the skin.
INTENZE: What was the hardest part of this piece to nail? How did you solve it?
Marek Pawlik: I think the hardest part was for my client because it was a painful spot. I do a lot of nature stuff. I didn't find the piece to be difficult.
INTENZE: What aftercare instructions do you give to your clients?
Marek Pawlik: I always put Dermalize cream on the tattoo. I tell my clients to keep it on for 24 hours and then take it off, wash gently, and start putting the cream on like every three hours. I always recommend the vegan line of H2O products, they are really great.
INTENZE: Why do you use that aftercare product?
Marek Pawlik: I tried many different companies before I found my favorite one and I think H2O Tattoo Cream and Ocean Cream Soap is perfect for aftercare. It helps the healing process really well. Also, it's important for me to use vegan products not tested on animals. Ethics is very important to me.
INTENZE: What is your favorite thing about INTENZE ink?
Marek Pawlik: For me, INTENZE colors are just perfect because they look natural, not too artificial, and they stay like this for a long time.
INTENZE: How do you approach the placement of stencil?
Marek Pawlik: When I prepare my design, I always think about placement. And the stencil is only the final product of this. And you must always remember that some parts of the body will change the stencil's shape when they move and if you think about this when you design, the stencil will be no problem at all.
INTENZE: How long do you let the stencil dry?
Marek Pawlik: Approximately five minutes.
INTENZE: What do you use to apply the stencil?
Marek Pawlik: I use Stencil Stuff and I think this is the best one.
INTENZE: What is the best way to approach your shading?
Marek Pawlik: It's all about design. However, realistic tattoos are different. You don't start with the lines or shades, you just mix it during in process.
INTENZE: What do you do not to wipe down stencil?
Marek Pawlik: Usually, I don't have any problems with the stencil, but if you have a problem, you should wipe the tattoo with clean water without soap.
INTENZE: How long do you work before the first break?
Marek Pawlik: Basically, I don't take any breaks when I work.
INTENZE: Do you start with light or darker shades?
Marek Pawlik: It doesn't really matter in realistic tattoos. You basically make it all together during the process, but I usually prefer starting with the darker colors.
INTENZE: Do you listen to music while you tattoo? How does that help you?
Marek Pawlik: Of course, I love listening to music when I work. It makes me more relaxed and the work is smoother, more fun. But I don't like to use headphones. I prefer having contact with the client.
INTENZE: How much do you stretch the skin during a tattoo?
Marek Pawlik: It's hard to describe, but I think I stretch the skin quite a lot and it's very important when you do the color for tattoos.
INTENZE: Do you go for one pass or do you layer?
Marek Pawlik: I always go with one pass.
INTENZE: You use some off-tone colors as they seem a little muted. Why?
Marek Pawlik: Because I love matte colors. They just look more natural and make a good contrast for vibrant colors.
INTENZE: Are those special color tones you use?
Marek Pawlik: Most of them are standard colors, but for the background, I use my own mix of greens.
INTENZE: How many times can you pass over the same area without overworking the skin?
Marek Pawlik: It's basically no rules. It's that simple. It always depends on the type of skin and how long you can go after 10 minutes of tattooing.
INTENZE: Do you recommend coil or rotary machines?
Marek Pawlik: The question is not that simple. Of course, I recommend the rotary machines, but you should have knowledge of coil machines before using rotary machines.
INTENZE: Do you prefer to put white in during the process of the tattoo or at the end?
Marek Pawlik: I use whites both ways. I use white during the process, but when I really need highlights, I use white at the end.
INTENZE: Do you recommend to touch up the tattoo?
Marek Pawlik: Yes, I do, but it isn't necessary every time. It's very important that the client should come back to you and show you how the tattoo has healed.
INTENZE: Do you work in one session or more and what do you prefer?
Marek Pawlik: I work pretty fast. Usually, I'm able to do the piece in one sitting, but it depends on the size. If the tattoo is big, you must do more sessions.
INTENZE: How do you re-place a stencil if you have to break the session?
Marek Pawlik: I never do that. I have had these situations a few times in my life, but I think that when you already have all the planning in your head and you know what to do, it's very easy to find a place where you can finish tattooing and replace the stencil.
INTENZE: Do you use the same needle depth in lining and shading?
Marek Pawlik: Yes, basically I don't change anything when I'm tattooing.
INTENZE: Do you mix the ink with mixing solution or straight?
Marek Pawlik: I mix straight, and I also use mixing solution. Either one.
INTENZE: Do you mix the ink in the cap or in the tube or not at all?
Marek Pawlik: During the tattoo, I mix colors in the ink caps. But for the background, I use my own greens. I mix my own green tones in the bottles because I use these colors for almost every tattoo.
INTENZE: Do you draw/paint or do you only tattoo?
Marek Pawlik: I always wish for more time, but the problem is always the same, time. And because of that, most of my work is tattooing.
INTENZE: When do you think is the best time to take a picture of your work?
Marek Pawlik: Usually, I take the picture right after finishing because my clients live far away. When I can see my healed work, I always take pictures of my healed pieces.
INTENZE: Do you assist in picking out the design?
Marek Pawlik: Most of my clients let me do freehand. Of course, they tell me what they want, but I choose the design.
INTENZE: Are you nervous when you start a new tattoo?
Marek Pawlik: After 24 years, not really. Except if it's the wife in the chair.
INTENZE: Do you change machines during the tattoo for different needles?
Marek Pawlik: Not really. I have my own machine set up and my machine has different needle and basically, it's everything that I need for every tattoo that I do.
INTENZE: What can you tell an aspiring tattoo artist before starting your style of tattooing?
Marek Pawlik: Be patient, listen to the other artists, try to think how you can improve and practice, practice, and practice. I think this is the only way.
INTENZE: What do you watch for when you observe other artists' work?
Marek Pawlik: It's a difficult question because there's no simple answer for that. If you have some experience, you know how you should watch the other guy. How he makes his colors, how he moves the machine, what needle he uses… If you really know what you want to learn, you know how to watch.
INTENZE: What's your view of the tattoo industry?
Marek Pawlik: I'm in the business 24 years now and for sure the tattoo industry is huge now. Sometimes I think there should be higher requirements to becoming a tattoo artist because, on the one hand, you have great artists who do great work, but on the other hand, you have many people who don't know enough of what they are doing.
INTENZE: What's your final message for all tattoo artists?
Marek Pawlik: Remember safety practices and keep in mind the ingredients in the products you use. It's not only about the tattoo. Somebody's health and their life are in your hands.