The technique with which the pigments are brought underneath the skin has not undergone any significant change during the course of history.  There are, however, depending on the state of development and degree of inventiveness, great variations in the quality.  This is due to the ease of use of the tattooing instruments on the one hand and to aesthetic considerations on the other: the tattoo should be finely drawn, with lines that are thin, black and even. 

Even primitive cultures whose practices involve the piercing of the cheeks –a technique used sometimes with Maori facial tattooing- have developed astonishing tattooing techniques, for example the Skimos, or rather, to use the correct term, the Inuit: with the help of a needle, a colored thread is drawn under the skin and literally stitched into it, one stitch at a time.  No attempt is made to depict a realistic image on the skin.  The designs are limited to lines, broken or continuous, and crosses, which are combined to form a harmonious whole.  In this way, whole surfaces are covered, an arm and both thighs from the knee to the groin, or even the face, which is covered with a pattern of lines.

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Some peoples like the Thai, Cambodians and the Burmese, puncture the skin with a long sharp point.  This technique, which permits complex tattoos with long rows of dots, spirals or other forms, was used by the peoples of Europe in ancient times and is still employed today by the North American Indians.  The technique does not, however, employ black or shade areas of a larger size.  It is, of course, a very good technique for the tattooing of writing, with which we are familiar all over Indochina.  There people use the so-called chisel or comb technique: a row of needles, or pieces of ivory or bone sharpened to a point, are fastened to the end of a stick, thus forming a kind of rake.

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Another sophisticated manual technique is the Japanese method.  With this method, the tattooers use a row of different sticks with needles jointed to create a particular pattern.  For details they only need up to three needles; thick and thin lines, on the other hand, require more needles, and colored or black areas require a large number of needles.  In the case of the so-called bokashi technique, twenty-seven needles are capable of creating the most beautiful shades of gray in the world, going from black to colorless in one smooth transition.