A tattoo is a marking made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment for decorative or other reasons. Tattoos on humans are a type of decorative body modification, while tattoos on animals are most commonly used for identification or branding. The first written reference to the word, tattoo (or Samoan Tatau) appears in the journal of Joseph Banks, the naturalist aboard Cook’s ship The Endeavour, in 1769: “I shall now mention the way they mark themselves indelibly, each of them is so marked by their humor or disposition”.

Tattoo enthusiasts may refer to tattoos as Ink, Tats, Art, Shign-Dings,Pieces, or Work. The Japanese word irezumi means insertion of ink and can mean tattoos using tebori, the traditional Japanese hand method, a Western-style machine, or for that matter, any method of tattooing using insertion of ink.

In Taiwan, facial tattoos of the Atayal tribe are named Badasun; they are used to demonstrate that an adult man can protect his homeland, and that an adult woman is qualified to weave cloth and perform housekeeping.

Copyrighted tattoo designs that are mass-produced and sent to tattoo artists are known as flash, a notable instance of industrial design. Flash sheets are prominently displayed in many tattoo parlors for the purpose of providing both inspiration and ready-made tattoo images to customers.

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