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Tattoos & Technology: Ink Hunter iOS App

It was just last fall that we were reading up on tattoos “coming to life” by way of ink mapping. The new thing with tattoos and technology now? An app for iPhones called Ink Hunter.

We’ve seen it before – think Snapchat and all of their available “lenses”, be it anime eyes, rainbow barfs, or tribal neon lights moving across your face. All you have to do is blink your eyes or open your mouth with the lenses focused on your face, and then boom. You can send it to all of your Snapchat friends, share it as part of your story, and do whatever else that people do on Snapchat. Called augmented reality (AR), animation and/or other computer-generated sensory input is added to real-time pictures or videos. It probably goes without saying that most of us don’t pay attention to the actual technology behind it, but according to a Medium article about Snapchat, it’s “the first to successfully commercialize consumer AR,” and makes a further point that “this is proof that AR can be successful on devices that people already use.”

ink hunter appThis new app Ink Hunter is exactly that, but applied to our world of tattoos. Ink Hunter allows you to “try on” tattoos in real time using AR with your iPhone, which is perfect for the indecisive folks or the faint of heart. We all know the struggle when it comes to getting new ink. Placement, size, and design are all factors that need to be considered before letting a needle come close to your skin. The last thing anybody wants is for you to go home filled with regret, cry about it, and later on spend even more money to get it removed or covered up.

Obviously, I was intrigued. And by intrigued, I mean I downloaded the app on the spot to play with it before writing this up. First you draw what they call a “square smile” on your body that the app will use for alignment. Then you get to choose a “sketch” (tattoo design), which will lead you to the next step of taking the actual picture. The camera screen will show the same type of face you drew and once the two faces align, the selected design will appear in place. Once you capture the image, you can play around with sizing and placement directly on screen and there’s even a Filters menu to tweak the lightness, opacity, and more.

Here are the noticeably cool things about Ink Hunter. First and foremost, it’s easy to figure out and use. This is key in this day and age. Also, it surprisingly has quite a few decent designs from which you can choose, ranging from floral images to simple outlined toons to actual tattoo artists’ sketches. You can easily scroll through the gallery or find a menu at the top that has the designs by Category. I love that it shows the source once you save your image, because it lets you know that the people behind Ink Hunter actually get art, and honestly, there’s nothing worse than not giving credit where it’s due. Some designs, such as the ones from Inkwear, even give you the option to purchase the temporary tattoo with that design.

If you’re the type of person that hates picking from preselected options, then you’ll be happy to know that Ink Hunter also allows you to upload your own sketches to the app. This, I think, is what makes this a great application for tattoo artists and enthusiasts alike. Now, we wouldn’t encourage anyone to rely solely on this app to plan their next tattoo, but it’s an amazing visual aid for how your designs will look on skin. Ink Hunter’s Instagram shows that artists from all over are already jumping on this app and sharing pictures of their designs. This could be especially helpful for those clients that just don’t “get” what you’re saying when you try to share your hunter

As it goes, there is always room for improvement when it comes to technology and Ink Hunter is no exception. There were moments of lag while scrolling through the gallery and while I was adjusting the image, which really isn’t an issue for me, but could seriously bother the next person, especially if they plan on using this app frequently. It might’ve just been my embarrassingly outdated iPhone, which leads me to the next point. It’s currently only available in the App Store for iOS. However, Ink Hunter has stated that Android and Windows Phone versions are being developed, so it’s only a matter of time until everyone can access the app. Another downfall that has been pointed out is that it only shows the sketches in black ink. Considering once again that Ink Hunter is still fairly new, I’m sure making color sketches available isn’t too far in the future.

I owe it to myself and my inner cynic to also share my bigger, underlying concern that’s more related to how Ink Hunter will be used. Keeping our generation’s sense of identity in mind and how obsessed it is with creating our ideal selves behind the screens, will we see more people claiming to be a part of the tattoo subculture? Will we be able to trust the hundreds of images of these Ink Hunter tattoos that will inevitably start to surface on social media to be authentic and true? I guess those are questions reserved for a different post...

In closing, Ink Hunter is a fun, new app that not only takes consumer AR to the next level, it could prove to be incredibly beneficial in the tattoo industry for both artists and their potential clients.