In my post apocalyptic world there is a tribal clan called The Mutants. None of them are those radiation zombies however, and they are all actually just prime humans. They are called The Mutants, however, because they give themselves piercings, scars and tattoos to look more menacing.

My question is: without advanced technology, like tatto needles, is there a way for them to get their epic scars?

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    $\begingroup$ Downvoter, might I ask why you decided to vote down? This seems like it falls perfectly within our criteria of worldbuilding, isn't too story based, isn't too opinion-based, and is easily answerable (as the excellent answer by Dan Clarke already for example has shown) $\endgroup$ May 12, 2018 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ Ötzi had no smartphone, but he had tattoos. A simple Google research would have given you a bonanza of results. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    May 12, 2018 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ tattoos are hardly advanced technology, they don't even require metallurgy.. $\endgroup$
    – John
    May 12, 2018 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ Reason for downvoting are: unclear question (your is crystal clear) or lack of research effort (which I pointed out). No need to apologize, it's all part of the learning. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    May 12, 2018 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ Also, you accepted an answer after half an hour. There are 48 half hours in a day, allowing users all around the world to answer and allow you to pick the best answer. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    May 12, 2018 at 14:41

4 Answers 4


Easily done.



The traditional Maori technique was also very common with other societies, including European. It simply involves a sharp pointed stick, tooth, bamboo, iron needle, etc. The tip is dipped in ink and then poked into the skin. It's a slower, more painful version of modern tattooing.

Another method is to make a very fine needle, put a thread through it, soak the thread in dye and run it under the skin. This was common for female tattoos in North America.


With scarification you can find pictures of traditional methods fairly easily on Google, I'd post pictures but it's pretty bloody.

Anyways to do scarification all you need is a sharp knife. For lines, a wide shallow cut is done to peel off the skin. Dots are done by poking the skin repeatedly until you have a circle that's skinless. The wound then has ash or ground up charcoal rubbed on to promote scarring.


Prisoners build tattoo guns all the time

I currently work in a corrections facility. These guys can build a tattoo gun out of practically anything they can attach an electric motor to. Tattoo guns are NOT advanced technology by any means.

They will take the batteries and the motor from a tape player and rig it up to make tattoos. The ink can be made out of just about anything too, most popular is pen ink, but colored pencils crushed up and mixed with Vaseline and rubbing alcohol is a popular as well.

Believe it or not, prison tattoos can be pretty ornate and professional looking. I have to constantly do cell shakedowns and I once dropped some staples on the floor, I thought I cleaned them all up, but two weeks later, I found a tattoo gun that had 3 of the staples I had dropped.

A 3rd grader could build a tattoo gun from household products, and they don't have to be battery operated, they can be wind-up spring driven or rubber-band and flywheel driven too.

A particularly well made prison tattoo gun. enter image description here

A particularly good prison tattoo enter image description here


Tattoos can be made pretty easily with a sharp needle, charcoal, animal glue and water. Boil the water and heat the needle to get rid of the bacteria and to be safe about infections. Then grind the charcoal, put it in the water, add animal glue and bring the temp. up again (but not too hard, Max. 70°C because the glue will start to lose it's binding properties). After it's done simply dip the needle in the ink and start tattooing.

I went to art school and some people used to do this to each other outside, because they weren't old enough to go to a tattoo parlor or because their parents didn't let them, although they used mass produced ink used for drawing.

Charcoal is a pigment that can be found pretty easily, and if your characters are living in a post-apocalyptic setting, this might be a good method since bottled ink might be hard to come by. Animal glue is also not hard to make, but there is a certain process to it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=741RacKxiYA (this is a link to the tutorial)

There is also some info on how the Chinese made ink for their brushes, if you need more details.



Needles are not required for tattoos, anything that pierces the skin will do.

Polynesians have used thorns and shark teeth, while other cultures have used other tools gathered from nature. Tattoos can even be done by cutting rather than pricking.


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