I rub ink in before I clamp the pliers, then I leave them clamped on as hard as I can for about 5 sceonds, and rub more ink in. And rub like crazy. I used about as much ink as what would take up the last knuckle worth of my pointer finger.
And I don't use alcohol, or baking soda. Just smear ink and clamp, and press more ink in.
My tattooes come out very pigmented and raised. Even on black ears. They are very raised, you can even read them just by feeling.
And normally, just a standard thing almost all judges will do, is take a flash light behind their ears to read them.