Like all creative careers, becoming great at tattooing takes immense patience and many dedicated hours of practice. Since you shouldn’t tattoo on skin until you’ve had years of training, you may be wondering what alternatives you have to practice tattooing. We’ve got you covered in this practice guide.
Table of Contents (clickable)
Learning to Draw
Learning to draw doesn’t mean just adapting to artistry skills, it means constantly practicing and perfecting your skills as a creative. If you’ve ever wondered whether you need to know how to draw prior to becoming an artist, the answer is no. Many people have taught themselves how to draw in under six months in order to pursue a career in tattooing.
There are a multitude of ways that you can draw to benefit your skill as a tattoo artist.
- Draw constantly, every day. This includes trying out multiple design styles and building up a portfolio of unique pieces.
- Train yourself by tracing designs you’ve made or found online. Practicing tracing will be beneficial for working with stencils while tattooing.
- Work with a variety of materials and mediums to get a feel for how designs can be impacted by both textures and pressures.
- Practice drawing in a style that is uncomfortable for you to learn to better interpret artistry ideas.
- Ask your friends to give you rough tattoo sketching ideas and then turn them into hand-drawn professional pieces.
- Use a non-toxic marker or a pen to draw pieces on yourself or on your friends.
- Use a permanent marker and draw intricate designs on contoured objects, such as fruit.
Another way you can improve your skills as a tattoo artist through standard drawing is to use a weighted pencil. This allows you to get used to the awkward feel of holding a tattoo gun.
Practice Through Henna
Henna ink is a semi-permanent ink that is used in Hindu and Arabic cultures to create intricate and beautiful designs on skin. The ink is a thick formula that, once dried, leaves a brown or red design on the skin for around two weeks. It’s important that you ensure you are purchasing henna from a reputable seller, as there are many cheap and toxic alternatives on the market. In addition, black henna should be avoided due to the allergic reactions it may cause to skin.
Henna can come premixed with a tiny tube for distribution, ready-to-mix and be put in a piping bag, or can be applied delicately with the end of a toothpick. The semi-permanence of henna ink adds a bit more pressure to practicing with this medium. It’s a great way to better understand how the contours of the human body may influence a design.
Research Tattooing and Anatomy
Becoming an expert in tattooing requires researching, learning about, and mastering the understanding of everything from the variety of guns on the market, setting up and tuning your own machine, as well as the human skin and diseases. You need to learn about human skin depth and how the deposited ink heals where it is set. Studying and reading is a form of essential practice.
Equipment to Practice With
If you’re eager to get into working with a real tattoo machine, we recommend getting your hands on an inexpensive kit for at-home practice. Try not to use very cheap machines on your own skin, no matter how tempted you may be. The more you work with a machine, the better practice you have with adapting to the vibrations and buzzing of a tattoo gun.
Fruit as a Body Double
Fruit has textures and grooves like skin, and it also has contours like a human body. This makes for a more realistic tattooing experience and excellent practice in perfecting your skills with a machine. For more information on tattooing fruit, have a look at our article, What Is The Best Fruit To Practice Tattooing On?
Synthetic and Pig Skin
Pig skin is said to be the most similar to real human skin, with regards to texture as well as depth of the dermis, allowing you to really understand how deep ink needs to be deposited. This can be obtained for free from most butchers. The problem with pig skin is that it comes with a smell and a discomfort for many users that is totally understandable.
The other option for tattooing on similar skin-like material is synthetic skin. It can be purchased from various websites and marketplaces, and it allows you to work on a more human-like canvas. The only problem with synthetic skin that should be considered is the fact that it lies flat on a table, which human skin will never do! You could consider draping the synthetic skin around various shapes to get a better feel for tattooing contours.
Consider an Apprenticeship
The best way to practice your skills and ensure you are on the right track to becoming a successful tattoo artist is to get yourself an apprenticeship under a mentor you admire. Although it takes a financial and time commitment, it’s worth it. It helps you be recognized as dedicated to the industry when you begin to search for employment. In addition, the hands-on skills you obtain in a real-life session is incomparable, and eventually you have the opportunity to tattoo on clients, yourself!
For more information about apprenticeships, check out our article, Tattoo Apprenticeships: How To Get One? Are They Paid? How Do You Pick A Mentor? - Everything You Need To Know.
Our Final Thoughts
Even after you’ve practiced many hours and entered into the industry, the learning never stops. Professional artists still dedicate numerous hours to drawing and designing, building up their flash books, and learning about new equipment on the market. Creative careers are a never-ending journey of practice and education.