If you search “bad tattoos” on the internet, you will see a surprising number of painful pictures in your search results.
Once something is inked in the skin, that design will be etched to the skin foreverA good tattoo artist is always a better option when it comes to getting inked.
But just like any other thing on Earth, tattooing is a skill that needs practice before someone can be proficient in it. Throughout the years, aspiring artists came up with a lot of ways to practice their tattooing without ruining someone else’s skin. In this article, we will feature some of the most commonly used items tattoo artists use for practicing.
Getting good in tattooing
Unlike other professions, tattooing doesn’t have a centralized union or laws that dictate how someone should master the craft (besides things related to safety). An aspiring tattoo artist must seek out a master that is willing to teach for betterment. Different tattoo artists have their ways of getting the job done, which they will only teach to their students. That’s the reason why there is a wide variety of artistic styles in the tattooing industry and a lot of ways to get good.
A trait of a good tattoo artist is versatile, having knowledge of different styles. One day, you might have a customer that wants a wide-scale tattoo with deep shading. On another day, someone would wish for a simple calligraphy tattoo or a meaningful symbol from another language. These demands might need different skills to be executed perfectly.
Of course, you’ll also deal with twitching nervous clients, different body and skin types, and other problems. You can overcome these challenges with experience. There’s no better way to gain experience than to practice what you do and learn from one case to another. Even master tattoo artists can learn something new every day.
In tattooing, the adage: “Practice makes perfect” is never truer than ever. You can’t draw a good design inaccuracy if you’ve never done it a lot of times. Anyone can start inking after getting the basics for tattoo safety and basic things. But there’s no telling when you’ll become a decent tattoo artist. You might have to pass a lot of challenges and learn from a lot of people and experiences before becoming a good one. Here are some of the best ways to practice your tattooing skills.
9 ways to practice tattooing
- Papers, please
Tattooing is a form of visual arts, and you have to know the basics that makes an artwork good. For example, you can’t make a realistic shade without knowing how light reflection works. Most tattoo artists are already great in drawing designs on paper. Build upon your sketching skills by practicing illustration on a paper.
If you haven’t dipped your toes into drawing yet, you can start by getting a drawing lesson. Practice sketching your outline and shading in paper first. Show your drawing to other people, and take note of what areas needed improvement. Practice your creativity and grow it before your skill in using a tattoo machine.
- Fruity start
If you’re already confident with your drawing skills, you might want to try sketching in a contoured canvas. The human body is not flat. An art that looks good in the flat paper might not be as good if you sketch it on an uneven surface using the same method.
Fortunately, there is a perfect and affordable practice platform for sketching in curved areas. Fruits with thick yet smooth peels like melon, grapefruit, or oranges are great starters. This will also help you get better on the proper depth to use for a certain shade or outline.
- The leg game
There’s a saying in the tattoo community: a tattoo artist would likely have crappy tattoos in his or her legs. If you’re really into practicing with real skin, you can do so without the expense of the others by tattooing on your skin. Usually, this is one of the best learning experience for aspiring artists.
The legs are one of the easiest places to try tattooing for the first time. This is because legs have a somehow flat surface, which is easy to reach and clean. Not to mention that you can hide it easily so that no one can see your crappy first tries but yourself. Once you’re a better artist, you can fix your old designs yourself.
- Practice with henna ink
For fearless souls, other great ways to practice your tattoo skills is by tattooing with henna. A henna tattoo is also popular as a temporary tattoo because these masterpieces fade away over time. It’s usually an option for people who are not yet sure if they want a permanent tattoo or not. Henna is a dye-based on a plant known as Lawsonia inermis, which usually grows in Africa, South Asia, and Australia.
Since it is a temporary ink, henna is also a helpful tool for practicing. The artist would use a very thin piping bag or a toothpick on the surface of the skin to do the inking. It’s not a painful procedure and can last up to one week to three months. Besides sharpening your inking skills, you’ll also experience dealing with different clients.
- Synthetic skin
For those who want to practice a certain new method, synthetic skin is the way to go. Synthetic skins are sheets of silicone that kind of resembles how human skin works. It reacts to tattoo needles almost the same as human skin. You can buy these on sheets or in the form of a mold that resembles hands and feet. If you’re working on your outlining or shading, and you already have some experiences using the tattoo machine, this is a good option.
Take note: low-quality synthetic skin can be tough to work with and might require more force, which is bad in reality. Just remember to adjust your handling when you’re inking back to human skin.
- Tattoo stencil paper
The tattoo stencil paper or Thermographic Tattoo Transfer paper is a kind of tattooing tool which lets you see a design in an actual skin, but without actually inking it. This technique will transfer the replica of the design perfectly in the skin for testing the look. It’s similar to the fake tattoos that you can get in toy shops, where you press down a sticker in your skin and slowly peels it out after a certain time. Tattoo stencil paper is a good way to know how a design should look like in curved spaces, which can help in practicing your drawing.
- DIY fake skin
You can make fake skin by using these materials:
- Elmer’s glue
- Paint (any color that resembles skin)
- Warm water
Make a dough with ⅓ cup of warm water and ¼ cup of flour and form a sheet. Add the paint color mixed with Elmer’s glue by pouring it into the dough. Mix it well using a rolling pin and let it dry. It should have an elastic feel once it’s done. This DIY fake skin can take a lot of time to perfect, so don’t give up if the first one doesn’t have a good feel to it.
- Using a weighted pencil
A weighted pencil is usually used by people who have a hard time adding pressure to their writings due to a variety of circumstances. Piercing a real skin needs varied pressure control depending on the design. A lot of tattoo artists recommend using a weighted pencil to simulate the weight of a real tattoo machine, as well as develop hand strength. It’s a decent way to practice handling before using a real tattoo machine.
Pigskin is considered as the closest thing next to human skin for tattooing. It gives better practice experience than any fruit or synthetic skin. Although the smell can be overbearing, this is the best way to learn more about outlining, shading, and handling the tattoo machine. We recommend you to get pigskin from local butchers for its better price.
In theory, the ink is not harmful to humans, so you can eat the pork you used for practicing. There are even pig farmers in the US who tattoos their livestock in the shoulder for identification. But because of too much handling of meat, prolonged exposure in hot temperature, and using vaseline to the skin, tattooed practice pork is not recommended to be consumed.