How To Practice Tattooing

  • Written By Dan Hunter on December 16, 2019
    Last Updated: March 12, 2022

Becoming a tattoo artist is a life-long process of learning. If you want to become a well-known tattoo artist with clients waiting hand and foot for your services, you need to practice, practice, and then practice some more.

Before you take your first client, you’ll need to brush up on your skills as a tattooist. This involves working on real skin and real bodies, with all of their contours and fleshy skin and bones. What’s the best way to do that? With our guide, you’ll be well-prepared to start inking in no time and having a career you love, full of creativity and wonderful, appreciative clients who value your work.

The best ways to practice tattooing are:

  • Take drawing classes
  • Use henna to enhance your skills
  • Practice whenever you can
  • Use fruit and synthetic skin to practice on
  • Become an apprentice

Learning to Draw

One of the most important aspects of an awesome tattoo starts with the ability to draw. A professional tattooist will usually sketch the design from idea to creation. To advance your skills as an artist, you can take art classes that require drawing and shading. You must have a passion for this art, as it might take six months to two years to develop great skills.

Build up a portfolio of sketches by creating tattoos or copy tattoos that you find on Instagram or Pinterest. Mirroring someone else’s work is an excellent method of learning.

Another great way is to practice your drawing craft daily. You can combine this by signing up for a class in inking. These will allow you to learn the practice of doing an outline, and you’ll also learn how to interpret an original pencil sketch.  

Many tattoo artists begin by learning the art of tracing sample tattoos. This is the perfect method to polish your skills, as these tattoos have already been created and used on the body.

When you feel like you’ve mastered drawing skills, ask your friends if you can practice on them with a non-toxic marker or pen. This will give you a feel for drawing on a live canvas and the contours of specific body parts. 

Practice Through Henna

Henna is a beautiful and traditional dye made from the henna plant and is used for weddings and ceremonies in the Middle East, India and Morocco, as well as other countries.

Henna is a wonderful medium for practicing your skills. Make sure you buy real, non-toxic henna because choosing the wrong henna can be dangerous and cause burns on the skin, particularly with black henna.

Applying henna is usually done in one of two ways, with a piping bag or a toothpick. This is a great way to practice and work with the skin and on different body parts. A henna tattoo can last for two weeks, which is an excellent way to test if the tattoo is one that a person will want forever. This means you can practice without it being permanent and will allow you to get feedback from the client.

A Warning About Henna

Henna is brown or red. If you come across black henna, don’t use it. Black henna is banned because of the allergic reactions it can cause. Please make sure you purchase real henna and read the directions carefully when preparing to be safe.

Equipment to Practice With

It’s recommended to build hand strength because a tattoo machine is much heavier than a regular pen or pencil. To simulate the weight, attach 3 ounces per 80 grams of metal to a drawing mechanism. This will give you a feel for the machine to build strength before you start working on people.

One of the best ways to practice tattooing is to start with an inexpensive tattoo machine. This way, you’ll get comfortable with the applicator, the weight of it, and practice holding it for extended amounts of time.

Another effective way to hone your skills is to attach a pencil to the practice machine. This will allow you to draw tattoos with precision and get comfortable with the machine and clip cord.

Fruit as a Body Double

Tattooing on fruit is beneficial because fruit can mimic the skin, especially with honeydew melon. When using these fruits, try tattooing them at an angle so you can utilize different perspectives.

Other types of fruit that are great to practice on because the contours are challenging are:

  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Grapefruit
  • Melons

Synthetic and Pig Skin

Synthetic skin is a very new medium currently being used in tattoo circles but is a very good material to practice tattooing on. You can order it online from many different sources, but some tattoo artists think it’s not close enough to real skin to practice various outlining and shading techniques on. If you’re just starting out using a tattoo machine, it’ll be helpful to work with this type of skin since it’ll provide you with practical use to build up your hand strength.

Pig skin, on the other hand, is very realistic and is considered a very close match to human skin, which is great when wanting to learn how to color a tattoo properly. When apprenticing with a tattoo artist, this is the preferred medium to use because you’ll be able to gauge the depth of the needle in the skin. Pig skin can be bought online, but you can also go to your local butcher and ask them for pieces to practice on.

Consider an Apprenticeship

Now that you’ve practiced your talents, the next step would be to apply for an apprenticeship with a tattoo artist whom you admire. Prepare a portfolio of sketches that you consider your best work, and wow the tattooist with your artistic abilities. A standard portfolio will have around 50–200 sketches.

It’s not uncommon for tattoo artists to charge money for an apprenticeship. While there are no standard fees, expect to spend between $6,000 and $10,000.

Often, you’ll apprentice for about a year before you’ll be allowed to work on your first client. The tattooist will teach you all you need to know, but don’t expect to start making money before you’ve worked with at least 100 clients as a mentee. Save money for this year of your mentoring and be well-prepared to weather any financial liabilities. 


A rewarding and fulfilling career as a tattoo artist awaits you if you’re patient and follow these steps. The best thing you can do to excel in your profession is practice. Make sure you spend time every day practicing your art, and you’ll be ready for your first professional tattoo in no time.

It’s a long process, but worth the wait if you’re doing what you love, creating art that will be a forever piece on someone’s body, and a walking testament to your artistic talents.

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