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Learn To Draw Tattoo Art

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HOW I LEARNT TO DRAW. Ask a Tattoo Artist

Nead recommends getting at least two tattoo machines, a starter ink set, and tubes plus some disposable supplies, including needles, gloves, rubber bands, Thermofax paper, and skin pens. All in, it can cost upward of $4,000 in equipment to get started. In states where tattoo schools are regulatedlike Oregon, where Nead livesapprenticeships cost somewhere around $10,000 on top of state licensure fees.

Can You Still Be A Tattoo Artist If You Cant Draw

Yes, you can. But you probably wont be a good one. Why?

There are two main reasons:

  • You cant make original handmade designs.
  • You wont be able to modify tattoos per request.

Not being able to draw severely restricts the capacity at which you can perform.

What happens when a client wants modifications to their tattoo design?

What if theyd like a custom tattoo?

Most people who get tattoos dont want something everyone else has. They may have a design that holds a special place in their heart. Maybe a loved ones old drawing. A pets eyes, perhaps.

Not being able to draw will put you in a really awkward position in these situations, and your clientele will be incredibly limited. And if you cant draw, youll be relying on generic designs that may not always fit the clients needs.

The good news is, if you jump into tattooing before you are great at drawing, you still have the option of tattooing market flash designs. Its a great place to start but not a great place to stay. It is still essential you learn to draw.

Link Your Social Media To Your Portfolio

Many tattoo parlors will look at your professional website as well as your social media accounts when they consider you for an apprenticeship. If you have Instagram or Facebook, make sure it is linked to your website, particularly if you update these sites often with your latest and greatest tattoo pieces. Instagram can be a great way to complement your professional content with your most recent creations, illustrating your continued growth as an artist.

Most web builders allow you to link your social media to your website as part of their website template, a simple step that can make a strong first impression on a shop considering you for an apprenticeship.

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Making Hand Drawn Flash Sheets

Heres our recommended tattoo flash art supplies:

On a sheet of tracing paper, sketch out your design with basic shapes.

  • 2Tracing Paper: Round Two
  • Put another sheet of tracing paper on top of your sketch. Here, you can clean up and refine the design.

  • 3Tracing Paper: Round Three
  • On this sheet, youll be making cleaner, darker lines with your pencil. Dont shade this drawing, since youll need the plain line work.

    Repeat these three steps for each design that will go on your flash sheet.

  • 4Arrange Your Designs on a Flash Sheet and Tape them Down
  • Cut out each of your finished flash designs and arrange them on a sheet of plain white paper and tape them down. Make sure to press the sticky side of the tape against your clothes a few times before taping the tracing paper down. This will keep it from ripping when you take the tape off.

    When your drawings are arranged, make two photocopies. One will be the plain linework you can use to make stencils, the other you will place beneath the drawing paper on the light box.


    Arrange the designs so that there are only small gaps between the designs.

  • 5Trace Your Line Work Using a Light Box
  • Place your paper on the light box, and then put your flash sheet on top. If youre going to be using Copic markers, use digital photo paper so the markers dont bleed.

    At this point, youll want to consider using pens with different thicknesses to create different line weights.

    • Sharpie or Microns Pigma Graphic pen
    • 0.8mm Micron pen

    How Tattoo Artists Get Clients

    Learn To Draw Eyes

    Many tattoo artists think the only way to attract more clients is to improve their tattooing skills. While having stellar art skills certainly helps, it is impossible for new tattoo artists to compete on skill alone with people who have 10+ years of experience. If you can only rely on being the best, youll struggle to get any traction in the tattoo industry for a long time.

    The best way to become more competitive, even as a newer tattoo artist, is to .

    A good tattoo artist knows that getting lots of clients relies on both their tattooing skills and their marketing skills. No one will know how great they are at tattooing if they dont find a way to get the word out about their tattoos.

    Thats why if you can sell your services better than an experienced artist, then youll have more clients and make more money:

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    Pick One Style: Traditional Or Realism

    If you want to learn fast, traditional tattoo designs and realism are both great beginner tattoos for new tattoo artists who want to sharpen their skills. Heres why:


    A lot of the time, what slows artists down is figuring out what to draw. With realism, you do not have this problem. You just have to copy a photograph.

    Additionally, realism is a great style because its in demand. No matter where you are in the world, realism is one of tattooings most popular styles. If you can do realism, you can make a living anywhere in the world. As a beginner, stick with black and gray. Youll only need to focus on the values of the image as opposed to trying to work with color on top of everything else.


    Realism allows you to focus on the technical side of drawing without having to learn other difficult drawing concepts . However, its a difficult style. Youll need to nail realism on paper long before you touch human skin. It requires less creativity than coming up with your own designs – but your technique has to be perfect.


    Traditional tattoo designs are the easiest to draw, and its what most tattoo artists start off doing.

    The cool thing about traditional is that lots of the design elements are repeated over and over in each tattoo. After drawing 50-100 or so traditional style tattoos youll learn how to draw stuff like ships, flames, water, flowers, and more.


    STEP 2

    Test Your Tattooist Skills With A Non

    Though the experience of drawing on a persons body is markedly different from operating a tattoo machine and depositing ink into the skin, this practice will get you accustomed to drawing on a living canvas. You might even seek out your more ticklish friends so that you have experience with a squirming client.

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    Understanding Tattoo Apprentice Contracts

    Typically, youll be required to sign a contract with the tattoo shop you have an apprenticeship with. A contract is a legal document that sets forth the responsibilities and expectations of both parties and provides protection for either party if one does not meet their contractual obligations. The contract outlines how long your apprenticeship will last , how much you will pay, what your daily and weekly responsibilities are, what you should expect to learn from your mentor, and if youll be required to work at the shop for any length of time after your apprenticeship is complete. Consider having an attorney review your contract prior to signing to ensure your interests remain protected.

    How Much Schooling Is Needed

    How To Draw Tattoos

    Determining how much time spent learning how to draw is entirely up to the artist! Of course, the more practice and knowledge you have about a subject is always better.

    Its best not to rush the learning process and really take in every technique possible. Really immerse yourself in studying all about art and design. You can never have too much knowledge, and there is always something new to learn.

    But what about people who dont want to dedicate the time to learn to draw?

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    Best Tattoo Drawing Books

    Fortunately, there are quite a few books to help people learn to draw tattoos. However, when looking for a book to help you learn to draw, dont limit yourself to those dedicated only to tattoos. You can expand your search to include those related to things like calligraphy and even animal or tattoo drawings. Heres a list of some of my favorite books:

    Going To School Is Not A Must

    You do not need any specific education to be a tattoo artist, which is part of what I love about the tattoo world: We all come from very different backgrounds, explains Martinez. You definitely do need to be trained, though, in sanitation, sterilization, blood-borne pathogens, and how to avoid damaging the skin while you work.

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    How To Draw Sailor Jerry Roses:

    Step 1: Draw 2 circles on a sheet of tracing paper.

    Step 2: Draw general shapes to find the basic form of the petals.

    Step 3: Add more specific details and start to define your linework

    Step 4: Add any extra flourishes .

    Keep this linework to make your stencil.

    Step 6: Using a lightbox, trace your final design onto thicker paper and add in your shading.

    Step 7: Add color to your design.

    Step 1: Draw 2 circles on a sheet of tracing paper.

    Step 2: Draw general shapes to find the basic form of the petals.

    Step 3: Add more specific details and start to define your linework

    Step 4: Add any extra flourishes .

    Keep this linework to make your stencil.

    Step 6: Using a lightbox, trace your final design onto thicker paper and add in your shading.

    Step 7: Add color to your design.

    Traditional Ink Horse Designs


    See more about 40 Traditional Horse Tattoo Ideas

    Free-spirited and independent, the horse is a symbol of passion and strength. A traditional and easily-recognized subject for tattoos, the horse is an excellent piece to expand your tattoo collection.

    Strong as iron and fast as quicksilver, the horses natural features are a prime choice for those who admire its natural strength and grace, flowing mane and muscular body.

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    Characteristics Of A Strong Tattoo Apprentice Portfolio

    Creating a strong tattoo art portfolio as a tattoo artist takes a bit of thought and intention. You want to stand out and come across as professional, talented, and ready for any tattoo apprenticeships that come your way. Here are a few key details to include in your tattoo portfolio to make it great:

    How To Sketch In Stages

    Tracing Sheet One: Draw basic shapes and outlines.

    Tracing Sheet Two: Build up shapes and muscle memory.

    Tracing Sheet Three: Add details and darker outlines.

    Flash Sheet: Strong, steady outlines and color image.

    Pro Tip: Drawing Hands & Faces

    When working on photorealism design

    trace your design from a reference photo

    For example, if you need to tattoo an image of a hand in a specific position, take a reference picture of your own hand in the position you need and trace that. From there, you can add details to make it unique, whether you widen the eyes of a face or add stacks of rings to a hand. Tracing isnt cheating it gives you the framework you need to create a stunning tattoo.

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    Youll Want To Plan Every Design As Much As You Can

    Every tattoo starts with a consultation, which is a chance for the client and artist to collaborate on the designand Love says that aligning on this part is key to make sure she’ll accept the project in the first place. Most of the time, when working on realism, theres some kind of reference image shes working from. But when Im working on Polynesian tribal , there is a lot of drawing in the moment to work with the curves, flow, and contours of the body. I can do both, but my perfectionism and type-A personality prefer a solid game plan, says Love.

    Advantages Of Using Drawing Tablets

    5 Drawing Hacks For Better Tattoo Designs

    Drawing tablets have become increasingly popular.

    Artists are able to use a picture of the person they are tattooing and draw the design directly on the desired body part. This is super useful for clients who are unsure where they want their tattoo or how large they want it.

    Drawing tablets also allow tattoo artists to create intricate designs with ease. Normally they would spend a lot of time drawing each line or pattern individually. But with a drawing tablet, they can use special digital tools to effortlessly duplicate them.

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    How To Create Your Own Tattoo Flash Sheets

    Interested in making your own tattoo flash sheet? Lets break down the process.

    A sheet of flash tattoos should have a cohesive look that makes it look like the designs belong together. You can do this by:

    • Putting multiple designs on one piece of paper
    • Using the same color scheme in all the designs
    • Having a theme

    Equipment To Practice With

    Its 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, youll 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.

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    How To Practice Drawing 3d On The Body

  • Start by using a coffee cup or some other curved container. Ink your drawings directly onto the surface of the cup with your medium-tip pen. Keep practicing until your lines are as good on a curved surface as they are on flat paper.
  • After you feel comfortable with this, get some wide masking tape and tape a body part, placing each strip of tape right next to or slightly overlapping another strip to form a wide area to practice on. Then use a medium-tip pen to lay your lines down.
  • Notice how the image looks from various angles and how the body part changes the appearance of the image.
  • Continue this practice and observation of many different body partsyours and friends’.
  • Your Tattoo Drawing Is Complete

    Would anyone be interested in learning how to to draw tattoo style art ...

    Hopefully, you had fun with this step-by-step tattoo drawing tutorial. Now that you can draw a tattoo, perhaps you can draw a character with a tattoo marked on his or her body next?

    Check out our tutorial on how to draw a boy or a girl to make it happen!

    Remember, all of our drawing tutorials are 100% free for you to use as learning materials for your drawing activities.

    We are regularly updating our How to Draw catalog, so dont forget to keep re-visiting our website so you can continuously enjoy all-new drawing tutorials.

    Dont be embarrassed! Youve worked hard for it so were sure it looks impressive!

    We cant wait to see your cool tattoo drawing!

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    Consider Going To Art School

    Not every tattoo artist goes to a formal college, but it certainly isnt a bad idea. While you cant get a four-year degree in tattooing, you can get a degree in the visual arts which will only serve your artistry.

    While you learn from other sources how to become a tattoo artist, youll get to hone in on your drawing skills and develop your personal drawing style. That drawing knowledge will set you apart when you start finding tattoo customers.

    The Basic Equipment Every Tattoo Artist Needs

    Youll need at least two tattoo guns that you like using, an ultrasonic, tubes and grips, sterile needles for lines and shading, green cleaning soap, spray bottles, small plastic cups for ink, gloves, and other supplies needed to keep your area clean. Expect this equipment to cost a few thousand dollars or more depending on what you get.

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    How To Draw Traditional Skull Tattoos:

    Step 1: Draw a circle to make the basic shape of the head.

    Step 2:

    Place guidelines to map out the eyes and nose.

    The guidelines cross wherever you want the skull to be facing.

    Step 4: Roughly sketch in the eyes, nose, mouth, and bone structure of the face.

    Step 5: Start refining the skulls facial features and adding in details like cracks and indentions.

    Step 6: Use thicker lines to create a strong outline.

    Step 7: Add any additional elements.

    Additional elements can include crossbones, snakes, flowers, etc.

    Step 8: Add shading and color to your design.

    Theres A Much Bigger Emotional Exchange When You Work With Custom Clients

    How To Tattoo If You Can’t Draw

    There are two traditional models for tattoo parlors, with various combinations between the two: First, there are walk-in shops, where clients are primarily asking to get a tattoo on the spot. They choose from pre-drawn designs in the studio, and after the appointment, you might never see them again. Then there are all-custom shops, where artists work with clients ahead of time to design something original. It can take months of drawing and talking through the tattoo before someone eventually gets it done. The process of creating custom tattoos can be incredibly rewarding because of the profound relationships you form with your clients. At the same time, its sometimes a relief to meet a walk-in, where all you have to do is put the ink on someone without having to invest in creating the tattoo over an extended period of time.

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