Drawing Exercises for Aspiring Tattoo Artists

by in Tattoo
Aspiring Tattoo Artists

Aspiring tattoo artists can use drawing exercises in two different ways. They can be used to build up tattooing techniques, or they provide first hand experience drawing tattoo designs that work for the body, making it easier to create your own unique tattoos. 

In this article, we’ll look at Aspiring Tattoo Artists:

  • 3 drawing exercises you can use to practice tattooing
  • How looking at other artists on Instagram can help you learn to draw tattoos faster
  • Which of “filler” designs you can practice drawing to make your tattoos look better

These skills not only allow you to create better tattoos, but they’ll also prepare you to start inventing your own unique drawing style that lets you build a successful creative career.

Basic Drawing Exercises- Aspiring Tattoo Artists

If you’ve ever taken art classes, then you’ve probably done these three drawing exercises – and for good reason. They’re the building blocks you can use to create larger designs and they help you practice perfect control while you’re drawing (or tattooing).

One of the best ways to practice tattooing is to learn to draw perfect lines and circles, as well as practicing shading on paper before moving to someone’s skin.



Cross-hatching from multiple directions builds up darker shades.

An important part of tattooing is being able to build up layers of ink in the skin to create dark shadows in your designs. The way you do that without damaging the skin is to use cross-hatching (since you’ll go over the skin in different directions). 

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value scale created with a pencil

Changing the pressure of the pencil on the paper creates a value gradient.

Being able to smoothly go from light to dark in a tattoo design is what makes tattoos pop. Practicing that with a pencil helps you do it more accurately with a tattoo machine. Additionally, the hand motion you use to create this type of blending is the same motion used in many shading techniques in tattooing, meaning you’ll build up the right muscle memory.



 Network circle drawings

It’s impossible to tattoo a perfect circle before you can draw one.

One of the hardest parts of line work is tattooing perfect circles. While tattooing is more difficult than drawing, being able to create perfect circles on paper will help you tattoo them better on skin.

Learn How to Draw Tattoos Using Instagram

Tattoos are a unique artistic medium because designs that look good on paper won’t always look good on a person. 

If you want to learn how to draw tattoos that look great on the body, drawing tattoos created by established tattoo artists will help you learn what works on human skin faster. 

Social media platforms like Instagram are a great place to look for reference images that you can practice drawing yourself. However, you should not include these designs in your portfolio. All designs in your portfolio need to be your own.

Start Drawing Flash Designs

The more pieces you can draw, the faster you will learn. This is why many tattoo artists start out drawing flash. Flash tattoos are small designs (“flash” refers to how quickly a good tattoo artist can apply the design), which makes them perfect drawing exercises.

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Practice “Pre-Fitting” Your Tattoo Designs

tattotattooAspiring Tattoo ArtistsAspiring Tattoo Artists

drawings of smoke

 drawings of waves

 cloud pictures

 rose sketch

Beginner Tattoo Design practice courtesy of tattooing101.com

Sometimes, the main image in your tattoo designs will leave awkward “gaps” of un-tattooed skin. However, tattoo designs look best when they fill up the whole “canvas,” whether that be a forearm, thigh, etc. The solution to this problem is to fill any awkward spaces by using background “fillers” like flowers, clouds, waves, and smoke. 

The more you practice these elements, the easier it will be for you to naturally incorporate them into intricate designs. 

Practice Makes Perfect

It is impossible to tattoo better than you can draw, which is why building up your drawing skills is such an important part of your journey in becoming a tattoo artist. And while you don’t need to get an art degree to be a tattoo artist, learning how to draw tattoo designs and practicing your skills everyday will make it much easier for you to break into the tattooing industry.

Once you’re comfortable drawing basic designs, you’ll be able to develop your own style, find clients who love your work, and build a rewarding career.

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