How to Practice Tattooing: All you Need to Know

As a tattoo artist, the work you do is a permanent representation of you and your skills, which can be built up by learning how to practice tattooing.

You will, no doubt, be dealing with a wide range of tattoo designs, even if your style is very specific, and you will likely encounter challenges as you go when getting how to practice tattooing. Many artists practice for an entire year, or sometimes longer, before tattooing the skin of a person.

What to Practice Tattooing On: Alternatives

A part of knowing how to practice tattooing includes knowing which type of skin to practice on – certainly not your friends skin, that’s for sure!.

As you may or may not already know, there is a small variety of skins you can practice on to hone in on your skills.

Not long ago, artists were forced to use rubber skins or fruit to practice on. In modern days, commonly used skin includes silicone skin and pig skin, each of which has its own pros and cons.

  • Silicone skin

Synthetic skin made from silicone was developed to give tattoo artists, who were learning, a soft surface that behaved more like real human skin and responded accurately to the needle and the ink. The silicone skin is available in sheets that can be laid flat, which is not recommended, or wrapped around body parts like the wrist.

Silicone tattoo skin sheets
Silicone tattoo skin sheets – Check on Amazon


This synthetic skin also come shaped like hands and feet, providing a more accurate surface to practice on complete with folds and contours you would encounter on real skin.

The silicone skin is often recommended to beginners as it accepts the ink in a way that accurately reflects how it would look on real skin, allowing you to create precise lines and vibrant colors.

A downfall of the silicone skin is its inability to transfer stencils on with ease and many artists experience ink smudging when cleaning the skin.

  • Pig skin

Pig skin has been used by artists for many years and is also a surface which closely resembles human skin, especially in the way in which it accepts the ink. When using the softer skin, such as from the belly, you’ll be able to see and feel the needle depth.

The pig skin is also a more cost effective option for beginners.

A disadvantage of this commonly used practice skin is the toughness and leather-like feel. This toughness can lead to you overcompensating and developing a tattooing technique that is much more firm than you’d want to do on human skin.

Some of the colors such as grey, and many of the lighter colors will also show up much differently on the pig skin.

  • Tattoo stencil paper

Hectograph paper
Free-hand paper – Check on Amazon

Since your work is going to become a permanent feature on someone skins, you’ll want to ensure that your design is perfect in the eye of your client before getting anywhere near their skin.

Using tattoo stencil paper is an important part of learning how to practice tattooing and it’s a habit that should begin as soon as you start practicing. As a tattoo artist, you have the choice of hectograph paper and thermal paper.

Hectograph paper, also known as free-hand paper uses pressure to create a duplicate image on the side of the paper that will be transferred onto your client’s skin. For precise accuracy, it is recommended to use a hectograph pencil when sketching the design.

Thermal paper is a 4 layered paper system, allowing you to trace or stencil an image from its original source, transfer it onto your client’s skin and reference back to the drawing for even more accuracy.

Thermal Paper tattoo transfer
Thermal Paper – Check on Amazon

Most commonly used stencil paper is the thermal paper.

How to Clean Ink Off Practice Skin

You may be wondering if you can clean the ink off after you have practice tattooing on fake skin. This is an advantage if you want to practice on a different design and save some money.

Many artists find that using Vaseline to clean the ink off the skin is an effective practice. While surgical spirits work well for removing the stencil lines, and green soap cleans some of it off, Vaseline has proven to be one of the most effective solutions.

Best Fake Tattoo Skin when Learning How to Practice Tattooing

Silicone torso tattoo practice
Silicone torso tattoo practice – Check on Amazon

The best tattoo skin for practicing your designs is agreeably by experts in the industry silicone skin. This practice skin best represents human skin and the way in which the ink is going to transfer into it.

Practice tattooing - Silicone Arms
Practice tattooing Silicone Arms – Check on Amazon

As well as this, the pressure needed when tattooing on silicone skin is very similar to what is needed when tattooing on humans, so you will get a better feel for what the tattooing process will be like.



Combining this with the use of thermal stencil paper will produce the most accurate results and aid you in developing the skills you need to produce a high quality work with each tattoo you do.

Best Tattoo Machine for Beginners

Now, you will need to figure out if you are going to practice using ink from a pen or ink for tattoos. Using a pen would be okay just for the sake of creating your design but, the real deal is when using a tattoo machine, which will give you a different sensation in terms of weight, balance, noise and finally, how comfortable you will be when working for hours.

When it comes to buying your first tattoo machine, there are a few brands that outshine the others in terms of reliability, cost and ease of use for a novice.

Here are three (3) of the best tattoo machines for beginners:

  • Cheyenne

Cheyenne Hawk Spirit
Check on Amazon

Well-known German brand Cheyenne is well liked among artists for its ease of use, precision and rotating grip. The Cheyenne brand offers 4 different models each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

From the four (4) models available, the Cheyenne Hawk Spirit is considered to be the best machine for beginners with its cartridge loading system, light weight and its ability to react well on any skin type and tone.

  • Bishop

By contrast, US company Bishop, another popular brand among artists, sells a variety of coil and rotary machines. The Bishop machines, particularly their rotary machines, are favoured by many of the industry’s best due to their power and light weight.

Fantom Bishop Tattoo Machine
Check on Amazon

Out of the rotary tattoo machines on offer, the Fantom Bishop is said to be the best for beginners and is described as perfectly balanced and light.

  • Neotat

Neotat Vivace Tattoo MachineLast but not least, made in the US, NeoTat is another known brand among artists producing rotary machines. The NeoTat Vivace is recommended for novice tattoo artists as it is lightweight, easy to clean and affordable for someone just starting out.

Its versatility is a highlight as you’ll be able to experiment with shading, line work and many other techniques to help you refine your skills.

  • Other options

This just a taste of what machines are available in the market for beginners. If you want to get more information about other top rated brands and understand more in detail how a machine works and its variations, we recommend checking some tattoo machine reviews here on Tattoo Machine Advisor.

The right machine for you depends on what specifically you are looking for.

Final Thoughts

While there are many things to take into consideration before beginning to tattoo on real human skin, learning how to practice tattooing effectively should be one of the first steps you take to becoming a top quality tattoo artist.

“Practice Makes the Master”


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