Drawing Exercises for Aspiring Tattoo Artists

Drawing Exercises
When it comes to mastering the art of tattooing, explore these drawing exercises that will help you perfect your skills and technique.

Are you looking to become the next best tattoo artist?

If you’re learning how to become a tattoo artist, you may have some tattoos of your own. Anyone who’s gotten a tattoo knows how much time and effort it takes. Even a 2×2 tattoo can take a few hours to complete.

Becoming a good tattoo artist is possible with a few years of patience and practice. However, there are some fundamentals and drawing exercises you need to master first. To become a tattoo artist, you need to know how to draw and be good at it.

These basic drawing skills will become the foundation of your future work. This article covers some great drawing exercises for aspiring and professional tattoo artists. Read on to discover more!

Perfect Your Linework

One of the first drawing exercises you need as a tattoo artist is line-work. Line-work is one of the simplest concepts to understand but also the hardest to master. It can also make or break a tattoo.

Many traditional and digital artists struggle with good sketches but subpar line art. You don’t want to risk making a mistake when creating something as permanent as a tattoo.

Set aside some time to practice drawing straight lines. Throw away your worries about colors, shading, or designs for now, and focus on your linework. It’s best to get pens and pencils of varying sizes and thicknesses.

Start by drawing a few broken lines, then connect them. Pressure is an important part of drawing lines to ensure the line is even throughout. Do short lines and build yourself up to longer ones.

Consistency is key, but don’t worry about not getting it right the first time. Keep at it, and when you master drawing lines on paper, try it again on curved objects.

Another great thing to try is to add weights to your pens and pencils. Tattoo guns are heavy and often throw off beginner tattoo artists. Tape batteries to your drawing medium to simulate the weight of an actual tattoo gun.


As with linework, there’s no room for error or complacency when tracing. Many tattoo artists freestyle their designs by drawing on clients’ skins and going from there. However, you will be working with stencils most of the time.

Take the linework from your last drawing exercise and use a lightbox under it. Lay another blank piece of paper on top of it and start tracing. You must try to maintain the thickness of each line as much as possible.

Avoid applying too much pressure while tracing the drawings. It helps to consider that you’ll be working with real people in the future. Less pressure will help you prevent irreversible mistakes and hurting your future clients.

Shading and Coloring

Shading and coloring will feel a lot different on the skin than they will on paper or tablet. However, it’s still essential to master the fundamentals. Keep in mind that you do need to be an artist to become a professional tattooist.

Invest in a tattoo book or watch streams or recordings of tattoo art progress from expert artists. Observation and patience are crucial as the techniques used may seem new or foreign. Then, sketch out these designs and use a charcoal pencil to practice shading.

Mastering your shading technique will help prepare you for black and white tattoos. You want the tattoo to look comprehensible from afar with the right amount of contrast.

Once you grasp shading with charcoal pencils, you can move on to colored pencils. This practice will also help you develop a good sense of colors. Through this, you’ll learn how to pick the right colors according to flesh tones and separate them.

Placing Shapes on 3D Objects

Once you perfect your skills on paper, it’s time to test them out on 3D objects. Placement is another vital aspect of a good tattoo. While a design may look good on paper, choosing the wrong placement can distort the image and completely ruin the tattoo.

Practice visualizing lines and shapes on a 3D surface. Get yourself a curved container like a coffee cup or old ball. Use a marker to ink your drawings on the surface and practice lines as you would on paper.

As you progress, you can start moving on to more complicated shapes or even complete drawings. Some aspiring tattoo artists also practice on oranges. If you have your own tattoo equipment, don’t be afraid to try this out!

Designing a Tattoo

Knowing how to draw is only half the battle if you want to become a successful tattoo artist. Potential clients will want to look through your portfolio when you open up shop. Your portfolio must have samples of your work and some original designs.

An important tip to remember is tattoos are like clothes. It must fit the body and not the other way around. You can expect to have a lot of clients who have complicated requests for their tattoos.

As the artist, you must be able to satisfy their requests but also give them a proper design. There are times that you may have to throw away an idea because it would make the tattoo look too crowded.

Try Different Styles

The tattoo community is full of diverse people and, with them, different tattoo styles. From traditional, realistic, and new school, you’ll find yourself working with a completely new tattoo every day. Choosing a specialty is fine, but being versatile is more valuable.

Don’t be afraid to explore outside of your comfort zone and try different styles of tattooing. Each tattoo style requires a different technique, which can be a great learning experience. This may even give you the chance to develop a unique style that sets you apart from other artists.

Drawing Exercises to Make You a Better Tattoo Artist

Now that you know some of the best drawing exercises, it’s time to get to work! Tattooing is no easy work, so set yourself up for success by forming good drawing habits.

Are you ready to take the next step in your tattoo education? Our tattoo school is waiting for you! Contact us today and learn how to become a tattoo artist.