15 Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Line Work When Tattooing

Gloved hands tattooing an arm.

It is believed that people were tattooing each other or themselves as early as 3370 to 3100 BC. Learning how to tattoo is a great way to explore your creative talents and give people unique pieces of art that they can enjoy forever. But if you don’t have good line work, you won’t get very far in the tattooing field. 

How can you improve your tattoo outlines and give your clients the quality they want? What kind of tips and tricks can you follow to improve your way around a tattoo needle? Keep reading and learn more about how it works below.

1. Be Patient

It’s easy to get impatient with yourself if you feel that you’re not improving as fast as you hoped you would. But impatience is one of the worst things that can affect your tattoo artistry. If you let it get the better of you, you may get too discouraged and give up. 

This is why you always need to be patient when improving your line work. Remember that tattooing is a very intense and diverse work of art. You can’t dive into this field and expect to be an expert right away. 

You need to start small and work your way up to more impressive tattoos. Your hand might be very shaky at first, and this might affect the quality of your line work tattoo. But as you gain more experience, your hand will become steadier, and you’ll become much better at tattooing. 

2. Draw More

Tattooing is essentially drawing, but the results are permanent. No tattoo artist wants to make a mistake on someone’s skin, because that mistake will be there forever. If you are worried about this, try to draw more with a pencil and paper. 

The more you draw, the better at tattooing you will get. While a pencil has a much different feel than a tattoo pen, it will still help you get a steadier hand.

You can also try different line work techniques without worrying about the consequences. 

Test yourself with different line work exercises on a piece of paper. How steady can you keep the pencil? What else can you do with your designs that will help improve your tattoos?

3. Consider Going to a Tattoo School

While tattoo school isn’t necessary, it can be a massive help. Some people learn better when they’re in a school environment. If this sounds like you, you may want to give it a chance. 

Attending a tattoo school will allow you to learn a lot of different techniques that you may not have known about before. You may learn a different way of holding the tattoo gun, or you may learn a new way to do line work. 

It doesn’t take very long to complete tattoo school, either. After a few weeks or months, you will know more about the art of tattooing than ever before. You will be more confident in your skills as well. 

Some tattoo schools also have apprenticeship programs that can help you progress your career and expertise. 

4. Master Different Tattooing Techniques

While line work is very important, you can’t forget about other tattooing techniques. This is because all these techniques are closely related. If you master one but not the other, your tattoos will not be as good as you want them to be. 

Other important techniques include shading, coloring, and lettering. If you don’t know much about shading, your tattoos might look flat and dull. If you don’t know much about coloring, your tattoos might look muddy when you try to use different shades. 

If your line work is masterful but your other techniques are sub-par, you won’t get very far as a tattoo artist. But if you master all these techniques, you’ll have a much better time. 

5. Don’t Let Money Be Your Driving Factor

While money is an important way to make a living as a tattoo artist, it shouldn’t be the only thing keeping you going. There are many, easier ways to make money than tattooing. You should be a tattoo artist because you have a passion for it. 

You might have a creative urge to make unique designs. You might love the art of tattooing. This passion is a great way to stay motivated to learn more about line work and other tattoo techniques. 

But if you’re driven only by money, all this might feel like a chore. You’d be better off pursuing another line of work if you feel that you don’t enjoy tattooing. 

6. Understand How the Skin Works

Tattooing human skin is much different than drawing with a pencil on paper. You need to use the tattoo gun in a very specific way so that the ink reaches the deeper layers of the skin. You also need to understand how the skin might move and react when you tattoo it. 

It might bleed, the skin might be wrinkled and hard to work with, and so on. Many new tattoo artists practice pig skin before they move on to real people. This is because pig skin is very similar to human skin. 

The texture and thickness give you a good idea of what you should expect when tattooing a person. Once you master the pig skin, you should feel much more confident when it’s time to tattoo a real person. 

7. Use Better Tattooing Equipment

Some people think that all tattooing equipment is the same, but this is not true. Some low-quality equipment will produce mediocre tattoos and may be hard to work with. It may not last very long, either. 

High-quality equipment will feel much better in your hands and will work more fluidly. It may also work more efficiently and last longer. If you have cheap, low-quality equipment, it isn’t going to be a good foundation for your line work. 

If you want to take your line work seriously, consider investing in some new and improved tattooing equipment. Once you make the upgrade, you’ll be able to see what a difference it can make in your tattoo quality. 

8. Learn From Experienced Tattoo Artists

Tattoo artists that have been doing tattoos for decades are those who know the most about the craft. You can learn a lot by being around these people. This is why many new tattoo artists like to become an apprentice under one of these masters. 

It can sometimes be hard to become an apprentice to more well-known and distinguished tattoo artists. This is why you need to have a good portfolio to show off. If a master tattoo artist feels that you have promise, they will likely let you be an apprentice. 

You can then learn more about line work and different line techniques. You can learn by observing the masters and also by copying them. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that your line work is far more precise than before. 

9. Don’t Rush Your Progress

Some people are tempted to rush their progress once they see they’re starting to improve. This is a big mistake. It might be tempting to speed up once you see you’re finally making some improvements. 

But it is far better to stay at the same pace. If you take your time, it will be easier to learn new techniques and methods. If you start speeding up, you may get too messy. 

This would put your skills back several steps. You won’t become a tattoo master overnight. Even the greatest tattoo artists in the world had to take it slow when they were first learning the basics. 

The same should apply to you. Otherwise, you could be in for a world of frustration. 

10. Use the Right Needle for the Right Lines

If you know anything about tattooing, you know how important it is to choose the right needles. Some needles are very thin and are designed for thin, hair-like lines. Others are very thick and are designed for chunky, dark lines. 

You cannot exchange one for the other, and you cannot mix them up. If you do, the tattoo you’re working on will turn into a disaster. You also have to be careful with needles that are not designed for line work at all. 

Others may be best for shading, airbrushing, coloring, and so on. Never confuse these needles for those meant for line work. This is more likely to happen if you aren’t paying attention. 

As long as you’re familiar with these different needles, you shouldn’t have a problem. 

11. Put the Client in the Right Position

Some new tattoo artists aren’t sure how they should advise their clients to position themselves. Having your client sit down is the obvious choice, but it may not be the best choice for certain tattoos. It may be better to have the client lie down or turn their body in a specific direction. 

Don’t be shy to tell your client how to position themselves. While comfort is important for the client, you also need to make sure that you can reach the part of the skin they want to be tattooed. If you are straining yourself to tattoo a certain area, that tattoo might look shaky or odd when it’s finished. 

This is why you have to have a sturdy and reliable access point from which you can tattoo. It is also important that your client stay as still as possible when you add the line work. A single wrong movement can ruin the entire thing.

Make sure your client is aware of this before you begin. 

12. Try Gripping the Tattoo Machine in a Different Way

There are different ways to grip a tattoo gun, and some may be more beneficial for line work than others. Some people may hold the gun like a pencil, but you may feel that you have better control over the gun if you hold it differently. 

Experiment with different methods and see which one gives you the most control. Control is important when you add line work to a person’s skin. The slightest loss of grip and control will ruin the line work and make it look shaky and sloppy.

You shouldn’t even attempt line work on a real person until you know how to grip a tattoo gun. 

13. Don’t Psych Yourself Out

Some new tattoo artists get very nervous when it’s time to tattoo real people. This is understandable because you don’t want to mess up and ruin someone’s skin. But if you get too anxious, this could worsen your performance, even if you know exactly what to do. 

This is why you have to be careful not to psych yourself out. If you feel that you’re getting too anxious, take a deep breath and calm down before you continue. 

14. Have Confidence in Yourself Without Getting Cocky

Believing in yourself is important when improving your line work. But there is a fine line between confident and cocky. 

Getting cocky may be a detriment to your tattoo quality. As long as you remain confident but aware, you should be fine.

15. Relax and Enjoy What You Do

If you have a passion for tattooing, enjoy it. Relax and trust in your knowledge. 

Once you start tattooing for a while, line work will seem like second nature. 

All About Line Work

Line work is important for almost every type of tattoo. You can improve your line work by taking your time, learning from the masters, and going to tattoo school. It is also important to believe in your skills and stay calm. 

Are you ready to learn more about tattooing? Check out what our tattoo school can teach you.