A commitment to learn to tattoo requires a LOT of practice. Before you go anywhere near real skin you need to get the hours in to become used to your equipment and to get a good handle on technique and technicalities. But what can you use for this tattoo practice?

NOTHING is the same as real skin {WHICH YOU SHOULD NOT BE USING FOR PRACTICE}. That’s worth noting right from the start.  However, there are lots of different types of practice skins that you can work on to help you progress.

I have tried them all and set up this site to put down the information about what works and what doesn’t. There is lots of useful information to know such as…

  • How to prepare the practice skins for best results.
  • Techniques that will help your tattoo practice.
  • Where to get hold of practice skins
  • What to buy and what to avoid
  • The differences between different types of practice skins and real skin

What can I use to practice tattooing?

There are many different types of items used as tattoo practice skin. I look at them all in depth and discuss their pro’s and con’s and how best to use them. They include


The pig skin project

My personal project is to tattoo 50 tattoos on pig skin to help my technique improve, increase my hand strength and get used to a new machine. You can follow the pig skin project here where I will be posting details of equipment used and results.


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Can I be a self taught tattooist?

by FireFly on October 6, 2012

Ask the question “Can I become a self taught tattooist?” on any tattoo forum and you will be immediately shot down in flames and called an evil scratcher. No one wants to address this question and the standard answer is “NO. Get an apprenticeship” but it isn’t quite that straightforward…

An apprenticeship is the best way but…

Getting an apprenticeship is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. You are told to ask for one but if you go in a tattoo shop and ask you are likely to be told to f$ck off. It’s the classic double bind. “Them as asks don’t get and them as don’t ask don’t want”

Trying to find a good apprenticeship with a tattooist who is a good teacher and mentor is even harder.The potential tattooist can face the following issues when trying to find an apprenticeship.

  • Local tattooists may not want to apprentice “potential competition” and may be hostile.
  • Tattooists available for apprenticing with may be sub standard with poor hygiene practices. Do you want to learn the “wrong” way?
  • Personal circumstances, family or children may make it impossible to move or be available for the hours needed in a tattoo shop.
  • The need to be able to continue to make money for rent etc during an apprenticeship may make it impossible to work in a shop depending on your work.
  • Large sums of money asked for by tattooists to apprentice can be prohibitive.
  • Some unscrupulous tattooists are just out to rip off potential apprentices

And really, at the end of the day, why would a tattooist want to hand out his own hard earned skills for free? Many tattooists won’t apprentice people as they don’t trust the apprentice will continue to work with them but will set up their own competing studio. You cant blame tattooists for wanting to protect their livelihood as they had to go through the same uphill battle to gain the skills they have…

Do I just give up?

But where does that leave you? Do you just go “Oh OK. I cant find a tattoo apprenticeship – Ill just go and get a job as a teacher/in a bank/as a car mechanic/etc etc” Most people are driven to tattoo by the inner demon of the tattoo god making it THE ONLY think they want to do in their lives. They cant just give up at the first hurdle. If you want it bad enough you will find a way through the obstacles.

Has anyone made it as a self taught tattooist?

It IS possible to become a self taught tattooist. In fact many of the top tattooists are self taught and many old timers started off  working out for themselves the techniques involved. The following amazing artists are all self taught and these are just the ones I like. There are many more.

Am I up to the task?

However, trying to teach yourself to tattoo is a MASSIVE RESPONSIBILITY NOT TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY. Teaching yourself is NOT about buying a starter kit and “having a go” on some mates. It is about living, breathing, eating. sleeping tattooing and researching every single facet.
You need to take an honest look at yourself and ask
  • Can I draw and design well? Honestly? Really? {Not just some dumbass mate telling you that misshapen skull you scrawled on a beer mat was wicked!}
  • Do I take enough responsibility to learn about bloodborne pathogens, Cross contamination  and hygienic practices inside out and back to front.
  • Do I want to do this for the love of the art of tattooing {or just cos I want to make a quick buck?}
  • Do I care deeply about the quality of the art I put on a persons body and want it to be as perfect as possible?
  • Will I put the hours and hours of practice in on practice skin before I go anywhere near real skin
  • Do I have the responsibility, honesty, integrity, passion, drive and professionalism to do this?
If the answers are YES, you might just be able to make it if you can keep going in the face of adversity

So How do I become a self-taught tattooist?

The answer is LOTS OF PRACTICE, dedication and learning.
  • Take it slowly. Don’t dive in to working on people
  • Get a mentor – If you can find a tattooist who will help you with questions and problems this is an amazing help
  • Draw, draw draw…
  • Read EVERYTHING you can possibly find about tattooing.
  • Dont just buy a “how to DVD” Invest in DVDs from top tattooists explaining their work.
  • Enrol and complete a blood borne pathogens course
  • Invest in top quality machines from named builders – not a starter kit
  • Buy good quality equipment
  • Invest hours in practising on practice skin and pig skin
  • Then progress to working on your own leg
Then maybe you just might make it…



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Video | Mario Barth explains How to Tattoo Black & Gray Shading

October 4, 2012

Walk through about how to tattoo black and grey shading with Mario Barth

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Video | How to Line a Tattoo | Tattoo Outlining

October 2, 2012

Detailed video showing exactly how to outline a tattoo perfectly

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Video | Single Pass Tattoo Lining Technique showing correct grip

October 1, 2012

Great video showing how to perfect a smooth perfect line when outlining a tattoo with the correct grip

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No 9 | Lining Practice | Freehand text

September 30, 2012
Thumbnail image for No 9 | Lining Practice | Freehand text

Snatched tattoo lining practice on a scrap of pig skin

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Tattoo Starter Kits – Top 6 Dangerous Health Hazards {and how to avoid them}

September 29, 2012

STOP!. Don’t buy a tattoo starter kit till you read this. 6 DANGEROUS HEALTH HAZARDS you can avoid if you know what to do.

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Video – Tattoo Shading Motion – Beginner Basics

September 27, 2012

Tattoo shading video – basics for the beginner Great video showing the hand motions for shading. Good explanation    

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Practice Skin – Pig Skin for Tattoo Practice

September 25, 2012

Is pig skin like real skin for use as tattoo practice skin? How to prepare and use pig skin for the closest thing to real skin + pros and cons

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Synthetic Tattoo Practice Skin

September 24, 2012

Is fake or synthetic practice skin anything like real skin for tattoo practice? We look in detail at the pros and cons of using it.

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