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Your apprenticeship as a tattooist is vitally important for ensuring you get the training and experience you need to become a fully-fledged artist. Everything from your eye for design, to managing your tattoo equipment and tattoo supplies can be learned during this time, but arguably one of the key aspects is learning and perfecting how to physically create a tattoo itself.

So, whether you’re just beginning or you want a few more tips on how to practice your tattooing during your time as an apprentice, we’ve explained a few techniques and approaches you can use to get yourself properly prepared for your tattooing career.

Keep up your drawing and tracing

It’s not just about your abilities with the needle that count, it’s also your skills and flair with the pen. Many tattoo artists champion the importance of being able to draw and/or trace the designs your customers may eventually want you to create, plus it can help reassure those who want a tattoo that you can reproduce a design with accuracy.

On top of improving your own creative skills, practicing your drawing and tracing can also help you to master new styles and more complex or intricate pieces that your clients may want much quicker.

Draw on rounded surfaces

To build on the above, you may also want to practice drawing and tracing on rounded and contoured surfaces, not just flat ones. This can help you get a better understanding of how to get the right size and shape for a piece when you’re working on different parts of the body – in turn ensuring the tattoo is properly proportioned.

Some tattoo artists recommend drawing on different objects like fruit and stones as they can give you an idea of what you might eventually be up against when creating a tattoo on a person.
Practice on skin with markers

The next step up from this is to practice drawing on skin with non-toxic marker pens. While this experience is certainly not the same as creating an actual tattoo on a person, it’s a safe way of getting familiar with how customers may respond to having a piece done.

In addition, you can also get a feel for what it’s like working with different body parts and learning how and where you may need to position yourself to work comfortably.

If the person is ticklish or sensitive they may also jump, jerk or shudder while you draw on them, and it might be that this movement affects or smudges your drawing. What’s good about this though is that it’s also a useful experience to go through, as it can help you learn how to handle this situation for when you’re actually tattooing.

Research the depths

If you’re an apprentice it’s also worth doing additional research about tattooing onto skin and in particular the depth that’s required for depositing the tattoo ink into the right layer. This is because it can help you get an initial understanding of how much pressure you will need to apply with the needle – this is also important for avoiding causing unnecessary pain and avoiding the risks of infection.

Get a feel for the equipment

As well as being informed about all the types of tattoo equipment, familiarising yourself with the feel, weight and sizing of different tattoo applicators can help to train your hands and build up your strength and endurance.

Before investing in any professional tattoo equipment though, it’s worth weighting down the pens and markers you use for practice first for a while for your initial strength training. Then you may want to purchase a cheaper tattoo machine once you’re more confident with your hands and find you can hold an applicator for extended periods.

The added bonus to buying cheaper equipment first is you can also learn more about the parts, workings and mechanisms of the gear.

Consider using practice skin

practice skin

When you feel ready you can also purchase synthetic practice skin to work on. Again, it’s not the same as working on a person, but it’s very useful for refining your abilities for working on different shapes and designs, as well as continuing to boost your hand strength and dexterity.

Practice skin also gives you the chance to properly use different tattoo ink sets and to experiment with all the new styles and designs you may have learned when working on your initial drawings.

Get a tattoo yourself

If you’ve yet to do so already, you can also get a tattoo done yourself to see how other artists work and the techniques they use. It’s likely that if you explain to them that you’re an apprentice they’ll happily answer any questions you might have – this kind of professional insight can be invaluable.

Getting a tattoo will also demonstrate to you what your clients will feel and experience, putting you in a better position to accommodate and reassure them if needed.
Tattoo yourself or friends, family. You can even go one step further and ask friends or family if they would like a tattoo, or even your own body, as a canvas of sorts, by tattooing yourself.

However, as an apprentice this should only be done under supervision from an expert, as their experience and guidance will be essential for ensuring the tattoos you create are done safely. If not, you run the risk of injuring yourself or others and potentially causing scarring and/or permanent damage to the skin.

Practice makes perfect

It can take some people many years before they feel they’re ready to start tattooing clients on a professional basis, so you shouldn’t rush into anything if you lack confidence.
That being said, much like starting out in any new role or learning a new skill, your success and how long you spend as a tattoo apprentice is down to your dedication and the amount of time you spend practicing.

What’s more, the world of tattooing is constantly evolving and changing and you’ll find that you’ll always be learning and experiencing new things during your career. So in other words, your time as an apprentice will lay down the foundations you need to get started before you truly begin your journey, so you’ll want these to be as strong as possible through plenty of practice.

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