How to draw tattoo designs and what are the most suitable styles to start out with as a beginner.
Hey guys, what’s going on it’s Nathan from Tattooing101.com and today, I’m going to show you how to draw tattoo designs. Now, there’s an old saying in tattooing that your ability to draw is the ceiling of your ability to tattoo, and I 100 agree with that. But where the thing where most people kind of get stuck is that they think they need to be Leonardo da Vinci before they can ever pick up a tattoo machine and they spend years and years practicing. And you know it takes them much much longer than what they should have right.
The reason for that is because they they draw things that kind of don’t help them get better as an artist in relation to tattooing, it’s kind of like. If you go to the gym, you just throw a bunch of weights around, and you know in five years you don’t get any bigger right because you’re not doing the right reps. When you do what i’m about to show you in terms of learning, how to draw you’re going to be doing the right, reps and you’re going to improve much faster, and it’s going to be much a much easier road right. So the first thing i would recommend you do is pick a style that is beginner friendly and two in particular that i would recommend would be either realism or traditional. Now a lot of people would look at realism and say it’s like.
Oh, you know it’s super hard to do and it’s super difficult. The reality is it’s all, it is is technique, and you know you don’t have to be super creative to do realism. So if you find that you know you’re struggling staring at a blank page, a lot of the time you struggle to come up with ideas for drawing realism might be for you, because you’re just literally copying references that you make up in photoshop, uh and yeah. It allows you to skip, you know, like all the you know, drawing proportions and perspective and things like that, and it literally just lets you focus on technique which is really good and also if you learn how to do realism, you know no matter where you go In the world, you’ll never go hungry because it’s one of the most popular tattooing styles and there’s demand for it. You know no matter where you go.
Second, one that i’d recommend would be traditional now. The good thing about traditional is that all the designs are ultra simplified, which makes them quite easy to draw so for someone that doesn’t have a ton of drawing experience, uh figuring out how to draw a traditional. It’S not a huge stretch. Right most of the designs are quite flat, so you know again, you have to learn perspective, uh and proportions, and things like that and there’s there’s not a ton of detail in them, so that the designs are quite simplistic. Now don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying that these these styles are easy, but it’s just where i’d recommend you start if you’re just beginning, so my second tip would be when you’re drawing you know.
Hands faces, portraits realism, anything like that. Don’T draw it from scratch. You want to trace a photograph, so this image that i’ve got right here. Drawing this you know from scratch on a tattoo would take tons and tons of time, which is why most hair artists? Don’T do it?
If you look at this, you know portrait here. That’S how it’s done that the tattoo artist will take the photograph they’ll trace or where all the detail is where all the contours and stuff are in the face and then they’ll just copy the the image they trace the the reference from and then that’s how they Get the finished tattoo and they do it in a single day also same with hands. You know, there’s, no. You don’t need to learn how to draw hands off by scratch, because you can literally just take a photo of your hand, and then you know put it into on on procreate or just print it out and then trace it. You don’t need to learn how to draw hands from scratch because yeah it just takes ages and in tattooing.
You know it’s a business, you don’t always have time to spend 10 hours, drawing a portrait or you know getting getting the hand positioning. You know perfectly right for whatever it is you’re drawing stuff like that, you just want to trace it. Um obviously like i wouldn’t do a hard outline straight from the the photo. I just did like a bit of a sketch sketched in the details and then uh. I put you know some background and stuff in it and then that’s when i put my heart outline over the top and it gave me you know a nice little tattoo design that i was able to draw up really quickly.
Some people see this cheating like it’s. Like, oh, you know, you can’t trace stuff, and you know it’s bad, but the reality is it’s just more efficient. You know the customer is not going to care if you can draw realism from scratch. All the customer cares about is how much the tattoo costs, and does it look good? That’S it that’s all they care about when it comes to stuff, like that definitely trace it and focus on.
Instead of you know, building up the ability to draw these things from scratch, focus on being able to shade correctly, because once you can put the tones in the correct spots and make you know a realistic tattoo, look exactly like a realistic drawing look exactly like the Photo you’re miles ahead of most tattoo artists. So that’s what i’d recommend for that all right. So the next thing that i would recommend is modeling what works. Now what i mean by that is, if you’ve got zero drawing experience, i would find a tattoo artist whose work that you admire and try to draw their designs without tracing them. Now, obviously, you want to steal a bunch of their stuff and you know claim it as your own that’ll get you nowhere in tattooing.
Everyone in tattooing knows each other. So if you do that you’re going to get found out – and it’s not going to get you anywhere – it’s not going to end well right. Just do this for your own personal use and you’re going to it’s going to teach you a few things. So, for example, here’s an artist by the name of samuel berganti, you know awesome traditional artist. If i was just starting out, i would you know, pick a bunch of his tattoos, try and draw them like on a separate piece of paper.
It’S going to teach me a few things, i’m going to learn how to draw a bunch of different design elements. If i draw you know 50 to 100 of these tattoos, i’m going to learn how to draw eagles, i’m going to learn how to draw roses. I’M going to learn how to draw you know skulls after drawing you know, 50 or 100 of them, i’m going to know how to draw them without looking at a reference, because i would have done it so many times and that’s when you have a foundation. That’S when you can innovate, because you know you have a foundation to work from when you just try and you know, create your own style of tattooing and do something crazy that no one else has ever seen before chances are it’s going to suck because you’ve got Nothing to build from so you kind of want to learn the rules before you can break them and then innovate and kind of do your own stuff. Like all the cool artists out there, you see today they’re doing this awesome stuff.
They didn’t start out that way. Very few artists pick one thing and then continue out with it through the for the rest of their career. Many others thought they’ll change, styles, multiple times throughout their career and that’s when they’re building their foundation and then generally, you know kind of where they get to. Where they are today, that’s the combination of you know, years of practice, and, and you know iterating and things like that, they didn’t just start out that way. This will give you a foundation by drawing these tattoos without tracing them.
It’S also going to teach you what works at a tattoo you’re, going to learn how to draw tattoos that flow, the shape of the body. What colors look good on what skin tones, uh and also you know where to put like background elements and stuff in you’re. Going to learn, composition, you’re going to get all of that from doing this exercise, and on top of that, it’s going to make you a much faster when you don’t have to constantly think like a new design to draw and you’re constantly racking your brain of something To come up with then you’re going to be able to pump out more designs, which means you’re going to make more mistakes, which means you’re going to learn faster, so definitely recommend doing that to start off and build your foundation knowledge in in tattoo design. It’S going to put you way ahead of people that are trying to do it on their own. Even when you do get good, you still want to use references so as another example yeah.
This is a like a honey master that i designed uh. I didn’t just draw this from scratch. I got a bunch of you, know, images of other honeymaster that i thought looked cool. I took you know, bits and pieces from each one of them and then i made them my own and then i created an original drawing. By doing this, it enabled me to draw the design much quicker, because you know i had a bunch of inspiration to draw for.
I wasn’t trying to just create it off the top of my own head. Not only did it increase the quality of the drawing, because you know i’m modeling what i know works so by doing this, you know enabled me to draw much faster, because i had inspiration to work from and i didn’t have to come up with everything on my Own – and i still you know, i changed tons of pieces like this design – doesn’t look anything like any of the other. You know tattoo designs that i’ve used as references. So as long as you make it your own and it’s completely different, then it’s okay! Okay!
My next tip that i’d recommend is when you are drawing a design. You don’t want to come in with a straight hard outline right. You see what i’ve got here like a lot of like you know, new tattoo artists, they’ll, try and just create this from a blank page. So i’ll just try and you know, draw a perfect outline i’ll just try and draw a perfect outline, and you know it doesn’t look good and yeah and it’s messed up right. So no tattoo artist draws like that.
You build your drawing up in layers right, you don’t just go in with a hard outline and try and do it perfect. The first go, so the drawing was sculpted over time. So, for example, these are all the references that i used and then this enabled me to do like a really rough sketch and what i did in this is i basically i just drew like a a circle for the head. I do a circle for the eye and i really loosely build it up and then i just kind of work in my shapes and it’ll be super super rough and super loose. Then what i would do is in the second layer.
I will just refine the sketch i’ll clean things up a little bit. I’D straighten up my lines, and then that will give me i kind of know at this point where all my dark lines are going to go. So, by the time i get to the black line, i’m not guessing where anything is. I know where everything’s supposed to go and i’m basically just tracing the sketch beneath. So that’s how i get a nice clean outline and up with a really polished, looking uh design.
So yeah don’t just come in with a hard outline straight away. You want to build the drawing up over a couple of layers. Obviously, if you don’t have an ipad, you would use tracing paper. You just use like one trace one level of tracing paper for like the rough sketch, then you put another layer over the top to refine it and then another layer, and you get like the hard outline. That’S what you’d either you know photocopy for the stencil or the tattoo, or trace it onto the back of a piece of nice paper.
So you could make a flash sheet or something like that. So for my fifth and final tip, what i would recommend is preparation. One of the mistakes that i made when i was starting out is, i would just kind of wing it. I would draw something i’d take a day or two to draw it and then i’d be like oh well, that’s done what do i draw now? I didn’t have any planning or preparation, which means i wasn’t as productive as what i could have been, which means i didn’t make as many mistakes as i could have made, which means i didn’t improve as fast as i could have improved pretty much.
No one does this, but what i’d recommend is i’ve created a google sheet which could jump inside my laptop right now i’ll show you what i mean. So this is a google sheet right. What i’ve done is it’s got like uh, it’s split out by month and it’s got each of the weeks within the month and then it’s got the design whether or not it’s color the style that it’s in and then links to references from instagram. So if you plan out a month in advance what you’re going to draw, not only does it hold you accountable it massive. It saves you a lot of messing around because you get all your references in batches, then you know you’ll just be able to pump out designs, much faster it’ll, be much more efficient and also be able to you know.
As the old saying goes, you know what gets measured, gets managed you’ll, be able to keep track of how frequently you’re drawing and how much work you’re producing and allows you to track your progress over time. Again, i guarantee no one is doing this, but that’s kind of why you want to do it, because it’s going to put you ahead of everyone else. If you have this level, if you bring this level of preparation into uh your, you know your journey of learning, how to draw and ultimately tattoo so yeah i’ll, leave a link to the google sheet down in the description below. If you want to use it and yeah thanks for watching and yeah i’ll see in the next video, so i hope that helps guys if you’ve got any value out of this video at all, really appreciate it. If you would like and subscribe and by the way, if you are looking to become a professional tattoo artist, then you should definitely check out our artist accelerator program inside we’ve broken down the entire process of learning how to tattoo down into nine simple steps that literally Anyone can follow, we’ve taught over 2500 artists to tattoos since we started back in 2016. So if you want to learn from someone, that’s been there and done it and follow a proven process. Highly recommend, checking out the artist accelerator program, i’ll leave a link down below and i’ll see you there thanks guys talk soon.