Do you have to know how to draw to tattoo
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Do you have to know how to draw to tattoo? Plus 4 tips on how you can improve your drawing skills.

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Do you have to know how to draw to tattoo? Plus 4 tips on how you can improve your drawing skills

Do you have to know how to draw to Tattoo? In short, yes. If you can’t draw you will be very limited in the types of tattoo you can do, and most people want custom work these days. However, drawing is a learned skill and you can improve your drawing with practice.

Do you have to draw to be a Tattoo Artist?

Drawing is the bottom line of tattooing. It is an art form. Being a tattooist is a brilliant way to indulge your passion for drawing and art AND GET PAID!.

There are precious few other jobs where art and creativity is the mainstay of the work. Sure many people work as artists, illustrators etc but for many of them, money is a struggle. 

Fine artists often look down on Tattooing as a lower art form but they are the ones having to work other jobs to make ends meet. Say no more!

Drawing is the most important skill to a tattooist. It underlies everything in the job so you need to love it and be good at it. Here’s why.  

Why is drawing so important in tattooing?

Modern tattooing is not just about copying ready-drawn flash off the wall. 

Many tattooists don’t use any flash at all. In my studio, we have no flash and instead will sit and consult with the client, looking at art books as reference and for ideas. 

You then need to be able to take this clients rough idea and draw it up out of your head. Many people don’t want to choose from the ready prepared stuff any more. They want this kind of custom bespoke service where their thoughts can be translated into a design.

You need the drawing skills to be able to draw just about anything to do this.

“I want a wombat surrounded by a circle of daffodils and a glowing cross” Sure thing!

“A purple gecko standing on the bonnet of a classic Mercedes with Notre Dame Cathedral in the background” OK, we can do that!

“Three unicorns playing the trumpet with a colourful galaxy in the background” Yup. Fine.

You get the idea.

BTW. If you need more information about entering the tattoo industry check out this detailed post I wrote about how to become a tattoo artist.

Custom work is king

Creating custom work like this is how you build up a good reputation and develop an individual style. If you have an individual style people will travel to get tattoos off you and you can increase your prices.

You will often need to be able to freehand a tattoo directly onto someone’s skin. This means drawing the design on directly with no stencil. Some tattoos you just can’t stencil because of the shape of the body or complexity of the tattoo. They need to fit the body part and drawing them on is the only way to get them to work. Therefore you need to have the drawing skills to be able to do this. If you can’t draw confidently and well, you can’t freehand.

Basically, drawing is about confidence. If you are only able to use pre-prepared designs what are you going to do when the customer wants something you don’t have.

If you can draw you will have the confidence to create anything you need whenever anyone asks for it and that is what people expect in the industry today.

But don’t despair. Drawing is a learned skill

If you are asking, “do you have to know how to draw to tattoo?”, you may be under confident in your drawing skills. Many people think that drawing is a skill you are magically given at birth and that’s it. That you can’t improve no matter what you do.

This is ABSOLUTELY A MYTH. Drawing is a skill like any other that can be learned and improved with practice. It’s not magic I promise.

If you feel that your drawing skill at the moment is not great, you need to put the work in to improve it.

This is the first thing you should work on before looking for an apprenticeship or trying to tattoo.

There are so many ways you can approach learning to draw but you need to focus on this.

How do I get better at drawing tattoos?


1 – Find a course and learn the basics

Take a look at this selection of courses to start work. Invest in improving your skills.

From Amateur To Super Illustrator

Drawing For Beginners – Level 1

Drawing & Sketching for Beginners

2 – You need to practice practice practice

To prepare your portfolio to get an apprenticeship you need to be practising drawing A LOT. You need to be able to show that you can draw well. You also need to be drawing lots of different kinds of things, not just tattoo designs.

Great, so you can draw a nice old school skull and roses. Now draw a meerkat, a landscape, your Dad… draw anything and everything. Some of it will be good enough to put in your portfolio. A lot of it will be crap.

Don’t let that dishearten you.

It’s a normal part of the learning process. Burn the crap stuff and move on.

  • Keep drawing.
  • Keep a sketchbook in your bag at all times.
  • Draw your coffee cup at morning break.
  • The back of the head of the person in front of you on the bus.
  • Your feet.

Practice will make you get better quickly and contribute to your all-important portfolio.

3 – Life Drawing

The best way to get seriously good at drawing is to enrol in a life drawing class. Yeah. That’s right. Drawing naked people!

Go every week and keep going.

Life drawing trains your eye to look at shapes and put them together to make an accurate image. You learn all kinds of visual tricks that you can pull out of the bag when you are shading or freehanding a tattoo for example.

You will be able to find a life drawing class at your local art school.

Do not be put off that’s it’s weird or embarrassing. Just deal with it. If you don’t want to improve you don’t want to tattoo.

4 – Keep working on your drawing skills

A good Tattooist will never stop improving their drawing skills. This is something you keep working on over your whole lifetime. You want to be able to look back at your drawings in a years time and see how far you have come.

But don’t worry. You can do this. Just put the time and effort in and you will be able to draw and be on your way to being a custom tattooist.

Can I be a tattoo artist if I can’t draw?

You do need to be able to draw to be a Tattoo Artist. However, drawing is a skill and you can learn how to do it. Its all part of improving your craft and learning to be a great Tattooist. 

I hope this has answered the question, do you have to know how to draw to tattoo?

You might want to check out this post too… Can you be a self taught tattoo artist?

If you need more help on your journey to become a Tattooist, then download the FREE guide by popping your email in the form below…

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