What is the best thing to practice tattooing on? 6 Ways you haven’t thought of

What material can I practice tattooing on
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When you start tattooing you need to do a LOT of practice before you go anywhere near human skin with your tattoo machine. But how do you start? What’s the Best Thing to Practice Tattooing On?

When it comes to practicing tattooing, there are different options available. You can use pig skin, fruit and vegetables, or silicone practice skin. Oranges, bananas, grapefruit, butternut squash, pumpkins and lemons all work well. You can also use henna and markers to practice drawing on the body.

Each has its own pros and cons that you need to take into consideration before making a decision. In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each option so that you can make an informed decision about what is best for you to practice the art of tattooing!

If you need an overview of the basics of tattooing for beginners please read this post.

What’s the Best Thing to Practice Tattooing On?

Basically, you pretty much have 6 main options when it comes to practicing tattooing.

  1. Practice on Fruit and Vegetables
  2. Practice on Silicone Practice Skins / Fake tattoo skin
  3. Practice on Pig Skin
  4. Practice using Henna
  5. Practice using markers on the skin
  6. Practice by blood lining your own skin

All these mediums will help you gain more familiarity with your machine and improve your tattooing skills

1- Fruit and vegetables to practice tattooing

The Pros and cons of fruit and veg for tattooing practice

Fruit and vegetables are an obvious choice when it comes to practicing tattooing. After all, they’re cheap and easy to come by everywhere!

The main downside of using fruit and vegetables is that they don’t closely resemble human skin. This means that the results you get from tattooing them won’t be entirely accurate.

Still, fruit and vegetables are a great option for practicing the basics of tattooing like lining, and once you’ve mastered those techniques, you can move on to more realistic practice skins.


The pros:

  • They’re cheap and easy to come by.
  • You can eat them afterwards [as long as they have a thick skin you can remove to get rid of the ink] so less wastage
  • They’re a great way to practice the basics of tattooing – ie lining.
  • Some are delicate [ie bananas] so train you to have a light hand and not chew up the skin
  • Their shape trains you to work on 3D objects similar to the human body

The cons:

  • They don’t closely resemble human skin.
  • The results you get from tattooing them won’t be entirely accurate.
What is the best thing to practice tattooing on?

Practicing tattooing on a lime. Any fruit with a skin is great for practice.

What are the best fruits and vegetables to practice tattooing on?

Some of the most common fruit and vegetables to use for tattooing practice are oranges, bananas, grapefruit, butternut squash, pumpkins, and lemons. But basically, you can use any types of fruit or veg you find in the supermarket that have skin. Experiment with different fruits for tattoo practicing.

Bananas are a good choice because they have thin, delicate skin that bruises easily and rips. It will train you to have a light hand and not overwork skin.

Pumpkins and squashes are great for practicing tattooing on because of their shape. They’re similar to the human body, so tattooing them will help you get used to working on awkward three-dimensional objects.

Tips – Fruit and veg for tattoo practice.

  • Get a large butternut squash. The awkwardness of the large surface is great for practicing working on a body part such as an arm.
  • Oranges are great for practicing lining

How To Become A Tattoo Artist Practice on Fruit

Tattoo Practice on Butternut Squash

2 – Pig skin to practice tattooing

The Pros and cons of pig skin for tattooing practice

Pig skin is a great option for practicing tattooing because it’s the most similar medium you can get to human skin. {it’s still not exactly the same though}.

It’s also usually free as well if you can find a helpful butcher. It’s a waste product so they will often just give you some if you ask.

However, it can be a bit grim and smelly though and is not for the squeamish or vegans.

Still, pig skin is a great option for those who want to get the most realistic tattooing experience possible. If you can find it, we recommend giving it a try!

The pros:

  • It’s very similar to human skin.
  • It’s generally free or cheap if you can find a helpful local butcher.
  • Pig skin helps you understand getting the correct target depth better

The cons:

  • It is quite grim and smells bad
  • The skin surface is fragile and can fall apart as you tattoo

Where to get pig skin for tattooing practice?

You can usually find pig skin at your local butcher. They will often give it to you for free as it’s a waste product. If not, it should be fairly cheap. Just make sure to ask first so you don’t end up with a bill for a whole pig! Just go in and ask.

Tips – How to use pig skin for tattoo practice.

  • Soak the pig skin in warm water for a couple of minutes before you use it. This makes it softer and easier to tattoo.
  • You can freeze the pig skin in between practice sessions if necessary.
  • Cut it into practice-size pieces and freeze each piece in a plastic bag until you are ready to use it.
  • Drape the pig skin over a bowl or other shape to give yourself a more realistic practice surface
  • Make sure you wear gloves when tattooing and follow good cross-contamination practices. Pig skin is a biological product and could harbor pig disease which you don’t want to catch.
  • Use lots of vaseline to stop ink or tattoo design stencil staining the skin
  • Wash it down with dilute bleach to clean it down at the end.
Practice tattoo on pig skin - preserved

Pig skin tattoo preserved in formaldehyde

Practice tattoo on pig skin

You can freeze pig skin in between sessions if needed.

3 – Silicone skin to practice tattooing

The Pros and cons of silicone skin for tattooing practice

Silicone fake skin is a great option for practicing tattooing because it’s much less messy than pig skin. It’s also easy to find online and usually quite cheap.

However, it can be a bit slippery to work with and doesn’t closely resemble human skin in terms of color or texture.

The pros:

  • It’s clean and nice to use.
  • It’s easy to find and usually quite cheap.
  • You can keep it easily to see your progression as you improve.

The cons:

  • Synthetic skin can be a bit slippery to work with.
  • It doesn’t closely resemble human skin in terms of color or texture.
  • Quite hard to work on.

fake tattoo practice skin

silicone tattoo practice skin

My very first terrible attempts with a tattoo machine on fake skin. You can keep your attempts on practice skin and see how you improve.

Where to get silicone skin for tattooing practice?

You can find synthetic skin easily online at tattoo supply shops. It’s also available at some art supply stores. Buying a larger pack is more cost-effective.

Don’t go for the cheapest skin as it’s often tough and difficult to tattoo. A good quality product will make your learning curve easier.

You can also buy whole hands and arms made of soft silicone to tattoo. These make for an amazing design project and could even be something you can photographed show in order to get an apprenticeship.

15 Pieces Quality Tattoo Practice Skin

Here’s a good quality practice fake skin that I have used before

View Price

Tattoo Practice Arm

Great quality from A Pound Of Flesh

View Price

Tips – How to use tattoo practice skins.

Silicone skin is easy to use.

Ready to use stencil designs

  • Use lots of vaseline to stop ink or stencils from staining the skin.
  • Wash it down with dilute bleach and/or green soap when you’re done practicing to remove the excess ink.
  • You need to leave the stencil on for a long time for it to stick well. Overnight works well.

So there you have it! Pig skin, fruit and vegetables, or silicone practice skin are all great options too use on your journey to becoming an experienced tattoo professional.

If you aren’t sure how to apply a stencil this post will help…How to use tattoo transfer paper

Other Ways To Practice Tattooing

4 – Using Henna To Practice tattooing

Henna is a great way to practice tattooing without using any real skin. Practicing applying henna to a person helps you to understand working with the contours of the human body rather than working on flat paper.

It helps you practice holding your client in the right position and keeping a steady hand while you tattoo.

Henna is also great for practicing different techniques such as dot work and line work.

You can find a lot more info about how to use henna and henna tattoo here…

A WARNING about Henna

It’s important to make sure that the henna you’re using is safe and of good quality. Some henna {especially black henna} has PPD (para-phenylenediamine) which can cause allergic contact dermatitis skin reactions in some people. Do a small patch test before using it on anyone.

5 – Drawing on Yourself or a friend with a Sharpie Marker To Practice Tattooing

You can use a sharpie to draw designs on yourself for practice. This is a good way to get used to how designs wrap around the body and fit nicely. It moves you away from thinking of designs as occupying a flat surface and helps you to start thinking in 3D.

It also allows you the confidence to be able to freehand tattoo designs further along the line.

This is a good way to get used to working with someone else’s skin. Working with another person is also helpful to practice how to handle a real person in a tattoo situation, which is a really important skill to practice and develop.

  • Try freehanding different types of designs such as tribal to see how they fit.
  • Start by drawing with a yellow sharpie
  • Then refine the design with a red marker
  • Once you are happy with the design finish with dark blue or black marker
  • Make sure you take a photo so you can see your improvement.

These kind of inexpensive sharpie markers are perfect for practicing tattoo design. 

6 – Practicing tattooing on yourself

Many tattoo artists start off tattooing their own legs in order to practice. This can be a good way to learn and you should be prepared to tattoo yourself before you touch anyone else.

However. I would say that you need to do a LOT of practice on practice materials before you even think about doing this. Your skin is precious real estate. Don’t just rush to doodle on it as soon as you get a machine. Respect your skin and plan some amazing tattoos for when your skills are up to it.


Don’t use the tattoo inks out of a cheap machine and practice kit on human skin. They are not of proper quality and are only intended for use on practice skin.

Bloodlining practice on your own skin

A really good way to practice tattooing is to bloodline your own skin.

Basically this means tattooing but without any ink.

This allows you to get the feel of real skin and able to get to grips with needle depth without causing any permanent mark or damage. It’s great practice and a good way to start on real skin to get over any initial nerves you may have.

{If you need help with needle depth this post might help. How hard do I press when tattooing? How do I know? }

It’s the perfect way for a tattoo apprentice to take the first steps towards working with clients.

The “tattoo” will last for a couple of weeks before disappearing completely.

Use your normal tattoo equipment setup without ink and make sure you pay close attention to cross-contamination and hygiene issues. You can lubricate the needle with plain Witch Hazel or distilled water.

Plain Witch Hazel

Plain witch hazel is a tattoo studio staple


Another crazy idea – Practice tattooing a doll!

A doll from a charity shop can be great for tattoo practice. This gives you great experience of working around awkward contours with small fiddly designs. Plus at the end you have a cool tattooed doll to display. Win win!

Just make sure you find a doll made with soft plastic so that it is possible to tattoo.

or you can buy a soft silicone doll made especially for tattooing like this one

Silicone Doll For tattoo Practice

  • By A Pound of Flesh
  • Soft tattooable silicone


Frequently asked questions about What is the best thing to practice tattooing on?

What’s the best fruit to practice tattooing on?

There is no definitive answer. Different fruits have different textures and thicknesses of skin. Bananas are good because their fragile skin bruises and shows up issues if you press too hard. Butternut squash mimics the weight of a human limb. Grapefruits, lemons and oranges all work well too.

Can you practice tattooing on paper?

You can practice tattooing on paper. This is a good way to get used to the feel of the machine. Take your tattoo machine and insert a pencil instead of the tube. Use this to draw on paper. This weighted pencil will get you used to the awkward feel of the tattoo machine as you practice your drawing skills.

What is the best surface to practice tattooing on?

There is no definitive answer. Different surfaces have different textures and thicknesses. You can use pig skin, fruit, vegetables, or silicone practice skin. All have pros and cons. Pig skin is probably the surface that most closely resembles human skin for practicing tattooing.

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Conclusion: What is the best thing to practice tattooing on?

So, what’s the verdict? Do you practice on pig skin, fruit and vegetables, or silicone practice skin if you want to become a professional tattooist?

The consensus seems to be that practicing on all of these things has benefits. However, if you had to choose just one, we would recommend practicing on pig skin {if you can get over its grimness}.

It offers the most realistic feel possible and helps you get used to the sensation of tattooing on real skin. Plus, it’s less expensive in the long run than buying silicone skin.

However, the main thing is to just KEEP PRACTICING, whichever surface you prefer. You will then be on your way to becoming a professional tattooist

Ready to start practicing? Download our free guide below for everything you need to know about becoming a professional tattoo artist and getting into the tattoo industry!


20 Crucial Tips You Need To
Know To Enter The Tattoo Industry.

“Crucial Information if you are looking to
find an Apprenticeship or break into the Tattoo Industry”

Please note – this content is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant as advice. Anything you do after reading this information is completely at your own risk. 

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