Tattoo practice skins are something that is very important to have if you are a tattoo artist. There are so many different reasons why you should have at least some of this on hand, but not all practice skins have the quality that you want.
What Is Tattoo Practice Skin?
It was not that long ago that the choices when it came to practice skins were very limited. The two main things that they used to be made out of were rubber or plastic. But neither of these are anything like actual skin and you can therefore not get a good feel for what the actual thing is like when you practice with these.
Not only do rubber and plastic feel nothing like skin, but it is very hard to get the ink into these well enough to turn out a good picture. This prevents you from being able to tell what you are actually doing and makes the whole point of practicing virtually useless.
Nowadays tattoo practice skin is much more like actual skin. Not only does it feel more like skin, but the ink shows up as it does on real skin too.
Why You Need Practice Skin
No matter if you are new to the art of tattooing or if you have owned your own tattoo for years, you will still need to be able to practice and perfect your skills. Practically every tattoo artist has at least one area of tattooing that they struggle with.
Most of the time this is a certain texture such as scales, fur, feathers, or hair. Whatever your hard area is, it is far better to practice on practice skins than to try to simply do your best on a client’s skin. Your only other option is to simply not do tattoos that have that element in them, but this can be very limiting.
One of the other main reasons why you should have practice skin is to test out any new tattoo machine that you get. This is important so that you can figure out what power settings work best with that particular tattoo machine before you have a client who wants to get a tattoo.
If you are not certain how something will turn out and you want to experiment with something new, this is the best way to do it. This way you can also practice doing detailed work on curved surfaces as well too by placing your practice skin on curved surfaces.
Lastly, when you are done with a design on your practice skin, you have the option to frame it and hand it up in your shop. This way you can showcase what you can do and will give a far better idea of what the tattoo will look like when it is completed.
How To Use A Tattoo Skin Properly
To get the most out of your tattoo practice skin, there are certain tips that you can keep in mind that will help to make it as real as possible. For example, one thing that you can easily do it to place the practice skin on something that has a curve to it.
This can be the rounded arms of a sofa or the hard back of a chair. The point of doing this is a person’s body is obviously not flat. There are curves, bones, and indentions when you are working on a human body.
Learning how to work around these curves and things while still getting your lines straight is something that takes practice. So, practicing on curves like these will help you learn how to deal with these curves.
The next thing that you should think about is how to make the most use of every square inch of space on the practice skin. Start off with what big designs you want to try and then find places to fit your smaller designs in between. Also, start at one corner and then work your way across.
These things, in addition to mapping out what you are doing where, will help you to get the most out of it. You should also leave your skin in one large piece instead of cutting it into smaller pieces since you will waste some of the space if you do. Finally, many skins that you can get nowadays let you use both sides of the skin, so don’t forget to take full advantage of this.
Of course, practicing on the old practice skins that are made out of rubber or plastic is not as good. This is why it is important that the practice skin you get is of good quality.
What To Look For With Tattoo Practice Skin
When looking for tattoo skin, the first and most obvious thing that you are going to want to look for is practice skin that replicates the feel of real skin as much as possible. While no synthetic skin can eve have the exact feel of real skin, some of these can get incredibly close.
You should be aware of the fact that synthetic skins of any kind do not absorb the ink as much. This means that you have to watch out for smearing and things like that. One thing that you can do to help with this is to put some petroleum jelly over the skin first.
Practice skins come in flat sheets most often. These can have various thicknesses and be different sizes as well. You will obviously want to get sheets that have enough space to try out your designs. However, you do not want the sheets to be too big or they will be difficult to handle.
As mentioned, you do not want to cut your sheets if you do not need to in order to maximize your space, but neither do you want to take up a whole table and give yourself no room for your tools to be set at.
When it comes to thickness, if the skin is thick enough you can use both sides of the skin. Practice skins that are thick will cost more but getting double use out of them can make it well worth this extra cost. Also, if the practice skin you get is too thin, you may find that it tears easily.
Finally, there are some sheets that are black for you to do whatever you want on them, but other sheets have designs that are already sketched onto them. This can be a great place to start if you are completely new to tattooing.
While most of the practice skin you will find will probably come in sheets, you can also get practice skin in the form of molds. These molds can be of almost any part of the body, some of the larger kinds being a whole torso and head, while a small mold might be a hand and wrist.
These molds can be quite a bit more expensive, but they can really help you learn to work with the different curves that a human body has. When you are using these, you should try to picture them as being attached to an actual body so that you do not get used to working on them at an angle that would be awkward for a client to be at.
You can either throw your mold away when you are done using it, or you can place it somewhere in your shop if you have room and want to display the work that you did on it. All in all, this is something that you can get more out of after you have been tattooing a while on flat practice skin.
What It Is Made Out Of
While there are various materials that practice skin can be made out of, silicone, latex, and pigskin are the most common. Each of these different materials has its own pros and cons, yet each can be really good for practice skins.
Pigskin is one of the most like human skin, and it can be bought in a variety of different forms that range from fresh out of the butcher’s shop or it may have some form of preservative in it so that it can be shipped to you.
However, pigskin is very expensive and it tends to have a smell to it that is rather unappealing. If you are not going to use it quickly, then you should wrap it tightly and put it in the freezer, thawing it only when you are about to use it.
Also, you should never eat this meat if you have used it for tattoo practice. This meat should be thrown away when you are done using it. Finally, make sure that you clean everything that touches the meat and that you sterilize it thoroughly before using it for anything else.
If you are a beginner, then the best option will likely be silicone. This is because it is fairly inexpensive and yet it makes a good practice skin for the price. While not as good as some latex options, it is a great place to start.
This is one of the best choices for tattoo practice skin that you could choose to go with. While it is a little bit harder to find, it is not too expensive though it is at the higher end when it comes to price. It comes in three sizes: 4″x4″, 6″x6″, and 11″x14″ so that you can choose which size you need.
This practice skin also comes with a Velcro strap that you can use to attach the skin to a curved object so that it doesn’t move around at all while you are trying to practice on it. You can wrap this around the arm or leg of a willing volunteer, or you can wrap in on a dummy, the back or arm of a chair, or anything else that has the shape you are looking to practice on.
This skin is made to have a fairly tough skin of leather for the outer layer with an inner layer of compressed foam. This foam does a good job of absorbing the ink as real skin does, and the leather can be wiped off easily and without harming the skin.
The ability to wipe it down makes this a great skin to display on your wall or counter when you are done with doing your design on it. It is even safe to put lubricating jelly on this skin, and this makes it even more realistic in addition to helping the stenciling you do first to be crisp and clear.
Finally, another great thing about this skin is that you can practice tattooing on both sides of it. This will help you to get the most out of what you pay for this practice skin, though you will not be able to display both sides.
This practice skin for tattooing is another great synthetic skin that both feels like real skin and reacts to the tattoo gun and ink in the same way as well. The A Pound Of Flesh company – abbreviated APOF – makes their tattoo practice skins our of a type of silicone and rubber.
This blend is made in the USA with quality materials and the flat sheet of practice skin is 11”x17” and it is 3mm thick. Depending on how careful you are when you are using it and how deep you put the ink, this might or might not be enough to use the other side.
While it does feel like real skin, it does not really take stencils as well due to the silicone. However, you can use something like a surgical marker or even a sharpie to outline if you need to. Other than that, you should also know that this option is much more on the expensive side.
Finally, if you like the skin from the APOF brand then there are a wide variety of different molds that you can get from this maker. These range from heads, to arms, to hands, to feet, and everything in between. So, when you have mastered working on a flat piece of practice skin, you can get one of these.
While this option may not live up to everything that the first two practice skins do, it is still a good option if you want to practice your tattoo skills. This skin is made out of a synthetic latex material and they are thick enough for you to use both sides of them.
These sheets come in a very convenient 8”x6” size, and they also come in sets of either 2 sheets, 10 sheets, or 20 sheets. This is a good size to hang up on your wall and it gives you more than enough to practice on.
However, you should know in advance that you have to be careful not to smear the ink on these practice sheets. This small downside is more than made up for by the low cost of these practice skins compared to the cost of other skins, but you should still take this into consideration.
Finally, another bonus that these skins have is the fact that the company offers an unconditional satisfaction guaranty. This guaranty says that if you are not satisfied with the quality of these sheets that you can email them for a refund which is not something that you can get with many practice tattoo skins.
These tattoo practice skins from One Tattoo World have one of the best values that you can find. For a fairly cheap price, you can get a total of eight sheets. Four of these sheets are 8”x12” and the other four are 8”x6” in size.
This is a good amount of practice skin for you to use and more than that is the fact that you can use both sides of these skins even though they are only 2mm thick. The two sides do have a slightly different feel to them, but this does not get in the way of your work.
Once again, stenciling is a little hard to do on this practice skin. However, it is perfectly safe to apply petroleum jelly or other transfer gels onto the skin in order to help with the transfer. As mentioned, this will make it all the more realistic anyway.
Last on my recommended list, this tattoo practice skin from BIGWASP is another good option that you should look at if you are in need of practice skin. The skin of this option is 3mm thick and it is made out of a quality rubber.
This rubber is both soft and it has a little bit of stretch to it as real skin does. Because of the fact that it is rubber, it does not hold ink as well as some of the other options. However, thanks to how thick it is you can easily use both sides of this skin.
The width and length of these skins are 8”x12” and it comes in sets of five. The color is a light yellow and not a skin color, but all in all it can still make a great display for your tattoo shop once you have put a design on it.
Practice skin is more than just a way to practice with your ink and your designs, it is also a way for you to practice your setup. Set everything that you will be using on a client where it is most convenient for you as though you are actually working on a client.
This will help you to figure things out such as where a good place to set your tattoo machine is, if you have a good way to clean your work area well, and where at you should be so that you can work comfortably without your client having to hold themself in an uncomfortable position.
Knowing where it is convenient to put it can help it go much more smoothly when you go to work on a client. It can also help you remember certain details such as disinfectant wipes to clean things with, a trashcan nearby to put the used wipes in, and other things that you might otherwise overlook.
If you do not have practice skin, or you do not want to wait for your practice skin to come in, you do have other options. Some of these include using leather, but that does not show the ink as well. You are far better off using practice skin.