Top Tattoo Tips for Being a Great Artist | Painful Pleasures Community

Top Tattoo Tips for Being a Great Artist

Check out these top tattoo tips for being the best tattoo artist you can possibly be! These tattoo tips will grow your artistry and mindset.
by Danny Tress Last Updated: May 2, 2024

There are several paths and tattoo tips for becoming a tattoo artist. We recommend getting a professional apprenticeship at a reputable shop, which you can learn all about here. However, becoming a GREAT and successful tattoo artist is another thing entirely. We’re here to fill you in on the best tattoo tips and secrets to being great.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just kicking off your tattoo career, these top tattoo tips are your guiding lights toward becoming the greatest artist you can be. So check out this glowing advice for the most fulfilling tattoo career possible.

1. Practice Makes Perfect (No Really It Does)

Tattoo artist tattooing practice skin

This top tattoo tip goes for any creative profession (or even hobby). Consider tattooing to be a muscle that requires constant training. You can practice on APOF practice skins, willing friends, or even citrus fruit if you’re old-school.

A Pound of Flesh practice skins are an artist-favorite choice because they closely replicate real human skin—so you don’t have to worry about making embarrassing mistakes on real people. You can also use APOF skins to turn your practice work into keepsakes or build a 3D portfolio.

But practicing to be a great tattoo artist isn’t just about tattooing. Practice your foundational skill every day: drawing. Aim to draw a little bit every day and create frequent challenges or objectives for yourself. That is to say, don’t just doodle mindlessly or draw the same subject + style over and over again. Take on projects that require focus and intent. That’s what builds your drawing muscle and will ultimately inform your capabilities as a tattooer.

For the best of both worlds (i.e. a combo of tattooing AND drawing practice),

Peak offers a ballpoint pen cartridge that attaches to your machine, allowing you to practice drawing with the machine on surfaces like canvas and wood. This innovative tool helps build key tattooing skills like stippling, whipshading, and soft blending.

Of course, “muscles” need rest, too. So be sure to take regular breaks and vacations to avoid burnout. Check out our blog on mental health and avoiding artistic burnout here.

2. Understand Your Toolkit Inside-Out

Three tattoo machines on a stainless steel medical tray

There are more supplies in one setup than you can count on two hands. Knowing how everything works is something you should be learning during a quality apprenticeship. However, you want to make sure you’re absorbing this information.

In particular, understanding how your tattoo machines and power supplies work is essential to your success. They’re machines after all and require a little TLC to run optimally. You should know how to clean, store, and lubricate your machine (if lubrication is required). Moreover, if you favor a coil machine, your know-how needs to be more involved. Understand how to fine-tune and adjust your machine to keep it running properly.

Fortunately, plenty of reputable brands have warranties on their machines should anything prove to be beyond repair (or beyond your area of expertise). But understanding the basics is a must.

3. Embrace Technology, Don’t Run from It

Box of Universal Battery Shorty Packs

Well, we’ll add a caveat to this tattoo tip. If you’re loyal to the coil and do your best work with a coil tattoo machine, we’re not saying “Jump on the wireless bandwagon.” However, there are a few technological advancements worth trying or incorporating into your setup. So this isn’t a suggestion to overhaul your current ways—just to adapt.

Here are a few ways you can incorporate new tech and advancements into your setup + daily work:

First, some softwares are helpful for any kind of tattooers: coil lovers to diehard wireless users. But you might be turned off by the idea of new software you’re unfamiliar with. You might be even more turned off when you hear anything related to AI. Plenty of artists—and creative people in general—consider AI to be a threat. That’s understandable. But reframing your mindset about AI can work to your benefit. There are ways you can utilize new AI software, not only for your artwork but for your business. From automated appointment scheduling to brainstorming new tattoo designs, this technology doesn’t have to be scary. Check out a few ways you can incorporate AI into your daily life as a tattoo artist here.

Second, technology doesn’t have to be about fancy new software or high-tech machines. There are plenty of simple new innovations that can make your life easier. Popular brands like Saferly, FK Irons, and Peak are all working to continually offer daily setup essentials that make your setup more convenient (and planet-friendly if you’re interested in that).

Third, if you happen to be a wireless machine user, try out new wireless technology and find out what works best for you. For example, you can check out the latest battery packs from brands like Critical, Cheyenne, and FK Irons. Battery packs are constantly being upgraded to give you more power, easier adjustments, and Bluetooth-enabled capabilities. You never know what reputable brands are going to come out with next, but these advancements can only benefit you (who doesn’t want more battery life + easier adjustments?!)

4. Being Social Is Way More Important Than You Think

Close-up of tattoo artist working at a tattoo convention

If you’re introverted—which a lot of artists are—this might make you cringe. But here’s the deal: this is a people-first (and people-focused) industry. You’re being creative, and sometimes practicing self-expression. But ultimately, you’re providing a service to a large variety of people. The friendlier and more personable you are with clients, the more likely they are to return.

But it doesn’t stop there. You should also be personable with other artists, experts, and manufacturers in your field. Going to conventions and becoming friends with these people can do the following:

  1. Set you up with a professional partnership, complete with perks, sponsored by your favorite brands
  2. Help you to meet and learn from artists you love and admire
  3. Grow your reputation in the industry so other artists, manufacturers, (and distributors like us!) name-drop you and share your work on social media

Beyond conventions, seminars, and other events, you can also get to know the people in your neighborhood (Sesame Street style). Doing so can let locals know about your business and attract them to your shop. Plus, it’s just good practice to be a kind, person. Kindness can only grow your success, not hinder it!

5. Keep a Positive Attitude!

Your attitude is your responsibility. If you believe the following, then it’ll be true:

  1. You can always learn, grow, and better yourself.
  2. You have control over your own success and career.
  3. Failures are opportunities for growth.

Journal these mantras. Repeat them to yourself. Then, as with anything, put them to practice. Keep learning and growing by practicing your skills, networking with other artists, and creating challenges for yourself. Attend conventions, seminars, and social media groups and connect with people who are like-minded, who lift you up and support you. Moreover, if you make a mistake or face an obstacle in your career… don’t let it defeat you. Make the best out of the worst situation and seek opportunities for growth. This ensures you’re always improving and always becoming a greater artist than you were before.

Go Be Great

You can’t go wrong with putting even just one of these tips into good practice. But we highly recommend using them all to your advantage. Refer to this list of top tattoo tips any time you need a refresher on the secret sauce to success. And perhaps our best tip? Do what you love and love what you do!

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