Tattoo Drawing Ideas (With Tutorials!)

One of the most difficult parts of becoming a new tattoo artist is coming up with new ideas for tattoo designs. On top of that, you have to keep the limitations of working on a person’s body in mind, like making a design that flows with the muscles. 

A lot of the time, tattoo artists will use ideas that they already know will look good on a person’s body. Then, they’ll add new ideas and elements onto those pieces.

If you need a few ideas on how to do that, then you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll show you how to draw popular “tattoo building blocks” that look good on the body, and show you examples of how you can put them together in your own tattoo drawings.

In this article, we’re breaking down:

  • How to draw popular designs like roses, feathers, skulls, and more.
  • How to use “tattoo building blocks” to create larger tattoo designs.
  • How to make sure your designs look like tattoo designs - and not just good drawings.

Rose Tattoo Drawing Ideas

Whether you’re doing a rose by itself or using roses as filler for a larger tattoo, these flowers are very popular in the tattoo world. Here’s a few ideas for how you can use roses in a tattoo design:

Rose and Dagger

Rose and Snake

Rose and Skull

rose tattoo for women
dragon and rose design
skull and rose tattoos

Rose Tattoo Drawing Tutorial

If you’re new to drawing roses, we recommend starting out with a traditional Sailor Jerry Rose. Here’s a video of our instructor, Brandon, drawing a rose tattoo design:

Feather Tattoo Drawing Ideas

Another popular design that clients ask for are feathers. While plenty of people will want a plain feather, just like roses, feathers are a fundamental part of more complicated tattoo ideas

Remember that when you’re coming up with feather tattoo drawings, you can search for different of bird feathers (for example, a peacock feather) to better suit your style or your client’s style.

Feather and Rose

Feather and Eagle

Feather and Skull

feather tattoo designs drawings
eagle sketch style tattoos
native american tribal tattoos

Feather and Rose

Feather and Eagle

Feather and Skull

feather tattoo designs drawings
eagle sketch style tattoos
native american tribal tattoos

Feather Tattoo Drawing Tutorial

Feathers look simple, but it’s very easy for them to end up looking like a blob on a person’s skin. Because tattoo lines expand over time, feathers with lines that are very close together will merge and be unreadable. For this reason, we recommend practicing drawing feathers with very distinct shapes as opposed to lots of smaller lines. 

Here’s a video of our instructor, Brandon, showing you how to draw a feather made of shapes, as well as how to make feather tattoos flow perfectly with the body:

Lion Tattoo Drawing Ideas

For a lot of people, the image of a lion will symbolize overcoming difficulties, personal power, or a similar idea. Because of this, you will sketch tattoos of lions very often during your career. 

Because lions tend to be bigger tattoos (on the back, chest, or upper arm), you’ll want to combine them with smaller elements (like the roses and feathers we just looked at) to create a larger design that flows with the body.

Lion and Rose

Lion and Feather

Lion with Background Elements

lion tattoo drawing design
lion sketch tattoo designs
lion tattoo drawing ideas

Lion and Rose

Lion and Feather

Lion with Background Elements

lion tattoo drawing design
lion sketch tattoo designs
lion tattoo drawing ideas

Drawing Tutorial: Making Tattoo Designs “Fit”

You might notice in the designs above that they are longer than they are wide. This is because most areas of the body are long and skinny. For example, you have more height than width to work with on an upper arm or thigh. Because of this, larger tattoo designs need to be the same shape (long and skinny) to match their placement.

Making sure your designs fit on a person’s body is one of the most important things you need to do to make sure your drawings actually look like tattoos. If your art fills up a whole page - and it isn’t designed for the body - it’ll just look like a beautiful drawing, and not like a real tattoo design.

To learn how to make sure your tattoo designs will fit on a person’s body correctly, check out this video:

Skull Tattoo Ideas

As a tattoo artist, you’ll design plenty of skulls. Many tattoo artists don’t even need reference images after a year or two in the industry because they have built up muscle memory for drawing skulls.

However, if you’re new to tattooing, the best way to make a skull your own is to work with a reference and then play with the placement of cracks in the skull, the size and shape of the eye sockets, and the style of teeth. As you get more comfortable drawing skulls, you’ll be able to find your own style, and you’ll need fewer references to work from. 

Remember: Faces always face forward or inward. This means if you are drawing a skull that will be tattooed on someone’s side, the “eyes” of the design look forward. If you tattoo a skull on the front of someone’s body (like the chest), the face will be turned in toward the centerline of the body. 

Skull and Feather

Skull and Snake

Skull and Roses

skull tattoo drawings
skull picture created by tattoo artist
skull tattoo designs drawings

Skull and Feather

Skull and Snake

Skull and Roses

skull tattoo drawings
skull picture created by tattoo artist
skull tattoo designs drawings

Skull Tattoo Drawing Tutorial

Skulls can be drawn for all different tattoo styles. However, we recommend that new artists start out with American Traditional because it is a clean, 2-D style that most artists find easier to practice.

face drawing tutorial
face sketch tutorial
skull tattoo for fake skin
flash tattoo design
face drawing tutorial
face sketch tutorial
skull tattoo for fake skin
flash tattoo design

If you missed our full tutorials on drawing traditional skulls, roses, and swallows, check out our article, “How to Draw Traditional Style Tattoos.”

Snake Tattoo Ideas

A snake tattoo is the perfect design for artists learning to draw with flow because you can change up their structure to fit your vision. (This is not possible with most animals because they have a very rigid shape.) 

Snakes are also the perfect tattoo to practice your tattooing skills, because small errors in the shape of the body will be less noticeable, and they have less detailed facial features - especially in the American Traditional style.

American Traditional Snake

Neotraditional Snake Head with Flow

Japanese Style Snake

snake tattoo drawing ideas
snake tattoo drawing
dragon tattoo art with shading

American Traditional Snake

Neotraditional Snake Head with Flow

Japanese Style Snake

snake tattoo drawing ideas
snake tattoo drawing
dragon tattoo art with shading

Snake Tattoo Drawing Tutorial

An important part of drawing tattoos is learning how to “build up” your designs using basic shapes. In the video below, our instructor, Brandon, will explain how to do it by drawing in layers. He will be using a snake design as an example. 

How to Use Tattoo Drawings By Another Artist - The Right Way

There are lots of designs online or in tattoo magazines that can be great for inspiration and practice. However, you can’t use exact copies of those images in your portfolio or as stencils for your own tattoos. In the tattoo world, using another artist’s work is considered stealing, and it can be the reason you don’t get hired in a tattoo studio. 

If you are only using their work for practice, that will help you grow your skills. However, if you want to post your work online and build your social media, you either have to adapt the design enough to turn it into a new tattoo, or you have to get permission from the original artist to use their design (which is very hard to do). 

Instead, we recommend buying designs that will then belong to you. That way, you can use them as practice or for tattoo stencils, and still post your work to grow your audience (AKA the people who will become your future clients).

Note:

We do not recommend using designs that have already been tattooed as reference images. Because the designs are tattooed on a 3D surface, the image you’re seeing is slightly warped. If your drawing is warped, and then you try to wrap it onto a body part, it will warp the design even more. Instead, it’s best to practice with original tattoo drawings.

Take Your Tattooing to the Next Level with Professional Designs That Belong to YOU

As a new tattoo artist, simple tattoos are the best place to start to build your skills. However, as you move forward, you’ll need to be able to design larger, more intricate tattoos for your clients. 

To do that, you’ll need to know how to draw with the flow of the muscles - and make sure your designs fit on the body without it wrapping too far around and overlapping. Without the right fit and flow, your tattoos will look awkward and limit your earning potential as a tattoo artist.

However, learning to draw with flow takes most artists years of trial and error…

And it can be really hard to wrap your head around when you’re just starting out. The best way to get the hang of it fast is to look at references of other artists’ work and see how they did it so you can replicate it in your own work

As you practice drawing and tattooing those professional designs, you’ll naturally learn how to create designs that have flow.

That’s why we created the Tattooing 101 Sketch Book. 

Inside, you’ll find 74 tattoo designs drawn for you by our professional tattoo artists. You can use them to inspire your own designs - or you can stencil them up and start tattooing right away.

Instead of hoping another tattoo artist doesn’t see that you’re practicing with their designs, you can rest assured that these are 100% for you to use however you like. 

When you draw the designs inside or use them as tattoo stencils, you’ll get used to creating designs with flow, which means you’ll be able to draw tattoos that always look good on the body.If you would like to get your hands on a digital copy of 74 pro designs, hit the link below:

https://learn.tattooing101.com/flash-book

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AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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