A Complete Guide to Synthetic Skins for Tattooing

For novice tattoo artists, the world of tattooing might be intimidating and a bit scary. After all, if you screw up, that’s a permanent mistake — and one that’s connected to your name forever. 

But how do you practice without slapping an eye-catching conversation piece or intricate detail work on some willing volunteers?

One game-changing tool that’s entered the industry to help is synthetic skins. In this article, we’ll take a look at:

  • Our favorite practice skin brands
  • How tattoo practice skin stacks up against tattooing real human skin
  • Whether fake skin can really help new tattoo artists prepare for real skin

Our Favorite Practice Skins

Understanding Tattoo Practice Skin

Synthetic skins are meticulously designed to simulate the texture and characteristics of human skin. These artificial canvases come in many different shapes and sizes. This allows you to practice tattoo techniques and offers a dedicated practice as close to a real client as you can get.

Beginners can turn into successful tattoo artists by using tattoo practice skin. It allows you to experiment with different tattoo styles and figure out your own equipment preferences before hopping onto real skin.

Tattoo practice skin also prioritizes safety and hygiene, meaning you can practice without compromising cleanliness. Further, synthetic skins for tattoo practice are reusable and affordable, offering a budget-friendly canvas for practice.

Although synthetic skin is created to mimic real skin, it’s worth noting that there’s nothing exactly like the real thing. Synthetic skin doesn’t quite move or stretch like regular skin. It will be a good simulation, but there will be a few differences between fake skin and real skin that require a few adjustments.

Advantages of Synthetic Skin for Tattooing

tattoo practice skin and tattoo ink

The main benefit of using anatomical tattoo practice skin is that they provide a platform for you to continually work and grow at the craft.

  • Realistic Simulation: Synthetic skin is not skin, but it offers a decent replica. Think of it as something similar to a hairdresser practicing cuts on a mannequin. It allows room for practice, but lacks the oils and other variables that make it human.
  • Safety and Hygiene: Practice skin eliminates the risk of any cross-contamination. You can practice without concerns about blood-borne pathogens or the need for constant sterilization. This makes for a clean and secure practice environment.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Practice skin isn’t too expensive and allows you to refine techniques and explore new tattoo styles without too much risk to both your wallet and clients.
  • Mistake Management: Unless you’ve got a buddy who doesn’t care about mistakes in their tattoos, there’s a lot of pressure on new tattoo artists to create perfect tattoos from the get-go. By using practice skin, you can experiment, correct errors, and focus on building your own artistic process without fearing permanent mistakes.
  • Confidence Building: Action breeds confidence, and confidence will allow you to tattoo to the best of your ability. Getting as much tattooing practice as possible will only help get you there faster.

Choosing the Best Tattoo Practice Skin

artist holding tattoo practice skin

Selecting the right tattoo practice skin is vital. It would be best to consider variables such as quality, durability, and realism. 

Obviously, you want it to resemble human skin as closely as possible. Look for reputable brands and suppliers such as Frankenskins and A Pound of Flesh.


Quality fake skins are thick enough to resemble real skin. A lot of the practice skins that come with tattoo kits are not thick enough to allow you to practice getting the right needle depth.

Tattooing on Anatomical Tattoo Practice Skins

realism design on tattoo practice skin

To get the most out of practice skin, you should treat it just like you would treat any real tattoo.

  • Set up your machine and equipment.
  • Thoroughly prepare the skin, ensuring it is clean and sanitized.
  • Practice stretching the skin (even if practice skin doesn’t require you to stretch it).
  • Tattoo!

When you are done, check to see how the fake skin looks. Is it torn up or sliced? You might have gone too deep, made too many passes over the same area, or your voltage is too high for your hand speed.

Tips for Tattooing on Synthetic Skins

tattoo practice skin

Now that you’re ready to use practice skin, what should you keep in mind? 

The most important thing to remember is to just do it. The beauty of synthetic skin is that you can screw up without the risk of angering a client. The only one preventing you from practicing is yourself.
  • Use Vaseline, as it helps protect the stencil while you’re working and aids in the removal of excess ink after you’re done tattooing.
  • Use Speed Stick deodorant to apply the stencil. Speed stick deodorant is an effective (and cheap) alternative to Stencil Stuff. (We recommend using Stencil Stuff on human skin, as it’s higher quality.).
  • Allow plenty of time for the stencil to dry. It may take up to 30 minutes for a stencil to set on practice skin. 

What to Expect When Tattooing on Synthetic Skins

Practice skin is a little different than real skin. Because of this, it requires its own considerations.

  • Surface Hardness and Needle Impact: Synthetic skins are harder than human skin. This is why it’s important to get a high-quality practice skin. They will be softer than the tough plastic ones you’ll usually see on Amazon.
  • Thickness Variations: The average synthetic skin ranges from 2 to 8 millimeters thick. You should know what this is as you practice, so you can get a good understanding of your needle depth while you’re working.
  • Size Variations: You can get both small practice skin and large practice skin, depending on how much space your design will take up.  
  • Layering of Colors: The density of practice skin also makes it tough to get color in. Real skin might only take two layers, but practice skin may require more.

Synthetic Skins Versus Other Tattooing Practice Methods

Yeah, Sailor Jerry loved to tattoo potatoes. And that’s still a pretty cool way to experiment. But how do other tattoo practice methods compare to synthetic skins?

Potatoes or Fruits, Like Oranges or Melons

Unlike synthetic skin, fruits offer a way to measure the depth of your needle. A lot of new tattoo artists like using them because you get a good feel for how deep you should be putting the ink in. 

(Not to mention buying fruit is cheap and there’s basically an endless supply!)

However, they’re small, so practicing larger-scale tattoos to develop your own style is basically impossible.

Pig Skin

Many tattoo apprentices in the past were only able to tattoo pig skin for practice. While we do not recommend this route, some people do like to try it out. It’s very affordable, and your local butcher will probably sell you some pig skin for cheap — or maybe even for free — because no one typically buys the stuff.

Pig skin does a great job simulating human skin, because, well, it’s “real” skin. But because of that, you have to treat it delicately:

  • Right after you get the pig skin home, wash it. Then, fill a bucket with cold water and add a small amount of chlorine or bleach. Soak the pigskin in the solution for roughly two hours. This helps the cleanliness and hygiene last.
  • Refrigerate it for a short period of time before use to maintain freshness. Pig skin can develop a pretty nasty smell after a few hours. 
  • If you want to keep pig skins for future use, freeze them. They can be preserved for up to 4 to 6 weeks. Don’t go much longer than that. It will be a gross situation you don’t want to deal with.
  • Tattoo the pig skin on a wooden board covered with plastic. Secure it with rivets or other fasteners. This setup ensures a stable and secure surface.

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

Working with fake skin and getting some real practice tattooing is an exciting step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Tattooing requires focused practice with the correct technique. Without that, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

However, many budding tattoo artists know that finding the straightforward information you need to progress is difficult. And with so much out there online, it’s hard to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.

This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to become a successful tattoo artist faster…

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
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  • Private mastermind community
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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