Tattoo Practice Skin: A Complete Guide and Review Directory

Practicing is an essential aspect of mastering any art, and tattooing is no different. As a tattoo artist, your skills can be honed and perfected over time, but to get there, you need dedicated practice. 

In the past, budding tattoo artists were stuck with pig skin or their own body. Luckily, today we have practice skins, and they have become a useful, pressure-free tool for new artists.

In this article, we’ll take a look at:

  • Our favorite practice skin brands
  • What to look like when buying tattooo practice skin
  • Pros and cons of using tattoo practice skin

The Pros and Cons of Using Tattoo Practice Skin

artist working on anatomical tattoo practice skin

As with any tool or resource, there are both advantages and drawbacks to using tattoo practice skins. Let's explore these in more detail.

The Pros of Using Tattoo Practice Skins

linework on tattoo practice skin
fake skin with a tattoo

1

Mistake-Friendly

Tattooing is an art form that leaves little room for error. You don’t want to just start tattooing people and hope you get it right. With practice skins, you have the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them without any lasting consequences. You can also use it to try out new techniques so you can find your own style instead of experimenting on a real client. 

2

Safe Practice

Tattooing requires focused work in a sterile environment. This is why tattooing people in your personal residence is not safe. Most homes are not equipped with the right cleaners and surfaces, which increases the risk of infection. When you’re practicing on fake skin, there is no blood, which means there is no risk of contamination and no presence of bloodborne pathogens.

3

Portfolio Building

A well-curated portfolio can make all the difference when attracting clients. Practice skins allow you to demonstrate your ability and versatility without having to have worked on a multitude of clients.

4

Technique Refinement

Whether it's line work, shading, or color packing, practice skins provide a platform to perfect your techniques before applying them to real human skin. (This is especially important when it comes to getting the right needle depth.)

The Cons of Using Tattoo Practice Skins

artist working on fake skin

1

Imperfect Texture

While practice skins aim to mimic the texture and elasticity of human skin, even the best tattoo practice skin won’t perfectly match the real thing.

2

False Sense of Proficiency

Because practice skins are more forgiving than real skin, there is a risk that an artist may develop a false sense of proficiency. It's important to remember that while practice skins are great for learning, they can't entirely replace the experience of working on real skin.

3

Ink Behavior

Ink may spread or settle differently in a practice skin than it does in real skin. This difference can affect the appearance of a tattoo, particularly when it comes to fine details or shading. For example, gray wash does not “lighten” over time like it would in real skin, and even if you go too deep, you won’t see a blowout the way you would in real skin.

Despite these drawbacks, the benefits of using tattoo practice skins as a training tool are clear. They offer an invaluable opportunity to practice, experiment, and hone your skills before stepping into the world of tattooing real clients.

What to Look for in a Tattoo Practice Skin

tattoo practice skin review

Selecting a good tattoo practice skin will make a difference in the quality of your practice. Here are some key factors to consider when making your choice:

Thickness

A good practice skin is supposed to mimic human skin. This means it needs to be thick enough for you to get the right needle depth. A lot of the skins sold for cheap on Amazon are too thin to mimic actual skin. If you try to practice the right depth in these skins, you’ll go right through the skin and bang your needles against the table. 

Elasticity

Elasticity is another crucial factor. A part of the tattooing process is understanding how the skin stretches and rebounds as you work on it. Your practice skin should be able to stretch a bit and feel “soft” to the touch. You want to avoid synthetic skin that feels rubbery or like thick plastic.

Texture

No synthetic material can perfectly reproduce the feel of real skin, but the better practice skins come close. They should not be too smooth or glossy, but should have a slightly porous surface that can absorb and hold tattoo ink.

Remember, a practice skin is an investment into your skill development - and you want as much tattooing practice as possible on quality skins. Choosing the right one can significantly impact your learning process and the quality of your tattoos.

Our Favorite Tattoo Skin Brands

Our top two practice skins are Reelskin and A Pound of Flesh.

How to Use Tattoo Practice Skins

fake skin with a tattoo stencil

Learning on tattoo practice skin involves several steps, which are similar to the steps you would take when tattooing a real person. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use tattoo practice skins effectively:

Preparation

Start by cleaning the surface of the practice skin with a mild soap and water solution. This is to simulate the hygiene steps you would follow when tattooing a person and it’ll get any dust, oils, etc. that are on the skin.

Stencil

Next, you'll need to make your stencil and transfer it onto the practice skin, just as you would on a client. Because you are using fake skin, you can use the “deodorant stencil” hack to save money on Stencil Stuff. You’ll want to let the stencil dry. Some brands (like Pound of Flesh) recommend letting your stencil sit overnight. But we recommend at least 15-30 minutes.

Set Up Your Equipment

Prepare your tattoo machine and adjust the settings as you would for a real tattoo. Remember, the idea is to replicate real tattooing conditions as much as possible, so try to stick to the same setup you'd use for an actual tattoo.

Start Tattooing

Begin with simple designs to get a feel for the practice skin before moving on to more complex designs. Practice making straight lines, circles, and other basic shapes. As you grow more comfortable, move onto more intricate designs.

Evaluate Your Work

Once you've completed your tattoo design, clean the practice skin to remove excess ink. (Use lots of Vaseline to get excess ink off the fake skin.) Then, take a close look at your work. Look for areas where you can improve. 

Synthetic Skins Versus Other Tattooing Practice Methods

tattoo skin of an orange
tattoo skin of a banana

While we recommend fake skins for your practice tattoos, there are other methods beginners can use to practice.

Potatoes or Fruits, Like Oranges or Melons

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.) 

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.

Picking the Best Tattoo Practice Skin

anatomical tattoo practice skin

While every tattoo artist has their own equipment preferences, our experienced artists recommend sticking to Reelskin brand or Pound of Flesh products for your practice skins. They’re good value for the money and thick enough to practice getting the right needle depth and have the closest texture to the real thing.

Within these brands, you’ll find large and small practice skin “sheets.” A large practice skin is good for larger designs, but if you’re completely new to the craft, we recommend sticking to smaller pieces. 

Smaller designs mean you’ll be able to get more completed tattoos under your belt during your practice sessions, which will allow you to find areas of improvement and fix them quicker.

Fake Body Parts

tattoo practice arm
microblading eyebrow practice skin

Even when you’re ready to start working on curved surfaces, it’s hard to find an endless supply of willing volunteers. In this case, you can try out anatomical tattoo practice skins that are shaped like limbs, skulls, etc. 

While we don’t recommend going for these while you’re still getting a handle on basic technical skills, tattoo artists do work mostly on curved body parts, which makes these a good practice option when you’re ready.

The Best Tattoo Practice Skin for New Tattoo Artists

Dragonhawk Fake Skin Review

August 12, 2022

*Price at time of publishingDragonhawk fake skins aren’t our favorite. They’re too ...

Dragonhawk Fake Skin Review

A Pound of Flesh Tattoo Skin Review

May 12, 2022

*Price at time of publishingA Pound of Flesh fake skins are thick ...

A Pound of Flesh Tattoo Skin Review

Amazon Tattoo Practice Skin Review

April 21, 2022

*Price at time of publishingThese skins are cost-effective and easy to get, ...

Amazon Tattoo Practice Skin Review

Frankenskins Review

April 21, 2022

*Price at time of publishingFrankenskins are thick, high-quality practice skins that we ...

Frankenskins Review

Become a Tattoo Artist With the Artist Accelerator Program

Having a career in tattooing is not only fulfilling, but it’s also the most stable way to make a living as an artist. However, for decades, the process to become a successful tattoo artist has been notoriously difficult. 

The apprenticeship process requires aspiring tattoo artists to work 50-60 hours a week without pay for 2-4 years. That, combined with the toxic culture of abusing apprentices, makes getting into the industry almost impossible for newcomers. 

That’s why we created the Artist Accelerator Program. Our online course provides a simple, structured way of learning to tattoo that has been proven to work by over 2500 successful students, with many of them having gone on to open their own shops all around the world. 

Inside the program, we’ll take you through every step of the tattooing process in 9 clear, easy-to-follow modules and support you along the way within the Tattooing 101 Mastermind online community.

In the Mastermind group, you’ll collaborate with other students, get answers to your questions, and receive personalized video feedback on your artwork and tattoos from professional tattoo artists. With this friendly community of both new and experienced tattoo artists, you’ll never be stuck again. 

When you join the Artist Accelerator Program, you’ll have instant access to the full course and the Mastermind community, as well as our 30-Day Flash Challenge and recorded interviews with tattoo artists from all over the world. 

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
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
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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