How to Tattoo Color on Fake Skin

One of the biggest problems new artists face when they start tattooing fake skin is getting good color saturation. If your fake skin looks patchy or overworked when you try to add color, there’s a good chance your tattoos will heal badly on real clients.

To help, we’ll be breaking down exactly how to tattoo color on fake skins so you can get quality practice and create strong portfolio pieces.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • What ink brands to use
  • How to transition from black shading to color
  • How to mix ink in the tube to create custom colors

Tattooing Color on Fake Skin

As a new tattoo artist, it’s really tempting to skip learning how to draw and get right to tattooing. However, this will set you back in your career. It’s very hard to be accepted into a tattoo shop if you don’t know how to create unique tattoo designs.

If you’re new to drawing, here are three things you need to know that will immediately help you start creating better tattoos:

Use Quality Ink

Before you even start tattooing, you want to make sure you’re using quality tattoo inks that make it easier to learn. For Traditional tattoos, you need black, red, green, and yellow ink.

Inks from tattoo kits tend to be cheap, which usually means you’re going to have saturation issues. It doesn’t go into the skin well because it’s watered down. (It’s definitely not meant for human skin, so never use it on yourself or your clients.)

Using higher-quality ink brands like Solid, Eternal, Fusion, and Intenze will help you progress faster, because you know none of the issues in your tattoos are due to cheap ink. We recommend avoiding Mom’s Ink brand (it’s very thick) and any off-brand inks (they’re usually too thin). 

Additionally, you do not want to buy these brands off Amazon. There are a lot of clones out there that are not safe to use on skin, and can lead to infections.

Color Comes Last

In tattooing, color comes last. When you’re learning to tattoo, you want to make sure that you’ve mastered linework and shading before you start adding color to your tattoos. Trying to learn all three skills at once can be overwhelming.

In the same way, you want to make sure to do your linework and all your shading in a tattoo before you go in with color.

Know Where Your Colors Go

It can be helpful to print the design and add in your shading and colors with markers or colored pencils. This will make sure you’re confident in where your shading goes before you sit down to tattoo.

Eventually, you won’t need to do this step, and you’ll know where to add shading and color on instinct.

Darkest Colors First

You always want to tattoo your darkest colors first. For example, if you tattooed all the yellow areas of your design first and then went back in with red, the yellow would mix with the red and muddy up into a brown color. 

If you start with a darker color, you won’t be able to see the colors “mix” with the lighter colors, which will keep everything looking crisp.

For the sample tattoo, red comes first, then green, and then yellow.

Transition From Black to Color

When you’re going from shading into a color, the goal is to get smooth transitions. You can use whip shading and pendulum shading to create these transitions.

The best way to do this is to make sure your black shading is whipped out enough that you can go back in with color and see a smooth transition from black to color. 

Then, you can whip out your color to transition into a lighter color or right into skin tone. Just like shading, you can whip out your needles to create lighter shades of a color to show a light source.

When you change ink colors, make sure to dip the tip of your cartridge into your cup of distilled water to clean it out. Briefly wipe it on a paper towel. This will keep you from accidentally mixing colors.


You want to focus on getting everything saturated the first time. If you have to go back in and go over your shading, you can accidentally overwork the area. 

Pro Tip:

Do one color, not one area at a time. When you start in with one of your colors, make sure to go ahead and tattoo every part of the design that uses that color before moving on to the next one. This saves you time and keeps you from accidentally muddying up your colors.  

Mixing Colors in the Tube

You can create a new color without mixing it in an ink cap by mixing it in the tube. For example, if you dip into your yellow and then dip into your red, it will mix in the tube and create orange. You can then add this color into your tattoo design. This can make it easier to transition from red to yellow by having orange in the middle.

Pro Tip:

If you already had red and yellow down, and now want to make orange, you would be moving from a lighter color to a darker color. Usually, you wouldn’t want to do that. But in this case, you can put some Vaseline on the fake skin on top of the yellow to protect it from any of the orange ink splatter. Then, when you wipe the Vaseline, just pull up instead of wiping out. This will keep the colors from mixing and looking muddy. 

Learn to Tattoo Without an Apprenticeship

In the past, learning in the shop through an apprenticeship was the only way aspiring artists could learn to tattoo color properly. Today, however, artists are skipping the apprenticeship to learn on their own time at home with the Artist Accelerator Program.

The world’s oldest and largest online tattoo course, the Artist Accelerator Program’s easy-to-follow, 9-step framework lets anyone go from complete beginner to professional tattoo artist without the year of grunt work or hazing. 

Inside the program, you’ll be taught everything you’d learn in a traditional apprenticeship by professional tattoo artists and receive feedback on your art and tattoos in the program’s private online Mastermind community.

Over 2500 students have used the Artist Accelerator Program’s 9-step framework to break into the tattoo industry, with many opening their own studios or working in shops around the world. 

If you’d like to see the framework they used, 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
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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