Tattoo Technique vs. Tattoo Artistry Courses – What’s the Difference?

The process of creating a tattoo can be broken into two separate pieces: the artistry of tattooing and the technique of tattooing. 

As a new tattoo artist, you need to be able to do both so that you can not only design a great tattoo for your client on paper, but also tattoo it on their skin perfectly. 

If you’re learning to tattoo through tattooing courses, you need to make sure you’re learning both skills. 

To help you make sure that you’re getting all the information you need, in this article, we’ll break down:

  • The difference between tattoo artistry and tattoo technique
  • What a tattoo artistry course should teach you
  • Where to start learning about tattoo artistry

The Difference Between Tattoo Artistry and Technique

skull drawing
using a tattoo machine

A tattoo artist has to be both creative and very technical. Tattoo artistry refers to that creative side. Tattoo technique refers to the technical side.

Tattoo Artistry

When we talk about the art of tattooing, we mean:

Tattoo Technique

When we talk about the techniques of tattooing, we mean:

For most people, one part of tattooing will be easier than the other. However, you need both to create quality tattoos, and a shop owner will expect you to have experience with each. 

What a Tattoo Artistry Course Should Teach You

Tattoo artistry might be included within a complete tattooing course, or you might be able to take a separate tattoo art class. Either way, you should be learning the following:


How to Work With Different Tattoo Styles

tattoo art styles

While each artist develops their own flair, most artists will choose a certain style that they want to specialize in. Understanding the different styles, how they developed, and how to tell the difference between them will give you a starting point when you’re working with customers. 

If you can talk to them about different styles of tattoos, they’ll have an easier time describing what they want, and you’ll have a good idea of how to start designing instead of aiming blindly.


How to Design Tattoos For the Body

What looks good on paper might not look good on the skin. For example, a design that takes up a full piece of paper might end up overlapping if tattooed around a forearm. 

Because of this, tattoo artists have to practice drawing with the flow of the body’s muscles. When a tattoo works with the body instead of against it, the quality of the tattoo will be much higher. 


How to Build Up Designs

instructor showing how to draw a fish
tiger tattoo drawing

If you’re still building your drawing skills, it can be tempting to try to draw the “hard outline” of a tattoo right away. However, it’s better practice to build up your designs from general shapes sketches before you go in and draw the final design. 

Once you understand how tattoo artists move from basic shapes to the details, you’ll be able to improve your drawing skills quickly.


How to Draw and Paint Flash

tattoo artist drawing flash art
instructor showing tattoo practice designs

Most tattoo apprentices start off drawing tattoo flash. These are smaller designs, which is a great way for new artists to draw lots of designs quickly. This allows them to learn how to make a tattoo design “work” at a faster pace.

Additionally, creating flash will let you work with watercolor or markers, allowing you to get a feel for how colors mix and layer, which will help you when it comes time to put ink in the skin.


Flash is often hung on the walls of tattoo shops to help customers pick out a pre-made design. Having flash of your own will make it easier for you to help clients that aren’t sure what they want to get tattooed.


How to Use Different Mediums

painting flash art

In tattoo artistry courses, your instructor should teach you how to create tattoo art using different mediums. For example, you’ll probably start off hand-drawing your designs and coloring them with watercolor. However, it’s also important for you to understand how to design digitally. 

Being able to create a design with perfectly straight lines or circles using Procreate will help you make perfect designs faster, as well as make realism much easier.


How to Work with Clients

instructor working in a shop

While this might be a surprising one on the list, working with clients is more of a “soft skill” than a technical one. 

Being able to take a client’s story or idea and turn it into something you can ink on their skin requires a lot of creativity and understanding.

Knowing what types of questions to ask, as well as how to make a visual image based on a simple explanation is a skill you develop over time, and it’s an important part of your client’s experience and their overall tattoo.

Where to Start Learning About Tattoo Artistry

You can start learning online today with our free videos and resources:

Become a Professional Tattoo Artist Online

basics of tattoo art
techniques for applying tattoos
butterfly body art

Understanding the basics of tattoo art is only the first step on your journey to becoming a tattoo artist. Next, you need to learn how to create your own designs and apply them to skin.

There’s a ton of information out there that promises to teach you to tattoo, but a lot of it is outdated, incorrect, or incomplete. This is why most tattoo artists trying to learn online pick up bad habits that can take years to unlearn.

If you want to dive deeper into tattoo artistry and learn how to tattoo the right way, you can still do it online and at your own pace. 

We created the Artist Accelerator Program to give aspiring artists all the lessons and techniques they need in an easy-to-follow, 9-step roadmap that can take anyone from complete beginner to professional tattoo artist in as little as 90 days.

Inside the program, you’ll learn the skills tattoo artists use every day, get personalized guidance from a team of professional tattoo artists, and put together a portfolio that gets you hired. 

Skip the years of trial and error and start building a career you love today.

Click here to check out 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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