What Are Tattoo Practice Skins Made Of?

Updated April 17, 2017

There are many options for those who want to become tattoo artists. Apprenticeships are still the most common and often the most hands on. There are also many formal courses that can be competed by the aspiring tattooist. Many people are curious as to how brand new tattoo artists learn. For some, the first tattoo is on a tattoo practice skin.


For a long time, the common options for those learning to tattoo were to either practice on their own skin, or to tattoo fruit, such as oranges, to get a feel for the depth of the needle. However, more options have come on the market.


The two main types of tattoo practice skin are synthetic and animal skin, typically pig skin. Synthetic tattoo skin is generally made of either just rubber or rubber that's been laminated to feel more like real skin.


Practice tattoo skins have become a popular choice for those learning to tattoo. In many cases, tattoo skin is more like real skin than fruit, without having to permanently mark oneself or someone else with the first tattoo attempt.


Using tattoo practice skin gives the new tattoo artist a more lifelike feel than the old standby, oranges, as the skin can be wrapped around a body part such as an ankle or wrist to give the artist the feel of tattooing on the contours of a real body. It's also less nerve-racking to practice on something that can be thrown away afterward rather than something a person will have to live with forever. The synthetic skin is also available in a double-sided version, giving more space to practice on.


Some tattoo artists say that even the best tattoo practice sheets are not enough like real skin to simulate actually tattooing a person, and the sheets can be expensive to practice on often. The choice of whether to use natural sheets, such as pig skin, or synthetic materials, is for each tattoo artist and instructor to make.


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About the Author

Kathy Gleason is a freelance writer living in rural northern New Jersey who has been writing professionally since 2010. She is a graduate of The Institute for Therapeutic Massage in Pompton Lakes, N.J. Before leaving her massage therapy career to start a family, Gleason specialized in Swedish style, pregnancy and sports massage.