The only way to master any art is to practice it as much as possible. This mantra also applies to tattooing. But speaking practically, you, being a newbie, cannot expect people to come to you so that you can practice tattooing on their skin, can you? Then how do you practice? Are there alternatives?
Pig skin for tattooing is a popular and the best alternative to human skin for being anatomically similar. Some tattoo artists suggest that you buy fresh pig skin available in the market for 6 USD per sheet to practice tattooing.
I am pretty sure a bunch of how’s and what’s have already popped up in your mind. Hold up for a second. Let me explain all of it to you in this article.
Why Pig Skin for Tattooing?
You may have read or heard about other alternatives like fruit skins (oranges, grapefruit, and bananas), chicken skin, Styrofoam containers, or fake skin that tattoo suppliers sell.
But pig skin is different. It is the closest substitute to natural skin. Being sturdier and less elastic, it can smell disgusting.
On the other hand, it holds the tattoo ink in a highly similar way where the response to your needle will also be the same. That will enable you to learn about needle depth management, speed, line-work, coloring, and shading on human skin, basically every function of tattooing.
A piece of advice: do not waste money buying fake skin. Most of its materials are the same ones used to make mousepads. Now you ask yourself. How much does your mousepad feel like skin?
Needles act differently on artificial skin. It cannot hold the ink well. So, it will be difficult for you to understand how it works when you have to wipe or dab the excess tattoo ink off the skin. And when you do that, you will see there are ink stains, none of which are in the outline you created.
How Can I Use Pig Skin for Tattooing?
Since pig skin has a tough texture, it is quite a job to get a stencil on it.
So you would be better off preparing a stencil on your pig skin than using stencil paper. You would also learn to draw it in the process.
Ink stains pig skin much quicker than our skin. But you can clean it off by putting some effort into it. It will also dry out fast, meaning you will notice yourself overworking it in the final stages of a complete tattoo (assuming it is a moderate-sized piece).
Preparing The Setup
Prepare the tattoo set up exactly like a tattooist would for real clients after observing the hygiene protocols and preventing cross-contamination.
Remember that the goal of practicing, aside from developing your skill, is to make good habits. So you have to learn and do it right. Do not make a habit of cutting the skin corners. Place it on a ready-to-use armbar as if it were a limb of your client.
Always clean and shave the skin and wear gloves to ensure safety. That is a habit you must build up because nobody will go to a tattoo artist who is not serious about hygiene.
Leaning One Thing At A Time
The next thing is about the drying out issue. You will get an hour to practice on the skin before it dries out. Keeping that in mind, focus on a single aspect or make small tattoos. That would require you to have specific aims beforehand.
For example, if you plan to practice lines, concentrate on keeping them consistent, sharp, and neat. If it is shading, focus on preciseness and smoothness. As for colors, make sure the distribution is solid and even without overworking the pig skin. Or even if you overwork it, remember to notice what causes that and polish it in the subsequent practice session.
Stretching The Skin
I told you that pig skin is not that elastic. But you have to try stretching it. Using petroleum jelly can be a great way to do so. Moreover, you should learn to cope with excess ink. Finally, work on breaking down and cleaning up after your practice.
Communicating With The Mentor
Always run everything by your mentor and take their suggestions for your improvement. Otherwise, you will never know your strengths and weaknesses.
Preserving The Work, Not The Skin
You cannot preserve pig skin, which will not be worth your effort. But what you can do to preserve your work is take your tattoos’ photos to examine and document your development.
A tattoo apprentice can never practice enough. But if you learn to create edgy lines, smooth shades, and consistent colors on pig skin and get a hold of other basics, it will be a lot simpler to work on human skin when the time comes.
Where Can I Buy Pig skin?
You can buy pig skin from local groceries or local butchers. You will not find any in a national food chain, but a grocery cutting its own meat often puts their pig skin for sale to make pork rings.
Do not go for skin strips. You want it in the form of a sheet with at least 5 or 6 inches of width.
How Can I Separate Fat From Pig Skin?
Take a sharp knife to cut the fat and the pork into about 5-centimeter long strips. Then, marking the fat every couple of inches on every strip, place your blade gently between the grease and the skin on one strip end and take some grease out.
There will be some grease on your pig skin, and that is good. Do not try to take it out too.
Practice is an integral part of becoming a tattoo artist. But you won’t practice well if the media is not right or if you don’t know how to use it.
On a similar note, it is also essential to form great habits while practicing. If you do otherwise in the initial stage, you will have to pay for it in the long run.
I hope the article has been able to provide you with knowledge about using pig skin for tattooing fruitfully. Good luck practicing!