Illustration

Drawing Tutorial: Graphic Techniques for Designing Tattoos from Scratch

Learn how to draw using line work, dot work, and solid shading, to create a unique design, with Sophie Mo

There is no one way to design a tattoo. In fact, most benefit from a variety of techniques. Understanding which ones to use and how to apply them will ensure you achieve the effect you want.

Sophie Mo (@sophiemoillustration) is a tattoo artist whose designs have also been used by Squarespace, the BBC, and size? In this tutorial, she shares when, why, and how to use line work, dot work, and solid shading in your tattoo designs.

1. Consider which tools you will use

Consider which tools you will use
Different machines do different things. Sophie Mo uses rotaries and coils, coils are powerful guns used for punchy and solid line work. Meanwhile, rotaries are soft and allow for subtle shading and crosshatching.

2. Define your gradients

Establish where and how you are going to ink by planning the density of your ink, where you will need to shade and where you will leave blank.

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3. Body placement

Where you plan to tattoo a design can greatly affect the design itself. A design for the ribs may have to be less detailed than one for an arm or a leg.

4. Skin tone

Not every tattoo will work on every skin tone. Darker skin will tend to require greater contrasts and may not allow the same kind of detail and shading that paler skill will.

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5. Practice line work

Your line placement is clearly a vital part of any tattoo and, as is the nature of a tattoo, you won’t get a second chance. Practice steadying your hand by drawing geometric shapes without a ruler.

If you liked this tutorial, check out Sophie Mo’s online course, Blackwork Tattoo Design, to learn more about how to illustrate a custom monochrome tattoo using analog and digital techniques.

You may also like:

- Custom Tattoo Design with Procreate, a course by Diana Felix
- Botanical Tattoo with Pointillism, a course by Polilla Tattoo
- Tattoo for Beginners, a course by Polilla Tattoo

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