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Drawing tips from a tattoo artist

Tattoo Artist Tips

When he isn’t working as a tattoo artist at La Familia in Oxfordshire, Private Adam Frame is a Reservist with the 4th Battalion Parachute Regiment. He shares his tattoo design and drawing tips.

1. Keep it simple

“If you’re new to pencil drawing, start off by sketching natural forms such as flowers, fruit, shells, skulls and plants,” Private Frame says. “These naturally have faults in them, so any errors in your drawing can look normal and are forgiven.

“Sketching buildings, inanimate objects or portraits is much more difficult because your drawing has to be bang on or it looks wrong.”

2. Mind your hs & bs

“For pencil drawing, ideally opt for paper between 80gsm and 125gsm in weight. But any old paper will do – even just standard printing paper or a scrap of paper. Try to get a whole range of pencils from very hard with a light marking (2H) to very soft with a very dark marking (8B). H stands for hardness and B for blackness.”

3. Go lightly

“Start the outline of your sketch with a light, hard pencil. Use increasingly soft and dark pencils as you add to it. Don’t press too hard. That way you can easily rub out any errors you make.

“Relax your hand and your breathing as you sketch. You especially need a light touch for the outline.”

4. Look away now

“Resist watching your pencil as you draw the lines. If you do, you’ll sub-consciously auto-correct and you’ll end up with a wobbly line. Instead, look at the point on the paper where your line is going to end up.

“Trust your hand to go in that direction and you’ll end up with a straighter line.”

5. Throw some shade

“Shading is really effective. Practise hatching (shading using closely spaced lines) and cross-hatching (shading using layers of hatching at different angles). You can also use what’s known as a shading stick.

“To stop your drawing from smudging while you’re drawing, place a piece of kitchen towel beneath your hand.”

6. Step on the scale

“To get the correct scale, look at the object you’re drawing, close one eye, hold your pencil in front of you and use it to measure the correct dimensions of the object. Then translate that to your piece of paper.”

7. Practise, practise

“To get better, practise drawing straight lines, circles and geometric shapes.”

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