How long do I have to wait for my Tattoo drawing?


Want to know how long does it take for a tattoo artist to draw a design. Read this article, and you will understand why and how long you have to wait for your tattoo drawing.

How long does it take a tattoo artist to draw up a tattoo?

We all have a certain kind of wonder for the mastery of a tattoo artist to create such amazing artwork on our bodies. But the process itself starts with them drawing the design on paper. As you can imagine, there is no set time for someone to do this, it really depends on what you’re looking to get done. However, generally speaking, it can take anywhere between 30 minutes for a small, simple design and up to 4 weeks for a large, complex, custom color design.

The time taken for initial designs depends on the size and detailing needed to make it look amazing. This can take a few minutes, a few hours or even a few days if intricate enough.


The tattoo session itself can also last from something like 15 minutes up to many hours. A full day session usually takes 7 hours from start to finish. And for really large or intricate designs, it can possibly take a few days straight (depending again on the design and on how much the artist and the client can handle the process physically and mentally).

As a guide, drawing on paper takes approximately the same amount of time as it would for tattooing. So the more complex your request the longer you might expect to wait.

But all good things are worth waiting for, right?

In general, how long does it take to draw a tattoo on skin?

Drawing on skin is mostly called ‘pre-work’ or ‘freehand’ tattoos. It’s when the tattoo artist draws directly with a washable pen on the customer’s skin without using a stencil. Freehand can be required to complete a stencil or to design a whole tattoo for specific location such as knee, elbow.

Linework and realistic style artists are more likely to use them to ensure there is a correct balance between the lines, shapes and design on the body’s curves.


Because the human body is a three dimensional canvas, it takes a lot of skill and experience to transfer a two dimensional drawing onto it.  So drawing on skin may be or may not be required depending on the style of tattoo and the position on the body.

Do you have to be good at drawing to be a tattoo artist?

Yes you do. Tattoo is a form of art and the skills you need to be good are the same you’ll need for creating artwork. You can learn how to use a tattoo machine, know everything about the ink and become a fantastic tattooist but that doesn’t necessarily make you an artist. Becoming a tattoo artist involves both being a tattooist and an artist.


That means being good at understanding light, shadows, and many drawing techniques. And this is an essential prerequisite to anyone who wants to have a career as a tattoo artist.

For example in The Black Hat Tattoo we will only take on board apprentices who are portfolio ready.  As you can imagine this means they must be good at drawing and demonstrate an artistic history or significant potential.

Do you have to be good at drawing everything to be a tattoo artist?

Most tattoo artists will create their own tattoo flashes and designs. They will love being requested to draw and add their own artistic interpretation to an idea, or an existing reference.

Being a versatile artist is a plus, especially for tattoo artists looking to grow and make a difference in the industry. However, many artists specialise in one style early on, just so they can master their craft. And having this niche is proven to be a winning formula as well.


After all, very few people are good at everything, and this is as true for tattoo artists as it is for anyone else. Collaboration on a specific design can also occur and this is a real pleasure for tattoo fans. It’s wonderful to see two artists working together on a living canvas, and producing stunning results.

Do tattoo artists draw your tattoo the same day?

Yes, it is possible to do so for small designs that only require a little change such as simple lettering, minimum price tattoos or popular designs. The drawing doesn’t have to be fully detailed, as it’s usually a draft for the future piece of art on skin. This draft just helps the artist to communicate with the client, so they have a good idea what they are going to look like. But they are never fully developed.


So you’ll find that most tattoo artists will finalise the sketch on the day. Tattoo prices are relatively low regarding the amount of work put into a custom design. So it is essential you understand that a rough sketch is not a sign of disrespect or a lack of interest from the tattoo artist. On the contrary, I am often surprised that the more evasive the draft, the better the tattoo.

Can I get a tattoo of a design created by another artist?

This is possible but it is also challenging, however you can ask your tattoo artist.

You will find that most prefer to create their own art. And bear in mind that if the piece of art you want to get tattooed is a drawing from an artist that doesn’t tattoo, you’ll need to get the artist’s prior authorization as it will be copyrighted.

A great place to find inspiration for a tattoo drawing are our tattoos galleries.

Pinterest or Etsy are amazing digital platforms for artists people to display their artistic skills.


It will also be up to you to establish a connection between artists and make them aware of the whole process, so you can ensure you are not creating any trouble by getting such a special piece on your skin. Outside of tattooing, most artists are quite supportive and feel honoured to have a drawing inked by a colleague.

If the drawing is from your child, a relative or a friend and you want it exactly the way it was created, you must find a tattoo artist who is happy to do that for you. Most artists will be happy to help, but remember that a lot of them specialise in their own bespoke designs and styles so they are likely to refuse anything outside of what they usually create. So don’t be surprised if the artist you chose can’t do it for you.

How many sketches do tattoo artists usually make ?

It’s never the same depending on what the customer wants. Usually it’s somewhere between 1 and 3 drawings. This is why a consultation prior to a tattoo session is so useful for both you saying what you want and for the artist to best prepare for the tattoo session on the day.


Do realistic tattoo artists draw?

Realistic and photo realistic are different from preparing most other tattoos styles, because no prior sketch is really required. The sketch is already the drawing or photo the customer is coming into our studio with. Realistic tattoo artists are usually excellent ones, even if they don’t draw prior to the tattoo session.

My design is not ready, should I come to my appointment?

Yes, every situation is different. Your artist might have little change to do to your design or decided not to send you anything on purpose. They are experts, so they know how to do their job and they will do it the right way.


Got a question?

We hope this gives you all the information you need around the design process of your tattoo. But if there’s something in particular we haven’t covered, we’ll be more than happy to discuss that with you. Reach out to us if needed, we’re happy to help!

Additionally, we are covering other topics to prepare you for your next tattoo session you might be interested in:

Can I drink before I get a tattoo?

How can I know if I’m allergic to Tattoo Inks?

Should I shave (the area to be tattooed) before the Tattoo appointment?