Is Pig Skin Like Human Skin and Should You Practice Tattooing on It?
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Here at Better Tattooing we hear a lot of assumptions and answer many questions about tattooing from people practicing tattooing. From, “Does Hydrogen Peroxide Remove Tattoos?”, to, “What Is a Lip Tattoo, and Do They Last?”, I am pretty sure we can claim to have heard them all. So, it surprised us when we had a reader write in and ask about using pig’s skin as a practice canvas for tattooing. Not because we haven’t heard this question before, but because we haven’t written about it yet!
So here is your answer if you don’t want to watch the video:
Depending on your financial situation, and if the pig has already been humanely slaughtered, a pig’s skin can used to practice tattooing!
Anatomy of Pig’s Skin and Human Skin.
The structure of pig and human skin is surprisingly similar. Both have an epidermis, a dermis, and connective tissues/hypodermis. The biggest macro-level differences between the two are the thickness of the pig hypodermis and the human hypodermis. The pig’s hypodermis can be much thicker than human skin. This leads to having a different “feel” than human skin when you practice tattooing on it.
On a micro level, the pigskin is different below the epidermis. Porcine (pig) skin doesn’t have the same abundance of sweat glands humans have. They also may not have any melanin-producing glands (things that make skin pigment/color), depending on the breed. While the sweat glands won’t affect you practicing your tattooing, the lack of skin pigment can make tattoo inks look brighter than normal.
Here is a video where we talk about the thickness of human skin. It should give you a good idea about how the thickness is a little different:
You can also Tooread more about skin construction in humans by reading our article:
Skin Colors, Tones, and Complexions – What That Means for Your Tattoo.
Should You Use Pigs Skin to Practice Tattooing?
From a cost standpoint, I would suggest the use of fake skin rather than a whole pig. The cost of a humanely slaughtered pig is around $2800 while the cost of practice skin (16”x12”) is around $25. You could get a whole lot of practice skin for $2800!
If you are wanting to get a realistic feeling practice tattoo experience the porcine experience far surpasses the fake skin feel. Fake skin often has little to no give, cannot be stretched, and rebounds needle strikes quite effectively.
Are There Alternatives to Pig Skin or Fake Skin to Practice Tattooing On?
Yes, there are alternatives to practice tattooing on! For those who are not afraid of shipping sex toys to their house, the silicone used in adult toys offers a better feel than fake skin. They are also much less expensive than a full pig and are oftentimes hypoallergenic, which makes them a great alternative to people practicing who may have a sensitivity to additives in fake skin.
The other alternative is to use a client or friend to learn on. If you choose to do this and are still in an apprenticeship, let the client or friend know. Letting them know that you are still learning and that the outcome may not be the best, should offer you some peace of mind if you mess up during the tattoo.
You can read more about tattooing techniques and supplies by following this link:
Needle Techniques and How to Hold Your Tattoo Machine.
Pigskin is a great way to practice tattooing without having to sacrifice your friend’s clear skin. If you have the money necessary to buy a pig, that is. A better alternative is to buy fake skin and practice your techniques. It saves you money and doesn’t require you to eat pulled pork sandwiches for a month.
If you do go the pig route though, please don’t tattoo live pigs.
Anatomy, Skin (Integument), Epidermis – PubMed (nih.gov)
Comparison of human skin or epidermis models with human and animal skin in in-vitro percutaneous absorption – PubMed (nih.gov)
A micromechanical comparison of human and porcine skin before and after preservation by freezing for medical device development | Scientific Reports (nature.com)