Written by Christopher Rae. Edited by Bee Paper.

I’ve been learning how to draw over the past five years or so and, being a tattooer, a lot of the imagery that I choose to draw directly translates to something that would make a good tattoo. I want to share some of the fundamental steps I used to create a painting or a drawing for a tattoo.

1. One of the most important things to remember is that nothing has to be perfect when you sit down to draw– you need to trust the process. Trust that your approach to things, step by step, will translate to the end result that you are looking to create.

2. Gather reference material by looking at things that you (or others before you) have already made and taking inspiration from real-life objects. Then you can figure out what it is that you want to create.

3. Remain loose in your sketches. Things don’t have to be exact; it doesn’t have to make sense when you begin. Break things down to basic shapes and scribbles then elaborate on those shapes you laid out earlier in the sketch.

4. Refining the sketch is the next step. Put your own spin on things and do things the way you would like to do them. There are always basic rules to follow, but do what feels right for you at the same time by bending those rules. Allow for those basic shapes you started with to make a little more sense.

5. Create a line drawing, an outline and structure of whatever image you are creating. A clean line drawing is important for making a good stencil for a tattoo, but it’s also your guideline for a painting.

This process is important for me because it allows me to become familiar with the imagery that I’ll be painting or tattooing. I think by starting off loose and then refining the drawing, you understand the necessary hand movements that it takes to create a clean line drawing and a clean tattoo.

It’s all in the muscle memory from drawing and redrawing and then painting. But, most of all, it’s important to trust yourself and be patient while continuing to progress in the medium you are working in.

Follow Christopher and his tattoo art on his Instagram @chrisrae1