Why Tattoo Artists Ink Sneakers Before Skin

Why Tattoo Artists Ink Sneakers Before Skin

Summary: The amount of tattoo artists that are beginning their practice by going into the custom sneaker game is increasing. Here's why!

Blending Ink & Kicks 

The human canvas is a beautiful thing. Yet skin remains a challenging medium to work in. That's why tattoo artists new to the world of ink are beginning their practice by honing their skills on a less changeable tapestry. 

Although no other medium can replace the nervous, sweating, breathing human being, the sneaker is a great place to start. Here are 5 reasons why tattoo artists are starting with sneakers first:

  1. Growing popularity and demand for custom gear. As of the time of this writing, #customkicks yielded over 600,000 results on Instagram, #customkicks yielded over 250,000 results, and #sneakerhead yielded over 13M results. The generation that grew up with Air Jordans are now adults, thank you very much. They are earning paychecks and have greater spending power. With that extra dough comes an inevitable visit to what made one happiest as a child/teen. The growing popularity of sneakers is akin to a rebirth of nostalgia.
  2. Low stakes, low cost. The mess-ups you make are not life-altering. What's more, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on tools and equipment; and you can build-up to the existing equipment you would need. For instance, an airbrush kit or multicolor Angelus paints run in the hundreds, not thousands of dollars, as they would for artists working at tattoo parlors. Oh, and the government isn't going to regulate you to make sure you have all the permits to put some paint a pair of Yeezys or beat-up Jordans. This low startup cost, combined with the low barriers to entry make this an appealing business for someone with a talented hand and a few bucks to spare for paint. 
  3. Great way to get new clients. Great way to grow your portfolio. Great way to get in the door. When you’re just starting in the game it's hard to get business. Artists, painters and designers struggle - especially early on when all you have is some schoolwork and maybe a few "meh" followers in your network. If you're good, creating custom art can get you recognized by similar local artists, and may even get you that apprenticeship at the coveted spot you hope to work. 
  4. The sneakers speak for themselves.Gaining a consistent stream of clientele is easier when your work is literally being walked around and showcased. #nuffsaid
  5. Instagram exposure. Without question, Instagram has changed the game when it comes to online marketing. If you are even remotely involved in creating on a visual or graphical medium, then you are losing out if you are not on Instagram. Statista reports that worldwide Instagram has 800M users; it's not a platform it's an ecosystem. Cake decorators, sculptors, skydivers and tattoo artists live, breathe, and die by its sword. Look in the mirror and ask yourself a question: "Is your hashtag game strong?" To get started, here are a few tattoo hashtags that merit your perusal. 

Friday the 13th/Day of the Dead women's sneaker by @danielcordas

Showcase Your Ink

To become a great tattoo artist you need to have a wide variety of drawings and art that showcases the diversity of your artistry. This includes sketches, photos, drawings, and any other medium that's going to hold the creative juice you emanate.

The Art Career Project recommends that a good artist's portfolio should include anywhere from 50-200 original sketches that showcase your ability to share, show dimension, and use a wide variety of colors and adapted styles.

Kicks add another medium for you to become a shoe-in in this industry. 

How Long Does It Take To Create a Custom Shoe?

Although #Nike can make a custom pair of shoes in less than 90 minutes, chances are you don’t have the demand, tools, or logistical supply line - not to mention the name brand recognition - that Nike has. 

Tatted shoe artist Ernie Moreno finds that a single pair of custom shoes can take 6-10 hours or a whole week to complete. His prices range from $50 to $150, oftentimes more.

Typically, shoes require more than one coat of paint, and the project must be broken up into sections. For example, the background must be completed before the foreground, etc.

Top players in the game include UK-based @carmeno_customs, US-based @mache275, and jetsetter @ronniefieg.These influencers create custom kicks for NBA players, football players, and boxers like Floyd Mayweather.  

Final thoughts

Starting on a pair of shoes are a great way to practice the fundamentals of the trade. It gives you a chance to flex your muscle on a new medium, and you may even decide to pivot your artistry game in this direction if you see demand in the market. Don’t forget to follow Leather Care Supply on Instagram, and we’ll see you on the flip side!

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  • Alex Pop
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