How to Become a Tattoo Artist


Authored by Douglas Mefford in Body Arts 
Published on 09-12-2009

With the ever-increasing popularity of tattoos and body art, a career as a tattoo artist can be very exciting. The primary difficulty in attempting a career in this field is the lack of “scholastic” education. While university has yet to develop a curriculum for “tattoo artist” there is a standard route a person can follow to become the next great professional inker.

Having some artistic talent is a necessity. One should especially focus on illustration art, as that is the primary style used for tattoos. Some art classes at a local college can help develop one’s natural talent.

An essential step towards becoming a tattoo artist is in developing your portfolio. You should spend time every day creating new designs and pictures and keep examples of your work in an organized portfolio. This is the introduction you will use while seeking an established tattooist who may be convinced to take you on as an apprentice. This apprenticeship method is the industry standard for training new artists. Be prepared to spend long hours for no pay. You will need to find a way to support yourself for the two to three years that you will be working in the tattoo shop learning the multiple aspects of the trade.

There is much more involved in the tattoo process than just inking pictures on people. One must learn about the equipment. Not only is it essential to know the tattoo guns and the various needle types that create different effects, you must be familiar with the sterilization equipment and how to keep a disease-free environment. During your time as an unpaid apprentice you will also be learning basic business principles.

There are many aspects of being a tattooist that have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual inking. Even a tattoo shop is a business and you will need to understand about taxes, cash flow, inventory control and regular office operations. You will have to learn how to apply for the required permits and how to stay in compliance with them. The technical side of the business is involved with cleaning and repairing the equipment, both needle guns and sterilizers. As the apprentice you will also be expected to handle the menial cleaning around the studio. On top of this, you will have to continue to draw and develop your talent for the artwork.

You should not be expecting a “graduation” ceremony to complete your training. Generally when the tattooist training you decides you are ready to work on your own you will be given the opportunity. Some people will then hire you on with them. Others may merely give you a letter of reference to use while applying for a job at other parlors.

Attention to detail and careful execution of your work is required to make a successful career in tattooing. Body art is permanent so you will have to maintain your standards of excellence with every line you draw and each color you blend in to complete a piece of body art that its owner will be proud to display.


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