What Does It Take To Become A Tattoo Artist?
By TACP Staff on July 28, 2019 If you love art and design and have a passion for tattoos, becoming a tattoo artist can be a rewarding career. Like many creative trades, pursuing a career in tattooing isn’t easy. The cost and time commitment to get a job as a tattoo artist is significant, but the payoff has the potential to be so much more. There’s more than one path to become a tattoo artist – the one you choose depends greatly on what type of artist you want to be, your finances, talent, and the opportunities available in your area.
However, there are some common steps all aspiring artists must follow to improve your skill level, acquire knowledge of the trade, and master the art of tattooing. Here’s how to get started. The key to creating a great tattoo begins with a visually appealing drawing, so it’s essential that you focus on improving your drawing skills and illustration techniques before you even think about designing tattoos or attempting to practice tattooing.
Here’s how you can get started.
Do you need a license to be a tattoo artist?
Apprenticeship – As mentioned previously, the path to becoming a tattoo artist will always include an apprenticeship with an established artist, and most of the learning will take place during this time. Apprenticeships are not only a crucial training period; they are a rite of passage.
- Finding a shop with a good reputation is very important, and learning from someone who actually wants to teach you, who has a good educational background, and who will challenge you is equally as important;
The apprenticeship will last for an agreed-upon period of time, usually one to two years. The apprentice will typically spend most of his or her time doing menial tasks around the tattoo shop at first (which may include taking out the trash, setting up and breaking down stations, sweeping up, running errands etc).
- Much time will also be spent watching and observing tattoos being done;
- Eventually, the apprentice will learn how to handle and make needles, mix inks, use the autoclave, and learn how to take health precautions;
During free time (both in and out of the shop), practicing with the machine on fake skins or fruit will be a priority. After much practice and observation, the apprentice will be able to ink living skin. Apprentices typically do 100 tattoos for free during their apprenticeship (free means the apprentice pays the costs for these tattoos).
- They may tattoo friends, family, whomever they wish, after which they may also tattoo some clients at the shop;
- Taking pictures of every tattoo they complete will add to their portfolio and help them get new clients;
After putting in the appropriate time and practice, the apprentice will take their test and become certified. At this point, they will be able to start tattooing and charge money for their artwork. Note: Most states require licensure for tattoo artists, and requirements can vary by state.
Some states, such as Oregon, require licensees to complete a minimum of 360 hours of training under an approved artist as well as 50 tattoos. To get licensing, a written exam and a skills assessment is also typically necessary.
Some states also require a specific number of continuing education credits in order for tattoo artists to renew their license. Continuing education options come in the form of seminars and classes. If an artist would like to open their own tattoo studio, they should enrol in business management courses that focus on small businesses.
What do I need to do to become an artist?
Here’s How –
- The first thing you need is raw talent. Someone who can’t draw or color inside the lines isn’t going to be a good candidate for being a tattoo artist.
- Then you need to hone your raw talent to develop talent into skill. Skill can come from fine art classes, working with a fellow artist, learning technique from books, or all of the above. On top of that, you need to practice, practice, practice.
- Once you’re a competent artist on paper, you’ll need to build a portfolio. A portfolio is a case or binder containing examples of your art, to show your different skills.
- The next thing you need is an apprenticeship. An apprentice is someone who learns a skill from someone else already skilled in the trade. Sometimes an apprenticeship can be free, but many times they cost thousands of dollars. You will need to find a way to save or acquire the money needed for your training.
- Then you need to find an apprenticeship – but not just any apprenticeship – you need to find the right one for you. One with a master you feel you can truly learn from – not someone just offering apprenticeships to make money. Getting an apprenticeship can be a challenge, so read about what to expect.
- In addition to needing money for your apprenticeship, you will also need to be able to sustain yourself during training. Unless you are independently wealthy, you’ll need to hold down a regular job at the same time you are serving your apprenticeship. You will not be earning money in the shop during your training.
- Once you are an apprentice, you will learn many skills from your teacher, most of them having nothing to do with actual drawing. You will learn how to safely clean your equipment, how to operate a tattoo machine, how to adjust your power supply, how to protect yourself and your clients from disease, and last but not least – how to correctly apply a tattoo. This can take many months to learn completely.
- During your time as an apprentice, you will continue to practice and hone your drawing skills. You are not limited to only gaining knowledge from your teacher – you may also have the opportunity to spend time learning from other artists as well. Getting tattooed is a good way to watch and learn the techniques of other master tattoo artists.
- There’s no formal graduation from an apprenticeship. Generally, the teacher decides when the student is ready to venture off on their own. Sometimes a contract was signed at the beginning of the apprenticeship, and the terms will vary. But as long as you are not under contract to continue for a certain length of time or prevented from working for a competing shop, you can decide to stretch your wings when you feel you have learned all you can from your teacher.
- No matter how long you apprentice or how long you tattoo, you never know it all. There is always more to learn, new techniques to adopt, new ways to enhance what has already been done. Never be satisfied with mediocrity, and never allow yourself to become egotistical.
What is it like to be a professional tattooist?
Job Description – In a nutshell, tattoo artists work closely with clients to offer or develop visual designs that are then permanently transferred on to the client’s skin. As a result, you need to be comfortable building trust and rapport with people from a wide variety of backgrounds, as well as be able to demonstrate a very high standard of artistic ability. Roles and responsibilities generally include:
- initiating and building relationships with new and existing customers
- consulting with clients to choose a design that they like, whether it be from an existing template or an original bespoke design
- creating and researching new designs and templates
- providing welfare guidance to clients (ie: ensuring they understand the consequences of a permanent tattoo)
- translating the concept design onto the client’s skin, including the use of colours, shading and outlines
- safe and competent use of a tattoo gun (an electrically-operated needle that injects ink under the skin) or a relevant alternative transfer method
- adhering to extremely strict hygiene standards and ensuring that all equipment is sterilised and fit for purpose
What are the requirements for a tattooing apprenticeship?
What Education or Training Is Necessary? – Requirements differ between states and counties, but some require at least a high school diploma in addition to an apprenticeship that leads to certification or licensure. The requirements for a successful apprenticeship may include knowledge of sanitation, disposal procedures and infection prevention even before tattooing begins.