In order to become a good tattoo artist you will need to practice a lot of skills. From your approach to shading, pulling lines and marketing yourself, you’ll need to track your progress and always continue to work to improve all of your skills.
Innovation is always happening. From tools to techniques, you’ll need to stay current. Hundreds of years ago every tattoo was made by poking ash or extracts from plants into skin. Today tattoo artists use a range of machines and techniques, including the ancient stick and poke process, yet before you can expand your skills, you’ll need to cover the basics to actually begin a career as a tattoo artist.
Are you ready to start your adventure becoming a tattoo artist? If so, here you go:
How to become a Tattoo Artist – A Step-by-Step Guide:
Understand the Artform as Art: First of all, you need to learn how to draw a tattoo design and what makes a good tattoo design work as a tattoo that can last a lifetime. This is not to say learn how to draw in general, which absolutely helps, yet you’ll need to understand how negative space, shading and line work will help you at the beginning of your career. One day you’ll be navigating your way through the differences between neo-traditional and neo-realism tattoos, with possible watercolor tattoos in your portfolio, yet to get started with tattoos you’ll actually be able to do early in your career, American traditional and black work are good places to start. Start mastering how to draw these designs with impeccable line work, color shading and negative space, and you are on your way.
Commitment to Mentorship: Step two is getting a tattoo apprenticeship or enrolling in a tattoo school. Tattoo artist “courses” are for tattoo artists that have already completed the training they need to start their careers. What you need as a beginner, is to find experienced tattoo artists who are willing to teach you. The right tattoo school can make your search for a mentor and the training you need a hundred times better than knocking on doors of random tattoo shops. Great tattoo schools will leave nothing up to chance, including training on blood-borne pathogen disease prevention, day-of-client conduct, future client marketing, career path planning, shop operations and of course, how to master tattooing. Reputable tattoo schools all provide some form of certification or completion documentation that you can show to future shop owners, as well as help you achieve Step 3 below.
Build Your Portfolio: Step three is to complete a portfolio of tattoos and tattoo art, usually called “flash”, that you can share with future clients. It is like a resume for a tattoo artist, just like it is for other art-focused occupations. Put your best drawings and tattoos together in order to impress clients and employers. There are several styles of tattoos you can include, for example: old school tattoos, watercolor tattoos, dot work, black work, polka trash, cartoon style, etc. Just make sure it is work you can actually do. If not, don’t include it.
Complete a Tattoo Apprenticeship or Tattoo School – Don’t just start, finish! It’s important to actually complete your training, not just start it. There is more to learn than could ever be explained in one article or one video. During the apprenticeship, the person who wants to be a tattoo artist works with an experienced, professional tattoo artist in a real tattoo shop for well over a year. Yes, it will cost you time and money, yet when you actually master the art of tattooing, your time and money is your own in a way that a traditional 9-5 job can never offer. It’s worth it. Don’t quit early!
Master Your Tools – This will come naturally as part of your tattoo apprenticeship or tattoo school training, yet at the very least, you need to become extremely familiar with your tattoo machines, foot switch and a power supply.
Other supplies include:
Needles, tubes, tips, and grips
Selections of ink colors
Products for disinfection
Multiple needle configurations
Ink caps and Vaseline
Disposable rubber gloves
Get a tattoo license.
How to get a tattoo business license in the USA?
While there is no federal law regulating the practice of tattooing in the United States, there are various state and local laws that deal with tattoo studios and tattoo artists around United States. In order to find out about statutes and laws regulating the tattoo industry in your state, please refer to the Tattoo Laws Across the United States white paper. You may need to be certified in performing first aid and CPR. You can obtain certification in performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation through the American Heart Association.
One of the necessary steps on your way to obtaining your tattoo license may be to take a written exam, which is usually a part of meeting the requirements set by the health department in your state. The license fee and exam given can vary from state to state. Everyone will require blood-borne pathogen training and certification, and most states require you to be 18 years of age.
Working as a Tattoo Artist – What does a Tattoo Artist do?
Tattooing as an occupation can appear unpredictable, yet tattoo artists have their everyday routines like everyone else.
The duties of a tattoo artist may include – but do not necessarily need to be limited to:
Cleaning, sterilizing and protecting tattoo equipment & work areas
Designing new tattoo projects according to client’s ideas and chosen techniques
Daily sketching and drawing practice
Practicing designs digitally using iPads and other innovations
Staying current with the newest tattoo industry developments, styles and trends
Booking appointments and communicating with clients
Educating clients on aftercare routines, safety and possible complications
Continued education relating to current health and safety practices, for example: reading latest CDC announcements.
Key Skills of a Tattoo Artist: What skills are needed to be a tattoo artist?
Everyone has predispositions to do something or to become someone. Do you think you are born to be a tattoo artist? Do you have what it takes to become a tattoo artist?
The most important skills and responsibilities of a good tattoo artist:
Creativity – this is probably even more important than inherent skills, as it is necessary to make your client’s dreams come true if you can
Manual dexterity – this is your ability to use your hands and operate tools and ability to execute controlled movements using hand-eye coordination under specific conditions
High-level social skills – a tattoo artist has to deal with clients face-to-face, listen to them, know their fears and their bodies’ weak points during the process of getting a tattoo
Cleanliness – a tattoo artist has to pay attention to potential germs, spreading and prevention of diseases, clean work areas, proper hands washing, using disposable gloves and changing them
Patience – making a tattoo is a long process performed on a living body, sessions can last even up to 10 hours!
There are many things to consider when you want to be a tattoo artist. It is worth it. As Tattoos become more and more popular around the world, a career as a professional tattoo artist can lead you to being in demand well paid to boot! If you believe you have what it takes to become a tattoo artist, you may want to contact one of our tattoo schools in New York City, Los Angeles, New Haven, Philadelphia and our newest location – tattoo school in Tampa, Florida.