Imagine turning your passion in designing and love for arts into an income stream. Maybe you’re asking; how is this possible. Simple! Become a tattoo artist. Tattooing is one of the rewarding careers in this age. As people seek for appealing and uniqueness, having tattoos drawn on their body is becoming a priority.
People are falling in love with tattoos as the best way to keep livings memories. So, it is an excellent opportunity to turn your passion into revenue. However, your passion for design and arts are not the only necessity. Tattooing is more than this.
But you are asking: how long does it take to become a tattoo artist? Or how much does it cost to become a tattoo artist? Like other careers, you will require some credentials and license before you start practicing. If you’re dreaming of becoming a professional tattoo artist, you’re in the right place.
In this article, we take you through the process of becoming a certified tattoo artist. Let’s start.
What Are The Tattoo Artist Requirements?
The first step in joining the tattooing profession is understanding its requirements. Despite being a vivid artist, you need to meet some criteria. But where do you start? Here are the basic steps to meeting the foundational requirements in the tattoo profession:
Assess Your Personality And Artistic Talent
Just because you love drawing, you do not qualify to be a tattooist. It is essential to assess your personality and determine whether this is the right career for you. As you know, tattooing involves putting permanent ink on your clients’ body. So, the tattoo must have a superb artistic design that will last long and endure any future trends.
In this essence, one of your personality aspects should be the creativeness. Ask yourself whether you can develop new ideas and artistic designs. This trait is beyond having the ability to draw a picture on a paper. Remember, while you can learn how to draw, no one can make you creative. So, if you’re creative and possess super artistic talent, you should consider becoming a tattoo artist.
Also, you need to be investigative. Tattooing is a trendy art, meaning you need to get updates on the current designs in the market. This aspect calls for taking some time to study the current trends and predict possible changes. If you possess this personality, you’re good to set your foot on this fascinating career.
Get A High School Diploma Or GED
With the right personality, you now need academic achievement. Maybe you’re asking: why is academic qualification essential crucial. No doubt, tattoo relies on your artistic talent.
However, before you become a licensed tattoo artist, you need to have some basic academic qualifications. A high school diploma is a basic requirement for getting a tattoo license. Hence, meeting this requirement is not optional.
Apart from helping to become licensed, high school provides you with an opportunity to harness your artistic skills. Most high schools offer art courses such as graphic designing and two-dimensional drawing. These subjects are essential in laying a foundation for your tattooing career. Also, they will enhance your versatility while boosting your artistic creativity.
Alternatively, consider a GED if getting a high school diploma is hard.
Enroll For Art And Drawing Classes
Are there tattoo artist schools I can attend? Probably, you love arts and might be a mind-blogging question. Drawing will be your livelihood. So, you would like to harness your drawing and artistic skills to become a renowned tattoo artist.
Enrolling on an art class will help you hone your drawing and line arts proficiency. Also, you’ll gain skills in shading, scaling and proportioning. So, you can consider pursuing a degree in fine arts or a college diploma to sharpen our skills even further.
Besides, search for top-rank tattoo artists in your area and check whether they offer some courses on this field. You can Google for a “tattoo school near me” to easily find one. Remember, learning from the best will make you a star in the tattooing profession. As such, consider enrolling in a class whose teacher is a renowned tattoo artist, and you love their style.
If no classes in your area, you can opt for tattoo school online lessons. Utilize YouTube and other free or paid online classes to boost your artistic skills. Plus, you can buy a CD or DVD of a professional tattoo artist and listen or watch them.
This way, you’ll gain an enhanced understanding of artistic designs that you’ll use when you become a tattoo artist.
Start Practicing How To Draw
Now, you got the skills. You have the right personality, high school diploma, and enrolled in art and drawing classes. The path to your dream career is bright. However, the best way to assess whether you’re gaining the necessary skills is by practicing them. The concept is no different in the tattooing niche. So, it is now time to start practicing what you’ve learned so far.
Where do you start now? Well, no big deal in the practicing journey. All you will need is a pencil and a sketchbook. Start by drawing simple patterns and images. For instance, you can draw the big five, scorpions, snakes, celebrity images, and anything.
Draw anything that comes to your mind. This way, you’ll get the feeling whether you’re enjoying arts or not. Note, if you do not enjoy being a creative artist while practicing, you’re possibly on the wrong career. Your clients will come with personal requests on the image they want to be inked on their body. As such, you need to be a creative artist and possess that personality to thrive in the tattooing field.
Also, you should search for several drawing books and online resources. These materials will help you in developing your patterns and unique styles. As well, they’ll equip you with additional skills.
You might also like:
- Top beginners tattoo machine
- Top-notch rotary machine for a tattoo artist
- Top tattoo stencil machine on the market
Get Inspiration From Famous Tattooing Artist
As you continue with your drawing practice, it is crucial to consider your predecessors. Search for renowned tattoo artists such as Frank Carrilho, Rik Kit, Chris Nunez, and Mirko Sata. Study their artworks and try to emulate their designs while checking their shortfalls.
Plus, you can try to build on their designs and style to see they can become unique. For instance, try adding a pattern or an image. This way, it will be easy for you to develop a personalized drawing design and style.
Study Different Tattooing Design
It is essential to learn the different tattoo art styles. Getting inspirations from other tattooing artists is important, but you need to pick your tattoo genre. When developing your tattooing style, you need to familiarize yourself with different styles of tattoo art. Some of these styles are tribal, old school, traditional Japanese, realism, abstract, fine line, and black and white.
Understanding the differences in these styles will help you pick your match. You’ll know which style is best for you and specialize in it. As you know, specializing in a particular area helps you to gain all the needed skills to perfect it. The same case will apply to this tattooing.
When you determine your style of choice, it will be easy for you to hone it and create your unique style. So, it is vital to learn the different tattoo art styles and understand their differences.
Building Your Tattoo Portfolio
With the right requirements, it is time to start preparing for the job market. This journey begins with building a tattoo portfolio. In simple words, a portfolio is a showcase of your work. It is a set of drawings and art designs and styles. The portfolio will not only help you secure apprenticeship but also essential to get you a job or mentor. So, how do you build your portfolio? Follow these steps:
Pick Your Best Drawing And Print Them
As stated, a portfolio is a showcase of your work. So, select your best drawings. These are the images you drew during your practicing sessions. You can arrange them according to their tattoo art style. After picking your best arts, scan and print them. However, if this is likely to compromise their quality, you should consider using original copies.
Nonetheless scanning and saving them on your computer and cloud files is also a good idea. Besides, consider creating both hard and soft copies of your portfolio. This way, it will be easy to send them manual or through email.
Prepare Your Portfolio
A good portfolio should consist of at least 25 to 100 tattoo designs and complete drawings. The drawings and designs should feature different tattoo art styles. Also, they should showcase your artistic creativity and versatility.
Though colored drawings a good idea, it is recommendable to feature some black and grey drawings. Doing this will demonstrate your abilities and artistic techniques. Plus, it will show the employer or mentor your artistic talent. Remember to prepare a similar virtual portfolio and have a link for it.
Ensure It Has A Professional And Attractive Design
Well, you might feature the superb images and drawings in your portfolio. However, if it is not professional and attractive, it may not receive the attention of the target. You can give your portfolio touch in many ways as follows:
- Use matted pages or a 3-ringed binder that has sheet protectors
- Do not use a fold binder or manila papers
- Ensure it has an attractive and professional-looking cover.
- Make sure that the outside is uniform and convincing
- Include a link of your additional drawing designs online gallery.
This way, your portfolio will appear professional and attractive.
Avoid Critical Mistakes On Your Portfolio
It is good to note that your portfolio is the chief marketing tool. So, it should be as perfect and flawless as possible. Likewise, it is a tool for building your reputation. Many people will rely on it when seeking your services once you become a tattoo artist. As such, you must be careful when building it.
First, never copy other tattoo artists’ work. To convincing employers, some upcoming tattoo artists take other artists’ works and feature them on their tattoo apprenticeship portfolio. Do not fall in the same trap.
Copying other people’s work can lead you into legal troubles. The owners of the work can sue for plagiarism. Plus, it will ruin your reputation and eventually disqualify you from an apprenticeship or job opportunity.
Secondly, only submit your original work. Some people download images or take images of tattoos they draw on their friends. While you may think this is a good idea, it will land you in trouble. As you know, practicing tattoo artist without a license is a crime. So, at this stage, it is advisable to send drawings and art designs on paper only.
Get A Tattoo Artist Apprenticeship
When you prepare your portfolio, the next step is getting an apprenticeship opportunity. Maybe you’re asking: how do I get a tattoo artist apprenticeship? Where will I start? Here is how to become a tattoo apprentice within a short period:
Find A Reputable Tattoo Artist In Your Area
Well, the process starts with finding a professional tattoo artist in your area. Look for a tattoo artist who has been on this trade for a long period. However, getting a tattoo artist that can accept you in their shop can be a hard tackle.
Many of the renowned artists have a high demand or may not accept budding artists. In most cases, you’ll need to pay from $5000 to secure an apprenticeship opportunity. Nonetheless, you should not give up on your search.
When picking one consider assessing their reputation in the market. A reputable artist will boost your image when you become a licensed tattoo artist. They should have been running their tattoo shop for at least 5 years. Also, consider their willingness to mentor upcoming tattoo artists.
So, ensure your top picks are reputable persons. In other words, go for one who is ready to walk with you through this tough career journey.
Another right way to find a reputable artist is through networking. If you love tattoos, you probably have one drawn on your skin. Where you got your inking is the perfect place to begin your search. Visit them and ask whether they offer tattoo apprenticeships. If not, they will likely refer you to other artists that can offer such opportunities.
In your search journey, it is good to have several things in your mind. First, your mentor should be ready to harbor you for a long duration. The artist must be generous and ready to provide all the necessary training and tattooing knowledge.
Again, you need to dedicate your time and money. You’ll need to work under the supervisor/mentor for a long duration. So, ensure that they’re ready to offer such an opportunity.
Submit Your Apprenticeship Application And Portfolio
If you get an apprenticeship in your favorite tattooing shop/studio, you‘ll not require an application. All you’ll need is to submit your portfolio.
Nonetheless, if this does not happen, you should consider submitting your applications. Send a cover letter and link of your portfolio to your potential mentor. Essentially, opt for in face-to-face contact when submitting your application.
Remember, your portfolio is a crucial element in your potential artists’ decision. Your target mentor will only take you as a tattoo apprentice if they like your art and drawing abilities. Also, provide your artistic certificates. Though not a requirement, they can help the professional tattoo artist know where to start your mentorship.
Attend An Appointment
Most likely, the tattoo artist will offer you a chance to go and showcase your work. You’ll need to attend an appointment and answer some questions about your tattooing style. The moment will get a superb opportunity to prove your artistic abilities. Use the opportunity to deal with the doubts of your potential mentor. Thus, attend it and proof you’re worth the opportunity.
Sign The Apprenticeship Contract
If your admirable tattoo artist accepts you in their shop, you’ll need to sign an apprenticeship contract. This contract details the terms and conditions of your apprenticeship. It explains the obligation of each party. If it is a paid opportunity, your contract should detail the amount you receive or pay to your mentor.
Also, be ready to cater for your needs during the apprenticeship period. Most tattoo apprenticeship opportunities are unpaid. So, it is vital to have a way of paying your bills during the apprenticeship period. The period ranges from 6 months to 3 years. Hence, plan well to avoid unexpected issues.
And that is how to become a tattoo apprentice within a short duration.
Get Additional Certifications
Apart from attending your tattoo apprenticeship sessions, you need to enroll in other health courses. Tattooing is about inking people’s skins. So, you must know how to do it safely.
Before getting a license to practice as a tattoo artist, you need to get some health certifications. Most states will require you to have a blood pathogen certification and proof of training on infectious and skin diseases.
Fortunately, these are courses you can enroll online. Notably, the Red Cross offers the bloodborne pathogen certification programs. Hence you can consider enrolling on them as you continue with your apprenticeship.
Start Networking With Other Tattoo Artists
As you continue with your apprenticeship, it is advisable to start building networks. Join tattoo groups and communities. Besides, put some effort to ensure you’re popular and recognized in the groups. Be friendly and welcoming to your mentor/supervisor, other artists, and clients. Building a network will not only boost your reputation; it will also easy your job search in the future.
With an influential tattoo artists’ network, you’ll receive recommendations and referrals. So, consider doing this as early as possible.
How To Become A Tattoo Artist Without An Apprenticeship
Maybe you’re wondering: must I undergo an apprenticeship to become a tattoo artist? The answer to this question is no. It is possible to be a tattoo artist without necessarily undergoing through it. Like internships in other careers, an apprenticeship offers you an opportunity to gain additional training.
However, some states do not require you to attend one to get a tattoo license. You can complete your studies, get the right tattooing skills, and hit the road. But, doing this can be the worst mistake you have ever made in your life.
Apprenticeship acts as a learning and practice opportunity. Unlike college, you’ll learn both soft and hard skills. It will be easy for you to understand customers and other hygiene aspects of this trade. Also, it will present you with a chance to build the best tattoo portfolio, reputation, and network. This way, you’ll face little challenges when looking for a job or starting your tattoo shop.
Get A Tattoo Artist License
Eventually, you’ll complete your apprenticeship. You’ll have all the needed skills to launch your career in the tattoo industry. But before you start practicing, you need to be a certified tattoo artist. In other words, you must get a tattoo artist license to launch your career. Note: trying tattooing without a license is illegal and can land you into trouble.
The tattoo licensing terms vary from country to country and state to state. While some countries consider this as a hobby, others view it as a medical profession. For instance, you must be a dermatologist to join the tattooing field in South Korea. In the US, the case is different.
To get your tattoo artist license in many states, you need to meet several requirements. Here is how to get a tattoo license in many states in the US:
- Be aged 18 years and above
- A high school diploma graduate or GED
- Completed at least some hours of apprenticeship – required hours vary from state to state
- Have a blood pathogen certification
- Some training incommunicable and skin disease prevention.
Once you meet these requirements, you can submit your license application to the local authority. As well, you need to pay the license fee. Remember, you’ll need to renew your license annually or after several years, depending on your state. Purchase your tattoo equipment
With a tattoo artist license, your career journey is bright. You’ve already become a tattoo artist, and you can start practicing. Now, what you need is to buy the tools for work.
Purchase your preferable tattoo gun and other supplies. As you know, your tattoo style may be different from that of your mentor or employer. In addition, you may prefer a certain type of tattoo gun and gloves. Due to this aspect, your mentor or potential employer will require you to have your supplies. As such, obtain them earlier before moving on to the next step.
Kick Start Your Dream Career
Congratulation!! You’re now a licensed tattoo artist. Well, you now have the right skills. You attended your tattoo artist classes. Your personality and talent fit for this career. You did your apprenticeship and obtained a license. With all these qualifications, it is your time to start practicing as a professional tattoo artist. You can launch your career in two ways:
Applying For A Job In A Tattoo Shop
If your mentor did not offer a chance to work on their studio after apprenticeship, you could seek employment on other tattoo shops. Your supervisor can help you get a reputable shop where you can start working.
Also, your network can be useful in securing a job. Visiting tattoo shops can be an ideal idea. Through this approach, you’ll get a chance to interact with the owner. If he/she likes your tattooing designs and styles, they’ll hire you even though no open vacancy advertised. This way, you’ll get an opportunity to earn your first tattoo artist’s salary.
Start Your Tattooing Studio Or Shop
Probably, working under someone has never been a pleasant experience. It hindered your ability to become fully creative. Or else, your apprenticeship was enough to offer you an independent launching pad.
You feel that you’re ready to join the entrepreneurship trail. Besides, the tattoo salary may not be enough to support your needs. In either of these cases, stating your tattoo studio is ideal.
All you need is to get the needed equipment, furniture, and supplies. If you had purchased some during the apprenticeship period, you’re good to go. Now, rent a shop, get the business permit, and operating licenses. Plus, you need to develop a business plan and assess your competition. Sometimes, relocating to another county or state can be a good idea altogether.
Now, you’re a professional tattoo artist. Start living your career dream.
However, you need to understand that this is not a get rich quick scheme. You need to dedicate and commit substantial duration before you become a tattoo artist. The duration can even be more than 5 years. So, patience and perseverance are essential virtues in this journey.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Before you begin your journey of becoming a certified tattoo artist, several questions might be boggling your mind. In this part, we try to answer some of the questions that many budding tattoo artists ask.
How do I start to become a tattoo artist?
Certainly, the first step to joining tattooing art is having a passion for it. You need to fall in love with drawing and have the right personality. With this aspect, you can start your tattoo artist career by taking different drawing and art courses.
Then, you can consider apprenticeship before getting a license to become a professional tattoo artist. So, passion for drawing and getting art skills are the first steps on this journey.
Can I be a tattoo artist if I can’t draw?
Somehow, it can be a challenge to be a tattoo artist without knowing how to draw. Drawing is the central pillar of this career. Though you can learn how to draw, your images and designs must feature creativity.
The best answer here is yes and no. Yes, if you’re creative and can become a great artist once you learn the drawing skills. No, if you have no person or interest in drawing.
Is a tattoo artist a good career?
Like other careers, a tattoo artist can be a good or bad career for you. Tattooing is a good career for a person with artistic talent and a person. As well, you need to possess the right personality traits such as creativity and patience. If you’re looking for a get rich quickly career, then, being a tattoo artist is bad news.
How can I practice tattooing?
Drawing images, patterns, and any object that comes to your mind is the best way to practice tattooing. Also, you can search for drawing exercises for tattoo artists online. Such resources can help you improve your skills quickly. Unless you are a certified tattoo artist, never try to practice tattooing on your friends or relatives’ skin.
What app do tattoo artists use to draw?
While tattooing is more of manual work than machine-based, apps help you to develop your drawing design. Drawing apps help to develop tattoo ideas before transferring them to your clients’ skin. Some of the apps tattoo artists use to draw are Adobe Illustrator Draw and LayerPaint HD.
What drawing app do they use on ink master?
ProCreate is the drawing app that popular tattoo artists use on ink master. The app enables the user to reproduce artwork using an iPad and Apple pencil.
What is the best drawing app?
The Adobe drawing series apps rank as the best drawing apps for any tattoo artist. They include Adobe Illustrator Draw and Adobe Photoshop Sketch. If you use an iPad, you should consider ProCreate. Any of these apps will help you draw a perfect tattoo on a PC or phone.
How can I turn a picture into a tattoo?
Turning a picture into a tattoo is not a hard task. All you need is an app such as Photoshop. Use the app to make a tattoo stencil from the image. However, you need to understand how this process works. You can find massive online resources in this area.
As you can see, becoming a tattoo artist is not a life and death affair. You’ll not need to break the bank to join the career. All you require is to have passion for arts and drawing, possess the right personality, and be ready to learn.
Becoming a certified tattoo artist can take a longer period than you expect. To be specific, it can take you over 3 years before receiving your first tattoo salary. Hence, patience and perseverance are critical traits on this journey.
Nonetheless, your patience, hard work, and dedication will gradually pay when you get that license. Tattooing is one of the trendy careers, so you’ll experience a breakthrough within a short duration. Essentially, it may cost you some coins, but the return on investment will be huge.