How to Become a Tattoo Artist in 6 Steps


Tattoo apprentice kits

Americans spend about 1.65 billion dollars on tattoos each year, and an estimated 45 million Americans (14% of the population) have at least one tattoo. With tattoos at such a high level of popularity, a career as a tattoo artist may seem like an appealing choice.

Even so, the path to becoming a tattoo artist can be a long one, so here are some steps for making your career path run as smoothly as possible.

1. Finish High School

You don’t always need a degree to become a tattoo artist, but many places will require you to have a high school diploma or GED. If you have an opportunity to take art classes in high school or through a community center, take as many as you can to learn the core art skills you’ll need to be successful.

2. Create a Portfolio

Tattoo artists need to have strong artistic skills and creativity. Before you can get any kind of work as a tattoo artist, you’ll need to compile a portfolio that displays your best works of art. Choose pieces that show your versatility as an artist and your ability to draw a variety of subject matter.

3. Complete an Apprenticeship

During an apprenticeship, an aspiring artist works in a shop with a professional, learning through hands-on experience how to design tattoos, operate machinery and keep a clean shop. Some apprenticeships will also teach apprentice tattoo artists good business practices and prepare them for owning a shop. The Alliance of Professional Tattooists recommends that tattoo artists in training spend at least three years in their apprenticeships. Free apprenticeships are rare, and many apprentices pay their teachers or agree to work in the shop for a certain amount of time. Becoming a tattoo apprentice can be challenging, so go in with realistic expectations and hold onto a day job to support yourself.

4. Take Tattoo Classes

Some health departments and regulatory agencies may require seminars on disease/infection prevention and blood borne pathogens for tattoo artist certification. At this point, a tattoo artist could also choose to pursue formal education in tattoo art through a trade school or tattoo college specializing in tattoo art. Tattoo colleges are an especially good option for an artist who isn’t having much luck with apprenticeships, or feels unsupported by the tattoo culture in their area. Joining the APT or the Association for Professional Tattoo Artists can also open up continuing education options for tattoo artists.

5. Get Licensed

Most states require tattoo artists to be formally licensed, but each state has different requirements. Many involve written exams and skill assessments, and some require a specific amount of training and tattooing. Check with your state early on in case you need to have records of tattoos or apprenticeships.

6. Keep Learning

A tattoo artist’s education is never done. Keep taking classes to renew your license, and consider business management courses if you’re thinking about starting your own shop. Look into tattoo trade schools or tattoo college to give yourself that extra edge. Get some tattoos and watch for each artist’s technique, expand your client base, and keep pushing your tattoo art to new and exciting heights! More like this blog:

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