The first professional tattoo artist in the U.S. made his appearance in Boston back in 1848. Martin Hildenbrandt was a German immigrant who made his career hand-tattooing many of the era’s sailors and military servicemen. The industry is a bit different today than it was back in 19th century New England, of course. Now, if you’re considering following in Martin’s footsteps, there are a few steps that must be undertaken first.
How to become a tattoo artist
Getting your tattoo education
In Hildenbrandt’s time, becoming a tattoo artist likely necessitated first becoming a tattoo apprentice. This is still a common method today, where students learn by watching and working one-on-one with a professional artist. The Alliance of Professional Tattoos, advocates for at least three year apprenticeships where you learn both the artistic and business aspects of being a tattoo artist.
The challenge to tattoo apprenticeship is it requires advertising yourself at shop after shop until you find someone willing to take you on. An alternative to the tattoo apprenticeship that’s been gaining in popularity is the tattoo training school.
Tattoo training school
Tattoo schools probably seem crazy to industry founders like Hildenbrandt, but they can be a great resource for aspiring, young tattoo artists. Just as other skilled trades are doing away with apprenticeships, so, too, is the tattoo profession adapting to the modern education system with more and more tattoo training schools.
One of the benefits of a tattoo training school over an apprenticeship is you aren’t limited in what and when you learn by a single teacher. In an apprenticeship, you’ll be at the whim of your master’s schedule, knowledge base and willingness and knack for teaching. At a tattoo training school, on the other hand, you can train under a diverse staff of licensed teachers. Likewise, you’ll be able to learn alongside peers in workshops and classes. Not to mention a tattoo training school comes with a certificate at the end demonstrating your new prowess.
Applying to tattoo training school
The application process for tattoo training school typically involves a questionnaire that will ask about your interest in tattooing, what if any credentials you already have, and which styles or designs you’re most interested in. Oxygen Media found that in 2012, the mos popular tattoo designs were hearts and angels. They also discovered 59% of people with tattoos were women. This doesn’t mean by tailoring your application to designs you think will appeal to women is more likely to get you in.
Tattooing is an art and representation of the individual doing the tattooing as much as the person receiving the tattoo. Being honest with yourself, on your tattoo training school application, and, eventually, with your customers is essential to building a brand and reputation.
Start with a portfolio
Artistic ability is a bit of a prerequisite for becoming a tattoo artist. Whether you decide to pursue your education through a tattoo training school or a tattoo apprenticeship, a great way to prove your ability to a tattoo training school is building a portfolio that showcases your versatility. Your portfolio can be original drawings as well as photographs. Cultivate your artistic talent throughout high school and your early adult life by taking art classes through your community center or high school. A tattoo training school
Is becoming a tattoo artist for you?
Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of how to become a tattoo artist, the only thing holding you back is deciding if the field is right for you. If you’re not thrilled at the idea of a 9-6 job and have an artistic inkling, becoming a tattoo artist could be a great career choice for you. With tattoos more widely accepted than ever – – over 20% of the U.S. adult population has at least one tattoo today – – working as a tattoo artist can be a great career.
Keep in mind however, that this is a customer-facing career. Patience is often a requirement as well as a virtue, as turning down customers, particularly those who are already inked, can severely cut down on your potential customer base. As with any career field, weighing the pros and cons beforehand is important to future success.