So, your dream is to become a tattoo artist? We think it is high time you turned that dream into your own reality. In this article, we’ll go over all of the potential tattooing career paths, as well as the education, requirements, and courses needed to become a professional tattoo artist.
Bear in mind, and this is very important, that a tattooing career requires a lot of work, dedication, and your own financial investment. It is not an easy path to take, and it could be a bumpy journey, but with hard work and full dedication, anything can be achieved. And, if you’re reading this, you’re already at a good start.
In the following paragraphs, we’ll talk about how you can become a tattoo artist, what are the requirements for this career, and other miscellaneous stuff worth knowing! Therefore, without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Tattoo Education 101: Everything You Need To Know
Becoming a Tattoo Artist – How?
There are many requirements for becoming a tattoo artist, and they all vary between states and counties, at least in the US of A. However, the minimum, In order to become a tattoo artist, is that you need to have a deep interest in art, especially drawing and sketching, or even painting. Now, this requirement can range from amateur drawing and artists’ interest to getting special education in art and specific art skills; more on that later.
An education in tattooing is also required, alongside an apprenticeship, certification in sanitation and infection prevention, as well as training and developing skills like ethics, general business, client communication, and even marketing. Now, this may all seem too much, all jumbled like this in one paragraph, so we’ll go over each one of these basic requirements in more detail as well.
Tattoo Career Requirements
Let’s go over some of the essential requirements for becoming a professional tattoo artist;
- Age requirement – to partake in tattoo education and courses, as well as to pursue a career in tattooing, you need to be at least 18 years old.
- Education requirement – in most cases, you will need to get your high school diploma as proof of general education. A college diploma is also welcome, especially if it’s coming from Art or Design studies. Specialized tattoo education is also required; such education is offered in specialized tattoo schools and certified courses that you have to attend before the official apprenticeship.
- Typical training requirement – it will take you at least 2 years to complete a tattoo apprenticeship or training done at a tattoo shop, with a professional tattoo artist/mentor.
- Legal requirement – you will have to apply for and get a tattoo license for tattooing stating that you have completed your education and apprenticeship, as well as courses for sanitation, infection prevention, and other high health standard requirements.
- Key skills – for your career in tattooing, you will have to work on these key skills; communication skills, artists ability (preferably education in arts via school or course), attention to detail, high health standards, high sanitation standards, dedication to work, dedication to investing on working on yourself, etc.
Bear in mind that in certain states and counties it is required to attend a tattoo school in order to become a tattoo apprenticeship and ultimately and licensed tattoo artist. You may be required to take additional infection orevention and health safety courses, depending on the state where you live and want to practice tattooing. Requirements vary between states, so make sure to follow your state’s specific requirements. We’ll provide you with links and directions depending on your location in the following paragraphs.
Becoming a Tattoo Apprentice – How?
If you don’t have a deep and genuine wish to become a tattoo artist, then you might as well stop reading this article and look for another career. This career requires passion and dedication as you’ve never seen before, so if this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then it may be time to find another calling.
But, for now, let’s assume that you’ve already developed a deep interest in art and that your artistic abilities are good. Some of you may even have finished art school or courses, which is definitely a plus. So, from this point on, how does one become a tattoo artist? Well, your first step would be to;
- Practice drawing and be an artist – this is the starting point that can determine the course of the rest of your tattoo career. Practicing drawing is no1 requirement, even if you think your skills are unmatched. You need to be an artist, at heart and on paper, in order to further your tattoo career. So, evaluate your own work, objectively, and see if it’s good or if it had potential. If you think you need more practice and even an art education, you’re on the right path!
- Get an Art education – this doesn’t apply to those who have already had an education in art and art techniques, of course. But, for those of you who have strong artistic abilities but don’t have official education, we believe it would be for the best to enroll in a course (certified, online), take classes at a community college, or even pursue a traditional art degree.
We recommend you check out the art courses at Udemz, like the How To Draw – From Beginner to Master course, which is one of the best remote/online courses regarding art, especially drawing. New Masters Academy as well offers incredible art and drawing courses with interactive live classes, structured courses, and of course, the certification you can use to further your tattooing career.
We recommend you check out the Udemy Tattoo Art Courses, or even check out the official tattoo schools, like the Florida Tattoo Academy, Toronto Tattoo School, or the Academy of Arts in San Francisco (with specialized tattoo courses), etc.
- Build a portfolio – gather all of your best work, including drawings and sketches, and build a portfolio. You need to be super choosy about the work you put into the portfolio; try to create a variety of different art styles, so you can show your broad artistic ability, and really choose your truly best work.
You don’t want to create a bundle of just random sketches; your work needs to be engaging, finished, and of high quality. The portfolio will come in handy once you find a mentor and you start your apprenticeship. It will serve as a learning tool and aid, allowing you to build upon it and become even better.
- Look for a mentor – you cannot start a tattoo apprenticeship without a tattoo artist mentor. Now, this may take some time, and bear that in mind; finding a good mentor is never easy, but you cannot give up. Do some research in your local tattoo community, visit the local tattoo studios, and explore tattoo apprenticeship opportunities. Make sure to send them or show your portfolio in person; get people interested in your work and make them want to mentor you with your amazing skills and dedication.
So, now that we’ve gone through some basic steps of becoming a tattoo apprenticeship, we need to remind you once again; if you’re not objectively good at drawing, if you have no intention of attending art classes or courses, and if you’re not ready to fully commit to this journey and work on your skills constantly, then this career path might not be the best for you.
Here’s some information that might help you make a final decision; you are expected to pay between 5,000 to $10,000 for your tattoo apprenticeship. You will also, probably, be required to pay upfront, and you will be required to buy your own tools, at your own expense. On top of that, remember that you will have to pay for art courses and classes, and all the tools required for that part of your tattooing education as well.
You will also have to sign a tattoo apprenticeship contract. This is a legal document that sets forth all the responsibilities and expectations of both you and your mentor that both of you need to meet during your apprenticeship program.
This isn’t a career where you can simply settle down and be a mediocre tattoo artist. Even to reach that point you need to go through specialized education and training. It requires constant financial and personal investment, and you cannot really expect the money to return until you actually become a licensed and certified tattoo artist. So, have a conversation with yourself and see if this is really what you want before you start investing.
Knowing a Good Apprenticeship Opportunity
It is easy for us to just write ‘go get a tattoo mentor’, or ‘choose a good apprenticeship opportunity. But, we know that reality isn’t that straightforward or easy. In reality, this is a rather complicated process, and with you being inexperienced, it is hard to know which apprenticeship opportunity is truly good and worthy of your time and money. Here are some ways you can know a tattoo artist will be a good mentor and offer you the best apprenticeship opportunity possible;
- They’re a professional and experienced tattoo artist with a good reputation in the tattoo community and among clients
- They’re friendly and happy to help, approachable, and willing to work with you and answer all of your questions
- They’ve already gone through a few apprenticeship programs with other tattoo artists
- They are willing to take time to help you out; they have enough time to mentor you
- They want to teach you through practice and exposure to actual tattooing; not just work with you in theory
- They’re willing to be tough on you, challenge and push you to develop and improve skills, as well as learn new ones
If a tattoo mentor has all of the aforementioned qualities, then you’re in for a good apprenticeship opportunity. If not, then we strongly suggest you keep on looking; otherwise, you will just waste your time and money.
You will simply know a good mentor when you see them; such people have a great reputation, or even an educational background as well. They’re well respected among their colleagues, clients, and in the local tattoo community. But, if they hesitate to mentor you, even if they’re the best at it, simply move on. You don’t want to be dragged for two or more years and lose money for nothing.
Also, bear in mind that you will not get paid during your apprenticeship program, but you will do all the work you’ll be required to do as a trainee and a tattoo artist. But, once you finish the program and you get your license, you can expect a rather good starting salary with the potential to increase it as you get better, more experienced, and more reputable of course.
Knowing a Good Tattoo School
As we previously mentioned, in some states it is not enough to only have a certification or a degree in art to start your tattoo journey. In order to become an apprentice and a licensed tattoo artist, you might have to attend a tattoo school. Now, how can you know which tattoo school will provide everything you need to become a professional tattoo artist? Here are some of our tattoo school recommendations and a list of qualities/offers to look for in a good tattoo school;
- Tattoo School – this facility offers education and apprenticeship programs in New York, Los Angeles, New Haven, Philadelphia, and Tampa, Florida. Both take place at the Body & Art Soul Tattoo studios/facilities, or you can attend them remotely/online. The school offers one-on-one tattoo apprenticeships, or you can be a part of a live virtual classroom. Either way, you will get the best tattoo education possible, with professional tattoo artists as teachers and advisors.
- Florida Tattoo Academy – the Florida Tattoo Academy is currently the only licensed tattoo and piercing school in the Tampa Bay area. It is a perfect place for beginners to develop their artistic skills and freedom and pursue a career in tattooing surrounded by professionals. The academy even offers special enrolling benefits for military members. The school offers different programs, for both tattooing and piercing, so you can get a full range of education and practice.
- Point Of View Tattoo School – another exceptional tattoo school is located in Portland, and it is a leading tattoo school in this region. It offers a broad educational program led by tattoo experts and professionals who have over 40 years of combined experience. The schools offer education and practice as required by the law of Oregon state, so you know you’ll be fully prepared for your career as a professional tattoo artist. Check out their program and see for yourself!
- Master Tattoo Institute – our final recommendation for tattoo schools is the Master Tattoo Institute located in Florida. This is a highly reputable tattoo school that offers the latest tattoo education to both beginners and professionals. The school offers tattoo classes primarily, but you can also enroll in body piercing, cosmetic tattoo, or specialty classes. The school program is led by professionals in the industry, so you know you’ll be in good hands.
Getting a Tattoo License – How?
Once you finish all your tattoo education and apprenticeship, you should celebrate first, and then explore the licensing requirements, second. Every state has a set of eligibility criteria as well as a set of requirements necessary for getting a tattoo license. You will be required to have a tattoo license whether you’re self-employed or you work in a tattoo shop. Bear in mind that the eligibility criteria may vary from one state to the other too.
So, how does one become a licensed tattoo artist?
First of all, we would urge you to check out the tattoo licensing laws by state to check out the licensing requirements for your own location. Then, make sure to check out the following steps that will lead you to your tattoo license (they might vary by state), and bear in mind that you need to pay for all the license fees;
- The first thing you need to do is submit an application for the Tattoo Artist License.
- Then, you need to register for the Infection Control Course.
- You will have to acquire all of the tattoo permits, including the Permit application, permit fee, proof of home address, ID photo, proof of Sales Tax Collection Authority, proof of Incorporation, payment of outstanding fines for DOHMH violations, etc.
- You might have to take a Tattoo/Body Piercing Competency examination after you get your license.
- In some states, you will have to apply separately for a tattoo and piercing license.
- In some states, you might have to complete the Blood-Borne Pathogen training course, as well as submit an application to Environmental Health.
When starting your license application journey, be prepared for a ton of license fees. The cost of getting a tattoo license can go up to thousands of dollars, depending on the state of course. It can be super pricey, and you will have to pay yourself for any additionally required courses or training. Bear in mind that you will also have to pay for license renewal every two years, and you will have to send out a License Renewal application as well.
In some states, you can apply in person, but also via online forms. Every state has detailed online instructions regarding application submission as well as a list of documents required for the license application. If you’ve to apply for the license in person, you will have to print out the application forms (you can download them from the official tattoo license state sites).
Starting Your Career
At last, you’ve completed everything required to become a professional tattoo artist. It was a long and difficult journey, but you did it! Now, you can start your career and finally get paid. But, how do you move from being a freshly licensed tattoo artist to working in a studio with other pros? Here’s how;
- Apply at different tattoo shops – this is, to this day, the best way to get a job; simply apply to different tattoo studios, especially if they’re looking for a new tattoo artist. Apply at your local tattoo shops, of course, and once you get some experience as a professional, you can expand your horizons and maybe apply in other states as well.
- Consider opening your own studio – this is the dream, but beginner tattoo artists rarely have the budget for opening their own tattoo studios. However, it is still an option, especially if you managed to save up during all your tattooing journey.
- Never stop learning and exploring – now that you’re a professional tattoo artist, you might think ‘finally, no more learning and studying’. And, you would be definitely wrong. Being a professional tattoo artist is all about practicing, learning, exploring, and pushing yourself to become even better than you are now. That is how you build your skills and your reputation, and how you find your place in the tattoo community. Never stop learning and being up-to-date!
In order to become a professional tattoo artist you simply have to be fully determined and dedicated, since there is no room for mediocrity. There is a lot of investment going on as well, so you might even have to consider getting a part-time job to support all the costly investment and equipment. However, don’t let this discourage you; once you’re done with your apprenticeship and all the license requirements, you’ll be a self-sufficient, independent tattoo artist that can choose to do with their career how they want.
It is a great opportunity to enjoy the best of tattooing and the tattoo lifestyle, as well as the community surrounding it. Hopefully, our guide through the process will encourage you to start your journey today! We wish you all the luck and happy tattooing!