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How Do I Become a Tattoo Artist?

Some tattoo artists spend years developing their own distinct art style.
Woman with tattoos on her arm and back.
Working as a tattoo artist's apprentice can help an individual to learn valuable skills.
A tattoo machine.
Article Details
  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Becoming a tattoo artist involves more than being able to draw well and buying a tattoo gun. To become a tattoo artist, most individuals must go through a long apprenticeship with an experienced tattoo artist. Other requirements, such as acquiring proper state licenses, also are necessary before you can open your own shop and become a tattoo artist.

If you are thinking of becoming a tattoo artist, chances are you are most likely already a skilled artist. Practicing these skills and honing your talent is essential, if you want to become a tattoo artist. Although it is not necessary, some individuals may find that it is helpful to take art classes, usually at a local high school or college. Doing so can also help you put together an impressive portfolio, which you will need to land an apprenticeship.

Working as a tattoo artist's apprentice will help you learn valuable skills. Finding a tattoo artist willing to work with you may be difficult. Some tattoo artists may decide that they do not have the time, patience, or resources to take on a trainee. When you find a tattooing apprenticeship, be sure that you have adequate savings or alternate income to support yourself. You will not usually be paid during this apprenticeship, which can sometimes last for a couple of years.

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For the first few weeks of your tattoo apprenticeship, you will most likely find yourself doing menial tasks, such as cleaning or stocking needed supplies. After your teacher believes that you are serious and truly want to become a tattoo artist, he will then most likely assign other tasks. You may assist as a tattoo designer, learn sterilization techniques, or practice tattooing on inanimate objects, like fruit or practice skin. During these practices, your teacher will observe you closely, and usually offer constructive criticism or advice.

When he feels confident in your abilities to decorate an orange, he may then allow you to practice on willing clients. At first, this may involve simple tattooing tasks. For example, you may begin with tattooing outlines or, possibly, shading. As your skills improve, you may begin to tattoo entire pieces.

Opening a successful tattooing business, however, does not require just talent and experience. It also requires knowledge about running a business. While you will most likely learn many of these skills during a tattoo apprenticeship, taking a course in business management can be very helpful.

Before you become a tattoo artist and open up your own shop, you should first check local laws. Most areas require that tattoo artists obtain a business license, as well as a special license, or permit, for tattoo artists. A local health department inspection will likely be required for this permit, though regulations vary, depending on the area.

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