How to become a tattoo artist? There is more to it than just buying a needle and some ink. You need to have the right training and equipment to be a successful tattoo artist.

About the Tattoo Industry

With over 1.6 billion in annual revenue in 2018, the tattoo industry is a rising one. The industry offers a great chance to pursue your goals while earning a good livelihood, with the typical tattoo artist making $49,520 a year.

Some well-known, top artists can earn up to $500 per hour while pursuing their passions. “If you follow your passion, you’ll never have to work another day in your life.”

Your Possibilities As A Tattoo Artist

What to do to be a tattoo artist

A state-approved educational institution, self-taught training, or apprenticeship are the three ways to become a tattoo artist.

The question now is: Which do you pick?

Ten years ago, there weren’t many ways to become a tattoo artist. Either you were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study the tattooing technique over the course of two years by working as an apprentice for a seasoned artist. Or you have to learn on your own.

There weren’t many good apprenticeships available. However, if you were prepared to put in the time and wait for the proper opportunity to open up, you could find respectable apprenticeships.

However, the apprenticeship approach requires time, and in the modern world, time equals money. Our most valuable resource is time, first and foremost. I believe it is safe to assume that everyone wants to advance as quickly as possible in the tattoo industry.

Self-education is the following choice. It takes a lot of time and effort to learn something on your own. Not everyone is driven to work in a setting conducive to independent study. In my years as an artist, I’ve discovered that the majority of my learning has come from going to conferences and interacting with other accomplished artists, for instance.

If you know what you’re doing, using a tattoo machine is relatively simple, but it takes some practice to get good at it. For instance, at Florida Tattoo Academy, we devote 200 hours to training that procedure. Despite the fact that the self-study route is free for many, it is not the ideal choice.

The Florida Tattoo Academy was established for the last scenario. We intended to make it simple for students with strong artistic aptitude to study tattooing in a condensed 12-week course that included all the knowledge they required to transfer their artwork to human skin. Additionally, we welcome and train students interested in a career in medical tattooing.

The program is designed to produce exceptional tattoo artists.

Please get in touch with us before we go over the prerequisites for becoming a licensed tattoo artist. We would be pleased to assist you if you have any queries regarding tattooing or how to become a tattoo artist. We enjoy supporting upcoming artists and the industry.

What Do You Need To Become A Tattoo Artist?

1. Learn How to Draw

Learn How to Draw Tattoo Designs

Before you ever consider designing tattoos or attempting to practice tattooing, it’s imperative that you concentrate on honing your drawing abilities and illustrating techniques. A great tattoo starts with a visually appealing drawing. Here is how to get going.

Practice Drawing On Your Own

Start by drawing on your own as the first step in getting started. You don’t need anything extra to start drawing in your free time, just a sketchbook and a pencil. Draw the images you observe, the ideas you have, and the descriptions of others.

Find out if you actually enjoy drawing and producing art, particularly art for other people. It’s critical that you feel at ease producing artwork that complies with others’ demands because you’ll be sketching requests the majority of the time.

Examine The Tattoos Created By Renowned Artists.

Studying the work of renowned tattoo artists is an excellent approach to developing a sense of the craft. Find well-known artists who work in a variety of creative mediums, and look into what they have produced with tattoo equipment.

Check out what resonates with you and how the market thinks about the tattoos you wish to get. Mirko Sata, Chris Nunez, Miya Bailey, Gerhard Wiesbeck, Frank Carrilho, Rit Kit, and Stanislaw Wilczynski are a few well-known tattoo artists.

Examine Several Artistic Mediums

If you appreciate painting but aren’t sure what kind of art you want to create, make sure to experiment with a variety of mediums before making a choice. Create logos, t-shirt designs, abstract art, contemporary art, fine art, and more. Make sure that creating tattoos is the kind of art you enjoy doing the most before pursuing the idea seriously.

2. Get an Art Education

Get an Art Education

It’s critical to look for opportunities to develop as a well-rounded artist if you’re serious about a future in tattooing. In order to decide whether to pursue a standard art degree, training at a master’s tattoo institute, lessons at a community college, or the self-taught method, it’s critical, to be honest about your financial circumstances and to evaluate your artistic abilities.

The bottom truth is that you will be a better artist the more time you invest in honing your abilities. This is a significant step because tattoo artists are not needed to have formal education or even a high school diploma. Compare each’s benefits and drawbacks.

Attend Your Local Community College To Take Art Classes.

The least expensive method to receive an education in art is to take classes at your local community college, although this is not as rigorous as formal instruction at a tattoo school or university. Here, you can practice making art for a range of applications while learning several fundamental design principles.

Get An Art Degree

Consider attending a university with a strong arts department if you want a traditional education in the arts and have the money to do so.

Since there aren’t many schools that provide a degree in tattoo artistry, search for ones that do instead in design, illustration, graphic design, digital arts, performing arts, or commercial art. You can acquire a solid foundation in the arts through a degree program, covering art history and studies.

3. Develop Foundational Design Knowledge and Skills

Although tattooing is frequently regarded as a less traditional art form, it nonetheless uses all the fundamental design elements. No matter if you decide to pursue an education or self-teach, it’s critical that you have a solid understanding of how various design aspects interact and affect one another. You ought to:

Study the Fundamentals of Graphic Design

It’s important to master the fundamentals of graphic design whether you have an art education or simply practice drawing. The theories of line, shape, texture, color, value, and scale must be mastered.

To generate the image you want, you’ll also need to learn how to apply those theories to paper, how to stencil, and eventually how to implement your designs on human skin.

Study Graphic Design Principles

The principles of graphic design, such as balance, alignment, repetition, proximity, contrast, and space, are other crucial abilities to acquire. No drawing is complete without these fundamentals since they contribute to the development of art itself.

Each manifests very differently in each piece, therefore it’s important to gain a good grasp of how to manage these concepts in a number of contexts.

4. Create a Portfolio

Create an Art Portfolio

One of a tattoo artist’s most crucial tools is by far their art portfolio. It enables potential mentors to rapidly review your greatest work and determine whether your specific artistic approach is what they’re searching for in an apprentice. Your portfolio’s presentation will affect the impression it makes on possible mentors, so be careful to:

Establish A Professional Portfolio.

Your portfolio should seem both professional and attract the viewer’s attention. Don’t save all of your art in a single manila folder or an old binder you found sitting around. Use a fresh three-ring binder with sheet protectors in place of that, or have the pages matted. Your portfolio outside should be streamlined, consistent, and welcoming.

Include Quality Work

Include 25 to 100 finished tattoo designs in your portfolio, either original or copies of other designs. Make sure the artwork you offer does a fantastic job of displaying your breadth as an artist.

Even if your best work normally consists of colorful illustrations, give a couple of examples of your black and white work. Even while the artwork might not necessarily work well as a tattoo, it will show that you have good skill and a knack for tattoo design.

When Building Your Portfolio, Stay Away From Common Mistakes.

Even though it may seem obvious, it’s crucial to note that there are a few things you should avoid when creating your portfolio, including:

Copying other artists’ work

Depending on the rules in your location, this is plagiarism and may lead to legal action. In the best-case scenario, the tattoo parlor will reject your application because it has been filed with pirated artwork. At worst, you might not be accepted and have your reputation damaged before you even begin.

Sending pictures of tattoos you’ve had

No matter how good you think they are, don’t include photos of tattoos you’ve given if you aren’t already a licensed professional tattoo artist. First, getting a tattoo without a license is prohibited.

Second, it demonstrates your unwillingness to take seriously both the art of tattooing and the health of your customers. It makes it harder for them to mentor you since it lets them know that you could have some bad “scratcher” behaviors that need to be changed.

Make An Interesting Portfolio

Create a portfolio that potential mentors will want to see by:

Putting together a cover letter and résumé

Your cover letter specifically mentions your possible mentor, and your CV shows any pertinent education and experience. By adding these, your portfolio gains an immediate air of professionalism.

Using only finished work

Wait to develop your portfolio until you have more finished works to include if you have a lot of drawings but few finished pieces. Only use finished work in your portfolio; however, you are welcome to include a few copies of the piece at various phases of the drawing process.

Become familiar with a few talking points for each component.

You’ll probably get a few inquiries about your work of art. Get used to discussing the key aspects of each piece in your portfolio so that you are ready to talk about any one of them with your potential mentor.

Leaving your business card

The tattoo artist might not be able to look through your portfolio straight away if you don’t have an appointment at the shop. Leave a business card with your name, contact details, and a URL to your online portfolio so that people may browse your work whenever they like.

5. Collaborate with an Established Tattoo Artist

Collaborate with an Established Tattoo Artist

When you feel confident in your abilities to draw well and create appealing tattoo designs, it’s time to get some practical experience and begin using the skills you’ve learned in a real-world setting.

You cannot learn how to tattoo from a book; instead, you must work with a mentor who, ideally, has been tattooing for a long time and is ready and able to take you under their wing. The following should be considered while looking for a tattoo artist to work with:

What to Look for In a Mentor

It’s crucial to conduct thorough research before choosing a tattoo artist to train with. Find a creative person who:

Employed by a reputed tattoo parlor

Make sure they have a lot of customers and follow basic hygiene rules. Avoid tattoo parlors that seem deserted, are unable to inform you of their hygienic procedures, or give you a foul vibe.

Previously supervised an apprentice

Even for the most seasoned tattoo artist, mentoring is challenging. Find a mentor who has experience teaching apprentices so they can better understand what works and what doesn’t.

Who can challenge you

You should be able to be challenged, held accountable, and pushed outside your comfort zone by the artist you choose to be your mentor. A laissez-faire attitude won’t serve you well in the long term, so avoid selecting a mentor who comes out as being overly easygoing.

The Best Way To Talk To A Shop About An Apprenticeship

The first impression you provide is important when you inquire about an apprenticeship at a tattoo parlor. You ought to:

Finish your homework.

Find out everything you can about the shop where you want to become an apprentice. Learn about each artist’s background and work, as well as any other important business information.

Make direct eye contact

Don’t just give the tattoo parlor a call and speak to someone. By turning up and saying hello, you can put your face in their minds. Visit during the weekday afternoon when it’s least likely to be crowded.

Respect everyone you encounter

It’s possible that the person manning the front desk is an artist filling in for the receptionist while they’re out to lunch, or perhaps they’re close friends with all the other artists. Treat everyone you encounter as if their view of you has the potential to make or ruin your apprenticeship.

The Price of an Apprenticeship in Tattooing

Very few apprenticeships in tattooing are paid; typically, the opposite is true. While some apprenticeships are free, the majority are not. The most competitive and challenging apprenticeships at reputed tattoo parlors are free; the majority of them cost around $5,000.

Occasionally, they could reach $10,000 depending on the caliber and standing of the artist you’re learning from. The majority of tattoo artists who start an apprenticeship need a second work to support themselves financially while they finish their training.

Contracts for Tattoo Apprentices: An Understanding

Normally, the tattoo parlor where you are an apprentice will require you to sign a contract. A contract is a written agreement between two parties that outlines their respective obligations and expectations. It also offers protection to either side that is not fulfilling its obligations.

The contract specifies the terms of your apprenticeship, including how long it will continue (often a year), how much you’ll pay, your daily and weekly duties, what you can expect to learn from your mentor, and if you’ll have to stay on at the store after your apprenticeship is over.

To make sure your interests are safeguarded, think about having a lawyer analyze your deal before you sign.

6. Finish An Apprenticeship and Gain Trade Knowledge.

Before starting a tattooing business, you must finish an apprenticeship to master the trade. You can do this with your mentor or by searching for a tattoo parlor that is hiring an apprentice. When beginning an apprenticeship in tattooing, anticipate:

A Significant Initial Investment

Along with the expense of your apprenticeship, you’ll also require a few basic tools, such as tattoo guns, sterile equipment, art supplies, and more. Be ready to make a substantial upfront expenditure if you want to become a tattoo artist.

To Get Tattoo Design Skills

Tattoos are works of art, but not all works of art can be tattoos. To make tattoos that look good on the body and last as long as possible without needing to be touched up, you’ll need to understand how to design them.

The location of the tattoo on the body, its size, and its level of detail all affect how it will look over time. Tattoos that are poorly placed or that are too detailed for their size can heal unevenly, causing the ink to spread and the lines to blur.

To Gain Knowledge of Tattoo Machine Use and Ink Handling

Because no two bodies are exactly the same, working with ink and flesh can be quite difficult. As an apprentice, you’ll learn the differences between tattooing and other art forms, how to use a tattoo machine, and how to use ink to make artwork that looks excellent on the skin.

Learn About Hygienic Work Procedures

Since tattooing involves puncturing the skin and drawing blood, a certain level of hygiene must be maintained for the protection of both the tattoo artist and the client. You’ll discover how to set up a hygienic workspace, maintain your tattoo machine, know when to switch out your gloves, and more.

Keep in mind that reputable artists take hygiene extremely seriously; before accepting to work as an apprentice for them, request to see a list of the artist’s hygiene procedures. In fact, whenever possible, it’s a great idea to have a tattoo by the artist you wish to train under.

To Acquire Business Expertise and Customer Service

Most tattoo artists must acquire at least a few professional skills, such as how to receive payments, balance a ledger, and communicate with customers.

The best apprenticeship programs teach the fundamental abilities required to run and/or manage a tattoo shop in addition to tattooing. This is particularly true if you ever wish to open up your own tattoo parlor.

To perform unpaid work for at least a year

It’s typical for apprenticeship programs to be unpaid, and you should plan on getting a lot of free tattoos. As a result, it’s crucial to have enough money saved up or another form of income so you can get by. Although you can prepare for a year, your apprenticeship might last longer in some instances.

7. Obtain Additional Pre-License Certification and Training

Do you need a degree to be a tattoo artist

After completing your apprenticeship, you’ll need to complete a few certifications and/or specialized training programs to satisfy your state’s licensing criteria for tattoo artists. You might also be required to take classes in disease prevention, health and safety, and other fundamental ideas in healthcare, depending on your state. These consist of:

An accreditation for blood-borne pathogens

Since human flesh serves as the tattoo artist’s canvas, it is critical that they adhere to all health and safety regulations. Your training will be focused on preventing the spread of blood-borne diseases and working to maintain the health of the client and the artist. When asked, you must be able to provide documentation of your bloodborne pathogen certification.

You will be expected to become certified on how to stop the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other illnesses when making a tattoo at some point during, or after, your apprenticeship program.

Disease prevention, communicable diseases, and skin disease training

While some blood-borne pathogen certification programs only require you to pass a knowledge test to become certified, others require you to complete classes or seminars on disease management. Being a tattoo artist requires you to have a thorough understanding of the various diseases that can be contracted by tattooing and how to avoid them.

8. Get a License

Tattoo artist qualifications

You succeeded! You are prepared to begin tattooing on your own since you have the education, talent, and experience necessary. Next, you should:

Check the requirements in your state

States frequently have different licensing requirements. For instance, in order to obtain a license in Oregon, tattoo artists are required to finish at least 50 tattoos, 360 hours of training with an authorized tattoo artist, a written exam, and a skills evaluation.

Only the store needs a license in other states. Examine the license requirements in your state as well as those of any other states where you intend to tattoo. Similar to healthcare, you can obtain a tattoo license in several states as long as you satisfy their regulations.

Request a license

Once you’ve completed any prerequisites, you’ll need to submit an application for your license. Typically, all that is required is filling out a form with your local government agency and paying a fee, although state regulations also vary in this regard.

9. Purchase Your Own Tattoo Supplies

Purchase your own tattoo supplies

Each tattoo artist often has a preferred set of tools. Perhaps you prefer a specific brand of a tattoo gun, or you have an allergy to latex and must use nitrile gloves instead. You’ll want to invest in a few essentials, to begin with, building your collection as you get more skill because tattoo parlors typically demand artists to provide their own supplies.

The Essential Tools Every Tattoo Artist Requires

You will require a minimum of two tattoo machines that you enjoy working with, an ultrasonic, tubes and grips, sterile needles for lines and shading, green cleaning soap, spray bottles, tiny plastic cups for ink, gloves, and other cleaning equipment.

Depending on what you acquire, you should budget for this equipment to cost a few thousand dollars or more.

10. Learn to Use a Tattoo Machine

Learn to Use a Tattoo Machine

Your primary piece of gear, which you’ll use every day, will be your tattoo machine. Before you start tattooing other people, you must decide what works best for you because every tattoo artist will approach things slightly differently.

Before beginning to tattoo individuals, you must be capable of performing these 3 tasks on practice skins with assurance.

  1. Lining: Use a round liner (RL) needle to tattoo straight, even lines.
  2. Creating a solid plane of color by “filling” the skin with ink during packing.
  3. Shading: The process of making lighter and darker regions with seamless changes in tone.

These three talents serve as a foundation for all other tattooing methods.

Note: It might be quite helpful to observe an expert do these talents and pick up tips from their approach if you’re learning on your own. Make an appointment to observe a tattoo artist you admire at work.

How to Perform a Tattoo

The three methods for practicing tattooing all build upon one another.

  1. Your pencil should be fitted with a tattoo machine. To get acclimated to the sensation of your drawing pencil, attach a machine to it. Your hand will adjust to the weight better as a result.
  2. Exercise on an artificial surface. Ink fruit, pigskin, or artificial skin to:
  • Learn to regulate the depth of your needles.
  • Study the art of tattooing a straight line.
  • Try other needle groups.
  • Play around with the machine’s stroke
  • Try various machines
  • Find a way to finish a tattoo without overdoing it
  • Practice applying colors in the proper order.
  • Learn to blend correctly.
  • Learn how to incorporate highlights into a tattoo design.

Keep in mind to handle the fake client like a real one. Wear gloves, wash the skin, and practice any other hygienic precautions you would for a real human. You’ll develop positive behaviors as a result of this. In this manner, you will be confident in your ability to protect yourself and your clients while switching to real skin.

  1. Get a tattoo on you or a close friend. Don’t give up if your first few tattoos turn out poorly.

Everyone starts out doing something. However, if you learn to tattoo on practice skin before moving on to the real thing, you can drastically limit the number of poor tattoos that you do on your pals. Keep the initial components very straightforward and no larger than the size of your palm. Significant issues will follow.

Note: If you’ve been tattooing and want to seek an apprenticeship, don’t say it right away. Your chances of being employed will decline. Most shops prefer “blank slate” apprentices who have no past experience.

11. Begin a Career

The final stage of becoming a tattoo artist might frequently appear the most difficult. Now that you’re here, it’s time to market yourself as a tattoo artist, either independently or in an established tattoo parlor. The following step is as follows:

Inquire at a tattoo parlor

Once you get your license, you can apply for any tattoo artist position you choose. Look for opportunities at nearby businesses you want to work at if you are not currently employed by the tattoo studio where you did your apprenticeship.

Alternatively, you can drop off your résumé and portfolio for review; tattoo parlors frequently hire new artists when they like someone’s work, even if there isn’t an official job posting.

Establish Your Own Studio

Why not get a head start if your goal is to build your own tattoo parlor and work for yourself? Start researching the supplies you will need, such as furnishings and extra equipment, to create your own store. Consider your target market and competitors, and if necessary, consider moving to a location where you may expect to attract more customers.


Becoming a tattoo artist

Do Tattoo Artists Make Good Money?

Because tattoo artists can create anything from intricate full-body designs to infinity symbols on their fingertips, they can earn a solid living. When your body is your painting, you need talented craftsmanship, solid hands, and unbridled courage. The hourly rate for well-known body painters might reach $500 or more.

Do You Need A License To Tattoo?

Before tattooing anyone else, a state may require individual tattoo artists to first apply for and obtain a tattoo artist license. States also demand that tattoo shops, or parlors, apply for and obtain a license for the business.

Is It Illegal To Tattoo Without A License?

Unlicensed tattoo work is against the law. You must not: carry on a body art tattooing business without a valid license.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Tattoo Artist?

Many tattoo studios advise taking part in an apprenticeship. Depending on where you work, your state regulations, and your skill level, these work placements typically run one to five years. An apprenticeship typically entails learning tattooing skills and is unpaid.


Hopefully, Tattooadore has given you all the essential background knowledge. Be sure to check with your neighborhood tattoo parlors or try reaching out to any tattoo artists in your region for more information.

Make sure you research how to obtain the necessary qualifications and a license by looking up the state’s license requirements.

Additionally, we advise you to save some cash because you will have to pay for an apprenticeship and make investments in your own equipment. Being a tattoo artist is neither simple nor inexpensive.

It is worth it, though, if you are truly passionate about this line of work. Regardless, we wish you success in all of your future pursuits!