How To Become A Tattoo Artist (11 Vital Steps To Succeed)

If you are passionate about drawing, art, and creative designs, a tattooist is an excellent job to pursue.

“A tattoo is a true poetic creation, and is always more than meets the eye. As a tattoo is grounded on living skin, so its essence emotes a poignancy unique to the mortal human condition.” – a well-known tattoo quote proposed by V. Vale, a Japanese-American writer. 

However, learning how to become a tattoo artist is another vital aspect to consider carefully. Therefore, this article provides you blow-by-blow methods to begin your tattoo career successfully. Every step helps you acquire correct tattoo meaning and meet standard requirements to become an outstanding tattoo artist.


Guidelines to become a tattoo artist

Things You Need To Invest In Before Becoming A Tattoo Artist

Before starting your dream in the tattoo artist industry, it is vital to effectively prepare all tools to practice several basic tattoo designs at home. Here are some critical tattoo kits to learn how to become a tattoo artist

  • Tattoo pens
  • Surgical gloves
  • Tattoo numbing cream
  • Tattoo ink from different colors (mainly black ink)
  • Disposable tattoo needles 
  • Rotary and coil tattoo machines
  • Thermal-fax papers
  • Spray bottles: one for alcohol and one for antibacterial soap
  • Vaseline
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How To Become A Tattoo Artist (11 Essential Steps)

1. Master drawing skills

As lawyers learn fundamental knowledge of Law, a beginner tattoo artist should study the basics of tattoo drawing. Mastering a tattoo means learning to take your drawing and move it to the skin and other mediums.

Before you start applying to skin, it is advisable to train your drawing skills frequently on some materials such as canvas, paper, and digital. You may want to join drawing classes to upgrade your artistic skills. This constant practice will assist you in figuring out your tattoo patterns and tattoo fonts. 

In addition, it is vital to learn essential steps to get a steady flow of ink and move the stencil to the human skin. Finally, draw several cool tattoo ideas in your sketchbooks to form your tattoo styles.

Another excellent method to increase your passion for tattoo art is researching different styles from outstanding tattoo specialists. Find well-known tattoo artisans with various tattoo patterns such as full-body tattoos, back tattoos, and shoulder tattoos. Some widespread tattoo artists are “Bang Bang” McCurdy, Mirko Sata, Miya Bailey, Gerhard Wiesbeck, Frank Carrilho, Stanislaw Wilczynski, and Rit Kit.


Improve your drawing skills from basic to advanced levels

2. Complete an artist education

The following essential step is to join the art school. Before registering for a tattoo class, it pays to consider your financial circumstance and your level of artist skills. This careful preparation helps you to decide the suitable course for your tattoo career. Here are some standard options to start your artist education:

  • Typical art degrees: All design and art schools and different traditional universities, colleges offer essential arts degrees.
  • Attending art classes at local community colleges (the most affordable method): You study some basic design abstraction and sharpen your artistic skills by creating art for a wide variety of applications.
  • Registering for a tattooed college, tattoo school, or master tattoo institutes: These places consist of seminars in skin diseases, disease prevention, basic knowledge in bloodborne pathogen prevention, infections, single-needle tattoo technique, and tattoo pain charts. They help you approach detailed information of tattoo safety tips and requirements to become a tattoo artist. 
  • If you can’t attend formal education or high school, attend General Educational Development (GED). Technical schools, some colleges, and employers accept GED as equivalent to a high school degree. You learn basic knowledge of the language arts, including 3 sections relevant to your skills in spelling, grammar, written essay, and reading tests. 

In general, the more time you spend improving your tattoo skills, the more professional an artist you will become. For beginner tattoo artists, it is best to attend tattoo artist schools and graphic design courses to practice using tattoo machines.

Eg: Florida Tattoo Academy , Body Art & Soul Tattoos , Oriana Tattoo Academy

Furthermore, you receive tattoo training in essential sections like stencil construction, color mixing, texture, and line shading. Tattoo education improves your artist knowledge and skills, excellent reputation in the tattoo community, and a bright future hiring capability.


Finish art classes from tattoo schools or community colleges

3. Set up essential graphic design skills

Graphic design is another essential step to master before entering a tattoo career. Graphic design is the art of creating visual ideas to communicate messages. Designers use various page layout strategies and visual hierarchy by applying pictures and letters to meet the demands of end-users.

In addition, enrolling in graphic design courses enables you to acquire blow-by-blow knowledge about color, line, shape, shading, texture, size, value, and more. Basics in graphic design or digital arts also help you understand some vital steps to stencil and transfer a meaningful tattoo from paper to human skin. 

On the other hand, it is crucial to learn graphic design principles, such as repetition, alignment, contrast, balance, space, and proximity. These fundamentals assist you in establishing a robust foundation of art. As a result, you can catch up with the latest trends with ease.


Learn vital graphic designs and digital arts

4. Establish an engaging portfolio of tattoos

Your art portfolio is a solid weapon to guarantee a trustworthy apprenticeship and career as a tattoo artist. It also permits potential mentors to regard your best work of art. Therefore, they can determine if your specific art style meets their needs in their apprenticeship. 

Here are some tips for creating a professional portfolio of tattoos to make a good impression:

  • Make sure your portfolio displays your ability and versatility to design a variety of subjects.
  • It is tactical to make your tattoos portfolio both engaging-content and professional look. Apply the latest acid-free 3 ring binder with sturdy sheet protectors and tucked-flap closure to protect your tattoo album. The exterior of your tattoo portfolio should look uniform, neat, and attractive.
  • Hold onto unique designs that you are most jubilant about, scan them digitally and carefully on your desktop. Then, store your high-quality photos in a file on your computer to email or print them to prospective customers and employers.
  • Put 30 to 90 finished tattoo designs and drawings in your portfolio, which can be either original works or copies. Add several instances of artwork you have finished in grey and black, even if you excel at colorful illustrations. 
  • If you can’t find some most outstanding designs, keep other models and copies in your portfolio to show that you have advanced technique and possess the talent for scheming out tattoos.
  • Adding your resume and writing a cover letter emphasizes relevant experience and education and experience. A cover letter should address your prospective tattoo mentor by name to demonstrate professionalism.
  • Memorize some talking points about every piece, which mentors will ask to understand your tattoo styles and art knowledge. Be well-prepared to discuss your portfolio comfortably with your mentor. 
  • If you don’t make an appointment at tattoo shops, it is best to leave your business card. Add contact information, your name, and the link to your digital tattoo portfolio to help your prospective mentor access with ease.

On the other hand, some beginner tattoo artists make typical mistakes such as copying the designs of other tattooists and submitting photographs of tattoos they have done. These mistakes can result in some consequences, including rejection from employers. 

Furthermore, you may confront several problems related to legal action because tattooing without proof of license is illegitimate in most cases.


Create an attention-grabbing portfolio from different styles

5. Finish an apprenticeship with a professional tattoo artist

Working as a tattoo apprentice is a vital section of becoming a notable tattoo artist. An apprenticeship helps you to apply your drawing skills, graphic designs to a real-world environment. It is advisable to look for established tattoo mentoring to help you master different tattoo techniques better. 

By now, let’s examine 3 essential factors to choose a suitable apprenticeship and professional supervisor. 

Find reputable tattoo stores

One of the most crucial aspects of searching for trustworthy tattoo shops is that your supervisors and their stores abide by proper hygiene instructions and have many customers. As tattooing is a body modification, which draws blood and punctures the skin, it is essential to meet basic hygiene standards. 

Besides, the reputed apprenticeship allows you to learn proper hygienic work practices, professional business skills, customer service, and the latest tattoo designs. Therefore, stay away from tattoo shops that can’t provide you with transparent hygiene practices and be empty of clients. 

Register tattoo shops who have apprenticed someone before

Although finding tattoo stores that have been mentored before may take plenty of time, it brings you different benefits. You will receive a specific tattoo cost apprenticeship and the details of the programs. Experienced tattoo shops also offer you practical methods to service and maintain your tattoo machines.

In addition, they teach you typical tricks to learn trendy tattoo designs that most teenagers prefer, such as henna tattoos and watercolor tattoos. You also acquire essential knowledge of the tattoo healing process and master practical skills to deal with tattoo blowout or tattoo peeling from professional mentors.

Select a mentor who stimulates and provokes you

An apprenticeship is a vital key to mastering how to become a tattoo artist. Therefore, choosing a supervisor who challenges you and helps you pass your limits while working together. Do the research and familiarize yourself with the bios of your prospective mentors and your approaching apprenticeship. 

This way enables you to present yourself to the mentors properly and edit your tattoo portfolio accordingly. Another effective method is to make face-to-face contact and show respect with your potential supervisors to receive accurate information and better get to know each other. 

Besides, understanding your apprenticeship contracts is essential. An apprentice contract is a legal document, which shows the expectations and responsibilities of both parties. It also offers assurance for either party if one does not meet their legal obligations. 

The contract lists the duration of your tattoo apprenticeship (typically a year), the cost, the schedule, daily and weekly responsibilities. It also displays expectations from your supervisor and potential vacancies after completing the apprenticeship. It pays to consider an attorney examining your contract before signing to guarantee your interests remain protected.


Select a reputable and professional tattoo mentor

6. Get extra pre-license certificates and training

After completing your apprenticeship, the next step is to receive several certifications and accomplish detailed training courses to meet your country’s or state’s tattoo licensing demands. 

Depending on your areas, you can also take some classes in health and safety, disease control, and different health care concepts. Here are some pre-license certifications to reach your tattoo career as soon as possible.

A bloodborne pathogen certification

Because the canvas of a tattooist is human skin, it is crucial to follow safety and strict health instructions. Tattoo artisans need to become certified in essential methods to prevent bloodborne pathogens from being expanded. 

In addition, it is crucial to gain knowledge to understand some tattoo-related health problems such as Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, HIV, and different infections. You also have to let your customers know about several potential dangers of getting a tattoo. These may consist of bleeding, infection, pain, scarring, and allergic reactions.

This bloodborne pathogen certification will be issued upon the completion of the apprenticeship in most cases. It boosts your reputation in the tattoo community and meets some basic requirements. 

Training certificate on disease prevention, skin diseases, and infectious diseases

In some countries, you have to pass seminars or classes on disease prevention, infectious diseases, and skin diseases before becoming certified. This extra training and robust knowledge help you practice the proper methods to handle any issues and become more professional. 

Meanwhile, other areas simply require you to go through a test that displays your art knowledge. However, it is best to receive pre-license certifications to find a higher-salary job in today’s world of tattooing.

First Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation training certificates

Some countries require you to complete Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and a first-aid training certificate. An excellent first-aid training program and certification course enable you to deal with many health situations by covering the complete spectrum of common wounds, injuries, and other conditions. 

This essential training provides quick reaction, immediate care, and proper methods to tackle some accidental health issues until medical professionals come. Always contact trustworthy sources to get certification meeting your state’s demands.


Receive a certificate of completion of bloodborne pathogen and communicable diseases

7. Get a license

The requirements to obtain tattoo licenses vary from state to state. For instance, Oregon requires a professional tattoo artist to finish at least 360 hours of training under a certified artist. Tattoo artisans also need to submit a portfolio of 50 tattoos completed to display their artistic skills and success. 

In general, licensure norms consist of taking a written examination and a skill assessment test. Meanwhile, only the tattoo stores need a license in other states. The licenses are usually valid for 6 to 10 years, and a tattoo artist will repeat the procedure before expiration.

Like other healthcare, you will be licensed to tattoo in different states as long as you meet their requirements. In addition, creating an excellent reputation in the local tattoo community is another key to upgrade your tattoo career.


Obtain a tattoo license from the Department of Health and Hospitals

8. Submit your tattoo licensing documents for your state and country

After you have met fundamental prerequisites, you must apply for your tattoo licensing to the competent authority. This process varies from state to state, yet the essential requirement is filling out a form and submitting documents and certifications. You may have to pay a fee, so always check the information carefully with the local department. 

Besides, some requirements may contain a certain number of mentorship by established tattoo artisans, training hours, and a specific number of tattoos you have completed. If you are unsure of your state’s requirements for licensure, contact lawyers or the department of Health and Hospitals to understand your state’s requirements clearly.


Apply licensing documents to the local department

9. Invest in your tattoo equipment

You have got your license; it is time to invest in your collection. Every tattoo artist is prone to possess different equipment preferences. For example, some prefer a specific style of a tattoo gun and nitrile gloves instead of latex ones because of allergies. 

Nevertheless, each tattoo artist needs two tattoo guns, sterile needles for lines and shading, an ultrasonic, spray bottles, tubes, grips, plastic cups for ink. You also need green cleaning soap, surgery gloves, and other tools needed to keep your workplace clean.

In addition, a professional tattoo craftsman grows a complete collection when gaining more experience. Some tattoo kits include tattoo machines for line work, color and shading work, different kinds and sizes of tattoo needles, a power source, various colors of tattoo inks, and foot pedals. 

Before buying high-quality and long-lasting equipment, there are different factors to consider, starting with deciding between a rotary and a coil tattoo machine. A rotary tattoo machine uses an electric motor with cyclical movement to insert the needle, making a more fluid result. In addition, it is straightforward to apply and to set up.

Meanwhile, a customary coil tattoo machine is controlled by an electromagnetic coil, creating an electromagnetic current through 2 coils to activate a draw and the arrival of the equipment’s armature bar. The electromagnetic current causes the armature bar to hit the joined tattoo needle into the skin. 

Before buying the most suitable inking coil machines, make sure you scrutinize your demands and understand your degree of aptitude. On the other hand, there is another choice that is a pneumatic tattoo machine. This equipment uses pressurized air to drive the needle, yet it is not as popularly used as the 2 machines mentioned above. 

If you feel so overwhelmed, don’t panic! Instead, ask your professional mentor to gain more experience selecting tattoo machines and tattoo kits to complete your collection better.


Buy essential tattoo equipment

10. Begin your career

After buying enough supplies and machines and mastering steps to practice them, now is the time to put yourself out in the real world as a tattoo artist. You can work at tattoo shops or your stores. Here are some steps to begin your tattoo career effectively. 

Apply at a local tattoo store 

When you get the license and different certifications, submit your portfolio to any tattoo shop. Ensure you update your resume and add the new and trendy designs and photos you have finished during your internship.

When experiencing the apprenticeship, search for openings at nearby shops or recruiting podcasts to begin your dream if you are not under contract. Nevertheless, always check the store’s condition and the number of clients to prevent some potential risks. 

Open your shop

Opening your studio is the most convenient way, yet preparing all documents and meeting basic requirements is essential. Research carefully about legal documents, rental space, equipment, furniture, and target market to start your business as soon as possible. 

In addition, when choosing a perfect place to set up your tattoo store, examine positions that are convenient and comfortable for clients. Another aspect to consider thoroughly is the accessibility of customers and safety.


Start your career by opening your store

11. Continue education for improvement

Some countries require tattoo artisans to finish a specific number of proceeding education credits before their license expiration. Continuing education choices are accessible in the form of classes and seminars. 

You may want to attend art colleges or professional organizations, including the Alliance of Professional Tattooists (APT) and the Association of Professional Tattoo Artists. This training offers you a variety of advanced education alternatives and networking chances in the tattoo industry. 

Several organizations also support services that connect potential clients to tattoo craftsmen’s online portfolios and organize frequent contests where artists improve their skills. In addition, mastering some skillful methods for tattoo removal, such as laser tattoo removal, salabrasion, and dermabrasion, is essential to upgrade your techniques and reputation.


Keep learning advanced education to improve tattoo skills

Frequently Asked Questions

Most countries require a tattoo artisan to be at least 18 years old. Furthermore, some essential skills when starting this career are creativity, artistic ability, manual dexterity, customer service skills, and knowledge of tattooing and tattoo designs. 

Taking exams varies from state to state. Nevertheless, the standard exams include written sections, skills assessments, and bloodborne pathogen tests. Written examinations include anatomy, disease, physiology, aseptic technique and safety, theory and application of ink, and professionalism.

Meanwhile, bloodborne pathogen tests check your knowledge related to contagious microorganisms such as hepatitis C (HCV), hepatitis B (HBV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in human blood. 

As a tattoo craftsman, the first important duty is to keep a safe, clean, and sterile work environment for both your client and yourself. The daily activities consist of cleaning and sterilizing tattoo machines that have been removed from single-used ink caps and an autoclave. 

The following job is to prepare your tattoo work area with single tattoo needles and surgical gloves. It is vital to maintain everything sterile and clean to avoid contagious bloodborne viruses. Once your work area is set up, brainstorm and practice some latest designs and trends. 

You also master some essential communication skills, customer service skills, and graphic designs to meet your customers’ needs. When you gain all understanding and requirements, the next task is to book appointments, tattoo your clients, and instruct them to follow proper aftercare, health, and safety procedures.

The mastering process to become a tattoo craftsman can take a year or more to perfect. Learning how to become a tattoo artist involves plenty of hard work. Therefore, you need more than a year of experience to improve your skills and confidence. This way is the outcome of gathering knowledge, learning from the mistakes, and upgrading your designs. 

Tattooing is an art style that requires respect and meets basic requirements. Most states require licenses for tattoo artisans, which are different from various places. To get licensed, you go through a written and skill examination. 

In addition, you may take a year to enhance your drawing skills, tattoo designs, and trendy ideas from different sources. It also takes time to master the methods to use and maintain your machine correctly, protect yourself and your client’s health. 

Opening your studio brings you more benefits yet takes more time due to some legal processes. Moreover, you will need to register for business management courses that concentrate on small-scale businesses. 

Afterward, you sketch out a business plan, search for an ideal location to attract more customers, and examine your state’s requirements relevant to health codes for tattoos and the essential licenses.


We hope you will master how to become a tattoo artist with the 11 vital and straightforward steps above. Each method is necessary to lead your tattoo career to victory. It pays to improve your artistic skills, graphic designs, and essential exams to get a license.

Be active to apply to any existing tattoo shops to gain more experience before opening your store. It is tactical to approach reputable mentors and trustworthy apprentices to learn styles that meet customers’ needs in modern tattoo market life. 

Should you find this article helpful, don’t hesitate to share it with your friends to obtain more exciting tips to become a professional tattoo artist.

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