A tattoo artist is a person who carries the huge responsibility of creating a permanent drawing on another person's body. In most cases, whether a tattoo will look like a masterpiece or the next partac depends on the tattoo artist's skill. How to become a tattoo artist–successful, talented, and in-demand? Read on to find out!
A career as a tattoo artist is at its peak of popularity now. Tattooing used to be taboo and forbidden, but now it has become a trendy and fashionable way of self-expression. The demand for creating unique tattoos is growing, hence the popularity of this profession. If you're thinking about becoming a tattoo artist, you should weigh the pros and cons of the trade well, and give it serious thought before you jump in.
Like any profession, the tattoo artist’s career requires devotion and hard work to continually improve one’s skills. Tattooing must be done with a passion, and not treated as a chore. To create truly stunning and memorable sketches, you must love the tattooing craft.
Pros of being a tattoo artist
- You are your boss—you choose your work hours and schedule sessions anytime you like.
- There are tattooing conventions and conferences—it’s a great way to network and meet like-minded people devoted to the field.
- Your earning opportunities reflect the hard work and effort you put into your craft.
- Tattooing is an alternative way to express yourself as an artist.
- If you like to paint, this is a profitable area for self-fulfillment.
- The art and popularity of tattooing is still growing, so you are unlikely to encounter serious competition in the coming years.
- This is a creative profession, so if you like to make things out of nothing and leave a (literally) permanent mark, this career is perfect for you!
Cons of the tattooing profession
- As you start out, the first people you tattoo will go home with less-than-smooth tattoos.
- Working as a tattoo artist requires a lot of time and perseverance to hone your skill.
- To achieve real skill, you need to learn from the best tattoo artists.
Academic drawing. A skill of drawing is a basic necessity that any tattoo artist should have. If your sketches can copy a photo down to the smallest details, such as shadows clearly inked out, proportions preserved, the volume is maintained, and there is a realistic vibe, then you have a good chance of succeeding in the field of tattooing.
If you like to draw but are quite unsure of your skills, we have only one piece of advice for you - practice, practice, and practice some more! Practice makes perfect, and it will help you learn how to persevere as well, as you learn to concentrate on the work and get a "feel" for color.
Or, you can get an art education, which is an excellent exercise in creating art and creative thinking. You can get a certificate or an art degree from your local college. But for this particular profession, you don't need a special education. You can start practicing as an apprentice at a tattoo parlor or with a specific tattoo artist right after you graduate. However, some states require a high school diploma to avail of a license to tattoo.
Responsibility. A tattoo artist is obliged to know and observe rules of sanitation to disinfect his/her instruments properly. As an artist, the autoclave, drying cabinet, aseptic technique, and antiseptics will be your loyal friends and helpers from the moment you start working with people.
Serenity. Tattoo artists spend a long time working on one tattoo. You will need a lot of patience and razor-sharp concentration to work on large tattoos. Most tattoo artists also work up close with the skin and bend close to see better the details of their work. This leads to needing to sit, bent or hunched over, for several hours, working. Hands can also start to feel numb after prolonged tattooing sessions.
Basic photography skills and knowledge of Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. These tools are necessary to create a beautiful portfolio to impress and attract clients.
Communication skills. Good communication, understanding what clients want, and identifying their needs are essential in creating a successful sketch that you can be proud of and that your client will love.
What to do to become a tattoo artist?
For starters, think a thousand times if you're ready to tie your life to tattooing!
Based on the required skills above, you can ask yourself:
- Am I comfortable communicating with all sorts of people?
- Am I ready to study and read a lot?
- Am I ready to invest heavily in a profession that will not make me much money at first?
- Am I ready to make people hurt?
- Am I willing to sacrifice your health?
If you answered “Yes” to all these questions, congratulations, you have a chance to be a tattoo artist!
First, learn the different tattooing styles, choose a school, find a good artist to learn from, and find a way to help while you learn from him.
Buy a slab of pork for practice (skin-on). While there are differences in tattooing on pig skin compared to that of a human—pig skin is coarser and thicker—you can practice on it when you are first starting out.
It's up to you to take advantage of all the knowledge to be learned and skill you can pick up out there! Squeeze out knowledge from your mentors and soak them up, keep learning, training, and practice tattooing everything you see. Read, listen, watch MasterClasses, and sign up for tattoo lessons. Keep doing these things, and one day, you’ll realize that tattooing with a machine in hand has become second nature to you.
Education and courses on tattooing
You can become a tattoo artist by completing a tattoo art course. Also, many tattoo studios (and individual artists) train budding artists.
Criteria for selecting tattoo artist courses
- It should be taught by practicing tattoo artists with vast experience.
- Do not limit yourself to theory—choose courses that offer hands-on experience with actual models or skin samples.
- Focus not so much on the course duration as on the intensity and content of the curriculum.
- In addition to specialist knowledge, the course should include lessons on drawing techniques, sterilization, post-fill skin aftercare, and photography training.
- Give preference to graduate support courses after training.
Starter kit for new tattoo artists
We recommend starting immediately and investing in proper equipment. Excellent work is made possible and more easily achievable when armed with the right equipment. Investing in quality tattoo machines is a huge plus for successful growth as a tattoo artist.
You can decide on the choice of a tattoo machine at the training stage, whether you are enrolled in a course or doing an apprenticeship at a tattoo studio. There, you can try to use tools from different manufacturers and choose the one you work with best.
Here's the whole list of equipment for a beginner tattoo artist:
- Tattoo machine
- Tattoo Machine Handpieces
- Pigment containers
- Transfer paper
- Tattoo Marker
How to start from scratch
After you finish training, do your first work on pig skin. Most states require a license before you can start tattooing on people. Read up on the conditions and requirements for your state so you can quickly get a license.
After you are ready to do your first tattoo on a person, ask your friends or search on the Internet for someone willing to get a free tattoo from a beginner (or with payment only for the consumables). Most likely, at the beginning of your career as a tattoo artist, you will have to work for free a lot until you achieve consistently awesome results.
Practice a lot and take pictures of all your work. Add successful tattoos you’ve made to your portfolio, and in due course, you will start receiving requests for appointments from clients. As mentioned, it is recommended to try different tattooing styles at the beginning. Having tried everything, you are more informed and equipped to choose a specialization and focus on one style.
But most importantly, never stop learning! Take our advice, and you can reach great heights in the tattoo art profession!
How much does a tattoo artist earn?
The average salary of a tattoo artist, as of July 15, 2020, is $99,956/year.
What does the cost of the tattoo depend on?
- the state
- tattoo size
- the number of sessions needed to tattoo the entire sketch
- the experience of the tattoo artist
Well, we hope your questions were answered.
And hopefully, you want to be a tattoo artist even more now!
The world of smooth lines and dense coloring awaits you!