You probably have many questions about how to break into the tattooing industry and what it takes to become a good, respected professional. Lucky for you, we’re here to answer everything that’s on your mind. Remember that like any professional creative career, this path will take hundreds of hours of dedication and practicing your skills, and it will take a financial investment as well.
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What’s Required to Become a Tattoo Artist?
If the first thought on your mind is whether you can become a tattoo artist if you’re not great at drawing, the answer is yes! Many tattoo artists that have professional careers began their journey learning how to draw and focusing primarily on tracing designs. It’s been said that with consistent practice, you can have a more skilled artist’s hand in around six months.
While no formal education is needed for tattooing, you need to have dedication to the field and passion for the industry. You can teach yourself to tattoo, but it’s always recommended that you seek out an apprenticeship as that will allow you more career opportunities when you’re complete, making you more respected in the industry. Remember that an apprenticeship does require a monetary commitment.
The experience of watching another artist hone their practice and the learning that comes from working one-on-one with a mentor is incomparable and is truly the “fast-track” to becoming a working, professional artist. For more information, have a look at our article, How To Become A Tattoo Artist - A Guide To Starting Your Career In Ink.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Good Tattoo Artist?
While “good” is a relevant term, it’s estimated that it takes trainees around three to five years to become professional, paying artists. The path to getting there includes practicing your craft, perfecting your art skills, learning new methods, gaining certifications, licenses, and training, tattooing on alternative skin, and then after a year or two, doing free tattoos on clients under the guidance of your mentor.
Eventually, you will likely become more proficient in one particular art style which then becomes your style of tattooing. As you build up your portfolio with tattoos in that art style, you’ll begin to feel more confident about your skills as a tattooer. It also helps to complete a portfolio with a variety of styles to showcase your flexibility and eagerness in the industry to future shops and employers.
Are There Tattoo Artist Schools?
Some colleges and universities offer courses that are focused on tattooing. In the industry, it has been said that these schools do not make you any more qualified, capable, or fit for a job in the field of tattooing. It is believed that apprenticeships are a much better investment.
If there is a particular art style that you truly enjoy, it may benefit you to take an art class in that design program. Art classes, in general, will never hinder your practice but only help you improve your skills.
What Skills Are Helpful for Tattoo Artists?
- Creativity - Of course, creative careers require a creative bone. Even if you are spending a lot of time tracing other people’s designs, you’ll need to experiment with work of your own.
- Attention to Detail - Considering the sanitation required in the industry, as well as the permanence of the work that tattoo artists do, attention to detail is crucial.
- Communication and Interpersonal Skills - You will work with people all day, every day, and you’re helping develop a piece of art that will stay on their body for forever.
- Dedication and Organization - Not only do you need to be dedicated to the practice, you need to be very organized. For health and sanitation reasons, paperwork is essential to tattooing, for example.
- Clean - Cleanliness is immensely important because you are essentially performing a surgical procedure on a client. There is plenty of risk for contamination, and you need to be safe and aware.
How Do I Get a Tattoo Apprenticeship?
The first thing you need to do in order to make yourself appealing to a potential mentor is to showcase your dedication to the industry by sharing a portfolio of your artwork and your knowledge about tattooing.
We do not recommend showcasing tattoos you did at home or on friends as this does not show professionalism. Instead, drawings that showcase your skills and research you’ve made into the industry show far more dedication. Remember not to copy people’s designs but exhibit your own in your portfolio.
When choosing a mentor for your apprenticeship, it may take persistence with frequent visits or calls to the shop. Remember that first impressions are everything, so you should be passionate but polite from the get-go. In addition, you should select someone who is eager to teach you and has the patience to handle many learning curves with you.
When someone has agreed to take you on as an apprentice, this will require a monetary commitment and you will not make money in the field until after your apprenticeship is complete. Some mentors could price their time at around 10,000 dollars!
We’ve covered everything about tattoo apprenticeships in our guide, Tattoo Apprenticeships: How To Get One? Are They Paid? How Do You Pick A Mentor? - Everything You Need To Know.
Our Final Thoughts
Becoming a good tattoo artist requires many tedious hours of practice and commitment to the industry, involves monetary costs such as certification, licensing, and apprenticeship training, and needs complete passionate dedication to the field. If this doesn’t sound too daunting to you, you should discuss the process of apprenticeship with a professional artist you admire.