How to Become a Tattoo Artist

Tattooing is an ancient art and does not require formal education. Rather, tattoo artists must demonstrate their abilities through their artistic talent, their commitment to the craft, and their experience as a certified apprentice. Read this article to learn how.


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    Finish high school. Receive a high school diploma or complete the General Education Development (GED) requirement.[1] You will need to have one of these certifications and be at least 18 years old to become a tattoo artist.
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    Consider your artistic talent. Tattoo artists must be extremely skilled drawers with an attention to detail and an eye for colors. If you do not have any formal art training, then consider taking an introductory drawing course before pursuing tattoo artistry.
    • If you are already a skilled drawer, continue to practice your craft and develop a portfolio of your best work. Having a quality portfolio will help you when you are applying for apprenticeships.
    • You must also have excellent vision and steady hands to be a tattoo artist.
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    Pick up a Copy of "Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo" It is a textbook design for anyone who wants to become a tattoo apprentice!
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    Apply for an apprenticeship with an experienced tattoo artist.[2] This will give you experience and allow you to learn the proper techniques from the experts.
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    A tattoo machine is not a gun, if you insist in calling it a tattoo gun you will be ridiculed by the staff.
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    Always offer your help, always be available for any tasks.
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    Learn how to mop floors.
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    If you have an attitude problem you must learn to keep it under control, because you will be accosted about anything. Do not take it personal they want to know if you are serious about tattooing.
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    Watch how they handle trash.
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    Do not wait to be told what to do, find something to do.
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    Get yourself a Moleskine sketchbook and take notes about tattooing, every tattoo artist sets up differently so sketch a quick thumbnail of their work stations.
    • Try to find a reputable artist or studio to complete your apprenticeship with.
    • Choose a mentor with several years of tattooing experience.
    • The apprenticeship length will vary depending on your states' requirements for tattoo certifications.
    • Some apprenticeships are free while others are expensive. Research to find the right apprenticeship.
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    Take an educational course in tattooing. While your apprenticeship will teach you the practical skills involved, you will also need to learn about disease prevention and skin diseases/infections.[3] This information may be included in the written test that your state requires for certification.
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    Receive a tattoo certification. The specific requirements for tattoo certification will vary from state to state, but most states require that you complete a certain number of hours working as an apprentice and pass a written examination.
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    Keep your license current. Again, requirements vary between states, but many states require you to renew your tattoo license every year or so by completing additional courses.[4]
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    Find clients and keep your portfolio updated. The best way to build a strong client base is to perform tattoos on as many people as possible and do excellent work. It is important to get positive reviews from your clients so you will be referred to friends and family members. You should keep your portfolio updated as your job progresses, and be sure to include your best and unique work.
    • If you would like to open your own tattoo studio, you should enroll in business management courses that focus on small businesses. You will need to write a business plan, find a location, buy software to track your money, and check with your state regarding the necessary licenses and health codes for tattoo studios.


  • There are a lot of resources out there like the DVD series "Welcome Tattoo DVD" and websites like "" that can shows you what types of gear to purchase. Browse the Forums on Ink Trails and as well. They are FREE! Ask questions and don't be afraid!


  • Be sure that you understand the proper hygiene and safety precautions necessary when administering a tattoo to prevent injuries or infections.
  • Remember that tattoos are permanent. Always exercise caution when giving somebody a tattoo.
  • Do not practice tattooing your friends or anybody else until you have completed the proper training.

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