How to Tattoo

Four Parts:Preparing to Become a TattooistAcquiring an ApprenticeshipSucceeding in Your ApprenticeshipTattooing

A tattoo is a kind of body modification where ink is inserted into a sub-layer of your skin to stain it permanently in an artistic fashion or design. These days, most tattooing takes place in tattoo parlors, where a professional artist uses modern sterilization equipment and specialized machines to safely apply your chosen design permanently to your body. As this process is difficult to reverse, tattooists are generally required to have rigorous training and licensing before working on clients.[1]

Part 1
Preparing to Become a Tattooist

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    Become skilled in drawing and coloring. There are many techniques one can employ to achieve an artistic effect, and knowing these will make it easier for you to translate your artistic knowledge to a living canvas. Taking collegiate courses in fine arts will ensure you have a good grounding in these principles.
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    Build your portfolio. You will need to prove your artistic worth before another tattoo artist is willing to invest time in you as an apprentice. Your designs should be similar to common tattoo art, as well as anything that shows off skillful composition and coloring talent.
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    Attempt non-permanent body art. You can also showcase your talent and dedication by performing henna tattoo designs imitating permanent tattoo designs. This will also show to the master tattooist you want to apprentice under that you already have an understanding of what it means to translate a design to the pliant medium of skin.
    • Volunteer your services as a face painter at a school festival, local parade or festival, or at a nearby carnival.
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    Get a tattoo yourself. This will give you first hand experience as to the procedure, atmosphere, and techniques from other tattooists. Also, having a tattoo of your own will show your clients that you can empathize with the experience, which will help put them at ease..

Part 2
Acquiring an Apprenticeship

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    Talk to local tattoo artists. Everyone gets a start somewhere, and a member of your local body art community might be able to put you on the trail of a good place to apply. Come prepared to every meeting with a professional: bring your portfolio and any other artistic accreditation you have earned.
    • Even if the tattooist you inquire with can't help you, you can always ask for her professional opinion on your work. Maybe you have a flair for a certain style that a colleague of hers is known for, in which case, her recommendation might go a long way.
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    Apply for your apprenticeship. The avenues for gaining an apprenticeship are few, but by making your presence known at and inquiring for an apprenticeship with local tattoo parlors, you are likely to get some direction.
    • If there is a tattoo parlor that you are particularly interested in apprenticing for, be respectful but persistent. Visit the parlor regularly with your art in tow and some small niceties, like coffee. Volunteer your time with cleaning or maintenance.
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    Take a second job. Depending on the terms of your apprenticeship, this can last for three years and may cost thousands of dollars. You will need to support yourself during this time in addition to covering any additional expenses related to your education as a tattooist.
    • The Alliance of Professional Tattooists (APT) recommends a minimum of a three year apprenticeship.[2]
    • Generally, after being accepted into an apprenticeship, you will sign a contract either agreeing to pay the tattooist a sum of money in exchange for the apprenticeship, or to work for the tattoo parlor for a number of years following the completion of apprenticeship.
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    Get your apprenticeship agreement in writing. This will normally come in the form of a contract from the tattooist under which you will apprentice. This will establish the expectations of you as apprentice and the tattooist as the master artist. Read over the terms of this contract carefully and, if you are able, have a lawyer check it as well.
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    Understand your initial responsibilities. Though you will someday, with enough practice and dedication, be a master tattooist in your own regard, during your apprenticeship, the beginning especially, you will mostly be doing menial tasks in the tattoo shop. You will also be expected to watch carefully as the artist works.

Part 3
Succeeding in Your Apprenticeship

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    Study the equipment. Modern tattooist employ a variety of tools. An electric tattoo machine uses groupings of needles to drive ink into the skin up to 150 times a second.[3] These needles are only used once and are packaged separately.
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    Maintain your equipment. Over the course of your apprenticeship, you will learn how to clean your equipment and keep it running efficiently. This should be done methodically and consistently to prevent contamination or infection, with all the equipment being sterilized by an autoclave after every use.[4]
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    Observe hygienic measures. You must wash your hands thoroughly to prevent infection in addition to the surgical gloves you will wear while performing the tattooing. The areas of skin you are tattooing must also be kept scrupulously clean.[5]
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    Educate yourself about skin conditions. These can affect the tattooing process, and in some cases negatively impact even flawless artistic execution. A client can have an allergic reaction to some of dyes, or even the gloves you are wearing; being aware of these issues will help protect you and your client.[6]
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    Learn about infection control. Your clients will need to be instructed on how to look after their tattoos for a period of weeks or months after the tattoo's application. The following rules apply:
    • The tattoo should be bandaged immediately and remain covered for two to three hours, after which it should be gently cleaned with antibacterial soap.[7]
    • Wear loose clothing that will not rub the tattoo.
    • Do not swim while the tattoo is still healing.
    • The tattooed skin must be kept clean at all times, with unscented soap and water. Drying must be done with great care and no rubbing is allowed.
    • A moisturizer can be applied to the tattoo a couple of times a day.
    • Keep the tattoo out of the sun for a minimum of three weeks. After that, cover it with a high-SPF sunblock.[8][9]

Part 4

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    Be patient. This will be the final stage of your apprenticeship. The tattoo artist you are apprenticing under will only approve you to start work when she is certain you are ready and fully trained in all aspects of the art.
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    Obey hygienic procedure. This includes both washing your hands and putting on surgical gloves. Make sure that your work space is clean and well maintained, as this will make your clientele more comfortable.
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    Use the autoclave on all necessary equipment. An autoclave is a machine used to sterilize equipment. You should sterilize your equipment in plain view of your client. Think about explaining this process so your client understands you are taking health and hygiene into consideration every step of the way.
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    Prepare the skin you will be tattooing. You will have to shave and disinfect the area where the tattoo will be applied. You should try to shave in the same direction the hair is growing, to prevent irritation to the skin or cuts.[10]
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    Apply your tattoo guide. Prior to the actual tattooing, you will transfer a stencil of drawing onto your client’s skin to serve as a guide and help prevent mistakes. Keep the skin taut while doing this so the image is applied to the contours of the skin naturally.
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    Create the outline of the design. You will start by using your ink and a single tip needle. Using these, complete the outline of your client's design in preparation for the central parts.
    • Following this, you should clean the area again.
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    Tattoo the inside of your outline. At this point you will need to create a single line wider than your first. You will need to use thicker ink and different set of needles for this part of the process.
    • Clean the area again after completing your second set of lines.
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    Overlap the lines of your design. Now that you've tattooed the outside and inside boundary of your outline, you can apply ink to overlap the two to make sure there are no gaps in the design.
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    Apply the final touches. The tattoo is now finished and fully applied, but you will still need to clean the area one more time before bandaging it. Now your client's ready to head home.

Article Info

Categories: Tattoos and Piercing