How to Become a Tattoo Artist
Tattooing is exciting and it allows one to express themselves. To ensure success in this career, you have to learn about how to become a tattoo artist. There are several steps that you must take to make sure that you understand how to do tattoos, how to get a job and how to build your business. As long as you have the right information, you will find it easy to get started so that you do not waste time carving out your career.
There is no short cut
Let us say one thing very clear at the beginning. There is no such thing as a short cut in here. If you want to be a tattoo artist, you have to learn it. No magic sauce, no pill no nothing. Tattooing is an art form and even more than that, your using human skin to paint your art on... for good. A happy client is a returning one. So learn your skill, practise and show true grit about what you are doing. For your inspiration we included a video by Angela Lee Duckworth talking on a TED event about GRIT and the success of school kids showing true grit. It's not directly related to the art of tattooing, BUT if you want to master this form of art and become a real tattooist, it's all about showing read dedication, passion and patience. In other words true grit!
Learning about Sketching and Drawing
Being proficient in sketching and drawing is the hallmark of a successful tattooing career. You should begin by taking art classes that focus on sketching and drawing. You can find these classes in many places, such as local recreation centers, libraries, community colleges and universities and at community centers. If you are new to art, it is best to take a more formal class at a school so that you can learn how to properly execute the various techniques.
Learning to draw and sketch does not happen overnight, so it is important to start as soon as possible. Many of the world's best tattoo artists started drawing as children and took classes in middle school and high school. Outside of classes, it is important to constantly practice to improve your skills. It is often recommended that you carry around a sketchpad and basic drawing materials so that you can draw the world around you.
Consider at least a year's worth of sketching and drawing classes before you learn how to take your art and turn it into tattoos. This time allows you to learn how to sketch and draw, as well as learn other important art techniques like blending and shading, both of which are critical for realistic tattoos.
Learning the Art of Tattooing
Once you have solid sketching and drawing skills, you have to look at the different tattoo starter kits available and choose one. A good kit has the tattoo gun and all of the required needles and tools to complete a tattoo. It will also have a variety of ink colors and other chemical supplies necessary for tattooing.
After you hone your drawing and sketching talents, you need to translate this into tattoo design. You can often find tattoo drawing classes in major cities throughout the country. These classes help you to take basic drawings and turn them into sketches that work as tattoos. For example, if you draw people, you know that general drawings do not make good tattoos. You have to adapt the drawings so that you can make them look good using a tattoo gun and tattoo ink instead of pencil and paper.
In most cases, it takes a few months worth of classes and practice to learn this. If you cannot find a class in your area, you can reach out to local tattoo artists and ask them for instruction. Some tattoo artists teach tattoo art and design on the side for a set fee.
Getting Started in the Tattoo Business
Once you understand tattooing, have the right tattoo starter kits and have an employer, you will start off as an apprentice. This is where you work closely with an experienced and established tattoo artist to hone your craft and learn everything necessary to tattoo independently. At this time, you also need to look into the laws of your state or city to ensure that you pursue the proper licensure so that you are working legally.
To earn an apprenticeship, you will need to reach out to the tattoo shops in your area and ask them if they are willing to host you. On average, apprenticeships last about three years. During this time, you are working as a tattoo artist, but you are supervised to ensure that your work is good and done safely and properly. You generally pay the person supervising you for their services and how much this costs varies greatly and depends on the agreement that the two of you work out. Other things apprenticeships generally cover include:
- Proper equipment handling and sterilization
- Skin disease and infection prevention
- Blood-borne pathogen prevention
- Business aspects of tattooing
- Tattoo design
- How to operate tattooing equipment
- Customer service
Some municipalities will require that you take education courses, so be sure to check with your state, city and county to see if this is something you must do before starting your apprenticeship. These classes are generally for health and safety reasons, and may be sponsored by the local health department.
Building Your Tattoo Business
Once you know how to tattoo and have some clients under your belt, you will start advertising. Most tattoo artists work as freelancers, meaning that they are not directly employed by the shop that they work at. Instead, they rent space there and a percentage of their earnings go to the tattoo shop. Many tattoo shops do some light advertising, but for the most part, you are responsible for building your own client base.
Start by taking good photos of the tattoos that you do so that you can create a portfolio. You can use this to show potential clients the extent of your skills. You can also do traditional advertising, such as listing your services online, on bulletin boards and creating things like fliers. You can also give your regular customers incentives to refer their friends and family to you for tattoos.
It takes about three years to learn the tattoo business and be proficient enough to venture out on your own. Those who already have artistic talent generally need less time since this is the most time-intensive part of the process. It is important to not rush your training because you want to provide high-quality tattoos to everyone you work with so that you can make a name for yourself and earn a comfortable living.