Learn How to Tattoo

The First Steps

If you are 18 years of age and you have completed high school or its equivalent by getting your GED you can begin to train as a tattoo artists. There are certifications you will need to have and as an apprentice, your instructor will let you know about the certifications necessary to become a tattoo artist.

How do you become an apprentice? You must seek out already established and successful tattoo artists. Visit tattoo shops and inquire about apprenticeship. Before you visit remember to dress as if you were going on an interview and come prepared. Bring a portfolio of your tattoo art work and referrals.

If you do not have a tattoo portfolio it is time to create one before visiting any reputable tattoo artists. Tattoo artists will not take you seriously without a creative portfolio. If your art skills are not strong, consider taking drawing classes at a local community college before attempting to create a portfolio. If you feel confident with your artistic talents, creating a tattoo portfolio is relatively straight forward. Usually, a tattoo portfolio consists of completed work, since you are just starting out your portfolio should be sketches of tattoos that you have designed. Check out this You Tube video for inspiration; Tattoo Sketchbook Portfolio by Amon Ra.

Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo

Tattoo Artist At Work
Tattoo Artist At Work

Learning is Key

While you are seeking an apprenticeship or while you are spending time drawing to beef up that sketch book portfolio, learning all that you can about the world of tattooing is essential. One book is recommended for every beginner starting out in the tattoo industry. Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo written by C.R. Jordon in 2009 will give you an in depth overview of the life of an apprentice because it was written by a former tattoo apprentice.

With this book, see above for a picture and link for the book, you will teach you how to build a tattoo machine and which needles to use for proper lining and shading. The book goes further and tells you how to tune a tattoo machine, describes what inks should be used and when, sterilization techniques and other tips.

The book also offers a membership to "Teach Me To Tattoo" website once you register the book. The website allows you learn more about basic tattoo techniques and get more detailed information about each chapter of the book.

Besides reading, use the internet to learn more about tattoo art. You can familiarize yourself with popular tattoo artists by reading online articles and watching You Tube videos. Magazines are a great way to learn tips and tricks, too. Try Freshly Inked, Inked, Tattoo Bible and Tattoo Magazine as resources. Monthly subscriptions start at $15.00.

There are also popular television shows depicting life as a tattoo artist. Best Ink, LA Ink and NY Ink are popular. These shows depict talented artists and their trials and tribulations working in the tattoo field.

Life as an Apprentice

Once you find an apprenticeship be prepared to do a lot of work. You won't be handed a tattoo machine to get started, you will, however, be handed a broom or mop and asked to take out the trash. Other duties may include sterilizing equipment and greeting customers. A good tattoo artist will have exceptional people skills. Engaging with customers is half of the work you will do and actual tattooing will be the other half. When you think about it, a tattoo artist has to be knowledgeable enough to answer client questions and polite enough to keep them coming back or offer referrals.

Observation is also a key part of apprenticeship. When you do watch other tattoo artists at work have a notepad and pen handy. It is critical to take good notes so that you can review them in the future when preparing yourself for certification exams. You will have to take educational courses designed to teach you about safety hazards and disease control by using proper safety standards.

While you are learning from a master take what you have learned and practice. Purchase a starter kit so you can offer friends and family a tattoo at a discounted price. Practicing on others, if the let you, is a good way to increase your skill. With a tattoo starter kit you can also ink yourself at home which is another good way to gain practice and skill. Do not attempt to give yourself or a friend a tattoo without any experience. You can scar yourself or end up using unsanitary needles. Let your tattoo master give you the thumbs up that it is okay to tattoo before you start on your own.

An apprenticeship will take anywhere from 1 to 5 years. However, gaining skill as a tattoo artist lasts a lifetime. When you first apprentice it is a good idea to set aside some money to get through the tough financial times as a beginning apprentice. After time, you will build a customer base and have customers ask for you for their next tattoos so the financial worries will be less.

Putting What You Learn to Work

Apprenticing as a tattoo artist will take time but the skills you will learn are invaluable. Learning techniques and safety standards are only part of an apprenticeship. Most successful tattoo artists who run tattoo studios are self employed professionals. You will learn tips for running a successful business and if you set your mind to it, you can gather the information needed to start your own shop.

Remember that success does not happen over night. You are learning the trade and honing your skills as an artists. You will be building customer relationships that will set up your success in the future. Take each step one at a time and reward yourself for milestones like completing a certification or drawing in large volume customers. By giving yourself credit for each step completed successfully you will continue on to the next milestone with more enthusiasm. Hard work has its merits and enjoy them while on the path to learning to become a tattoo artist.

Learn How to Tattoo from a Master

Tattoo Poll

Do You Have a Tattoo?

  • No, and I never will!
  • No, but I want one!
  • Yes, only one.
  • Yes, I have many all over my body!
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