Tattoos are a popular expression of individuality and have become very fashionable in recent years.
People who love tattoos and are good at drawing often think about becoming a professional tattoo artist – to make their living doing what they love.
But like any other profession, you might wonder if tattoo artists need a degree, or can they be self-taught?
Yes, you can become a professional tattoo artist even if you started as the self-taught type, provided that you completed an accredited program and passed the exam. You can learn the basics of body tattoos on your own, but to work as a proeffsional tattoo artist, you must undergo the proper training.
As you read, you’ll learn how to start teaching yourself to become a tattoo artist before getting the formal training.
What Do Tattoo Artists Do?
Tattoo artists form permanent images and texts on the skin by injecting ink and other pigments underneath the skin’s epidermis.
The process involves using a sanitized needle and the design or sketches the client wishes to have, including specific colors and shades.
Licensed tattoo artists can create their shop or work for a registered body modification business. They can also offer freelance or personalized services.
The majority of tattoo artists started as enthusiasts who have found interest in expressing their art on the human skin.
This is why you’ll usually encounter artists who didn’t have professional training at first and have simply started their career by frequenting a local tattoo shop to go through informal mentoring.
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Is There Good Money in Tattooing?
Tattoo artists earn an average of $30.57 an hour or about $63,584 annually.
If you open your own shop, you can even make more. Simply put, tattoo artists make decent money.
Plus, they can increase their fee if they get the attention of high-profile clients who are keen on getting high-quality tattoo designs, which is why many tattoo artists publish their works online or display them in their shops for marketing.
How to Become a Tattoo Artist?
You can either jump to a tattoo school, take accredited courses/programs, or start the learning process on your own to become a tattoo artist.
Whichever first step you take, you can benefit from these must-go-through stages to establish a profession in tattoo artistry.
1. Start by Learning How to Draw
Sought-after tattooists are often amazing drawers, sketchers, and even painters. In short, you need to know how to create designs for the art.
While others have a natural talent for drawing, those who don’t can still become tattoo artists through consistent practice.
You can improve your drawing skills by mastering how to create edges and shapes, balancing shades and lights, and learning proper spacing.
Tracing and copying designs is an effective technique to employ if you have zero background in drawing.
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2. Acquire the Necessary Tattooing Skills & Safety Protocols
There’s more to tattooing than just drawing patterns. Tattoo artists do not simply create art.
Instead, they interact with their clients and employ both mental and physical stamina to create the precise design.
Achieving success in this field requires communication skills, mainly listening to instructions and understanding the client’s wants.
You also have to know how to assess an individual’s health status. A huge part of tattooing nowadays is ensuring that everything is sterilized and that the client is fit to have ink on their skin.
This is why professional training is required – to ensure that health safety protocols are incorporated into the artistry.
3. Study the Works of Professional Tattoo Artists
As a person who starts as a self-taught tattoo artist, you must follow established tattoo artists and understand their work.
By studying their technique, designs, and even disposition, you get to filter the good points that will allow you to become as successful as they are in the future.
You can visit your local tattoo shop and befriend the artists. And if you’re more comfortable behind the screen of your phone or laptop, you can connect with other tattoo artists through social media or networking sites.
4. Reach Out to Tattoo Shops or Mentors for Apprenticeship
Training in the actual setting benefits your journey of becoming a tattoo artist. If you know someone working in a tattoo shop or offering freelance services, you can ask them for mentoring or apprenticeship.
Some shops hire apprentices to assist and learn under their wing with the prospect of employment once they get their license.
Don’t hesitate to ask shop owners if they are looking for apprentices.
5. Practice to Improve Your Work
As an unlicensed tattoo artist, you shouldn’t perform the actual process on natural skin. Instead, you can practice tattooing in different ways.
First, master the design sketches on paper. Explore different styles, images, patterns, colors, etc. If it becomes easy on paper, your confidence to do it on the skin increases.
Next, practice tattooing on fruits and other contoured items. Since the skin is not entirely flat, applying your art to these items will help you get used to uneven layers and bumps.
Then, start giving yourself tattoos using temporary markers such as natural henna.
You can put tattoos on different parts of your body to simulate the actual process with permanent ink.
6. Get Your License
Teaching yourself how to do tattoos can be fun, but if you’re planning to make a living out of it or applying the process to actual skin, then you better secure your tattoo artist license.
The requirements may vary from state to state, but three things remain uniform. First, you need to be at least 18 years old.
Then, you need to enroll in an accredited program with training hours. Finally, you have to take the exam.
Check out this guide for more info on how to get a Tattoo license in the US.
7. Build Your Portfolio
Once you get your license, it’s time to build your reputation as a tattoo artist. You can do so by making your portfolio filled with designs and photos of your work.
Then, gain loyal customers that will help you spread the word through your people skills.
You can also market your services on different channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Anyone Learn How to Tattoo?
Anyone can learn how to do tattoos, but not everyone becomes a professional tattoo artist.
People interested in and inclined to tattoo artistry are usually more adept.
Although talent is a contributing factor to the learning curve, those who have the grit and determination to master the artistry tend to master tattooing as well as those with inherent drawing skills.
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How Do You Train to Be a Tattoo Artist?
The most surefire way to train as a tattoo artist is to get into a tattooing program where you will be professionally taught, covering both the creative and hygienic sides.
Self-teaching can get you through the stepping stones of the profession, but you will still have to secure your license, so formal training is inevitable.
Learning how to tattoo yourself is excellent for beginners who want to master the necessary skills before getting into the field.
But the concept of a professional self-taught tattoo artist is pretty much a thing of the past with the fact that tattooing is not just about designs and artistry anymore.
You also have the health aspect to consider, as needle exposure increases the risks of infection.
You can learn a lot by teaching yourself, but ultimately if you want to become a practicing tattoo artist you will need to do a course and become accredited.