I see this question asked time and time again, “What does it take to become a tattoo artist?” The short answer is, “A lot of hard work.”
Today we will look into what it takes to become a “real” tattoo artist and touch on the scams out there that claim you can be a tattooist in just a few weeks.
Throughout the United States there are a handful of tattoo schools that claim to give you everything you need to be a tattoo artist. Most of these programs last a few weeks to a few months and cost an exuberant fee. By the time you have completed the only thing you have to show for your $6000 is a pretty certificate you can hang on the wall.
There are even internet tattoo schools that claim to teach you everything you could ever want to know about tattooing for just $69. The price alone should make anyone in their right mind run for the hills.
No “Tattoo School” or “Online Tattoo Training” can ever take the place of a traditional tattoo apprenticeship.
If you plan on becoming a professional tattoo artist, you almost have to get an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is when you study tattooing under a professional tattoo artists careful guidance and instruction. A good tattoo artist will teach you everything from sterilization to all the smallest nuances of tattooing.
Tattoo apprenticeships can vary in conditions and time as each artist makes his own schedule. Some tattoo artists require a payment for the apprenticeship while others will just make you work for free.
You might be nothing more than a janitor for the first 6 months before you are allowed to put needle to skin. You will start by giving free tattoos to your buddies who agree to let you put your mark on them. Slowly you will work up to half priced tattoos and eventually full price. This progression could take as long as five years, depending on your teacher and his individual schedule.
Great tattoo artists don’t let their apprentices go until they are satisfied with their work. Anyone they teach will always reference them as their mentor. The tattoo community is a small world and negative press is never wanted. Any artist worth his ink would not want a student who hasn’t progressed to a professional level, to claim him as his mentor.
These seminars are usually hosted by top tattoo professionals, often catering to a specific niche like “black and gray” or “photo realism”.
Just like apprenticeships, these seminars can be either free or several hundred dollars, depending on who is presenting them. Some may think this is quite an expensive price for some “pointers”, but time and time again people pay the price. So, those tidbits of knowledge must be worth the price of admission.
What You Need To Do
1. Start Drawing – A prospective teacher is going to want to see how well you can draw. This will certainly be the first thing he or she ask for. Draw everything you can think of, not just your favorite style. Not everyone wants your style for a tattoo. You will need to be versatile.
2. Hang Out At The Tattoo Shop – Most apprenticeships spawn from being a pest. Taking on a student is a big responsibility for a tattoo artist and persistence is the key to convincing someone to teach you. Go to the local tattoo shop. Then beg, plead and cry for an apprenticeship. When that doesn’t work, do it again.
3. It Isn’t Cheap – Between supporting yourself for 6-12 months before making any money at all, and/or the price of apprenticeship, you will need to plan ahead. You should have money in the bank before you start your journey into tattoos. If you aren’t financially prepared, then you should start looking for a part time job to pay for your tattoo education.
The steps involved in becoming a professional tattoo artist may seem difficult but the first day you make a paycheck doing what you love, it will be well worth the wait.