Becoming a Tattoo Artist

Tattoo artists have a passion for permanent body modification. Becoming a tattoo artist can be a lengthy process. Most tattoo artists have studied in an apprenticeship for years before venturing out on their own. Unlike many other careers, most tattoo artists must have natural talent that they can start to work with. Tattoo artists spend many years refining their own artistic skills before they start tattooing ink into someone’s skin.


Regulations on becoming a tattoo artist vary from state to state. Some states leave tattoo regulation up to the individual city which means that the requirements of becoming a tattoo artist can be different in each city of a state. Looking up individual state requirements is the first step toward becoming a tattoo artist. Some states like South Dakota require no licensing, apprenticeship or testing to become a tattoo artist. Other states like Tennessee require a 1 year apprenticeship, licensing and inspections by the state. Many states require a license from the American Association of Micropigmentation which has its own requirements to meet before issuing a license. Ensuring you meet all of the qualifications in your state is the first step toward becoming a licensed tattoo artist.


Pay for a tattoo artist is going to vary as much as the amount of work required to get certified within the different states. The average income in 2010 for a tattoo artist was $32,000 annually. The great difference in pay depends on the level of work that a tattoo artist is willing to put in, their natural skill, and their ability to get repeat business. A bad tattoo artist is going to make significantly less than one who is booked for months because of word of mouth. A tattoo artist can work as much as 7 days a week or as little as 1 tattoo a week, which is part of the reason for the variation in the pay rates.


Tattoo artists often love what they do. They get to utilize their natural talent to give people permanent body modifications. Tattoo artists often set their own schedules and are not forced to work traditional hours. In addition to having a large amount of flexibility, tattoo artists can have multiple occupations. This makes it the ideal choice for someone who wants to pursue multiple career paths at the same time.


Tattoo artists who are just beginning do not have a large client base. This can lead to infrequent work or spending large volumes of time idle in a shop waiting for a client. Tattoo artists often work late into the night to accommodate their client’s needs. Tattoo artists who want to work more traditional hours may not find that they get many clients who are willing to come in for a tattoo at 10 AM on a Monday.

Taking the Initial Steps

Regardless of the regulation required in your state you should participate in an apprenticeship. Find a willing tattoo artist who will apprentice you. Investigate the steps that are necessary to become a licensed tattoo artist in your city and state. Make sure that you have obtained all of the necessary licenses before beginning your work as a tattoo artist. Once you have completed an apprenticeship and obtained all of the necessary licenses, you are ready to begin your new and exciting career as a tattoo artist.


About the author