Ink up! 30,000 Americans work as tattoo artists in 20,000 studios across the United States. The industry is growing, making roughly $1 billion in revenue every year.
If you want a lucrative and creative job, you should consider becoming a tattoo artist. Yet you shouldn’t fool yourself. The process of how to become a tattoo artist is a long one, and it requires a few different steps.
How long does it take to become a tattoo artist? How do you become a tattoo artist, and do you need to take classes first? How can you get a job with a studio?
Answer these questions and you can be a terrific artist in no time. Here is your quick guide.
You can become a tattoo artist at any stage of your career. However, you need to take classes in order to qualify for a license and receive a job.
Some community colleges and vocational schools offer classes for aspiring tattoo artists. You can also take classes in graphic design and studio art, which can help you develop your skills.
But it is a better idea to go to a tattoo school. You will receive in-depth training from a professional tattoo artist, and you can learn about other aspects of the tattoo industry. You can make connections with other artists so you can get jobs later in your career.
Classes can take up to a year, if not longer. Be patient and spend time studying the different parts of the industry. You may need to work a side job to pay for your classes, and you can take a job like a graphic designer that lets you hone your skills.
Prepare a Portfolio
Your portfolio should display your skills as an artist. It should be a few dozen pages long, featuring paintings, pencil sketches, and drawings.
You can depict any subject or use any style you want. It may be a good idea to show off paintings in a few different styles so you can display your versatility.
Assembling a portfolio takes a long period of time, sometimes years. You want to put your best work forward, and you want to experiment with different techniques. You can start to make your portfolio while you are taking classes, but you will need to put in work outside of school.
You cannot make a portfolio with actual tattoos until you get a license. Tattoo shops take tattooing without a license seriously, so you face being blacklisted if you put tattoos on people too early.
Perform an Apprenticeship
An apprenticeship is an unpaid or low-paid internship you take at a tattoo parlor. Like a lot of unpaid internships, you perform grunt work at first. You may clean the facility, answer phone calls from customers, and run errands before you start making art.
You apply for an apprenticeship by presenting your portfolio to a few different parlors. A parlor that thinks you have talent will contact you and conduct an interview.
When you do start making art, the tattoo parlor starts you off slow. You can tattoo yourself or your friends for free, but you can only make small tattoos. When you start working with paying customers, you make small and basic designs.
The hours are long, and you may work until midnight some nights. Some apprenticeships last several years as well.
But an apprenticeship will give you the experience you need to apply for a license. You can ask whatever questions you want to the artist you are working with. You can also make connections and develop your portfolio more.
Get a License
All states have tattoo licensing boards. In order to get a job or open up a tattoo parlor, you must get your license first.
Each board has different licensing requirements, but most of them require you to take courses in infectious diseases. You also must have a certain number of hours of experience in tattooing.
Make sure you have each licensing requirement satisfied before you apply. It will take some time for the licensing board to determine if you have met the requirements or not. You can provide information like recommendation letters that show you have met all requirements.
Find a Job
Once you get your license, you can apply for a job as a full-time tattoo artist. You may get a job at the tattoo parlor where you had your apprenticeship.
But most artists get a job at a different parlor to avoid competition. You can find jobs on online job boards like LinkedIn, and you can ask the artists you know for work.
Try to get creative with different industries. A film production company may need someone to make tattoos for their actors. You can also work for a company that sells tattooing products.
You can open your own tattoo parlor, but you need a lot of resources to make one work. You need to pay money upfront for retail space and equipment. You should spend time working for someone else and then develop your business skills so you can run a parlor successfully.
So How Long Does It Take To Become a Tattoo Artist?
Just how long does it take to become a tattoo artist? The answer varies from person to person.
You need to take classes and then develop a portfolio. You can do both simultaneously, yet you may need to take classes for several months.
You then must perform an apprenticeship, which can take years. The licensing process is fairly quick, and you can find a job in weeks. But overall, you should expect a few years of work before becoming an artist.
Take advantage of this time and expand your knowledge. Read more tattooing guides by following our coverage.