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How to Become a Tattoo Artist

How to Become a Tattoo Artist

How to become a tattoo artist at one point entailed simply having some level of artistic ability and getting a job in a tattoo parlor. However, health concerns and other regulatory and legal factors now require licensing in many states and the applicable education and training needed to pass the licensing exams. Many states make injecting even henna—a temporary tattoo substance—without a license a crime. Do not play or ‘practice’ on friends.

What Is It Like to Be a Tattoo Artist?

The primary requirement in how to become a tattoo artist is developing and maturing your artistic ability. At least an associate’s degree in the visual arts can extend your credibility and help you create a portfolio that presents your skill.

Customer communication is imperative. If you cannot adequately transfer your customer’s words and wishes onto paper, and then onto skin, with a high degree of expertise and accuracy, you will not only risk your financial future but also your credibility and licensing prospects. If you dream of owning your own shop, invest in business management and business finance courses, as well.

What Kind of Schooling Do I Need to Become a Tattoo Artist?

While not every state requires a four-year degree, you must have formal education in the tattoo arts. Health regulations and procedures, use of the tattoo equipment, and even needle and shop hygiene issues must be formally mastered before your exam. Many vocational schools, community colleges, and top online universities offer either brick-and-mortar classroom courses or online courses that teach tattoo artistry. Be sure to gain at least the minimum level of education your state requires; extend your educational reach if possible. This is a highly-competitive field, and any edge you gain nudges you in front of the crowd.

Once you have your education, present your license exam application and all required credits and certifications to your Department of Health.
After you take and pass your Department of Health Exam, you’re not quite finished yet. The next goal in how to become a tattoo artist is at least one year—possibly more, depending on your state—of apprenticeship under the guidance and evaluation of a licensed tattoo artist. The mentor artist in most states must have at least three years of clean license history. Not every experienced tattoo artist can be a mentor artist in many states; often, they must register as such with the state and pass extensive inspections and examinations as well as demonstrate a history of safe tattoo techniques.

Many states require you to apply for and pay a fee for apprenticeship status and limited licensing. Once you meet that requirement, you should either already have, or can find, an approved mentor artist who will be willing to train you. Know in advance, though, that few apprentice positions are paid positions. Some artists trade general work in the shop for your learning. Others may even charge you for the apprenticeship. Be prepared in either circumstance to meet your expenses with a different job during your required apprenticeship.

Once you complete your apprenticeship, you should be ready to apply for your license from the Department of Health. Once you receive your license, you will officially be a tattoo artist. Don’t delay. Start your education now that you have learned how to become a tattoo artist.

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