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How to become a Tattooist

Tattooing is an art that has been practised for centuries, and involves the permanent application of designs to a client’s body using ink. Tattooists, also known as tattoo artists, are the creators who design and then apply the permanent markings or modifications to their clients’ bodies. This is a job that requires not only a large amount of creativity, but also a keen sense for hygiene and cleanliness.

There are many different styles of tattooing you can specialise in, including those with deep cultural significance. Many tattoos are decorative, but some tattoo artists may also provide services such as scar and blemish cover-ups, repair of old tattoos, or cosmetic tattoos (such as permanent makeup).

If you’re artistic, get along great with people, and have a steady hand and strong stomach, a career as a tattooist could be for you.

What skills do I need as a tattooist?

  • Excellent artistic abilities
  • Professional & responsible
  • Great communicator
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Can keep clients calm
  • Steady-handed & focused
  • Impeccable hygiene standards
  • Self-promotion & marketing skills

What does the job involve?

  • Consult with customers & discuss what they are after
  • Ensure customers are certain about the procedure before beginning
  • Create line drawings & stencils
  • Prepare the area to be tattooed
  • Apply tattoos using safe & appropriate equipment & materials
  • Ensure high standards of hygiene & contamination control
  • Inform customers about after-care procedures & wound care
  • Carry out administrative & customer service responsibilities
  • Promote your work through social media & other channels
  • Train new & apprentice tattoo artists

What industries do tattooists typically work in?

  • Retail Trade
  • Arts & Recreation Services
  • Other Services

What Career Cluster do tattooists belong to?

A lot of a tattooist’s job involves hands-on work with machinery and tools, so they are usually strong Makers – but the design and creativity side of the work also means it’s a great career for Innovators too.

What kind of opportunities are out there?

Many tattooists are employed part-time. Because the work is hands-on, there are no opportunities for remote work or working from home. However, you may be able to consult with clients via phone and email. The hours you work each week can vary depending on both demand and studio opening hours – many tattoo parlours tend to remain open during the evening and on weekends.

This career has a very low rate of turnover (many tattooists remain in one job for many years) and openings are often very competitive, so it can sometimes be difficult to secure work when first entering the industry. Future job growth for tattooists is predicted to be stable over the next five years.

Tattooists do most of their work indoors in a specialist tattoo parlour or studio. Ensuring you practice out of clean and licensed premises is important to ensure the safety of your clients and your reputation as a tattooist.

Most tattooists earn an average wage throughout their career. Tattooists generally charge clients on an hourly rate, so how much you earn can fluctuate based on demand, the quality of your work, and the success of the business you work for or own.

How to become a tattooist

The most common pathway to becoming a tattooist is to undertake an informal apprenticeship with an experienced tattoo artist – in most places, you’ll need to be at least 18 before you are allowed to begin. It’s highly recommended that you complete courses in tattooing, body modification, infection control, and/or hygiene to greatly boost your employability and reliability to potential clients. You may also like to take courses in arts and design to build your creative skills.

In some locations, you may need to acquire a license in order to provide tattooing services. Ensure you check the local, state, or federal government regulations and standards around hygiene and body modifications before starting.

To secure work, you will need to build a strong portfolio of works to impress potential employers and clients. Once you have lots of experience and established a good reputation, you might like to start your own business, and eventually employ and train other budding tattoo artists.

If you’re in high school and you’d like to find out if a career as a tattooist is right for you, here’s a few things you could do right now:

  • Start building up a comprehensive portfolio of work in a variety of styles, and think about the kind of tattoo work you’d like to specialise in.
  • See if you can find work experience with a local business. This will help you see if you might enjoy the work, and can help you start building important contacts for the future.
  • Do thorough research on the history and cultural background of certain tattoo styles and practices.

Find out more here:

Similar careers to tattooist

  • Visual Artist
  • Piercer
  • Entrepreneur
  • Graphic Designer
  • Cosmetologist
  • Illustrator
  • Dermatologist
  • Makeup Artist

Find out more about alternative careers.

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