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How To Become An Apprentice Tattoo Artist

Know That Negative Stereotypes Of The Tattoo Industry Arent Always True

Before becoming a tattooer, I had admiration mixed with a lot of fear of this industry that seemed very impressive and also inaccessible from outside. Since I went to the other side, from being tattooed to becoming a tattooer, I have met the sweetest, nicest people ever, says Martinez. I have always been respected, well treated, welcomed. I found a family in this industry that I wish I had known before. All the clichés were completely wrong and I have only met incredible and welcoming artists who inspire me and encourage me.

Find Work At A Tattoo Shop

If youre looking for an apprenticeship at a tattoo shop, you should always go in person. If you ask for one online, the answer will always be no because it makes you appear less committed than someone who takes the time to go to the shop in person.

If you want to work as an artist in a shop, its best to go in person if you want to be taken seriously. If you are an established artist or if you are from out of town, you can email about an open spot, but those are the only two exceptions.

Before you talk to a shop owner, make sure you have your BBP certification, license , and portfolio ready to go.

Tattooists Who Went Down The Self

Some great and famous tattoo artists have taught themselves to tattoo. They include

  • Jeff Gogue

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What To Look For In A Tattoo Mentor:

Ideally, you want to learn from someone who actually wants to teach, who’s mentored before, who has a good educational background, and who will challenge you. This person will be responsible for helping you learn the basics and some of their own tricks for tattooing, so you want the best.

Persistence is absolutely key in this process. If possible, get tattooed by the artist you want to learn from. Even better, get tattooed as much as possible . Hang out in the shop if they’ll let you. Ask the artists you meet how they learned, who taught them, what advice they have. You might even volunteer your time to help build a relationship with the artists there.

Ready To Create An Impressive Tattoo Portfolio

Tattoo Apprenticeship

Landing an apprenticeship can be a bit of a hustle give yourself an edge with a professional tattoo portfolio that will wow prospective employers. There are no easy tricks to help you become a tattoo artist, but a great looking professional website can certainly help. To achieve a beautiful, polished look, make sure you are using a reliable website builder to create a great looking online portfolio easily.Ã

Format allows users to build and customize their site in just one day, with so many beautiful website templates to choose from. You can even edit your site on-the-go with the iOS app so you can add new tattoos to your portfolio as needed, and access special features like a photo proofing corner, a blog, and an online store. Get started and create your tattoo art portfolio to land your next tattoo apprenticeship.

More resources to help boost your career:

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Do I Really Need To Be An Apprentice

To become a tattoo artist, you absolutely need an apprenticeship. There is a long list of reasons why, but mostly it’s because most states require a tattoo artist or piercer to have a license. Since most licenses require training, and one of the only ways to get training is an apprenticeship with a licensed artist, you need an apprenticeship. This means that you need to find a veteran tattooer who thinks you have enough talent to merit the the time and energy it will take to train you.

Here are the basic steps to an apprenticeship. Every shop and teacher will be different, but what follows is a good idea of what to expect.

Do I Need A Tattoo License

Licensing requirements for tattoo artists vary depending on where you live they can include completing a certain number of apprenticeship hours, health and safety courses, and an exam. You could face legal action if you work as a tattoo artist without proper certification, so check your areaâs requirements for tattoo licensing. Some locations may also require tattoo artists to complete regular continuing education courses, and licenses may need to be renewed every few years.

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A Real Portfolio That Landed An Apprenticeship

Heres some photos of the original portfolio that got Nathan Molenaar hired as an apprentice 10 years ago.

You can see that he focused on the principles above and worked hard to improve his art before preparing his portfolio. Thats why we focus on improving our students drawing FIRST in the Tattooing 101 online course curriculum.


Your Artistic Medium Is A Living Breathing Thing That Changes

Remember: Skin wrinkles and stretches and sometimes gets sunburns and scars. When you paint on a canvas, you can preserve the way that painting looks for hundreds of years. But tattoos look drastically different even two weeks after the ink has settled in and your skin has healed. Sometimes, Nead warns, people dont take care of their tattoos and they get ruined, which feels a bit like someone buying your painting and then leaving it out in the rain. Even if youre clear about the aftercareno sun exposure for three weeks, only use hypoallergenic products, etc.sometimes things go wrong, and thats just part of working with human skin.

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How To Become A Tattoo Artist Top 10 Tips

Everything You Need To know

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If you are wondering how to become a Tattoo Artist, you probably already know that its not easy. There are many different types of skills that you need to learn and finding the right information is difficult as Tattooists dont want to share their skills. So, how to become a Tattoo Artist?

How to become a Tattoo Artist. There are many ways to become a tattoo artist including apprenticeships, tattoo schools, online courses, and the self-taught route. Apprenticeship is the traditional route but not possible for everyone. Perseverance will get you to your goal.

In this post, Im going to cover everything you need to know to learn how to tattoo professionally. Youll find everything you need to know about tattooing, including mistakes to avoid on your path to becoming a professional tattoo artist. You can do it.

Option : The Tattoo Apprenticeship

Tattoo apprenticeships are considered the traditional method of learning tattooing. An aspiring tattoo artist will work under a mentor who teaches them how to tattoo in the shop. Apprenticeships usually last 2-4 years and are unpaid. In many cases, the apprentice will pay the mentor around $5,000 and will not be allowed to pick up a tattoo machine until their second year.

Apprenticeships can be great learning experiences, but most come with hazing and abuse, as apprentices spend their time being the shop slave. A good apprenticeship will act as a ladder toward your future success, while a bad apprenticeship feels like a never-ending downward spiral.


No job is worth physical or verbal abuse even your dream job. If your apprenticeship is going nowhere fast, its time to leave and find a mentor who loves the craft and is willing to teach you without taking your money, sanity, or self-esteem. Becoming a tattoo artist should never mean suffering in a toxic environment.

Additionally, apprenticeships can be hard to find. There are only a few open slots in each city, and most get taken by friends or someone who already has a connection. Just like any business, its not always about talent, its about who you know.

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What Education Is Needed To Become A Tattoo Artist

You dont need any specific education to become a tattoo artist. There is no requirement for qualifications. However, you do need to be able to demonstrate that you can draw and have a portfolio of work to show. Qualifications in art and design do help but are not necessary as long as you can draw.

You dont need any formal education or traditional education to become a tattooist. You dont need to go to university or college. However, an art education does help.

Consider What You Can Offer The Shop Owner

Tattoo Apprentice wanted immediately: APPLY NOW

Shop owners want to hire artists who bring in money. If you want to work in a particular shop, being able to show that you bring something other than just your ability to tattoo makes you a better candidate:

  • 1Clients: If you have a big following on social media, you should mention that to the shop owner . To them, you are more valuable if you come with a lot of clients for the shop.
  • 2Variety of Skills: When it comes to getting clients, its better to be known for one style than to be a jack of all trades. However, most tattoo shop owners will prefer that you show versatility, especially if youre a new artist because when you start out, youll be doing a lot of the walk-ins. So, its a good idea to include a variety of styles in your portfolio early in your career. Once you have a foot in the door, you can start to develop your style.
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    Create A Professional Portfolio

    Your portfolio should be both attention-grabbing and professional looking. Dont use an old binder you found lying around or a single manila folder for all your art. Instead, use a new three-ring binder with sheet protectors, or have the pages matted. The outside of your portfolio should look sleek, uniform, and inviting.

    Do I Need To Sign A Tattoo Apprentice Contract

    The contract is important so everyone knows exactly what they’re agreeing to. Especially if you’re paying, you’ll want to sign a contract up front so both you and your mentor know exactly what is expected. It should spell out how long the apprenticeship will last, what it will cost, what your responsibilities entail, and exactly what skills you’ll be learning. If you’ll be expected to work there after earning your license, this should be described in the contract, as well.

    At first, your apprenticeship will consist mostly of menial tasks like cleaning, answering phones, and running errands.

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    How To Get A Tattoo Apprenticeship To Start Your Career

    Training as an apprentice is a traditional step in the process of becoming a tattoo artist. Tattoo apprenticeships give you the opportunity to learn from an experienced mentor who can show you safe methods to permanently tattoo artwork onto your clients. Learning how to get a tattoo apprenticeship is an important aspect of getting started in the tattoo industry and becoming a licensed tattoo artist yourself.

    In this article, we explain what a tattoo apprenticeship is, discuss why they’re important for starting your career as a tattoo artist and share advice on finding an apprenticeship where you can begin learning your craft.

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    Research Tattoo Artists And Studios

    Start by researching studios where you want to work or professional tattoo artists to work with as an apprentice. Use search engines and social media as part of your search. Once you find studios where you’d like to work, visit the website and review their work. Similarly, if you want to work with a specific tattoo artist, check their bio and portfolio. Tattoo apprenticeships may require referrals, so it’s important you contact people in your professional network and inform them you’re looking for open positions.

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    What Does A Tattoo Apprentice Portfolio Look Like

    The book itself: Your artwork should be showcased in an actual portfolio, matted if necessary, and placed inside sheet protectors. You’ll probably want three rings that open so you can easily move and remove pages. Every page should be full, so take out empty pages. Don’t just use that battered three-ring binder you found: Choose something that looks professional.

    What to include inside: Your portfolio should include from 25 to 100 finished drawings. The important word here is “finished.” You don’t want to walk into the shop with a book full of doodles, sketches, and half-baked ideas. Choose only your best workthe stuff that best showcases your talent.

    As far as drawings go, you want to have a wide variety of work. Include things that people might get tattooed but also any drawings you’ve done that showcase your talent but might not translate well into a tattoo. Include color workwatercolor and ink are widely thought to be most similar to tattooing. DO NOT copy other artists’ work. If that’s your idea of tattooing, then you had better find a different career.

    If you scroll down to the bottom of this article, you’ll find a list of ten tips to help you put together a great portfolio.

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  • You don’t have any idea what you are doing, and that will be obvious to anyone who sees it.
  • You may have caused harm or irreparable damage to the people you tattooed . . . and then you took a picture of it. This shows a lack of respect for both the client and the art itself.
  • Any artist who takes you on as an apprentice will have to take time to not only teach you the right way to tattoo, but also to wean you off “scratcher” habits. So your portfolio full of amateur work warns them that you’ll be extra difficult to mentor.
  • Bottom line: You should not be tattooing unless you have been trained by a licensed professionaland if you have, it’s nothing to brag about.

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    But Being Good At Drawing Doesnt Mean Youll Be Good At Tattooing

    You can think about it like the difference between drawing something on paper and carving a pumpkin, explains Nead. It definitely helps to have a natural aptitude for drawing, but it takes a long time to understand the difference between what you can draw and what you can tattoo. Like anything, your tattoo drawings will improve over timeits critical to start out with simple designs.

    Have The Right Designs In Your Portfolio

    How to Create a Portfolio to Find a Tattoo Apprenticeship ...

    The art in your portfolio will ultimately determine whether a studio will give you a chance or not. It’s that simple. As such, its important to know what tattoo artists are actually looking for when you’re building it. If you have a bunch of half-finished drawings, in a style that nobody wants, then your chances of being hired are slim.

    Heres what most professional tattoo artists will want to see they look through your portfolio:

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    Will I Be Tattooing During My Apprenticeship

    You will do around 100 free tattoos during your apprenticeship. But in fact, “free tattoos” means that you pay the cost, so make sure to have a lot of money saved up for supplies. You can tattoo friends, family, whomever you wish. You get to keep your tips. After your’e certified, you can start charging clients.

    Find A Suitable Tattoo Apprenticeship

    Next, look for open positions in the studio where you want to work as an apprentice. Review job posting websites for these opportunities. You can also check provincial or territorial government websites for apprenticeships. For example, the Ontario government has an education and training page where you can find information about apprenticeships. If you want to work under a particular tattoo artist, reach out to them and politely state your intentions.

    Regardless of how you look for a tattoo apprenticeship, consider contacting previous or current apprentices to learn more about the position. You can benefit from working in an environment where you can learn and improve your ability to create and execute stunning tattoo designs. You also want to learn from a tattoo artist who works in a reputable shop, has years of experience, and has a similar artistic style to yours.

    Read more:What Is an Apprenticeship?

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    Highlight Your Creativity And Unique Concept Ideas

    When a tattoo shop considers your fit as an apprentice, they will be looking at the quality of your artwork and your ability to come up with creative ideas that will impress clients. Make sure you include work that demonstrates you can use your imagination to come up with unique designs, such as intricate line work or a fun use of color. You should be able to take a concept or idea from a client and elevate it so it has style, creativity, and a point of view.

    A potential mentor is looking at your tattoo art portfolio to get a good sense of your perspective as an artist, and determine if they can help you grow or perfect your work. Don’t be afraid to include drawings that highlight your willingness to take a concept and play with it, putting your unique spin on popular tattoos or familiar images. Bland, boring pieces with little personality will not help you land an apprenticeship a creative tattoo style and approach almost certainly will.

    Read Our Advice For Aspiring Tattoo Artists

    We all know that getting a brand new beautiful tattoo is amazing! But did you know that the experience of giving someone a great tattoo can be even better? If you love art and youre a fan of tattoos, a career as a professional tattoo artist is artistically satisfying and financially empowering. If you want to become a good tattoo artist, the internet is overwhelming when youre looking for advice on how to get started, and we know you have questions. How can I learn to tattoo? Will I like being an apprentice? How do I find a tattoo apprenticeship? Will a career as a tattoo artist really work for me? Thats why weve pulled together our top 5 pieces of advice for aspiring tattoo artists.

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