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What Makes a Good Tattoo Artist

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If you want to be a tattoo artist, there are some things you need to know. All tattoo artists are not created equal and you will never make it amongst them if you don’t have the right skills to compete. This article is intended to be very straightforward and will not coddle you in any way. So, if you want someone to tell you that you that anyone can make it in this business as long as they have the desire, you are in the wrong place. If you really want to know what it takes to make it in the tattoo world, keep reading.

Money & Fame
First of all, let’s talk about money. Tattooing is big business and a lot of the more popular artists are making a killing at it. Some of them have so many people knocking at their door that they have had to resort to creating a waiting list weeks, months, or even years in advance. Customers are lined up and willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a few hours work. Sure sounds like tattooing is a get-rich-quick dream, doesn’t it? Well, snap back to reality because you are only seeing one tiny part of the big picture. First of all, the ones making a killing versus the ones working just as hard and barely making ends meet is a very high ratio. Secondly, there is a lot of money that has to be invested into running a successful, safe, clean, sterile and professional tattooing business.

Artists are in high demand because their patrons know they can be trusted for cleanliness as well as quality artwork. One autoclave sterilizer can cost thousands of dollars. High quality tattoo machines, power supplies, medical equipment and sanitation supplies also add up significantly. And then there’s insurance, licenses and other legal red tape that can break the bank before you even get started. So, if you’re in this for the money, you’re going to be very disappointed. Not to mention the fact that anyone that starts any new career or business purely money-motivated has already set themselves up for disaster. If you do not love, and I do mean love, the art of tattooing and would not be willing to do it for free, then don’t waste your time even trying to get in.

The desire for fame is just as ridiculous a motivation for becoming a tattoo artist as money is. Yes, there are a few people in the tattoo community that are considered famous and we find ourselves gushing at the thought of meeting them or being tattooed by them simply because of who they are. Well, trust me – they didn’t get into this business for the purpose of fame, either, and the reason it happened upon them is because they EARNED it. They worked their asses off, dedicating every drop of sweat to the art and they eventually got recognized for it because of that dedication. Someone looking purely for an ego boost isn’t going to be willing to put forth that much effort, so it would be best for them to go try to find their 15 minutes on a reality TV show.

You Think You Got Skillz?
You like to draw and your mom says you do wonderful work. Your friends all tell you that you should be an artist. Even your teachers tell you that you have real potential. Does that make you a candidate for becoming a tattoo artist? Maybe, but don’t get your hopes up too high. You think you got skillz? Let’s talk about skill. Currently, there are so many people out there tattooing that in some cities there are literally tattoo shops on every corner and a lot of these artists are turning out some bona fide masterpieces on skin. If you don’t have what it takes to either match or exceed the quality of your competition, then you have no business being in this business. Tattooing isn’t about tracing stencils anymore – it’s about creating art. And not just any art – there is a big difference between the ability to draw and the ability to crank out a work of art under pressure. And if you’re looking for an apprenticeship – we’ll talk about that in a bit – you had better be able to “wow” them with your portfolio or you’re going to get nowhere fast.

Page 2: A Look at the Competition

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