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How To Become a Tattoo Artist

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It seems that with the popularity of tattoos and the potential for high income, a lot of people want to become a tattoo artist. Many of them make the mistake of buying a kit and practicing on their friends, which is very dangerous. Many of these people never become truly successful at tattooing anyway, and never acquire the skills necessary to compete in this highly competitive business. If you're serious about becoming a skilled and competent artist, this is what you need to do.
Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: 1-5 Years

Here's How:

  1. The first thing you need is raw talent. Someone who can't draw or color inside the lines isn't going to be a good candidate for being a tattoo artist.
  2. Then you need to hone your raw talent to develop talent into skill. Skill can come from fine art classes, working with a fellow artist, learning technique from books, or all of the above. On top of that, you need to practice, practice, practice.
  3. Once you're a competent artist on paper, you'll need to build a portfolio. A portfolio is a case or binder containing examples of your art, to show your different skills.
  4. The next thing you need is an apprenticeship. An apprentice is someone who learns a skill from someone else already skilled in the trade. Sometimes an apprenticeship can be free, but many times they cost thousands of dollars. You will need to find a way to save or acquire the money needed for your training.
  5. Then you need to find an apprenticeship - but not just any apprenticeship - you need to find the right one for you. One with a master you feel you can truly learn from - not someone just offering apprenticeships to make money. Getting an apprenticeship can be a challenge, so I recommend you read How to Get an Apprenticeship to learn more specifically what you need to do.
  6. In addition to needing money for your apprenticeship, you will also need to be able to sustain yourself during training. Unless you are independently wealthy, you'll need to hold down a regular job at the same time you are serving your apprenticeship. You will not be earning money in the shop during your training.
  7. Once you are an apprentice, you will learn many skills from your teacher, most of them having nothing to do with actual drawing. You will learn how to safely clean your equipment, how to operate a tattoo machine, how to adjust your power supply, how to protect yourself and your clients from disease, and last but not least - how to correctly apply a tattoo. This can take many months to learn completely.
  8. During your time as an apprentice, you will continue to practice and hone your drawing skills. You are not limited to only gaining knowledge from your teacher - you may also have the opportunity to spend time learning from other artists as well. Getting tattooed is a good way to watch and learn the techniques of other master tattoo artists.
  9. There's no formal graduation from an apprenticeship. Generally, the teacher decides when the student is ready to venture off on their own. Sometimes a contract was signed at the beginning of the apprenticeship, and the terms will vary. But as long as you are not under contract to continue for a certain length of time or prevented from working for a competing shop, you can decide to stretch your wings when you feel you have learned all you can from your teacher.
  10. No matter how long you apprentice or how long you tattoo, you never know it all. There is always more to learn, new techniques to adopt, new ways to enhance what has already been done. Never be satisfied with mediocrity, and never allow yourself to become egotistical.

What You Need

  • Talent and Skill
  • A Portfolio
  • Humility & Passion
  • Money & a Regular Job
  • Drive & Determination
  • Persistance & Perseverence
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