As with most creative pursuits, there is no one guaranteed path to becoming a tattoo artist. Having said that, there are some general milestones you should aim to hit if you’re looking to grow a career as a tattoo artist.
Use these steps as a general guideline when pursuing a career as a tattoo artist.
We’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: If you don’t take the time to develop your art skills, it’s unlikely you’ll have success as a tattoo artist.
As someone who is placing permanent artwork on people’s skin, your work needs to be professional at all times. Again, we’re talking about permanent pieces of artwork that live on the body—there is no room for errors here.
We also recommend experimenting with other art forms in this initial stage. While you might be convinced that tattoo artistry is your passion now, there also might be a style of art that is more in tune with your style and methods. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket in this initial stage. Becoming a tattoo artist takes a lot of time and dedication, so you want to be sure that this is the right path for you prior to investing your time and resources.
Tattoo artists do not require any formal education in order to have success. Having said that, most successful tattoo artists will have some level of education, which can include self-education.
Read design books, study the work of other artists, play with different mediums, and don’t be afraid to pursue a fine arts education if you have the resources.
This step is going to look different for everyone, but no matter what, it is essential that you’re constantly learning and gathering as much design knowledge as possible in these initial stages of your journey.
When starting out as a tattoo artist, you’re obviously not going to have examples to show off tattoo work specifically. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start putting together examples of your drawings in order to show off your style.
A solid, professional portfolio will also help you in obtaining the right apprenticeship, which we’ll discuss in the next step
What should I include in my portfolio?
Your portfolio should only include your best pieces of work. While you may be tempted to share everything, remember, your portfolio is your professional resume. You want to use your portfolio to attract the right people to your work. If you’re trying to appeal to everyone, there’s a solid chance that you’ll appeal to no one.
How do I create a portfolio?
While you certainly can have a physical portfolio, more often than not, you’ll also want to have a digital copy of your portfolio that you can easily share with anyone. All you need is a simple business card that includes your website and you’ll easily be able to share, whereas, with a physical portfolio, you always need to have your portfolio on you if an opportunity presents itself.
If you don’t have the technical skills necessary in order to put together a website that houses your portfolio, don’t forget that Format provides professionally designed portfolio templates that will help you have your website up and running in no time.
How can I make my portfolio stand out?
How to put together an engaging tattoo artist portfolio is a separate post in and of itself—in fact, we have a full guide on portfolios for tattoo artists, but in general, here are some of our best tips when putting together your portfolio as an aspiring tattoo artist:
Your portfolio should be easy-to-navigate
Ensure that your images are high-quality and large enough to see on any device
Your website should be mobile responsive, meaning your website should look just as good on a cell phone as it does on a desktop or tablet
Utilize some branding techniques that match with the style of tattoos you plan on pursuing
Develop a strong About page
Don’t forget to provide a contact form
Link your social media accounts
Be sure that viewers can quickly and easily find your work on your website
If you’re still uncertain, you’ll find more tattoo artist portfolio examples here that will give you a better idea of what a portfolio using Format could look like.
If you want to be taken seriously in the tattoo industry, working with someone who has already established a successful career is key to helping you develop your skills.
During this time you’ll work as an apprentice, gaining the hands-on skills that you need in order to be a tattoo artist that clients trust. Remember: As much as gaining some education is important—whether self-taught or in a formal setting—you can’t learn the art of tattooing from a book. You need to get hands-on experience with the guidance of a mentor.
You can’t simply become a tattoo artist without being properly licensed. Each state is slightly different, but in general, you may have to take courses on disease control and other health and safety protocols.
Before you start booking clients, be sure that you have all the supplies and equipment necessary in order to provide clients with a five-star experience.
You want to start your career off on the best foot possible, and being prepared with the right equipment is a great starting point.
Now, starting a business is no easy feat. Again, this step could be its very own post, but in general, now that you’ve gone through all the necessary education, certification, and hands-on experience, you theoretically should be ready to open for business.
Remember: Establishing a business takes time. Don’t rush the process.
Some things you’ll want to consider when opening your business include branding, marketing, client experience, bookkeeping, social media, and pricing (discussed below).
If you’re looking for more information that specifically pertains to getting your website set up, check out this guide for tattoo artists.