Getting a tattoo apprenticeship might be one of the most difficult challenges you’ll face on your path to becoming a professional tattoo artist. However, an apprenticeship is required if you want to work in a professional atmosphere rather than just giving people tattoos on your sofa.
I’ve listed the nine steps to becoming a tattoo artist below. It won’t be simple, but if your objective is to become a top-notch tattoo artist, it will be well worth the effort!
A Strong Portfolio
Before you even consider applying for a tattoo apprenticeship, you must first establish a strong portfolio of your work. After all, a tattoo artist’s skill to sketch is their lifeline! And no one is going to hire an apprentice who isn’t a natural artist.
You’ll want to build your portfolio with various artistic genres, such as tattoo-style drawings, paintings, pen drawings, watercolors, and so on. And they are supposed to be polished paintings, not doodles!
You also want these to be original pieces of work—no copying tattoo designs from the internet allowed—but they can be influenced by the work of another tattoo artist. If they are, though, make sure you are well-versed in the artist’s past.
Your portfolio should be kept in a hardback binder, with each piece protected by a laminated sleeve. The more artwork you have, the better; in fact, the closer you get to a hundred pieces, the better. You’ll want to show off your artistic abilities here, but be modest about it.
Do Not Begin Tattooing Until You Have Completed an Apprenticeship
This is a significant issue. Without professional training, tattooing is referred to as “scratching” and is frowned upon in the business for various reasons.
The most important one that pertains to you is that it’s difficult to unlearn the numerous undesirable habits you may form due to self-teaching. A professional tattoo artist will not take the time to educate you on doing it correctly while also attempting to break your poor habits.
If you’ve been tattooing for a while but want to become a professional, it’s best to keep it a secret, and don’t put any of your tattoos in your portfolio!
It may be difficult to get an apprenticeship if you have been called a scratcher, so it’s best to wait and learn the appropriate way.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to get the most out of your education by reading books like The Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo, attending conventions, and learning about the history of tattoos.
Select a Studio with Outstanding Artists.
You’re ready to start looking for a business that will take you on as an apprentice now that your portfolio is as professional as it can be! One of the most crucial phases is this one.
You want to go after stores with a strong reputation and creative artists. It’s not a good idea to train somewhere renowned for being sketchy or where the tattoos aren’t up to grade.
As a tattoo artist, your reputation is everything—you are your brand—and if you build a bad reputation because of where you were educated, you will be shooting yourself in the foot before you even start.
Another point to consider is that an apprenticeship might cost anything from nothing to thousands of dollars. This is something to keep in mind when looking for anything.
You won’t get compensated for your work already, so be mindful of any additional fees related to an apprenticeship!
Get to Know the Tattoo Artist
Once you’ve found the right business for you, don’t merely ask whether they’ll take you on as an apprentice—you’ll almost certainly be turned down. Instead, spend time getting to know the artist who will be teaching you.
Before requesting them to teach you, get a tattoo or two from them, maybe even choose one from your portfolio for him to perform, and send them a couple of recommendations.
Once you’ve established a connection with the artist, you’ll have a greater chance.
Be Determined and Stand Out
Even if you get to know the artist, there’s a good chance you’ll still get turned down. It’s not simple to take on an apprentice, and many artists are hesitant to do so. If you’re turned down, don’t be upset or harsh; getting an apprenticeship will require a lot of hard work and perseverance!
Now, just because you’ve been rejected doesn’t mean the fight is over; in fact, it’s only just begun. You should also bear in mind that, more than likely, you are not the only one interested in being an apprentice and that to stand out from the crowd, a little persistence and sucking up may go a long way!
Continue to drop by the store a few times a week (don’t hassle or bother the artist when he is working), but only to speak, or to ask if you can go and grab them lunch, or even to watch him tattoo for a few minutes. Whatever method you use, be sure you’re consistent and determined.
It’s a good idea, though, not to put all of your eggs in one basket. Finding a couple of additional stores to apprentice at this time could be a good idea.
“Why do you want to be a tattoo artist?” is a question you should be prepared to answer.
You should give this some thought and have an answer prepared, and it shouldn’t be because you enjoy the lifestyle or because LA Ink is your favorite program!
You must be in it for the love of the art or because painting is your obsession. Working as a tattoo artist is nothing like what you see on TV. It may be physically and mentally taxing work.
Be Prepared for Hard Work
The actual work begins once you’ve landed an apprenticeship—which you will if you’re dedicated and skilled enough!
Don’t expect to get down to the nitty-gritty of learning how to tattoo straight away. Oh no, you still need to show your worth. This means you’ll be doing traditional intern tasks like taking out the trash, bringing everyone coffee, setting up stations, and refilling supplies, not to mention being on the receiving end of everyone’s jokes—and you’ll be doing it all for free!
Fear not, and hold on tight; this is only a rite of passage, and your instructor wants to make sure you’re not wasting his or her time by not showing up. So put a smile on your face and blast your butt! In the end, it will be worthwhile.
Because you will be underpaid and may be forced to pay, you may need to work a second job to make ends meet. It will be difficult, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel; an apprenticeship typically lasts six months to two years, after which you will be a professional tattoo artist who gets paid to tattoo!
Be Prepared to Learn
Following the hard work phase, you will begin to learn how to tattoo. At first, all you’ll be doing is watching your teacher tattoo. Please pay close attention to every move he makes and try to figure out why he’s doing it.
Before using a tattoo machine, you must first get certified in bloodborne pathogens, learn to create needles, use an autoclave, bandage, care for a tattoo, and follow all other safety procedures.
You’ll spend a lot of time practicing on items like tattoo practice skin, or even fruit whenever you eventually get your hands on a machine. Typically, the first time you apply ink to the skin is on yourself. In many stores, this is another rite of passage!
You’ll eventually progress to tattooing humans, and when you do, you’ll be doing them all for free and in large quantities. Take advantage of this opportunity to ask questions and improve your skills. You want to know all your teacher can teach you when you finish your apprenticeship.
Obtain Your Certificate
Depending on your state, your apprenticeship will be considered completed once you have completed the requisite number of hours or when your teacher believes you are ready, and you will be able to obtain your tattoo license!
The standards for obtaining a tattoo license differ from state to state and even from county to county, so be sure to check your state’s laws.
Some states only demand that you be blood-borne pathogen certified (which you should be anyhow) and 18 years old, while others will require that you complete a particular number of apprentice hours and maybe pass a written test.
The license will cost you between $25 and $250 depending on where you live, and some will last three years while others will expire every year.
You may legally charge people for your work after you get your license, and you will be a professional tattoo artist!