It seems like a cool job, right? It’s creative, you can wear what you want and be yourself. If you eventually have your own studio, it can be lucrative, and you have the freedom to choose your own hours and take holidays when you want to. But just what does it take to become a tattoo artist?
This is pretty obvious. You should be an artist, be able to draw and have an eye for aesthetics and detail. After all, gone are the days of tattoo artists recreating a heart and arrow from a stencil. These days, there are a massive variety of styles, and everyone wants something unique. Many tattoo artists today have studied fine art or graphic design, although this is not necessary as long as you have some serious artistic ability. It is important to remember though, that being able to draw is not the same as being able to tattoo. The latter requires an additional set of skills.
A steady hand
Another no-brainer. You would literally be “drawing” on someone’s skin with a needle or needles injecting permanent ink, so there’s no room for error. We’ve all seen the tattoo fails. It’s not pretty.
Going hand in hand with the above, is mental focus. Once you really get going, there will be tattoos that take hours at a time and you would need to be able to concentrate all the way through, because even one lapse in concentration can ruin the entire piece.
What every aspiring tattoo artist wants is a break, and this usually comes in the form of an apprenticeship with a busy and reputable studio. There may not be much (or any) payment at first, but it’s a way to learn about the craft, learn about the business side of things and hopefully practise with excellent equipment. Of course, you can’t get practice without tattooing flesh. Some people practice on grapefruits, but a grapefruit doesn’t quite compare to a nervous human. Many apprentices start off tattooing some of the studio’s clients for free, doing very simple designs like hearts and arrows.
Tattoo equipment is expensive and once you are accepted as a full-blown member of a studio, you’ll need to fork out for your own tattoo gun (or two), all your ink, sterilisation equipment, gloves and so on.
Eventually, you will probably want your own studio or at least to be a partner in a studio. This means you’ll need to understand things like tax, saving, budgeting and so on. You’ll also have to know how to market yourself and protect your reputation. If you want to charge top dollar for your skills, it will help to establish your own unique style that will set you apart and attract your own clientele and repeat customers.
It may not be like conventional jobs where you study and then get a paid job straight away, but if you’re a creative soul, love freedom and have a deep love for tattoos, it may be worth investigating a career as a tattoo artist.