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The 5 Steps to Becoming a Tattoo Artist
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AnnaMarie Houlis,
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Journalist & travel blogger
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So you're a creative genius, you're a brilliant artist and you're obsessed with tattoos. Pursuing a career as a tattoo artist would, then, make a lot of sense! But what exactly does a tattoo artist do, how can you become a tattoo artist and where can you find a job as a tattoo artist?

Let's look into all of the above.

What does a tattoo artist do?

A tattoo artist is someone who either comes up with their own designs, uses company designs or takes clients' designs and tattoos them on clients. Using needles and pigments usually in a tattoo gun, a tattoo artist will apply the permanent design directly to their client's body. They inject the ink under a layer of skin so that it stays for life.

Some tattoo artists may also perform other services in the body modification field. This might include piercing, for example. Of course, however, tattoo artists are only required to know how to give tattoos (unless a tattoo shop specifically calls for an artist who can provide multiple services).

How do you become a tattoo artist?

Becoming a tattoo artist is easy! Doing so requires no formal education. If you have a talent for drawing and design, the equipment and the will to put in the work, you can get started tattooing others right away.

However, many professional tattoo artists go on to become licensed tattoo artists. This gives them credibility and allows them to land better jobs at tattoo shops or helps them to gain clients if they choose to work independently. State or local licensure or certification also may be required of them depending on the state in which they work — the same goes for apprenticeships and background checks.

With that said, here's how to become a tattoo artist in five simple steps.

1. Follow tattoo artists on social media.

The first step to becoming a tattoo artist is by keeping tabs on other tattoo artists. Keep an eye out on what's trending. Search social media sites like Instagram and Facebook to see what kind of work other tattoo artists are churning out and check out what clients seem to be interested in. Look out for details and designs that you want to learn yourself. You might even want to reach out to other artists to learn about their journeys to becoming professional.

2. Practice drawing designs and tattooing.

Practice drawing designs and tattooing on others. The chances are that you probably know someone who knows someone who would be willing to let you give it a go on them! People who love tattoos love free tattoos (so long as they can trust you or if they just don't care too much!). At the very least, start drawing designs and coming up with concepts in a booklet.

3. Get certified and/or licensed.

Get yourself certified and/or licensed to become a professional tattoo artist. While certification and licensing standards will vary by state, you may have to complete some training or an apprenticeship under the supervision and guidance of an already-established professional tattoo artist in order to get certified and/or licensed. Even if a certification or license isn't necessary, however, you may still want to get certified and/or licensed. It can give you the experience you need to land a job later down the line. It's good practice! It's a look into the reality of the job. And it gives you credibility.

4. Apply for a ob.

Apply for work! Walk into or reach out to tattoo shops by phone or email. Send them your resume and a portfolio of your tattoo designs and work on clients. If you don't already have paid work to show, you might want to practice on friends and family for free; this way, you have actual tattoos you can show to potential managers. If you've gone to school for tattoo design, you can show your work from school, as well.

5. Share your work.

Make sure to showcase your artwork on visual platforms like an online portfolio and social media channels like Instagram. Many tattoo artists are able to retain and find clients by keeping up with regularly posting and sharing their work. After all, many people who seek out tattoo artists do so on social media and by word of mouth — they trust references and reviews in the comments sections, as well.

How much can you make as a tattoo artist?

You can earn a decent salary as a tattoo artist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, all artists and related workers (including tattoo artists) earn about $65,390 per year on average. And, lucky for you, the projected job growth for 2018 to 2028 is 2% for artists and related workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that there are opportunities available given a demand for tattoo artists — and, once you land one of those opportunities, you can make a pretty penny.

So there you have it! Becoming a tattoo artists just takes creativity, time, effort and a willingness to learn. If you're feeling inspired, you can get started on your career as a tattoo artist today! Do some social media research, pick up a sketchbook and start drawing designs of your own. 

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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