Unlike most jobs, there is no simple, straightforward route to becoming a tattoo artist.
Unless you’re exceptionally lucky, your chances of simply walking into a tattoo studio, handing over your résumé, and being offered a job right away are incredibly slim.
Just like many other careers in the artistic industry, becoming a tattoo artist requires time, perseverance, and a whole lot of rejection. If you consider yourself to be thin-skinned, you may find it difficult to find the strength to push your way into this industry.
Apprenticeship training is a fundamental step on the path to becoming a tattoo artist.
Apprenticeships in tattooing will allow you to learn from a professional artist with years of experience behind them, who will train you up and teach you safe and effective techniques for successfully tattooing designs onto your customers.
Unfortunately, as we said, we wish it was as simple as walking into your nearest studio and asking for an artist to take you on as an apprentice. Even if that was true, there are still several steps that you will need to take before this even becomes an option!
So, how does a person get a tattoo apprenticeship?
In this article, we are going to teach you the ins and outs, the struggles and the secrets, every nitty-gritty detail that you will need to know to grab that position for yourself. Here are 7 steps that you will need to take to get your dream career.
So, let’s get into it.
Table of Contents
- Research What It Takes To Become A Tattoo Artist (And Decide If You Really Want To Go Through With It)
- Create A Financial Plan Ready For If/When You Get An Apprenticeship
- Discover Your Own Specific Art Style
- Create Your Own Professional Portfolio
- Research Tattoo Artists In Your Area
- Meet Up With A Tattoo Artist In Person
- Prepare Yourself For Several Rejections (But Don’t Be Afraid Of Them)
- In Conclusion
Research What It Takes To Become A Tattoo Artist (And Decide If You Really Want To Go Through With It)
You must understand exactly what you are getting yourself into before considering tattooing as a full-time profession.
There’s a lot more to this line of work than showing up, asking for a job, and then immediately inking your own designs onto people’s bodies.
Knowing what to expect from an apprenticeship will not only benefit you, but it will also convey to professional tattoo artists that you have actually taken the time to learn about the trade.
The main aspect that puts a lot of people off is the pay rate: for the first two years, you will, most likely, not have one. Tattoo apprentices often work long hours – weekends and holidays included – without getting paid at all.
Some shops may even expect you to pay for your apprenticeship. Either way, you will need savings or another job on the side to get you through this period. This will require a lot of hard work, and very little free time for yourself.
If this doesn’t sound like something you would be interested in, it’s probably best to consider another career.
Create A Financial Plan Ready For If/When You Get An Apprenticeship
You will not be able to commit to an apprenticeship unless you already have enough money saved up to survive on for the next year or so, or you have family/friends to help you out during this time. The only other option is to get a second job to tide you over.
The first option is the most desirable, as this will mean that you can focus all your time and energy on your training. If you are lucky enough to have enough savings to live off while you are completing your apprenticeship, you have nothing to worry about.
If this isn’t an option, you will need to get a second job. It would be ideal to find a part-time job during the evenings, as this allows you to concentrate on your apprenticeship during the day. Or, vice versa.
Either way, you will need to accept that you’re not going to have a lot of free time on your hands. Say goodbye to your social life for a little while.
Discover Your Own Specific Art Style
One of the most important aspects to becoming a tattoo artist – if not the most important aspect – is to identify your own unique style.
Hundreds and thousands of people would love to grab that apprenticeship that you are aiming for. The competition is vast and ruthless.
The only way you can secure that position for yourself is by standing out against the crowd. You need to prove that you are different.
On the flip side, you will also need to learn several art types: if you can only produce one type of tattoo design, you’ll be limited in the tasks you can take on as an artist.
Clients will be coming to you with various ideas and designs, and you will need to be familiar with pretty much all of them.
You’ll be a far more appealing asset from the tattoo shop owner’s standpoint if you can show that you, at least, know the foundations of a few distinct tattoo styles.
Create Your Own Professional Portfolio
Once you have identified your own style, as well as numerous others, you will need to gather your greatest designs to place in a professional looking portfolio.
To put it frankly, whether or not a business will give you a shot is ultimately defined by the art in your portfolio.
If your work is not good enough, all they have to do is look at your drawings to decide that they don’t want you. Each and every design will need to be as great as you can possibly make them in order to catch the attention of a professional artist.
Each sketch must be fully completed before being placed in a plastic sleeve, carefully enclosed inside a neat black folder.
The effort you put into the arrangement of your portfolio will make all the difference, because the tattoo artists you show it to will be able to make the distinction between a great portfolio, and a poor one. You want yours to be the best they will ever lay eyes on.
Research Tattoo Artists In Your Area
Even though you’re eager to get started as a tattoo artist, you do not want to rush the scouting process.
It cannot be overstated how important it is to do your homework on the artists before agreeing to become their apprentice, especially if they are charging a fee up front.
You will not be able to tattoo well if you are taught by someone who cannot tattoo well. As a result, no one will want to hire you in the future, and the whole process will have been in vain.
You need a mentor who is not only good at what they do, but is excellent at it.
Research each artist by checking out their social media: not only will you have access to the quality of their art, but people will also be posting reviews in the comments.
It’s also a smart idea to check out reviews for their shop overall. Be as thorough with your research as possible.
Meet Up With A Tattoo Artist In Person
Once you have found a couple of options when it comes to tattoo artists that you would like to work with, you may think that it would be a good idea to message them through their social media accounts.
Do not do this.
According to several artists, this is the worst way to contact them if asking for an apprenticeship. It will make you seem lazy and unbothered, simply clicking a few buttons and asking for their advice.
If you would like to work with this person, your best course of action is to speak with them in person. Maybe give the shop a call, and ask if you could book a time to speak with the artist one-on-one when they are not occupied.
It’s probably not the best idea to simply show up to the shop, as they may be busy working with clients.
When you have organized a meeting with an artist, make sure that you have everything ready for that moment. Your portfolio must be fully perfected, and you should also think about writing down any inquires that you have.
Prepare Yourself For Several Rejections (But Don’t Be Afraid Of Them)
The last step on this list is, physically, the easiest, but, mentally, the hardest. In order to become an artist of any kind, you will need to be prepared to get rejected. A lot.
It is important to remind yourself that, often times, rejection doesn’t mean that you suck! Sometimes, it means that the tattoo artist in question just isn’t looking for an apprentice at this current time.
Perhaps your style and their style just don’t quite fit together, and they are looking for someone a little different.
Getting rejected isn’t the end of the world, and it will certainly happen more than once. It’s going to hurt, but just think of it this way: each rejection is a step closer to being accepted.
All you need to do is keep pushing forward, and believe that someday, you will get the apprenticeship that you have been working so hard towards!
As we said at the beginning of this article, there is no straightforward route through this career. It may take some people years to reach their goal, whereas it may take others only a month or two to get there.
While talent plays a huge part in this journey, it mainly comes down to timing and luck.
Our advice is to keep pushing on, no matter how long it takes. The longer you keep at it, the more experienced you will become, and by the end of the search, you will know exactly what you want.
By the time you get to the stage, you will have found the apprenticeship that you have been searching for. You just need a little patience to get there!
We hope you get there soon, and we wish you all the best with your future.