How to Become a Tattoo Artist
Tattoo Artist Careers & Degrees

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Tattoo Artists are professionals who use their training and artistic ability to create artwork on human canvases.

With their attention to detail and steady hand movements, they use their artistic ability to create, draw and tattoo their creations onto their clients’ skins.

Individuals who want to become a Tattoo Artist should not only be able to create fine drawings, but should also be able to use their drawing skills to transfer onto human skin, which is a much different canvas than creating on paper or other surfaces.

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Education Requirements to Become a Tattoo Artist

There are no specific educational requirements to become a Tattoo Artist.

However, individuals who want to become a Tattoo Artist should seek opportunities to train or apprentice in order to begin their craft in tattooing the human skin.

Training and finding an apprenticeship is an extremely important step for someone trying to enter this field because of the competitiveness in finding jobs and clients.

The more experience an individual has tattooing, the more likely they will become a successful Tattoo Artist.

An individual will also want to polish their natural artistic ability by taking a variety of fine arts classes in drawing, reading about different types of art, working with other artists and practicing their drawing skills as much as the can.

These classes can be taught at the college, university or community college level.

Training or apprenticing is extremely important even if an individual is creative and can draft many different designs in print.

An apprenticeship is an on the job training in which the person training works under the direct supervision of an accomplished Tattoo Artist.

This on the job training is extremely valuable for individuals because it gives a direct glimpse into the day of an experienced Tattoo Artist.

During an apprenticeship, an individual will learn how to use their natural artistic ability and imprint on their human canvas.

Some training programs or apprenticeships pay little or none at all.

Some novice Tattoo Artists may have to work several part time jobs while they are learning and perfecting their tattooing skills until they are able to develop their own client base and make an honest living off of tattooing itself.

Individuals will also learn all the health aspects related to tattooing.

Learning the health benefits and requirements is extremely important because of the blood involved in piercing the skin with tattoo needles.

To reduce contamination, infections and spreading any blood borne diseases, Tattoo Artist will need to know how to properly clean their equipment, any needles and work stations.

In addition, individuals who want to become a Tattoo Artist must be licensed and certified in the state or local government they choose to work in.

Some licensing requirements may ask for an individual to gain experience through an apprenticeship or training in an approved setting before approving them for certification.

For certification programs, individuals will need to touch base with their local or state government to take the steps towards this requirement.

Tattoo Artist Job Description

A Tattoo Artist does more than create drawings.

They must also use their listening skills and customer service to determine exactly what a client wants from their tattoo.

After all, it is permanent.

Sometimes using verbal instructions, Tattoo Artists will interpret a client’s message and meaning to draft a drawing on a special tracing paper.

After getting approval from their client and giving any necessary feedback or advice, they set up the tattoo machine and inks needed to begin their artwork.

They will also prep the client’s skin including washing it to remove any residue from the skin.

Tattoo Artists will then begin tattooing making sure their client is comfortable and in not too much pain.

Because piercing of the skin is required, Tattoo Artist must also make sure that a client is not bleeding too much because it may obstruct any skin.

Tattoo Artist Salary and Career Path

The median annual wage for Craft and Fine Artists, including Tattoo Artists, was approximately $44,380 in 2012.

The actual salary will depend on experience, number of clients and location where a Tattoo Artists chooses to work.

Job projections for Tattoo Artists and other Fine Artists are expected to increase by 3 percent through 2022.

This projection is considered slower than average is affected by the state of the economy.

Because interest in art in general is driven by the economy, Tattoo Artists might also be affected by the fluctuations.

Nevertheless, individuals who would like to begin a career as a Tattoo Artists have plenty of incentive to do so.

Pursuing this career path can guarantee that an individual is going into a career that they have a passion for making it a long term possibility for aspiring Tattoo Artists.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
New Jersey$74,420
New York$95,620
North Carolina$61,300
North Dakota$55,930
South Carolina$62,180
West Virginia$70,030

The top earning state in the field is New York, where the average salary is $95,620.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

New York - $95,620
Georgia - $90,350
Maryland - $88,270
Florida - $82,870
Massachusetts - $76,130
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Artists and Related Workers, OCC Code 27-1019, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a tattoo artist?

Tattoo artists are professional artists that create and then apply tattoos on the client’s body based on his or her request.

The artist can create permanent words or images with the help of special ink that is injected under the skin with a small needle.

Tattoos are one of the oldest art forms and many years ago they were used as religious symbols or as something that shows the status of the owner.

Nowadays, tattoos are mainly used for decoration, but they can also have personal meanings.

Tattoo artists can work in salons or have their own clientele.

A professional should be able to sketch a design, communicate with clients, educate the customers on proper aftercare, and be up-to-date with the latest safety and health procedures.

QuestionHow much do tattoo artists make?

On average, tattoo artists make nearly $40.000 per year.

In case you are just a beginner and don’t have a lot of experience, you can expect to earn around $28.500 at first.

Top-level tattoo artists with a great reputation can make a little less than $100.000 annually.

Typically, an artist earns around $15-$19 per hour.

The salary would certainly depend on the number of client’s and the total workload.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a tattoo artist?

You wouldn’t need to splurge on a degree, in case you want to become a tattoo artist.

In some places, it is illegal to work as a tattoo artist without a special license.

You would need to pay for a license and ideally get an insurance (the cost varies depending on the region).

In case you decide to join a tattoo apprenticeship, you will have the opportunity to receive quality training.

Usually, an apprenticeship will cost you $5.000 or more.

However, you can try finding an experienced artist that will become your mentor for free, but it’s practically impossible.

Bear in mind that you would also need to buy the necessary supplies (needles, inks, the tattoo machine).

QuestionWhat is the demand for tattoo artists?

The tattoo industry has never been as large as it is today.

And it is expected to experience further growth in the near future.

At the moment, the industry is experiencing a 13% annual growth.

According to a study, the more well-trained tattoo artists there are on the market, the more customers would want to get a tattoo.

Joining this $3 billion industry can become a very good decision.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a tattoo artist?

As you don’t need a degree to become a tattoo artist, it won’t take you too long.

Bear in mind that you have to have amazing drawing and sketching skills and be attentive to the client’s wishes.

This career path would most likely include an apprenticeship with an experienced tattoo artist.

You would need to agree with your mentor on the length of the training period.

Usually, an apprenticeship will take you 1-2 years.

During this time, you can expect to do around a hundred tattoos for free.

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