How to Become a Tattoo Artist in 6 Artistic Steps

tattoo artist

If you’ve ever dreamt of becoming a tattoo artist, you’re in the right place. In this article, I’ll guide you through 6 pivotal steps to help you achieve your goal and embark on an exciting career in the tattoo industry.

  • Honing drawing skills and creating tattoo designs are essential first steps in becoming a tattoo artist.
  • Understanding the history of tattooing enhances artistic abilities and expands knowledge of different tattoo styles.
  • Building a portfolio and establishing an online presence are crucial for attracting potential clients.
  • Obtaining a Bloodborne Pathogens certification ensures safety and hygiene practices in the tattoo industry.
  • Choosing between an apprenticeship and self-teaching is a personal decision that impacts the learning process.
  • Clarifying expectations and requirements before starting an apprenticeship or self-teaching journey is vital.

Now that we’ve covered the introductory steps, let’s dive deeper into each of the 6 artistic steps to becoming a tattoo artist.

Step 1: Improve your Drawing Skills and Create Tattoo Designs

The first step towards becoming a successful tattoo artist is to focus on improving your drawing skills and mastering the art of creating tattoo designs that seamlessly complement the human body. Being able to translate your creative ideas onto paper is essential in this profession. As a tattoo artist, you will need to create unique designs that resonate with your clients and reflect their personal stories.

To enhance your drawing abilities, consider exploring different art techniques such as shading, line work, and perspective. Practice drawing various subjects, including animals, flowers, and human figures, to develop a diverse range of skills. Investing time in observational drawing can also help you understand the form and structure of the human body, which is crucial for designing tattoos that flow harmoniously with the natural contours.

Utilizing digital tools can bring your tattoo designs to the next level. One popular software for digital drawing is Procreate, available on iPad. Procreate offers a wide range of brushes and tools that allow for precise and detailed digital artwork. By incorporating digital drawing into your practice, you can experiment with different styles, colors, and textures while refining your designs.

improve drawing skills

Benefits of Improving Drawing Skills: Drawbacks of Insufficient Drawing Skills:
  • Ability to create unique tattoo designs
  • Enhanced understanding of human anatomy
  • Improved shading and line work techniques
  • Increased versatility in artistic styles
  • Limited creativity and artistic expression
  • Inability to capture client’s vision effectively
  • Potential for poorly executed designs
  • Difficulty in creating intricate details

Having strong drawing skills is the foundation of being a successful tattoo artist. It allows you to bring your ideas to life and create designs that are tailored to your client’s desires. With continuous practice and exploration, your artistic abilities will flourish and set you apart in the industry.

Step 2: Understand the History of Tattooing

To truly excel as a tattoo artist, it’s crucial to delve into the rich history of tattooing and gain a deep appreciation for the various styles and cultural influences that have shaped this art form. Understanding the history behind tattoos not only enhances your artistic abilities but also allows you to connect with your clients on a more meaningful level.

“Tattooing is an ancient practice that dates back thousands of years. It has been used as a form of self-expression, cultural identification, and even as a spiritual ritual in many different parts of the world,” says renowned tattoo artist Alex Benson. “By studying the history of tattooing, you can learn about the techniques and symbolism associated with different tattoo styles, and gain inspiration for your own designs.”

One way to explore the history of tattooing is by examining the cultural significance of tattoos in different societies. For example, traditional Polynesian tattoos hold deep cultural and spiritual meanings, while Japanese irezumi tattoos are renowned for their intricate designs and storytelling elements. By studying these styles and their origins, you can broaden your artistic repertoire and create tattoos that are not only visually appealing but also meaningful to your clients.

Additionally, learning about the evolution of tattooing techniques and equipment is essential for every aspiring tattoo artist. From the early use of bone needles and natural pigments to the advanced tattoo machines and vibrant inks we have today, tracing the development of tattooing tools can deepen your understanding of the art form and help you stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends.

The Influence of History on Tattoo Styles

The history of tattooing has significantly influenced the styles and designs that are prevalent in the tattoo industry today. For instance, American Traditional tattoos, characterized by bold outlines and a limited color palette, draw inspiration from early Western tattooing practices. Similarly, the popularity of watercolor tattoos can be traced back to the techniques used by Impressionist painters in the art world. By studying the historical roots of different tattoo styles, you can gain insights into their underlying aesthetics and create tattoos that pay homage to the past while embracing modern techniques and personal artistic flair.

Table: Influence of History on Tattoo Styles

Tattoo Style Historical Influences
American Traditional Early Western tattooing
Watercolor Impressionist painting techniques
Realism Renaissance art and portraiture
Japanese Traditional irezumi tattoos
Polynesian Traditional Polynesian tattooing practices

history of tattooing

By immersing yourself in the history of tattooing, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the art form and develop a unique style that is informed by the past. Whether it’s through studying traditional techniques, exploring cultural influences, or tracing the evolution of tattoo styles, understanding the history of tattooing is an essential step on your journey to becoming a skilled and well-rounded tattoo artist.

Step 3: Build a Portfolio and Establish an Online Presence

In today’s digital age, it’s essential for aspiring tattoo artists to build a robust portfolio and establish an influential online presence to showcase their talent and attract potential clients. Having a portfolio allows you to showcase your best work and demonstrate your artistic range and skill to potential clients. Whether it’s traditional tattoo designs, realistic portraits, or intricate geometric patterns, your portfolio is a visual representation of your capabilities.

Creating a portfolio can be done both physically and online. Physical portfolios are a tangible way to showcase your work during in-person consultations or art exhibits. However, an online presence is crucial for reaching a wider audience and extending your reach beyond your local community.

To establish an online presence, consider creating a professional website or utilizing social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook. These platforms allow you to share images of your artwork, engage with potential clients, and build a following of art enthusiasts and potential clients. By consistently updating your online portfolio with new and captivating tattoo designs, you can attract attention and generate interest in your work.

Having an influential online presence also provides an opportunity to interact with your audience, answer questions, and even take bookings directly through online platforms. Additionally, featuring testimonials or positive reviews from satisfied clients can further enhance your credibility and attract potential clients.

Benefits of Building a Portfolio and Establishing an Online Presence:
1. Showcasing your talent and range of work
2. Reaching a wider audience beyond your local community
3. Engaging with potential clients and building a following
4. Taking bookings and generating interest directly online
5. Establishing credibility through testimonials and positive reviews


“Your portfolio acts as a visual resume, showcasing your unique style and creativity. With an online presence, you have the opportunity to constantly captivate and engage with potential clients, ultimately building your reputation as a talented tattoo artist.” – Tattoo Artist Mentor

To ensure your online presence is effective, it’s important to regularly update your portfolio with high-quality images, engage with your followers, and maintain a consistent and professional brand image. By investing time and effort into building a portfolio and establishing an online presence, you can elevate your visibility in the tattoo industry and increase your chances of attracting clients who appreciate and resonate with your artistic style.

build a portfolio and establish an online presence

As a responsible tattoo artist, obtaining a Bloodborne Pathogens certification is paramount to ensure the utmost safety and hygiene in your tattooing process, protecting both yourself and your clients. The tattoo industry involves working with needles and bodily fluids, making it essential to have a thorough understanding of bloodborne pathogens and how to prevent their transmission.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms found in blood or other bodily fluids that can cause diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). These diseases can have severe consequences if transmitted, hence the importance of implementing proper safety measures in the tattoo studio.

By obtaining a Bloodborne Pathogens certification, you will learn about the potential risks associated with tattooing and the necessary precautions to minimize them. The certification course covers topics such as infection control, sterilization techniques, personal protective equipment (PPE), and proper disposal of biohazardous waste. It will equip you with the knowledge and skills required to maintain a clean and safe environment for both yourself and your clients.

Benefits of Bloodborne Pathogens Certification

Gaining a Bloodborne Pathogens certification comes with several benefits, including:

  • Ensuring Client Confidence: Displaying your certification demonstrates to clients that you prioritize their well-being and adhere to strict safety standards.
  • Legal Compliance: In many jurisdictions, obtaining a Bloodborne Pathogens certification is a legal requirement for tattoo artists.
  • Professional Development: The certification serves as evidence of your commitment to ongoing education and professional growth within the tattoo industry.

Remember, the safety of both yourself and your clients should always be your top priority as a tattoo artist. Obtaining a Bloodborne Pathogens certification is an essential step in establishing yourself as a responsible and trusted professional in the industry.

tattoo artist Bloodborne Pathogens certification

Certification Course Details Provider Duration
OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Approximately 1-2 hours
Bloodborne Pathogens Training Red Cross Approximately 1 hour
Bloodborne Pathogens Certification Course National Safety Council Approximately 2 hours

Step 5: Choose between Apprenticeship or Self-Teaching

When pursuing a career as a tattoo artist, you have two primary paths to choose from: apprenticeship or self-teaching, each with its own set of advantages and considerations. Let’s explore both options to help you make an informed decision.

Apprenticeship offers a structured and hands-on learning experience under the guidance of a professional tattoo artist. Working closely with a mentor allows you to learn techniques, gain insights into the industry, and develop valuable connections. It provides an opportunity to observe and assist in real tattooing sessions, enhancing your practical skills and understanding of client interactions. However, apprenticeships can be competitive and challenging to secure due to limited availability and strict selection criteria. The duration of an apprenticeship can vary from six months to several years, depending on the mentor and your progress.

On the other hand, self-teaching gives you the freedom to learn at your own pace and explore your artistic style independently. With abundant resources available online, you can access tutorials, instructional videos, and forums to learn various techniques and expand your knowledge. Self-teaching allows for flexibility and creativity, as you have the freedom to experiment and develop your unique artistic voice. However, it requires discipline, motivation, and self-motivated research to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge. Online learning programs, such as instructional courses and webinars, can provide structured guidance and mentorship for aspiring tattoo artists seeking a self-taught approach.

Table: Apprenticeship vs. Self-Teaching

Apprenticeship Self-Teaching
Structured learning under a mentor Freedom to learn at your own pace
Hands-on experience in a professional setting Opportunity to develop your own artistic style
Networking and mentorship opportunities Flexibility to experiment and explore
Competitive and limited availability Requires self-discipline and motivation
Duration varies (6 months to several years) Access to online tutorials and resources

Ultimately, the choice between apprenticeship and self-teaching depends on your personal preferences, learning style, and circumstances. Consider your goals, available resources, and the level of commitment you are willing to invest in your tattooing journey. Both paths have their own merits and can lead to a successful career as a tattoo artist. So, choose the option that aligns with your aspirations and sets you on a path to artistic fulfillment.

tattoo artist apprenticeship self-teaching

Before embarking on your journey to become a tattoo artist, it’s crucial to have open and honest conversations to clarify expectations and requirements, whether you choose an apprenticeship or self-teaching route. Understanding what is expected of you and what you can expect from your chosen path will help set realistic goals and ensure a smooth transition into the tattoo industry.

If you decide to pursue an apprenticeship, it’s important to discuss the duration of the program with your mentor. Apprenticeships can range from six months to several years, depending on the structure and intensity of the training. By clarifying the apprenticeship duration, you can plan your schedule and make any necessary arrangements.

On the other hand, if you opt for self-teaching, you should research the resources available to you and develop a clear plan to enhance your skills independently. Online learning programs can provide valuable guidance and instruction, allowing you to progress at your own pace. Understanding the time commitment required for self-teaching will help you allocate sufficient time and resources for your artistic development.

Regardless of your chosen path, communication is key. Discussing expectations and requirements with mentors, peers, and fellow artists can provide valuable insights and guidance. This will not only help you understand what is expected of you but also give you an opportunity to learn from the experiences of others in the tattoo industry. By clarifying expectations and requirements, you can embark on your journey to become a tattoo artist with confidence and clarity.


Q: What are the steps to becoming a tattoo artist?

A: The steps to becoming a tattoo artist involve improving drawing skills, understanding the history of tattooing, building a portfolio, obtaining a Bloodborne Pathogens certification, choosing between apprenticeship or self-teaching, and clarifying expectations and requirements.

Q: How can I improve my drawing skills for tattoo designs?

A: You can improve your drawing skills for tattoo designs by practicing regularly, studying body shape and muscle structure, and using tools like Procreate on an iPad to enhance your digital drawing abilities.

Q: Why is it important to understand the history of tattooing?

A: Understanding the history of tattooing is important for a tattoo artist as it helps in developing a deeper appreciation for different tattoo styles and cultural influences, enhancing artistic abilities and creativity.

Q: How can I build a portfolio and establish an online presence as a tattoo artist?

A: You can build a portfolio by showcasing your best tattoo designs and artwork, taking high-quality photographs, and compiling them into a professional portfolio. To establish an online presence, you can create a website or social media accounts dedicated to your tattoo work and engage with potential clients online.

Q: Why do I need a Bloodborne Pathogens certification as a tattoo artist?

A: A Bloodborne Pathogens certification is essential for tattoo artists to ensure safety and hygiene practices are followed. It helps protect both the artist and the client from the risk of bloodborne diseases and ensures a clean and sterile tattooing environment.

Q: Should I choose apprenticeship or self-teaching to become a tattoo artist?

A: The choice between apprenticeship or self-teaching depends on your learning style and preferences. An apprenticeship involves working under a mentor and gaining hands-on experience, while self-teaching requires researching and learning independently. There are also online learning programs available for aspiring tattoo artists.

Q: How long does an apprenticeship typically last?

A: The duration of an apprenticeship can vary greatly, ranging from six months to several years. It is important to clarify the expectations and requirements of the apprenticeship program before committing to it.

Q: What should I do to clarify expectations and requirements before starting as a tattoo artist?

A: Before starting as a tattoo artist, it is essential to have clear communication with your mentor or yourself if self-teaching. Discuss and understand the expectations and requirements, such as the duration of the apprenticeship, the skills to be learned, and any other conditions that may apply.