I am a tattoo apprentice, artist, photographer, and cultivator of all things real.
In order to become a tattoo artist, an apprenticeship is one of the first steps you must take. Doing a formal apprenticeship is like enrolling in a trade school—you do it for the skills and knowledge you will acquire, for the connections you'll make, as a step towards certification, and for your professional résumé.
Apprenticeships are not easy to do, not easy to get, not easy to prepare for, and not easy to pay for. Nobody says it's going to be easy, but it will help you get where you want to go. This article will help you learn the advantages of getting a tattoo apprenticeship and how to go about getting one.
Do I Really Need to Be an Apprentice?
To become a tattoo artist, you absolutely need an apprenticeship. There is a long list of reasons why, but mostly it's because most states require a tattoo artist or piercer to have a license. Since most licenses require training, and one of the only ways to get training is an apprenticeship with a licensed artist, you need an apprenticeship. This means that you need to find a veteran tattooer who thinks you have enough talent to merit the the time and energy it will take to train you.
Here are the basic steps to an apprenticeship. Every shop and teacher will be different, but what follows is a good idea of what to expect.
How Do I Become a Tattoo Artist? What Steps Do I Take?
- Be an artist. This is the first and most important step. You can't become a tattoo artist without first being an artist.
- Build a portfolio. I mean a tattoo apprenticeship portfolio, not a tattoo artist's portfolio. They're different. Learn more below.
Find a certified tattoo artist-mentor who will take you on as an apprentice. This might be tricky. Learn how to approach a shop below.
- Learn the trade. During your apprenticeship, you'll do a lot of menial tasks, but you'll also learn professional business skills, best hygienic work practices, and tattoo design.
- Get certified. Every state has its own requirements; learn more and find links below.
- Find a shop to work in. After your apprenticeship and certification, you'll be ready to start getting paid! But first, you'll have to find a shop to work in.
Each of these steps is described in detail below, including answers to all the most frequently asked questions about the process.
1. Be an Artist
Some people hear the term "tattoo artist" and fixate on the word "tattoo" instead of the word "artist." Yeah, it's a cool job, but you must not only have to have natural talent as an artist, you have to practice, learn, and work that talent into something special. Everyone wants to be a tattoo artist these days, so the competition is pretty fierce. You'll need some mad artistic skills. That means you've taken classes, made art, developed a personal and unique style, and practiced, practiced, practiced.
No tattoo artist wants to teach you to draw. They can only teach you to tattoo. So the purpose of your portfolio is to show them that you have the artistry it will take to succeed.
If you are having a hard time deciding what to draw, think of different life experiences that people might want to get tattooed with. Tattoos may be about commemorating a time in one's life, remembering something or someone, or simply adornment. In your career, you will constantly be doing these kinds of tattoos. Ask your friends what tattoos they would get, and draw those. There's no better way to prepare yourself than to talk to people who may be your potential clients someday.
Draw every day. Make every drawing your best. Try to master new skills and try things that don't come naturally to you. Don't give up on an idea just because it's too hard or boring because you will not always have a choice about what a client wants.
(By the way, in most states, you'll also need to be at least 18 years old, and in many places, you'll need a high school diploma or a GED certificate to tattoo legally.)
2. Build a Portfolio
Do not walk into a shop with a portfolio of actual tattoos you've done. This will probably backfire on you for several reasons:
- You don't have any idea what you are doing, and that will be obvious to anyone who sees it.
- You may have caused harm or irreparable damage to the people you tattooed . . . and then you took a picture of it. This shows a lack of respect for both the client and the art itself.
- Any artist who takes you on as an apprentice will have to take time to not only teach you the right way to tattoo, but also to wean you off "scratcher" habits. So your portfolio full of amateur work warns them that you'll be extra difficult to mentor.
Bottom line: You should not be tattooing unless you have been trained by a licensed professional—and if you have, it's nothing to brag about.
What does a tattoo apprentice portfolio look like?
The book itself: Your artwork should be showcased in an actual portfolio, matted if necessary, and placed inside sheet protectors. You'll probably want three rings that open so you can easily move and remove pages. Every page should be full, so take out empty pages. Don't just use that battered three-ring binder you found: Choose something that looks professional.
What to include inside: Your portfolio should include from 25 to 100 finished drawings. The important word here is "finished." You don't want to walk into the shop with a book full of doodles, sketches, and half-baked ideas. Choose only your best work—the stuff that best showcases your talent.
As far as drawings go, you want to have a wide variety of work. Include things that people might get tattooed (including your own creative ideas) but also any drawings you've done that showcase your talent but might not translate well into a tattoo. Include color work—watercolor and ink are widely thought to be most similar to tattooing. DO NOT copy other artists' work. If that's your idea of tattooing, then you had better find a different career.
If you scroll down to the bottom of this article, you'll find a list of ten tips to help you put together a great portfolio.
3. Find a Licensed Tattoo Artist Who Will Take You as an Apprentice
Find a shop with a good reputation, maybe one you'd like to work at someday. Many shops take artists based on their personal style. If they specialize in a style you're good at, that could work—but if you have a style or talent they don't have covered, that could work, too. But don't worry too much about this. Mostly, look for reputable, professional shops that get plenty of business.
Don't text, call, or email. Go in, say hi, and ask them if they'll take a look at your portfolio. If they take a look, listen to any advice they have for you. If not, leave a card and try again on another day. Be friendly, professional, courteous, and appreciative of their time.
What to look for in a tattoo mentor:
Ideally, you want to learn from someone who actually wants to teach, who's mentored before, who has a good educational background, and who will challenge you. This person will be responsible for helping you learn the basics and some of their own tricks for tattooing, so you want the best.
Persistence is absolutely key in this process. If possible, get tattooed by the artist you want to learn from. Even better, get tattooed as much as possible (there are many reasons for this advice). Hang out in the shop if they'll let you. Ask the artists you meet how they learned, who taught them, what advice they have. You might even volunteer your time to help build a relationship with the artists there.
Will I get paid to be an apprentice?
This would be a miracle. Most tattoo apprenticeships are unpaid. Just like students are not paid for attending college, you won't be paid for doing your apprenticeship. You'll probably need to work a side job until you get your license.
Do tattoo apprenticeships cost money?
Although the best apprenticeships in the most reputable shops sometimes don't cost anything, they're also the hardest ones to get. Apprenticeships will probably cost you about $5,000. Some apprenticeships cost more ($10,000 was the highest I've heard about), so you will want to choose wisely and work hard to make it worth your while.
Do I really have to pay to be an apprentice?
Probably. If your skills are so amazing that you have mentors fighting to work with you, then maybe not (this doesn't actually happen in real life, but it's a nice fantasy). Maybe you won't have to pay if your mentor is also your friend or if you can work out some kind of trade. But most people will pay at least something for the apprenticeship.
How should I approach a shop to ask for an apprenticeship?
- Just like with any other job, you need to know who you're dealing with, so do your homework first. Study the shop's website, look at the artists' bios, and look at their work and reviews.
- Don't go on a weekend, and go at a time when the shop isn't too busy.
- Show up in person. Face-to-face is the smartest and most direct approach.
- Talk to the person at the front desk and ask what the best approach is. Treat everyone you meet with equal respect. Remember that the person you're talking to is probably either a potential mentor or an apprentice like you want to be, so they all have something to teach you.
- Bring your portfolio. If necessary, you might leave it there for a couple of days to give them a chance to really look at it.
Does it matter where I get my apprenticeship?
Of course, some shops and mentors are better than others. Ideally, you'll want to surround yourself with great artists and healthy scenes, but I've heard plenty of apprenticeship horror stories. There are definitely some bad eggs out there. Getting a lousy mentor probably won't kill you, but it will certainly slow you down, so choose carefully.
What if I can't find an apprenticeship?
If you can't find anyone to take you on, you have these options:
- When someone takes a look at your portfolio, listen carefully to what they say. Ask them what they think about it, and use their feedback to revise and improve your portfolio.
- Consider relocating. If you expand your location focus, you'll have more options.
- Focus on your art. Take classes, learn new styles, expand your skill set, and perfect your techniques.
How long does an apprenticeship take?
Usually a couple years, but some last 3 years or more. It's smart to check your particular state’s requirements on the state's Department of Health website.
Do I need to sign a tattoo apprentice contract?
The contract is important so everyone knows exactly what they're agreeing to. Especially if you're paying, you'll want to sign a contract up front so both you and your mentor know exactly what is expected. It should spell out how long the apprenticeship will last, what it will cost, what your responsibilities entail, and exactly what skills you'll be learning. If you'll be expected to work there after earning your license, this should be described in the contract, as well.
4. Learn the Trade
When you get an apprenticeship, prepare to be what they call the "shop bitch." You don't get paid and you do all the dirty work: answer the phones, schedule appointments, take out the trash, sweep up, run errands, and stock, set up, and break down stations. Chances are that's all you'll be doing for awhile. They have you do this to make sure you're actually interested in doing the job, to weed out the unworthy, so take these tasks as an honor. You're lucky to be there! Act that way. And don't wait to be asked to do these things, just do them.
What will you do during your apprenticeship?
First, in addition to those menial tasks, you will work with your mentor to learn professional business skills, hygienic work practices, and tattoo design. But first, you will do a lot of watching and listening. This is the first step to learning, so stay attentive. You will learn how to make needles, use the autoclave, and take health precautions (which you will need for blood-borne pathogen certification).
After that, you will start learning to use the tattoo machine (never call it a "gun"!). At first, you will tattoo on fake skin, fruit, and maybe even yourself, depending on your teacher. You will learn about all the different set-ups for the machines and the difference between liners and shaders. Meanwhile, you will also be drawing and learning how to draw quickly and well. It's a LOT of hard work.
How long does a tattoo apprenticeship last?
Apprenticeships can take anywhere from one to three years, so plan accordingly.
Will I be tattooing during my apprenticeship?
You will do around 100 free tattoos during your apprenticeship. But in fact, "free tattoos" means that you pay the cost, so make sure to have a lot of money saved up for supplies. You can tattoo friends, family, whomever you wish. You get to keep your tips. After your'e certified, you can start charging clients.
5. Get Certified
Every state and country have different requirements, but you'll probably need to do a certain number of apprenticeship hours, take some health and safety courses, and pass an exam on hygienic tattooing practices. Find out what requirements you need to fulfill in order to work where you want to. Then, when the time comes, fill out all the forms, take the tests, and provide all the documents required to be certified. You must be certified to tattoo, or you will risk your reputation and possibly get into trouble with the law.
Once you've gotten your certification, you may start tattooing and charging for it! So congratulations! You've made it.
Do you need a license for tattooing?
In some states, only the shop needs a license, but in others, both the shop and each individual tattoo artist needs one. To see what specific states require of individual tattoo artists, see this list of the tattoo licensing laws, by state. This site also links to applications for each state and offers information on how long each state's license lasts before it expires and needs to be renewed.
What do I need to do to get certified to tattoo in my state?
You should be able to find the tattoo licensing application along with information about fees and the submission process on your local government's business department website. The requirements vary from state to state, city to city, but it might be helpful to look at the list of tattoo licensing laws and applications by state (see link above).
6. Find a Job as a Certified Tattoo Artist
Sometimes, the shop where you learned to tattoo will put you on contract for at least a year after you've completed your apprenticeship. Keep working hard, taking pictures of every tattoo you do, and adding them to a new portfolio. After your contract is up, you may choose to stay at your home shop or you may find a different shop.
A huge part of your success depends on your networking and self-promotion skills. A large portion of the work you get will be through word of mouth, so get to know other artists and collectors. Go to conventions! Put yourself out there, don't become complacent. You are responsible for your success at this point, no more coddling or hand-holding. Go for it! Your future is yours to shape.
Tips for Creating a Great Tattoo Apprentice Portfolio
- Include a cover letter and a résumé. List all the classes you've taken and relevant experience you have.
- Start and end the portfolio with your strongest pieces.
- Think about how each piece plays off of (or possibly fights with) the pieces nearby. You want the pieces to compliment each other, not compete or detract from one another. Think of the relationship of the pages and building an overall impression.
- Include any artwork you've done that highlights your talent. If they show off your skills, include a photo of that sculpture you did or that graffiti you painted or that design you embroidered, even though they're not tattoos. If you do digital work, add that in. But remember that this is a tattoo portfolio and your drawing skills should definitely come through. If you have them, include flash sheets. In other words, you can include things that won't work as tattoos as long as the majority of the works included showcase your designing, drawing, line, shading, composition, and coloring skills.
- Choose pieces that show off the wide range of your skills. If you can work in a variety of styles, then show that range in your portfolio. Choose some pieces that show what you can do with line work, color work, dot work, black and grey, but also choose some pieces to show how you handle color. Anatomy is hard. Portraits are hard and realism is hard. If you can do it, show it. Most tattoo artists would prefer to work with an apprentice who has diverse abilities, someone who can do it all. The pieces you include should show that you're willing to try lots of things. If you seem like you can't or won't do much, they might choose someone else to work with.
- On the other hand, you don't need to know or be an expert in every style. If you specialize in a certain style, that's something you'll want to show off, too.
- Again, don't include any half-done sketches. This is your best, most professional, polished stuff. An apprentice may end up helping with designing tattoos, so show how you follow through on unique and creative endeavors. If you only have sketches, then you've got lots of work to do before you whip out that portfolio!
- Before you go in to the shop, think about what you want to say about each piece. Practice in front of a mirror if you need to.
- Don't include work that isn't completely yours or isn't from your own imagination. We all copy others' ideas sometimes, but try not to include clichéd, borrowed, or overdone ideas in your portfolio.
- When you go in to show them your portfolio, make sure to bring a card that includes a representative piece of artwork, your name, email, phone number, and links to sites where your work can be seen. If they don't have time to see you now, leave the card and come back again later.
We need to see finished art. Full color stuff, smooth black and gray, perfect line work, nice composition, attention to detail, and anything else that would set you apart from the next guy. Remember, we ALL feel like there’s already too many tattooers in the world. The supply vs. demand is way out of balance, so the deck is stacked against you right from the start.
— Chad Chase, tattoo artist
© 2008 tattooed lady
Jesus Milajuandro on July 09, 2020:
What a ridiculous pile of BS advocating the violation of labour laws in virtually all Western nations. Being US centric there's also a lot here that is just wrong as very few states require a license of any sort and those that do are basic blood borne pathogen training that applies to many industries.
Reading between the lines? Don't even think about tattooing without your tax to the bikers and coke dealers in your area.
Alicia Clark on December 29, 2019:
Where do i fill out the form to receive my tattoos licenses
Fabian Diaz on October 22, 2019:
Most states don't require an apprenticeship. I Just spent two days coding legal documents for the tattooing industry in the US.
Skyfox on June 12, 2019:
This view is incredibly outdated. It's held onto by the people who were used by apprenticeship in the first place and the only way to rectify it in their minds is to perpetuate it.
The Scary Guy from Wigan, England on June 06, 2019:
Great information, well written.
Toni on April 10, 2019:
Very helpful info. here. Thanks for creating this article for those who are looking for it!! :) buena suerte a todos!!
Inkerz Tattoo in Lakeside, CA on December 04, 2018:
20,000 well I just asked Johnny who told me 30,000 for an apprenticeship , so yeah I can agree insane it is. but I won't stop until I get what I want and need.
Hubtattoo is asking an insane 20,000 for an apprenticeship on September 06, 2018:
Mom on July 13, 2018:
Is there any paper work to prove that the apprencship is legit? How do you know that its a set contract and where do you get the papers?
Johny on May 17, 2018:
This is not a true learning environment. Making people work for nothing is against the law and it is a joke. Basically they use apprenticeship to mean free labor. The entire industry to me needs a revamp if this is what they call an apprenticeship.
Alana on April 05, 2018:
This was extremely helpful thank you!!
Pietro on March 15, 2018:
This is so stupid and elitist, not to mention dumb and/or evil you are. As in any other kind of business, being a “shop bitch” and an apprentice is a way, but it is very far from being the only or necessarily fast one. The same time and work one can invest being harassed, humiliated and wasted can be used to filter and acquire knowledge on the area, not to mention the obvious fact that it doesn’t matter how much frightened, wisdom-clinging and cowards like you wanna scowl about it, youtube and the internet are there, and they are just so strong cause there are tons of people like you. In case you have missed that part on tattoo history, it began as an outlaw, indigenous, warrior marking kind of culture, yet you bark and cry about it being all about respect and tradition when tradition is not more than a good idea that became a trend for a long time. However, like old schoolers crying cause THEY had to prostitute themselves to learn, they’re faded to be forgotten very quickly in the bigger scheme. Stay safe with your carps and sailor jerry designs, change and self growth was never intended for cowards. :)
James Brooker on November 26, 2017:
Do they HAVE to all be coloured in? If the tattoo designs in my portfolio are meant to just be black, will I still have to present a few designs with colour, even if its only a few of them?
scratcher on October 31, 2017:
many great artists started as scratchers. some never had apprenticeships in the first place, just started their own shops, you can't get more old school than a scratcher. and you're more likely to be original as an artist, lots of boring stuff out there that looks like whatever shop you'l go to and now i'm talking about people that call themselves old school while making a limited imitation of an imitation of someone elses school of tattooing, and for the hygiene, all you need is an new needle, plastic on the table and gloves (and be in a more or less clean room) , that is how used to be done in shops before all the hysteria. if you get an infection or decease from a tattoo it's most likely you're own fault for not taking care of it.
Eileen Kennedy on October 25, 2017:
Can I start a tattoo apprenticeship in one place and finish in another
Brett Von Martin on September 10, 2017:
What if you've done a hundred or more tattoos in prison? You can't get photos of them. So now what is my direction?
Blackmala on August 27, 2017:
@leafymonkey it'd be nice if I knew your name to talk about all you asked. I'm graduating this year but would like to find this problem with you
kristin anderson on July 14, 2017:
your information was very useful. thank you for letting me read what you had to say and learn
Shi on June 05, 2017:
How old do you have to be to start tattooing
pratyunsha on March 05, 2017:
what kind of test? what is it 'bout??
Jay on February 15, 2017:
I understand that these days an apprenticeship is required, and that somehow nowadays people who learned to tattoo in prison are 'scratchers'. What I don't understand is that tattooing has been around since time immemorial, from dirty, hand-picked tribals to getting tattooed on moving ships with whatever lay around.
My point is...THAT is the essence of tattoo history. I have seen many many tats that came out of the joint that are far superb to most work I've seen done in street shops, never got infected, scarred, or blown out.
My point is, if people are willing to be 'scratch pads' for you to practice your craft, and you have done tattoos on hundreds of people (not myself, just saying..) and actually perfected many techniques...how is sitting around in a shop mopping the floor and not actually tattooing ANYONE supposed to make you better? Is it a rite of passage if your work still sucks compared to a person who's done it many times? Or if the 'untrained' tattooist has learned their skill by actual experience and not just what they've been told? Who's to say their teacher doesn't have bad habits?? I've even seen a shop with a good reputation where the artist didn't even autoclave his shit. Hmm..
Or is a long list of satisfied customers a rite of passage... Think about it. I don't know when tattooing became basically new-age white collar work, but apparently its rich history has been forgotten. It used to be for tribes, scumbags, people who were shunned by society...nowadays if you learn tattooing in the actual historical sense (sans Asia..) its considered a no-no. I don't get this. Why can't the person receiving the artwork determine for themselves whether they want the artist's needle in their skin?
Everyone is too good for everything these days....and not every state requires an artist to pass a test. Again I say I have seen many tats from shops I would NEVER go to.
Sitch1221 on December 27, 2016:
i understand spending as much time in a shop as possible, i mean i could spend all day in a shop now and i dont even have an apprenticeship yet. But in order to pay for the apprenticeship, and all the equipment i am going to need, will the tattoo artist that decides to take me on have an issue with me working a job while going through my apprenticeship?
Dennis Allen Burke on December 22, 2016:
Curious if you know what you have to do if you've owned a shop in a state that didn't require a tattoo license like wv fur over 3 years to get a license in VA
Leafymonkey on October 17, 2016:
Ive been studying tattooing ever since middle school because it's my lifelong goal to become a tattooist. I've drew tons and tons of pictures, did tattooed on myself as basic training. But one problem, im Deaf. Will it affect other shops not to accept me due to my disability? Im currently looking for an apperenticeship but couldnt find one. Its kinda hard for me to break that barrier that prevents me from tattooing. I would like to be a deaf tattooist. I need some advice how to get some appertenceship, please.
Raymond C. on July 14, 2016:
Im 30 yrs old and am really in need of professional training....i draw regularly and have recently quit doing home tats just for safety and sanitary issues....constantly trying to get a portfolio together....am i to old to get a apprenticeship?....and it seems like every shop i go to speak with to try to get a apprenticeship is so secretive about the industry why is that?
Kath on March 15, 2015:
Hey with the portfolio does it have to be of just tattoo designs or can it be art work?
Alex on September 24, 2014:
When I was in Seattle, WA (love it there) I went into every tattoo shop there and they all wanted my portfolio but not color drawings. They wanted to see all the Tattoos I've done. I tried to show my color drawings an was told to go out an learn to tattoo an when I have a portfolio of Tattoos come back. I meet with one of the Tattoo Apprentices an ask him how long it took him an he said he had to tattoo how of his apartment for 3 years charging $60.00 an hour before they would Tattoo Apprentice him. Then he said they just looked at my 3 year portfolio an put me to work tattooing.
Is that common in a lot of states or cities? Thanks.
Kerry Taylor on June 15, 2014:
I'm over 50 and would love to have the opportunity to tattoo, I love to draw, I copy, but love doing black and grey, do you think that there would be a spot out there for me, I'm persistent, am eager to get out of the night shift job that I do at the moment and do something that I love and that is to draw. I have been experimenting with a tattoo gun at home , not on people just getting the feel for it and I can honestly say I feel confident, with guidance and teaching I'm sure I can become an asset to a tattoo shop if they accept me.
stephen on June 05, 2014:
I worked in a shop during my twenties. I am a professional chef now. I still freelance tattoo to this day. While I agree with you that an apprenticeship is a vital avenue towards a career in tattooing I feel like you are making to much of it's importants. Tattooing is an art. It is intuitive. A natural ability. No apprentiship can, no matter who the master may be, make up for the lack of natural ability. There are a lotof "artists" out there putting bad work on people who get to do it because they had an apprentiship. I feel like you are giving people the wrong idea. That an apprentiship is the only way you can be a tattoo artist. It is not. A tattoo artist is born not made.
ering on January 03, 2014:
I've been looking into getting a tattoo apprentice and this article answered a lot of my questions! Reading over a bunch of the comments and the authors responses to questions was also super helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write this!
Jennifer V on June 06, 2013:
Awesome Article! Great advice and very straight forward.
I have done a "apprenticeship" out of a house that did not become official, tried again at a shop and walked away due to the artist wanting only one thing from me, then went to a shop and attempted another apprenticeship. He had me come in once a week to watch, taught me how to clean and made a couple stencils. This was a total of a weeks worth of time he wanted me to be there. He then had me bring someone in to tattoo them. I was so excited but he was busy with a client, I was under the impression that he was going to teach me and walk me through it. I was all on my own. I offered all of my time to the shop and I was incredibly eager and respectful of the artist, but for some reason he didn't teach me at all. I never paid and never signed a contract. I have no problem paying and have expected to. My question is how do I get a solid legit apprenticeship? I am worried of going to another shop because I do not know how it is supposed to work. All I want is to work hard, dedicate my time and doing all the "bitch" tasks that are needed (happily to do so) and develop into a tattoo artist eventually. Are there any red flags I should look for? How do I know when an artist says; "yea I'll give you an apprenticeship," it's going to be the real deal? If you have any advice, pointers, please I could really use them. I am lost and have so much drive to tattoo.
sammcandraw on February 14, 2013:
I love drawing, i spend all of my free time doing so and have an extensive array of drawings, it wouldn't faze me to clean/ be the shop 'bitch'. I would put everything into getting an apprenticeship, but this article has proved useful yet rather daunting as the cost is very worrying. It sounds like only people with money will be able to accomplish this. I have been told by past teachers and family that I could achieve much more, after eventually convincing them this is what I want, it feels that this is an unreachable goal.
HotMommy0124 from Tennessee on February 13, 2013:
I am 24 years old and have just recently been thinking about working to become a tattoo artist. I have always loved drawing but have never been able to find a job where I could just draw for a living. Technological art like web design just doesn't interest me. I haven't drawn much lately but have been starting back and drawing daily. I was wondering if me being the age I am will hinder me from getting an apprenticeship. I know there's nothing I can do about my age but are tattoo parlors generally looking for younger people like 18 or 19? I also have a son so I may have to work a part time job if I can't get an apprenticeship within the next two years.
Angie on January 29, 2013:
Hi, I am thinking of learning the craft, but I am 54. Am I too old? I love drawing and painting. Thanks
RADICAL DESIGNS on January 10, 2013:
Hey, I've been tattooing for 18+years, without a license. I am very interested in getting a license, BUT, i am to old to apprentice under someone or be a " SHOP BITCH". If you know of any short cuts, they would be greatly appreciated.
tattooed mom on December 11, 2012:
My 18 year old daughter just started her apprenticeship at Acheron Studios in Tennessee. She has been drawing all of her life. Lately, she has done some very awesome sharpie pen tattoos for people. The shop she is at is where I get my ink. I showed the owner(awesome guy by the way) her art book. He saw a lot of talent in her and very clean lines. She has been there since August and loves it. I am so proud of all she can do and will do, in this profession. But its like you say, she is the shop bitch. She cleans everything from floors to toilets. But still loves it. She has been setting up the stations and has already taken her airborn pathogens class. So, if you can find a good shop with good people and can get an apprenticeship, you better take it. Thanks!!
AmandaSLynn on November 25, 2012:
I'm 24, graduated with a degree in Fine Art in 2010, I was always fascinated with the idea of my art being on someone's body. My art is a piece of me, and it would be an honour and very rewarding to have people want that on their bodies. I can't even pin point a time I liked art put it this way I was probably about 3, found a pencil, became an artist lol. Some people decide they are an artist when they get into tim burton and buy some water colours at 19, this is a pet hate of mine. I don't do art to be cool, it's who I am. Every new drawing/painting/sculpture/photograph and various art-related things I do is my best, I think I get to my best then I pick up a pencil again and realise I can be better. Saying this, I finally think I've reached that level of beyond the average of most young artists so I'm confident my art is enough to impress but I'm always open to constructive criticism. I've also managed to save up £2000 so I have money as I know I will be working without pay.
I'm going to create a C.V to leave at studios after I visit them, what sort of things would you advise me to say on my CV? I am a member of two artists groups and take part in all the exhibitions I can, shall I mention this? I am going to be the cover artist for a local magazine next month, will this be a good thing or will they take this as me not staying "loyal to tattooing"?
I've not had any tattoos done, there is a reason for that: I want to do my own first tattoo. Will this put mentors off or will my artistic background, skill and passion be the most important thing?
I had a friend who got an apprenticeship, but she got in with the wrong person and the studio closed down. I want to aim high and be a tattoo artist, any advice on how to present myself would be great!
niki on November 11, 2012:
Thank you all for you questions and comments. I'm a mom of an apprentice and have been going crazy over the hours my son puts in at the shop. After reading article and comments I realize what a blessing it is for my son to be in a very respectable shop for free. I'm also realizing that he knows this. I wish the best for my son in achieving his dreams. Thanks again.
Rosie on November 06, 2012:
Tattoolady - do you have any ideas, thoughts, comments on learning how to cosmetic tattoo?
I wonder if there are apprentiships for this type of tattooing.
Peskus on October 26, 2012:
Corey Miller, Kat Von D, Guy and Hannah Aitchison, Nikko Hurtado; none of these guys had a formal apprenticeship. Corey Miller made his own machine using a guitar string as a needle. These people are among the best in the world. There are 8 or 9 tattoo shops within a 20 mile radius of my home. Only 3 of them have apprentices, the others aren't interested. Their attitude is "what's in it for me?" (yes, they were actual words used by a tattooer I asked to apprentice me). I have been tattooed by 20 different so called professional tattooers, and I'm only actually happy with the work of one of them. If you're good, you're good. If you're not, well.. then you're not. The guy who asked what was in it for him has a dirty studio where the floor doesn't look like it's ever been cleaned. A tattoo I got from him took nearly a year to heal and was infected and resulted in huge split holes in my skin. By the time it had healed most of the ink had faded. So with respect to earning your dues or whatever, quality training from a quality shop that does consistently quality work is rarer than hen's teeth. If you can get an apprenticeship and you're happy with how and what you're being taught, then that's awesome, but I don't think that everyone else should just give up and go home. Google the names of guys you admire, read their blogs and history. I bet you a crisp pound note you find very few that went the apprenticeship route...
inkedbyv on October 06, 2012:
I am a frustrated late-bloomer. After finding some success in my publishing related career, my dream has long been to retire into a new career as a tattoo artist. Watching L.A. Ink and Miami Ink is only making the desire stronger. I am 50 years old (but a young 50 year old... not stodgy but not pretending to be 20 either) and got started looking into an apprenticeship, but nobody returned my email requests. Eventually I bought a kit and started doing work on my friends. I don't know if it just came naturally to me or what, but it is going really well. I emailed again and this time sent my portfolio, which I honestly think rivals the work at most of the shops I've enquired at, but still, nothing. I hate to say it, but the tattoo industry is creating scratchers. When there are people like me willing to apprentice, and not getting the opportunity, we'll just find our own way. My question is, is there a way to become licensed without going through an apprenticeship?
dawind from Urantia on August 27, 2012:
Had to join this site just to comment.
I find all of this very interesting! I agree a lot with what LAtyme (above comment) has to say....
I also find it funny how people say you "need" an apprenticeship.....come on, really? Polynesians have been doing it way before there were "machines" or any of this stuff!
From what I have seen many of the tattoo artists out there have NO business tattooing anyone, I mean people with their own studios!
I went thru this same crap 35 years ago when I first began to airbrush, it was just a bunch of people trying to keep the competition out! Same deal for the most part.
The health stuff is serious business, autoclave is totally a must in this day and age of disease.
So, my personal opinion is that if you really want to learn to tattoo, go for it......be real about it and don't practice on anyone you love....lol
Experience is the master of all teachers, you take that how you will, for me, I will not be using an apprenticeship, I won't be a "scratcher" either!
I will learn all I can and practice as much as I can and when I feel I am ready, I will be doing tattoos.....simple as that...I don't need anyone's approval, doesn't matter to me, I know myself and what I am capable of......that's all that is needed.
Chinge Su on June 28, 2012:
apprenticeship are made for 2 real reasons to keep people from flooding in this career and to teach you how to tattoo the proper way and that's the thruth.
Severn on June 22, 2012:
I started my apprenticeship a little over a month ago and it was great. Now the owner is showing he is disrespectful to employees and customers and he likes to talk behind peoples backs. I understand an apprentice is "shop bitch" but being talk to and treated like a dog is not part of the deal. I'm curious if all owners/bosses are this way and are they doing it to see if you can handle it or did I just get lucky?
Jaqui on May 31, 2012:
I forgot to give yo my email: email@example.com :)
Jaqui on May 31, 2012:
I will like to know if you can point me to the right direction, my husband is starting his apprenticeship in a couple of days, but since we are paying a good amount of money i wanted to have something in paper (legal) that within the year he is teaching my husband he does not back out? I don't know how to set this contract legal paper up or who to do it for me or what should be on it? Can someone help me?
Thank you so much!!
Mushroom on May 30, 2012:
I am currently building my portfolio for an apprenticeship i have a few friends that are an apprentice at the moment
so i get few tips off them but is there any important tips that i need to know first could you e-mail me at
thejohnlennon on May 23, 2012:
tattooed lady could you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org... would like to ask a few questions and send a few pics to you... it would be greatly appreciated thank you
davedevil on May 18, 2012:
Hey I found a shop that's not quite the cleanest and who a friend works for that is willing to take me as an apprentice. I'm 38 and time is getting short, I haven't been drawing too much but I am passionate about learning. It seems to me that this is the only place that is willing. My friends work is great! , Its just not that reputable of a shop. What is your advice?
Jay on May 17, 2012:
This is amazing im seventeen and looking to apprentice one day the funny thing is I learned all this when I was five growing up in a shop
TinyTattooer on May 16, 2012:
Some of the comments on here about apprenticeships just sound like they were written by big babies. Tattooing is different from drawing or any other trade. There is a reason you need to spend various months, if not years to learn how to be sanitary and how to properly tattoo. If you really want to learn the trade, then you better be willing to spend at least 6-12 hours a day at the shop, with very little days off in between. That's including juggling jobs and school and life. Tattooing consumes you. You better be ready to test your relationships and friendships and say good by to your self respect and self confidence. It's not for everyone, and there is always a reason for the long hours and endless cleaning.
Survival of the fittest.
tattooed lady (author) from Minneapolis on May 15, 2012:
Keep drawing, but DO NOT use those machines. You are still developing your skill as an artist and part of being any kind of artist is patience and discipline. I know its hard to wait, but if you want a solid future as a tattoo artist, remember to respect the industry and those who work within it!
Best of luck!
C.h on May 10, 2012:
Im prolly on of the youngest people on here im only 14 been drawing ever sence i can remember ive been doin graffitti for 2 years now i already have 2 tatoos just gott em done not to long ago ive wanted to be a tattoo artist sence i was ten but like u said they want aprentiship people under 18 , i draw shiit everday i already got 3 tattoo machines ,i just wanna know what i should doo sence i cant get an aprentiship ?
craig on May 09, 2012:
hi i live in england and most of the tattooist that i know have been tattooing for 20+ years i know this because i was at school with them and that was when they started tattooing most of them have tattoo shops now but never did proper apprenticeships. but having said that they are still really good tattooist. most of them were around thirteen or forteen years old when they started that's what happens when you go to a all boy school.
avalon on May 01, 2012:
How can u tell you're not being used.... Like being at the shop often without your mentor being there.?...letting the artist go home on call and expect me there mon~saturday. And must give advance time off. Plus i work another job to pay for this apprenticeship.... I know that if u want somethng u gotta do it... But does it crossed the line of respect..... I would do anything for the shop....
Amy on April 27, 2012:
Hey great article! :)
i don't know if this question has been asked, but i have 2 haha, my first: do you have to have tattoos to become a tattoo artist? also my second question: what kind of art do you have to be good at? graffiti, portraits, landscapes etc.
i may sound stupid, but please help? thankyou :)
Greg Collins on April 17, 2012:
I've been looking into becoming a tattoo artist for several months and I'm a little anxious that I may be looked upon as too old to start. I'll be 29 this year and have done a few different things for jobs in the past few years and I'm looking for something I can commit to. Currently I work as a skin tech for a tissue bank, so obviously I work with sharps, biohazardous materials, and skin all day. I also spent 3 years as a commercial photographer and got to work with some big celebrities and photographers here in Denver and in NYC. Finally, I have a degree in microbiology from CU. Are any of these things worth bringing up when I do go looking for an apprenticeship (I'm still working on a portfolio)?
tattooed lady (author) from Minneapolis on April 15, 2012:
No, that is not my work.
tattooed lady (author) from Minneapolis on April 15, 2012:
I've been getting TONS of e-mails just about every day, so I'll be using a new e-mail address specifically for answering your questions from this hub. PLEASE KEEP IN MIND: I don't often visit this hub to read the comments because I am very busy, so if you have questions PLEASE send an e-mail if you are looking for a response!
Thanks for all your support! This hub remains the number one search result on Google for tattoo apprenticeships!
DarkJester on April 13, 2012:
I am looking into the world of tattoing, ive have about three portfolios of my own recorded flash, it just seems that somehow, everytime I go to relocate, my portfolios come up missing, generally because people want to claim my work themsleves. I know im an artist, so what can I tell my "master" when I want to see about an apprenticeship?
cheree thompson on April 04, 2012:
omg i love tattoos and who ever made this site i frekin love u lol jkjk but thanks for making this info so easy to find
RaRa on March 27, 2012:
As someone who has an apprenticeship the scratcher comments are missing a really important point. Hygiene.
Regardless on how good or neat a tattoo looks (wether it will still look good in 10 years remains to be seen, as learning depth and pressure is something you cant get off youtube) unless you are using an autoclave your equipment isn't clean. Unless you are trained in how to sterilise your equipment you are risking spreading hepatitis C not to mention various other diseases and infections.
I don't know about the States but the UK it is illegal to dispose of needles in general waste and it has to be put in bio hazard medical waste bins.
Everyday we have people coming in to get god awful tattoos done by home tattooists covered up. Patchy work, shaky linework and stuff that is just technically god awful.
Get yourself checked.
email@example.com on March 21, 2012:
I am 20 years of age. I have been doing my own tattooes and my friends for about 3 years now. I have my high school diploma I am interested to get into appreniceship
Tasha Leanne on March 13, 2012:
I'm only 17 and being wanting to find a tattoo apprenticeship for atleasta year now, but the only trouble is i live in a small town and both the tattoo shops around here don't really want to teach young people. should i make my search range wider and what is best to use for a portfolio and should the pictures consist of pictures you have drawn for ideal tattoo's for yourself and what friends have asked you to draw for them?
Alfonce prince on March 13, 2012:
What age can I get a apprenticeship?
E-Young on March 12, 2012:
Hey, killer article tattooed lady, i was just hoping to get some advice.... I just turned 17 in january and have taken a realll interest in becoming a tattoo artist. I'd say im an all right artist, but my art is better when i have a reference... and even then i dnt think that its "tattoo portfolio" material. And i tend to get real disappointed when my work comes out bad...
Any suggestions to help me out with my probelems would be greatly appriciated!:)
Mark (different one...) on March 11, 2012:
I think the thing that you are missing is that no matter what other medium you work in, whether it's writing, graffiti, painting, digital, etc... You can always erase it, paint it white and start over, or undo. Tattooing is permanent. It's the only medium where you can't go back and start over. Not only that, but the canvas you work on walks, talks, eats and breathes. Is it really fair to have them stuck with a bad piece of art on them? That's a lot of responsibility, and you should understand the gravity of the situation before ever even thinking of picking up a tattoo machine. This person is entrusting you to put something on their body for life.
LATyme on March 08, 2012:
so let me get this straight. no matter what in order to be recognized as a tattoo artist you need an internship. so would this mean that in order to do lettering you would need a street internship. maybe some jail time behind yer belt? who dictates an artists work. practice creates perfection, an understanding of the medium, paper, paint or flesh. true an internship will shortcut the time needed to engage and understand. but a good artist is a good artist no matter what. so who is the authority. a few white folks trying to police ink? the cleanest lines have came from behind bars, and that clutter and color is cover up. i have seen some good trained tattoo artists, but they are also good artist regardless the medium. just like graffiti there is very few original work from real artists, most everything is recycled ed hardy garbage. Mr. Cartoon was famous before his internship, and he said he did learn from it, but i don't think he payed for it? some chumps been mainstream for years and cant do portriats, some folks got half a decade and do perfect portriats in ink! so who really dictates these rules? you MTV kids crack me up. what's next to try and dictate? gonna say u need an internship to skate, did Van Gogh create his style through an internship?
Mark on March 08, 2012:
Hells yeah Joseph! They can't hold us down!
joseph on February 26, 2012:
amen mark!!! i taught myself from youtube, and practiced on my prision buddies going over picked tattoos by making them look better and smooth. Ive done about 15 tattoos and everyone says my work looks like a shop did it but for half the price. i don't understand why shops have to be so stuck up and such haters when it comes to sharing the wealth and the fun. and common sense helps out a lot when it comes to tattooing, its key in knowing what to do for all situations. and if i never get an apprentinceship im still going to side hustle what i do know and have learned on my own and let the haters hate!
Eggy_ on February 26, 2012:
Hey there I have been reading through all the comments and would really love a professional opinion on my dilemma,So I have been drawing my whole life and started getting really influenced on the art of tattooing I soon realised this was what I was born to do, So started putting my portfolio together, After endless searching for a apprenticeship I found one and was amazed, So I was working for 11 months at the tattoo shop and realised they were quite unprofessional as I could see the mistakes and risks they were making so ended up leaving, To my surprise I had the best news that another shop was eager to take me on, It didn't take long to realise I had picked up a few minor bad habits from the other studio which was through no fault of my own, The other studio have seen this and now are been very BITCHY with me and not in the sense off been treated like an apprentice but more on a personal level they make remarks like your work is not worthy when I know and other artists have told me I am doing really well and can notice the improvements after days of sly comments I find my self coming home with no confidence, feeling down, Stressed out So my question to you Tattooed Lady is should I be putting up with this as I am grateful and feel very blessed but its knocking my confidence especially when tattooing in the studio and plus I am not learning anything they are just been straight up rude and disrespectful. Oh yeah and the best bit is the person that makes these comments are coming from is not an artist but a business owner. I can not wait for your reply.
amanda on February 26, 2012:
I really want to be a tattoo artist when I'm older. I am seventeen years old, and almost done with my junior year of high school. I live in a small town, and I currently and unemployed. how should I prepare myself to get a good aprentinceship? should I go to college and study art, or would that just be a waste of money? I'm very passionate about drawing, and I know I can be a good tattoo artist. what should I do?
Mark on February 24, 2012:
Let me clarify. Im a commercial artist. I airbrush, paint, etc. And I get paid well for my work. I never had to get an apprenticeship to do those things, so why should you do for tattooing. Its just a different medium. Its just another way for the people who are tattoing now to keep everyone else from taking there work or money. I know people who 'scratch' from home that blow away people who have been tattoing for years. Don't take offense for all you tattoo artist that had to apprentice but I don't care if you paid your dues or not. If your a bad tattoo artist who went thru an apprenticeship or a scratcher who does phenomenal work. Guess who im choosing.
Mark on February 24, 2012:
Hate to say it but I think the whole apprenticeship is a bunch of bull.
DumpTruck on February 22, 2012:
Ive been browsing the net for the last hour trying to put together an idea of what a proper artists portfolio should consist of. (your site came up as #7 under google search "what does a good art portfolio consist of")
Anyways, Im confused about still life. I believe doing it builds foundation and its something you should display in a college acceptance portfolio but what about the world of tattooing?
azarius shaw on February 20, 2012:
I'm 14 and I have been drawing my whole life. I plan on being a great tattoo artist and be the best there is. My goal as a tattoo artist is to prove that I am somebody and color the world with ink.
mike pedross on February 20, 2012:
true words. :-)
DestinyDear on February 19, 2012:
Hi, im 15 turning 16 in june, this article has helped a lot, but i was wondering, what classes and certifications do you need? Ive asked around but have never really gotten a good awnser. Also would i be allowed to work a front desk at a tattoo parlor with parental conscent? Ive been drawing since i was a young girl, ive taken many classes, and i know that tattooing and drawing are two completely different things, but i really want this, and im wiloing to do anything it takes to make it out there. Im passionate about this, i feel it has great meaning and its a big responsibility, this means a lot to me, please help. Thank you so much.
bobby d on February 07, 2012:
I'm currently in a career that i feel isn't what I'm supposed to be doing...I'm 33 years old now and I've been drawing ever since I was a little kid. I actually went to school for art for a little but when finances were tight had to switch career paths and learn a trade in construction to make ends meet. I feel like I'm wasting my talent and always wanted to do this, but the question i have is...is it too late for me to start this appreticeship?
leon on February 06, 2012:
I've been on my tattooing journey for three years and no apprenticeship no one wants take a chance on someone new I have a portfolio and I draw every chance I get I've done over 100 tats is there anyone I'm the ny area I'm in yonkers.still looking to learn more and if if not I'm still doing me and Ive been doing good work if you can guide me to an apprenticeship would be nice
wsmithpa on January 29, 2012:
Iam 36 years old and want to get an apprenticeship. i have been looking for a while now and even have found through friends, shops that want this position filled. i'm not super ugly or brad pitt. i do pride myself on good hygene though. i have my portfolio and am ready to do all that is needed of me without any bitching... but nobody is willing to give me a chance with so many young guys out there. please help!!!!!!!!!!!!
HannahByrd on January 27, 2012:
Is this yours? I just happened to see this on reddit today and the user's name is thetattooedlady. So I was just wondering.
Toni' SynystEmotion on January 25, 2012:
My sister whom has been tattooing for over 10 years is considering giving me an apprenticeship. She is giving me a discount for it. Should I take it? I'm 15.
Kirsty on January 16, 2012:
Where would I look for an apprenticeship?
neighborchick on January 16, 2012:
i am 16 and i have been wanting to start apprenticing asap. i already asked my rents if it was ok and they said yes.... does anyone know any places that are looking for apprentices or any numbers i can call to start finding out?
Jay on January 15, 2012:
I've been tattooing for 5 years learn some things from a friend pro tattoo artist I draw my own work I'm not a scratcher I know how to ink never had any problems ! My point is some people have a gift not all tattooists get the opportunity to get the apprentice job! Remember tattooing never started in a studio ppl I've got lots of respect but if nobody willing to give you the chance ya gotta go for it draw tattoo ya self small stuff then work up clean lines !
Little Miss Tattoo Lover on January 01, 2012:
This article was very helpful., because I wanted to understand all the work that went into apprenticeship. I'll be 18 in July, but for now I'm going to start building up my portfolio & working hard. Thanks for the information Tattoo Lady
tattooed lady (author) from Minneapolis on December 02, 2011:
Thanks for all the kind words. Remember, if you have questions it is better to send me an e-mail rather than leave a comment. Just click the little envelope icon under my picture. I'd be interested to see what everyone is working on. Send me pictures of your drawings if you'd like some extra guidance!
drag1 on November 17, 2011:
tattoos are a story line meant to help u complete a great part of your life. weather the creation of the art is to remember a past love one or the changes in life that have happened for the good from the bad .
Cori on November 10, 2011:
Amazing, very informative article. I've read a lot on the internet about apprenticeships and a lot of it is quite off putting. Thanks for putting my mind at rest about a lot of questions I had, and giving me an extra kick up the bum to get my portfolio done and dusted!
mashenka on November 01, 2011:
Had a question about the portfolio...should I put there my actual artwork or just take photos of them???
skinner on October 25, 2011:
i really wanna do an apprenticeship and i understand that its gonna be hard work,. but im glad i came upon this site,. kinda helped me out a bit to what i seriously need and thanks!
Meleasha on September 07, 2011:
Thank you to everyone that commented on this page and of course tattoo lady yourself. I've loved drawing since I was a child and have carried on this love throughout, I'm 18 and about to start a fine art degree at university. I am constantly doodling as well as drawing large scaled images on myself and my friends just with pen, but my friends are always fasnitated watching me do it so I prosume I'm at least kinda good, I became interested In tattooing about 3 years ago and since then it's become my main dream. The main question I wanted to ask is if it possible to carry out a tattooing apprenticeship while undertaking my degree, as I'm going to spend 3 years having not much money being a student and it would be a great advantage to be able to learn both at the same time. Great article tattoo lady you've really inspired me
Evey on September 03, 2011:
Great article - First off.
I have an interview for an apprenticeship coming up soon in a really respectable studio that has Four amazing artists working there, and I'm just over the moon!
I found it quite a lot more difficult putting together the Portfolio than I expected, as I'm more comfortable with a pencil or charcoal than paint or letrasets, but I got it done and I'm really proud of myself.
I'm 21 now and I've been preparing my Folio non-stop since the age of 18 - and luckily I have had a lot of advice and input from a close friend who's been Tattooing for about 12 years and has done some of the most incredible work I have seen to date (if only he hadn't moved halfway around the world, I'd be hounding him for an apprenticeship!). Even to get to this stage it's been a lot of hard work and I can't wait for the next stage :)
Basically I just wanted to say to everyone in the same place as me right now - We can do it!
Enrico on June 20, 2011:
I actually had an Intrest in tattooing my whole life, I am currently in a job I hate to death!!!
I studied Graphic and Web design and hate it to bits I am in the current stage of deciding what I want to do, I deffnatly know that tattooing is what I want to do the rest of my life. except that I live in SA and the amount of great even good tattoo artists is very limited.
I'm in the process of doing my portfolio, updating redrawing, making new ones etc. seeing as there is so little amount of great tattoo artists. How do I increase my chances of getting the apprentinceship??
I do have a few parlors in mind but would like to know what would be the best to land the aprentinceship??? and will my Graphic knowledge be a plus?? And do you recommend me keeping the job I have currently even though I hate every second I'm still young and willing to do more in my life...
I know that this is hard to find but every suggestion and/or positive advice is helpful.
Kimberly on May 14, 2011:
"Tattoo schools are the biggest joke in the industry. If someone comes into a decent studio looking for a job after 'graduating tattoo school' they will be laughed out of the shop and maybe roughed up a little." Is this true? I'm seventeen and planned on attending this place called "Tattoo Learning Center", just for the hands-on training.
tattooed lady (author) from Minneapolis on May 14, 2011:
Remember: I'm always available via e-mail for faster responses!
Boing- My mother was the same way. In all honesty, how much money you make depends on your talent, your reliability, your location, and your clientele. It's definitely taking a risk getting into tattooing as a career. However, both you and I know that tattooing is worth taking the chance. Remember, money should never be a deciding factor when following your dreams.
Lauren- You're feeling something natural for any artist of any medium, its especially prevalent in younger people. I myself suffer from the same complex. While yes, it is very discouraging and frustrating, its important for you to just keep working. Remind yourself that it doesn't matter if someone is "better" than you. Art is a never ending learning process that even the greatest artists ever known have never perfected. Strive to be great and know that there is always always room to improve. I can't honestly say if you will ever feel completely confident, but I can say that you will learn to trust yourself in your work, and that to me means much more.
Bling- It doesn't necessarily mean you can't get an apprenticeship. It does mean that if you haven't been trained properly, you will have to be untrained in bad habits and retrained in techniques. I strongly suggest you retire the tattooing for awhile until you get an apprenticeship!
Sean- While you think you may be a great tattoo artist, it would not hurt at all to get training. Its the fundamentals that count the most when learning tattooing, and I have to wonder what you have missed out on because you "taught yourself". As far as what to do next, I would strongly suggest a proper apprenticeship, however it being your decision, just look up your state laws on tattooing. That'll give you an idea of where you need to go next...
fatkat von k on May 06, 2011:
With years of searching, blood sweat and tears, I found a free apprenticeship. A fantastic one. Who say they will also teach me piercing. They say you can learn piercing in as little as three weeks. Along with the portfolio advice, draw lightly, as far as, don't make huge sure dark lines as this is like being a 'scratcher' and listen to everything tattooed lady is saying, she's not telling you wrong. I say good luck to every one of you, especially the kids. And also don't follow suit if there's drugs around, be a role model yourself! -havoc harris
sean on April 11, 2011:
i need to know what to do. i'm already a great tattoo artist. i taught myself. is there a way to get my license without school or apprentice?
Lauren Baker on March 29, 2011:
This article has really inspired me. I have been emailing around my local city's such as Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings (were I live ... England) Just trying to get advice off many different tattoo artists. But this article was by far the best piece of advice I have heard. I am doing an A-Level in art at college; I am also always drawing, doodling, if I have no paper it will be on a wall, table, myself. Everything. I know a lot of people just see being a tattoo artist as a 'rock n roll' life style, I know it's not. I can see it's not, yet I am really wanting to pour my heart and soul in trying to be one of the best in East Sussex, even if that means being the 'shop bitch' for a rather long time. The only Issue I have is I don't think my drawing are anywhere near up to scratch. I am very creative some of my best drawings just come off the top of my head or from a pencil line on a table. I have drawn some pieces I am really Proud of that people are wanting as tattoo's at college people are asking me to draw them tattoo designs, BUT my big issue is I don't know how to feel confident in my work. I get discouraged by other peoples work. And then annoyed when they don't do anything with their talent. Should I just carry on drawing and confidence and pride will come naturally?