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Tattoo FAQ 08: How do I become a tattoo artist?

Question: How do you become a tattoo artist? Do you go to school for it or do you just get an apprenticeship somewhere?

First of all: A wise tattoo artist once said: "You can become a tattooist, but whether or not you are called a tattoo artist is up to your customers."

The only way to learn tattooing the right way is serving an apprenticeship under a reputable artist. This is true where ever you are. When it comes to the "how" and "where", of an apprenticeship, it depends a lot, where you are based.

If you are in the US: You will have to pay for an apprenticeship. That is common practice and the prices go anywhere from 6,000$ to 15,000$. The duration is usually about two years. All these numbers can of course vary. Not all studios take on apprentices, and naturally you should not just put up at the first studio you come to. Be aware that the teacher you have is going to be your reputation later!

If you are in Europe: It seems like there is no common practice in Europe when it comes to a tattoo apprenticeship. Yet again it depends on what country you are in *within* Europe, and whom you are dealing with. You can be lucky and find THE artist you like and whom likes you and does not charge you a lot, or you could be running around for years and not find ANY do-able studio/artist.
We have heard of cases (VERY few and far between), where an established artist would take on an apprentice for free. DO NOT bank on this! The chance of that happening is less than 1%!

No matter, where you are based: When you decide to serve an apprenticeship, and you are looking for an artist to take you on:

Have a portfolio ready. Not all artists/instructors attach a lot of importance to it, but it for sure looks odd if you don't have one.

Be informed, but not precocious.

Take the time to get to know the shop / artist before you ask for an apprenticeship.

Even though you will have to pay for being an apprentice: treat it like a job interview. The better chunk of you being successful is in the attitude.
A "typical" (if there is such a thing) apprenticeship is split in two parts: The first six months is very basic: you will not touch any skin. You will learn to sterilize, do stuff around the shop, draw flash, learn to make needles.... Keep in mind, that you will most likely NOT be making any money during this time in the shop! After about six months you start working as a "working apprentice". There will be somebody who will look over your shoulder and guarantee for your work. The customers you work on should know that you are an apprentice, you usually get a share of the money they pay.

You can find an introduction to the world of tattoo apprenticeships in our 'Learn to Tattoo - enhance your tattoo skills' DVDs" [CLICK HERE].

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