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How to Become a Tattoo Artist: Tips for Getting an Apprenticeship

Tattooing is a popular and creative form of self-expression that requires both artistic talent and technical skills. If you are passionate about tattooing and want to pursue it as a career, you will need to find a tattoo apprenticeship that can teach you the ins and outs of the industry. A tattoo apprenticeship is a training program where you learn from an experienced mentor who can show you how to safely and professionally tattoo clients. However, getting an apprenticeship is not easy, as there is no standardized or regulated path to enter the tattoo industry. You will have to work hard, be persistent and prove yourself to potential mentors. Here are some tips on how to prepare yourself for getting a tattoo apprenticeship and starting your journey as a tattoo artist.


1. Develop your visual art skills

Before you look for tattoo apprenticeship opportunities, you should independently cultivate your skills as an artist. Being able to create interesting and beautiful sketches and artworks on paper is an important first step before you can convince a mentor to teach you how to tattoo someone’s skin. Understanding the basics of composition, value, texture and line can give you the fundamentals to create compelling designs and show licensed tattoo artists that you have the potential to be successful in their shop. It can also make it easier for you to prepare an interesting portfolio of tattoo designs.


Consider taking art classes to learn about the elements and principles of art. You can also start practicing on your own by drawing in sketchbooks and experimenting with patterns, shading and techniques. The more time you spend drawing, the more you can refine your style.


2. Practice common tattoo art styles

Look at pictures of tattoos and research common tattoo styles to learn how to apply your knowledge of art to the tattoo industry. There are many different types of tattoo styles, such as traditional, realism, tribal, Japanese, watercolor, geometric and more. Each style has its own characteristics, history and culture. You should familiarize yourself with the different styles and practice drawing them in your own way. You don’t have to master every style, but you should be able to demonstrate versatility and adaptability in your portfolio.


3. Build your portfolio

Your portfolio is your most important tool for getting a tattoo apprenticeship. It is a collection of your best artworks that showcases your skills, style and personality as an artist. Your portfolio should include both original designs and copies of existing tattoos that you admire. You should also include different types of artworks, such as sketches, paintings, digital art and more. Your portfolio should reflect your passion for tattooing and your willingness to learn.


You should aim for quality over quantity in your portfolio. Choose only your best pieces that demonstrate your strengths and abilities. You should also update your portfolio regularly with new and improved works. You can use online platforms such as Instagram or Behance to showcase your portfolio online, but you should also have a physical copy that you can bring with you when you visit tattoo shops.


4. Get tattooed by artists you want to learn from

One of the best ways to meet potential mentors and learn from them is to get tattooed by them. This will show them that you respect their work, appreciate their style and are serious about becoming a tattoo artist yourself. Getting tattooed by them will also give you the opportunity to observe their techniques, ask questions and establish rapport with them.


You should choose artists who work in the style that you want to learn or who have a reputation for being good teachers. You should also be respectful, polite and enthusiastic when you interact with them. Don’t be afraid to compliment their work, express your interest in learning from them or ask for advice on how to improve your own art.


5. Research local tattoo shops

Once you have a solid portfolio and some experience getting tattooed by professional artists, you can start looking for local tattoo shops that offer apprenticeships. You should research the shops online, check their websites, social media accounts and reviews. You should also visit the shops in person, observe their environment, cleanliness and customer service. You should look for shops that have a good reputation, a friendly atmosphere and a high standard of quality.


You should also pay attention to the artists who work in the shops, their styles, personalities and backgrounds. You should look for artists who match your interests, goals and values as an aspiring tattoo artist. You should also consider the location, size and clientele of the shop.


6. Approach potential mentors

After you have narrowed down your list of potential mentors, you can approach them with your portfolio and ask them if they are willing to take you as an apprentice. You should be polite, humble and professional when you contact them. You can either call them, email them or visit them in person. You should introduce yourself, explain your motivation and goals for becoming a tattoo artist and show them your portfolio. You should also express your admiration for their work and your desire to learn from them.


You should be prepared for rejection, as not every artist will be interested or available to take on an apprentice. You should also be respectful of their time and space, and not be pushy or annoying. You should thank them for their consideration and ask for feedback on your portfolio. You should also keep in touch with them until you get a definitive answer.


7. Choose the right mentor

If you are lucky enough to get more than one offer for an apprenticeship, you will have to choose the right mentor for you. You should consider several factors before making your decision, such as:


•The length and structure of the apprenticeship: Some apprenticeships may last longer than others, depending on the shop and the mentor. Some may have a more formal or informal curriculum, with specific tasks and goals for each stage of the training. You should choose an apprenticeship that suits your learning style and pace.

•The cost and compensation of the apprenticeship: Some apprenticeships may require you to pay a fee or work for free in exchange for the training. Some may offer you a stipend or a percentage of the profits from your tattoos. You should choose an apprenticeship that fits your budget and expectations.

•The relationship and communication with the mentor: Some mentors may be more supportive or demanding than others, depending on their personality and teaching style. Some may give you more freedom or guidance, depending on their level of trust and confidence in you. You should choose a mentor that you respect, admire and get along with.

•The opportunities and challenges of the apprenticeship: Some apprenticeships may expose you to more clients, styles and techniques than others, depending on the shop and the mentor. Some may challenge you more or less, depending on their standards and expectations. You should choose an apprenticeship that will help you grow as an artist and a professional.

8. Commit to your apprenticeship

Once you have chosen your mentor and started your apprenticeship, you should commit to it fully and follow through with it until the end. You should treat your apprenticeship as a serious job and a valuable opportunity to learn from the best. You should show up on time, work hard, follow instructions, ask questions, take feedback, practice constantly and improve your skills. You should also respect your mentor, your fellow artists, your clients and yourself.


You should also be prepared for the challenges and difficulties that come with being an apprentice. You may have to deal with long hours, low pay, tedious tasks, harsh criticism, steep learning curves and high pressure situations. You may also have to deal with competition, jealousy, rejection or discrimination from other artists or clients. You should not let these obstacles discourage you or make you quit. You should use them as motivation to prove yourself and overcome them.


9. Graduate from your apprenticeship

After you have completed all the requirements of your apprenticeship and gained enough experience and confidence to tattoo independently, you can graduate from your apprenticeship and become a licensed tattoo artist. You should celebrate your achievement and thank your mentor for their guidance and support. You should also maintain a good relationship with them and keep in touch with them for future advice or referrals.


You should also decide what to do next with your career as a tattoo artist. You may choose to stay in the same shop where you did your apprenticeship, or look for another shop that suits you better. You may also choose to open your own shop or work as a freelance artist. Whatever you decide, you should continue to hone your skills, develop your style and build your reputation as a tattoo artist.




Becoming a tattoo artist is not easy, but it is possible if you are passionate about it and willing to work hard for it. Getting a tattoo apprenticeship is one of the most important steps in starting your career as a tattoo artist. It can teach you everything you need to know about tattooing safely and professionally from an experienced mentor. However, getting an apprenticeship is not easy either, as there is no standardized or regulated path to enter the tattoo industry. You will have to work hard, be persistent and prove yourself to potential mentors.


To prepare yourself for getting a tattoo apprenticeship, you should develop your visual art skills, practice common tattoo art styles, build your portfolio, get tattooed by artists you want to learn from, research local tattoo shops, approach potential mentors, choose the right mentor and commit to your apprenticeship. After you graduate from your apprenticeship, you can become a licensed tattoo artist and pursue your career goals.


Getting a tattoo apprenticeship can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience that can help you turn your passion into a profession. If you follow these tips and work hard, you can increase your chances of getting an apprenticeship and becoming a successful tattoo artist. Good luck!

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