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Career Advice

How to become a Tattoo Artist

How to become a Tattoo Artist?

Are you an arty type with a great eye for design?  Have you got creativity by the bucketful and a passion for body art?  Don’t mind the sight of a little blood?  Then a career as a tattoo artist or ‘tattooist’ as they are sometimes known could be just the one for you!

You might be surprised to learn that tattooing is one of the oldest careers you are ever likely to come across, with TATTOO ARTISTcountless ancient civilizations having practised the art in one form or another.  Admittedly tattooing has come a long way from the days of tribal branding to denote allegiances and status but the principle of marking your skin as a means of expression remains pretty much the same.

As a result of people’s seemingly ‘built-in’ proclivity towards irreversible ‘inking’ (as its known in the industry) talented tattoo artists are always in high demand.  Here’s some handy advice for you would be needle-nudgers…

The Role

Well, it’s fairly self explanatory but just to be sure… a tattoo artist is an individual who creates permanent (or semi-permanent) decorative markings on the skin. A tattoo artist’s hours of work will resemble that of people working within the retail sector with most parlours operating within business hours. Salaries vary greatly depending upon where you are working and your seniority however a junior tattoo artist can usually expect to receive at least £15,000 per annum, however those with a high level of experience can expect to receive much more than this.

Job Activities

You might think that the job activities of a tattoo artist are fairly self-explanatory, however as with most jobs, that is far from the truth.  As much as it is about creating beautiful designs, it is also about providing great customer service by carrying out the customer’s wishes and creating a calm and reassuring environment.  A tattoo artist duties incorporate a range of work areas including consultation, drawing, sterilization, sanitation, aftercare knowledge and promotion.

With this in mind, here are some of the duties you could be expected to carry out on a daily basis;

  • Meeting with clients in order to discuss the specifications of their tattoo

  • Creating hand-drawn designs to illustrate ideas based upon the clients suggestions

  • Meeting with clients to present your designs and get their feedback on the designs you have created (amending your ideas as necessary)

  • Undertake day-to-day maintenance and upkeep of the parlour including the sanitization of all equipment used in the tattooing process

  • Highly skilled use of electric needles to create the design on the clients skin with indelible ink

  • Cleaning and bandaging of the tattoo after completion

  • Providing information to clients about the immediate care procedures needed in order to care for the tattooed area and prevent infection

  • Following stringent health and safety procedures

  • Keeping up to date with the changing fashions and trends within tattooing

  • Promoting the work of the parlour through a number of marketing activities perhaps including social media and attending trade fairs

Skills and personal attributestattoo

With so many different tasks to be completed, there is a particular skill-set which is highly desirable for people wishing to enter a career as a tattooist.  Here are some of the ones that we think are most important;

  • Exceptional skills of design and illustration (this is absolutely essential for a career as a tattoo artist)

  • Outstanding attention to detail

  • A very high level of manual dexterity and nerves of steel

  • A “Perfectionist” attitude towards your work, you should always bear in mind that the tattoo you are creating is permanent and therefore it needs to be completed to the highest possible standard

  • Constant awareness of cleanliness and an understanding of the need to maintain hygienic work practices

  • A sound knowledge of health and safety issues surrounding the creation of a tattoo and the willingness to follow all procedures precisely

  • Physical and mental stamina – These are essential to maintain concentration particularly when creating detailed/large tattoos

  • Great customer service skills to make clients feel welcome and relaxed

  • Highly developed verbal communication skills which are particularly essential when liaising with clients about the options available to them.


In this respect, the road to becoming a tattoo artist differs greatly from that of any other career we have featured to date as there is only one route which can be taken due to the very highly regulated nature of the industry.

If this is the path you wish to choose then you will need to gain an apprenticeship with an existing licensed parlour and train under the other artists there.  A tattoo artist apprenticeship lasts for around 2 ½ years full time and will (most likely) be unpaid.  Further to this you may also be required to provide your own equipment.

Once enough work experience has been gained and you are proficient at tattooing unsupervised, a licence to practise must be obtained from the local council.

The reason that this is the only route available to anyone who wishes to become a tattoo artist is so that in order to be granted a license you must be working and have experience – therefore without a position and the necessary experience you won’t be able to work. Most professionals would agree that a tattoo artist is not properly qualified until they have been working for at least 5 years.

There is a very hefty fine for working as a tattoo artist without having gone through the process outlined above.

If you still reckon you could turn your hand to tattooing then best of luck, otherwise you might want to take a look at some of the other great careers in our career directory.


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