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A tattoo artist gets to play a very unique role in a person’s life. It is, in fact, a tattoo artist who is responsible for helping customers bring their visions of permanent body art to life. Any time someone looks at their tattoo—over the course of their literal lifetime—they’ll think back on the time they spent with the artist who made it happen. 

Even if they never actually see each other again, a tattoo artist and the people they tattoo forge a permanent relationship. What a cool way to use your artistic talents in a way that has some serious staying power! 

If you’ve ever wondered how to be a tattoo artist or what it’s like to be one, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading for more details about life as a tattooist. 

tattooing
Source: Unsplash
What a great way to put your creativity to work! 

What Does a Tattoo Artist Do? 

The answer to this question probably seems pretty obvious. A tattoo artist creates and applies permanent art to the human body, right? Yes. But it’s not quite that simple. Let’s break down tattoo job requirements a little further. Here are a few tasks you’ll find in a tattoo artist job description: 

Meet With Clients to Discuss the Tattoos They Want

discussing with customer
Designing the tattoo is a collaborative process with the customer. 

Most people who are considering getting a tattoo will want to meet one-on-one with an artist first. During this kind of conversation, you’ll hear from the client about their vision for the tattoo, including where they’d like to get it and how they’d like it to look. They may bring in inspo photos to help guide the discussion, but they might also expect you to share ideas and answer their questions. 

Draw the Tattoo 

After meeting with a client, a tattoo artist will need to put together a design that matches the client’s requests. Some artists will draw entirely by hand, while others will use platforms like Procreate. When the client comes in for their session, the tattooist will make any changes they request or move forward with what’s already been done. 

Sterilize and Maintain the Equipment

Prior to actually tattooing someone, a tattoo artist must make sure that all of their tools and equipment are sanitary and safe. This is an ongoing task for any professional tattoo artist. It’s not quite as creative as the other elements of a tattoo artist’s job description, but it’s an absolute must. 

Tattoo Clients

tattooing
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Complicated tattoos may require multiple sessions. 

And now on to the main event… actually tattooing a customer! Once your tattoo sketch or design has been approved, it’s go time. Tattoo appointments are typically booked in advance, so you’ll know what designs are on your plate on any given day. You’ll be injecting ink and other pigments underneath the skin with a small, sanitized needle. Some tattoos only take one session to complete, while others will need to be drawn over a series of appointments. 

Help Clients Take Care of New Tattoos

When you’ve finished with the tattoo, it’s up to you to ensure that your customer knows how to take care of their new ink. Instruct them about the right products to use and assure them that you’re available if they have any questions or concerns while their tattoo heals. 

Stay on Top of Trends 

Like any industry, tattooing is always changing. There are new techniques, tools and approaches in the mix all the time! In order to be at the top of your game as a tattoo artist, you should plan to keep your finger on the pulse of the tattoo world by following relevant social media accounts, watching videos online, and networking with others who work in the space. 

Tattooing 101

Let’s Do a Tattoo! 

How to Become a Tattoo Artist 

If this sounds appealing, here are a few steps you should plan to take in pursuit of a tattoo artist job:

Education Requirements 

tattooing
Source: Unsplash
While training you’ll learn how to operate all of the necessary equipment.

The educational requirements for a tattoo artist will vary from one state to the next. Start your journey as a tattooist by looking into what will be necessary where you live. Generally speaking, though, aspiring tattoo artists should expect to complete some kind of training program or apprenticeship in order to earn the licensure or certification necessary to operate legally in their particular state. Training programs are available online and locally. 

Art Courses

The best and most in-demand tattoo artists are also talented, well, artists. You’ll learn the logistics and mechanics of tattooing during your training program or apprenticeship, but you can take your skills to the next level by honing your creativity and artistic talents with an art course or two. Consider taking drawing classes at a nearby community college or online. There are plenty of courses on drawing by hand or with Procreate right here on Skillshare. 

Experience 

Prior to becoming a full-time tattoo artist yourself, you’ll need to put in hours working for and with experienced tattooists. This kind of work experience will give you a chance to learn hands-on about how to handle and maintain tattoo equipment, run a tattooing business, practice your tattoo artistry and more. Tattoos are permanent, which makes things pretty high stakes! The more experience you can get, the better. 

Learn Anatomy 

Since you’ll be working on the human body as a tattoo artist, it’s probably a good idea to learn something about it! Research basic anatomy classes at local community colleges or adult education programs or check out online anatomy courses. You don’t need to become an expert, but you’ll be more confident when talking to customers about the tattoos they’d like to get if you understand how their bodies work. 

Average Tattoo Artist Salary 

Do you feel like you’re up to the task of these tattoo artist job requirements? According to Indeed, the average annual salary for a tattoo artist in 2021 is $56,421. This will vary based on where you live and the setting in which you choose to work. 

Where to Work as a Tattoo Artist 

tattoo parlor
Source: Unsplash
Find work as a tattooist in a tattoo or piercing shop wherever you live. 

You can find tattoo artist jobs in tattoo shops and piercing shops in pretty much any town or city. If you’re looking for a tattoo artist job, call around to local businesses and see if they need new employees or have the space to bring more artists in. 

Medical Tattoos 

Many people think of tattoos as purely cosmetic and decorative, but there’s a whole other category of work available for tattoo artists who want to put their talents to use for people who are recovering from surgeries and other medical challenges. A medical tattoo artist assists physicians who specialize in reconstructive procedures by injecting ink and pigments into a patient’s body to mirror the details of human anatomy. 

One common use for medical tattooing is in reconstructive surgery for breast cancer patients. In this case, medical tattoos are applied after breast implants are inserted to mimic the natural look of nipples and areola. This kind of medical tattoo can help a patient regain their confidence after dealing with a stressful health issue. 

The Tattoo World Needs You! 

If you’re a great artist who enjoys working with people and is open to learning the technical sides of tattooing, you might just find your calling as a tattooist. As a tattoo artist, you can (quite literally) make your mark on a person’s life. Jobs for tattoo artists are available just about anywhere. Get started today! 

Make Tattoos Meaningful

Mini-Class: Beautiful Ink: Designing Meaningful Tattoos