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"You must have a tattoo artist license if you charge a fee to implant pigment into the skin using a needle or other instrument." - Washington Department of Licensing
Every budding tattoo artist must dedicate a few years apprenticing with an experienced tattoo artist, before setting up shop on their own. While there are a handful of tattoo artists who never apprenticed and still made a name for themselves, most require some serious training before they can master the art of tattooing.

If inking a design on someone was all it took, then every second person on earth could call themselves a tattoo artist! Yet, we know that tattooing is not as easy as it appears and it takes years of dedication, hard work, and failures to get the skill perfected to the extent of calling it an actual work of art.

When tattoo artists agree to take an apprentice, they are not only imparting their knowledge and expertise to someone, but they are also investing their time and efforts in teaching them. Which is why, many artists do not take apprentices often, because they either don't have the time to teach or they haven't found the right student. Following are some Buzzle tips on getting the tattoo apprenticeship of your dreams.
Your Portfolio is Your Best Bet
Man working at office
★ A well-presented portfolio is your best bet for being considered as an apprentice by a professional tattoo artist. Bear in mind that your portfolio must not contain images of actual tattoos. Instead, fill your portfolio with sketches that you conceptualized for making into tattoos.
★ Do not show incomplete sketches to potential mentors as that could make them think that you lack patience and are not too serious about this career. Another thing to remember is not to copy the work of other tattoo artists.
Tattoo artist
★ The intention behind making a portfolio is to attract attention towards your original work. Experiment with various mediums such as watercolor, ink, chalk, and charcoal.
Man drawing tattoo design
★ The biggest factor that will determine your skills as a tattoo artist is your ability to draw absolutely anything under the sun. The reason being, that tattoo artists have to make whatever the client wants and do not have the privilege of being choosy, until much later in their careers.
Showing designing sketch
★ That being said, don't stop yourself from showing your true artistic self to a potential mentor, because you may never know what might click with a tattoo artist.
Do Your Research
★ If your intention is to learn on the job and learn all that is relevant to your career, you will need to sieve the good from the not-so-good tattoo professionals out there.
★ Do not settle for less in your pursuit to get an apprenticeship. You do not want to end up spending months or years learning the wrong tattooing skills and then waste some more time unlearning those things.
Surfing the internet
★ Make it a point to visit as many reputed tattoo artists as possible. You should also check out their website and the tattoos made by them. Approach tattoo artists with at least 7-10 years of experience, as they would be better qualified to teach a novice like you.
★ You must also try to visit the studios owned by the tattoo artists shortlisted by you. Approach them and show them your portfolio. Ask for advice on how you can improve in your technique and if they really like your work, inquire if they would be willing to take you in as an apprentice.
★ It all boils down to putting the big question across to senior artists and asking them to teach you. You could also email or call them to fix an appointment before you drop in to visit. However, most tattoo artists are really busy to answer their emails, so it's best if you meet them in person.
Be Earnest
Folder label portfolio
★ You will need to show that you are really serious about becoming a tattoo artist. While half your battle can be won through an impressive portfolio, the other half will require that you show your eagerness and enthusiasm.
★ No one wants to deal with someone with a know-it-all attitude. Instead being humble and willing to work hard and learn along the way, are some traits that most mentors seek in a prospective apprentice.
★ When you approach a tattoo artist, do not try to pile them with praise and do not badmouth other tattoo artists. That will just show that you do not respect the people in this profession and are quick to pass judgment about people you barely know.
★ Show them that you really are passionate about tattooing and have decided to dedicate yourself to this art.
Increase Your Knowledge
★ Being aware of the history of tattooing, its culture, the legendary artists and their work, as well the artists who are not that famous, will let others know that you are a true member of the tattooing community.
★ Explaining how the technique and style of some notable tattoo artists vary from one another could highlight your ability to pay attention to detail.
★ The art of paying heed is an indispensable requisite in the field of tattooing and one that differentiates between an amazing and a abysmal tattoo.
★ It would also serve you well to read up as much as you can about blood-borne pathogens and how to prevent exposure or cross-contamination while tattooing.
Tattoo machine
★ Basic theoretical knowledge on how to clean and sterilize a tattoo machine, change ink, and dispose needles, could make any potential mentor take you more seriously than other applicants.
Develop a Rapport
Two businessman talking
★ If there is a specific tattoo studio or artist you would like to work with, then you will first need to develop a rapport as client and a friend.
★ You could either get them to do one of your tattoos using your own design, or you could help bring in good business for the studio by suggesting your friends and acquaintances to get their tattoos done by this studio.
★ Whenever possible, accompany your friends while they get their tattoos made from the studio, so that you can network with the people working in there and get to know them better.
★ During these times, you can show your portfolio to the artists and also learn how a tattoo is made and what all is done before and during a tattoo procedure.
Discuss Contract and Cost
★ It is rare to get a tattoo apprenticeship without having to pay. On the other hand, you don't want to end up paying a lot more than you bargained for and not learn anything substantial in the process.
Man signing contract
★ Make sure that you start working as an apprentice only after a formal contract has been signed by the mentor, who has specifically agreed to teach you the nuances of tattooing for a specific sum.
★ Secondly, be prepared to do chores that are not related to tattooing, such as bringing in coffee and food, cleaning the studio, throwing out the trash, and arranging appointments.
★ Remain patient and learn as much as you can by observing the work of the tattoo artists in the studio. While you're there, also learn how to interact with the clients in a more professional manner.
Getting a tattoo apprenticeship may be tough but it is very much possible. Be prepared to face rejection a couple of times before you finally find the perfect mentor for yourself. If the need arises, be willing to relocate to another city in order to explore more opportunities.