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What is a Tattoo Artist?

Also known as: Tattooist, Tattooer.

A tattoo artist is someone who creates permanent images or words on the skin. This is done by injecting ink under the surface of the skin by piercing it with a small needle. Tattooing is one of the oldest art forms known to man; in ancient times tattoos were not only applied for decoration, but for religious significance or as a status symbol.

How to Become a Tattoo Artist

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What does a Tattoo Artist do?

A tattoo artist is a professional artist that will create and apply tattoos based on a client's request. Many walk-in tattoo studios have hundreds, if not thousands, of images that the client can look at and choose from. Some clients prefer to bring in their own picture, or have a custom tattoo drawn up for them, and will seek out a tattoo artist that can do custom work (usually at a custom tattoo studio). Once the image has been chosen, or drawn, the tattoo artist will transfer the image onto the client's skin. The placement of the image can be adjusted several times until the client is happy.

There are many pathogens and diseases that can easily be transferred through the blood, and a tattoo artist must take extra care in the safety of the client and in making sure that all equipment is sterilized before each appointment and that tattooing needles must be discarded after each use.

After the tattoo has been applied to the skin, the area needs to be kept clean in order to avoid infection and to ensure proper healing. The tattoo artist will educate the client on proper aftercare.

A tattoo artist’s daily duties:

  • Cleaning and sterilizing tattoo equipment
  • Cleaning and sterilizing work areas
  • Thinking up new designs and sketching them out
  • Keeping up to date with the latest trends in tattoos
  • Meeting clients to discuss their ideas
  • Booking appointments
  • Tattooing clients
  • Educating clients on proper aftercare
  • Keeping up-to-date with the latest health and safety procedures

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How to Become a Tattoo Artist

There is no degree required to become a tattoo artist, but in order to be successful, it is necessary for an individual to possess natural artistic ability and creativity. Taking art classes either in high school or at a community college in order to learn various skills is a great first step.

Formal training through an apprenticeship is necessary in most states to meet licensure requirements. Seminars in disease prevention and skin diseases and infections, and training in blood-borne pathogen prevention may also be required for licensing.

The Alliance of Professional Tattooists recommends an apprenticeship of at least three years. Before artists can obtain an apprenticeship, they will need to compile a portfolio which will showcase their versatility and their ability to draw a variety of subjects. During their apprenticeship, the aspiring tattoo artist will work alongside professional tattoo artists and learn how to sterilize equipment, operate a tattoo machine, and work on designing tattoos.

What is the workplace of a Tattoo Artist like?

Some tattoo artists will start their own tattoo studio after years of experience, but most artists will typically start out working in an existing tattoo studio that has all the necessary tattooing equipment, many books of designs, and a dedicated workspace for tattooing clients. Work hours are usually from 10am - 6pm or later, six days a week. Each appointment requires intense concentration and leaves little room for error, therefore the job can be mentally and physically tiring.

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Further Reading

  • So You Want My Job: Tattoo Artist www.artofmanliness.com

    Our interview subject today is one interesting cat. Roni Zulu is a LA-based cellist, antique car restorer, Freemason, and renowned tattoo artist. Zulu has had so much success in his profession that people now must wait months for an appointment with him. And yet his path into this unique career was not a straight one.

  • How Do I Become … A Tattoo Artist? www.theguardian.com

    Beyond artistic talent you’ll need dogged persistence and humility – and it’ll be at least a year before you’re let anywhere near a machine..

  • I Want Your Job: Tattoo Artist www.independent.co.uk

    Louis Molloy, 44, is a tattoo artist from Manchester. He created almost all of David and Victoria Beckham's tattoos.

  • The Five Foundations of Becoming a Tattoo Artist the Right Way tattooing101.com

    There are so many paths that lead to a career as a professional tattoo artist, and one of the only things they have in common is the belief that the path one person took is the BEST path for everyone. This really isn’t true, or else there wouldn’t be so many ways to end up in the industry!

  • Tattoo Artist Career: What You Should Know www.inkdacademy.com

    Becoming a tattoo artist can be a satisfying, lucrative, and energizing job choice, especially if you’re not too keen on the daily grind of a 9-to-5 job. Because the distinctive and unique art of tattoos has become more widely accepted today than it was several decades ago, more and more people are getting them, and the demand for tattoo artists is higher than ever.

  • How To Become a Tattoo Artist tattoo.about.com

    It seems that with the popularity of tattoos and the potential for high income, a lot of people want to become a tattoo artist. Many of them make the mistake of buying a kit and practicing on their friends, which is very dangerous.

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