Learn To Become A Tattoo Artist

how do i become a tattoo artist

We get asked this question every day at Florida Tattoo Academy and this article should provide everything you need to know on how to become a tattoo artist.

About the Tattoo Industry

The tattoo industry is a growing industry and with over 1.6 billion in annual revenue in 2018. The industry provides a really good opportunity to follow your dreams and make a good living with the average tattoo artist earning $49,520 per year.

Some top established artists can make up to $500 per hour to do what they love. “Do what you love and you will never work another day in your life.”

Your options to become a tattoo artist

There are three options to become a tattoo artist: Apprenticeship, Self-taught, or a state-licensed educational school.

Now the question is: Which one do you choose?

To become a tattoo artist 10 years ago there were not many options. You either were lucky enough to get an opportunity to work under an established artist as an apprentice for 2 years (a tattoo apprenticeship) while you slowly learned the process. Or you had to teach yourself.

Very few quality apprenticeships existed. However, you were able to find quality apprenticeships if you were willing to put in the time and wait for the right opportunity to open up.

But no matter how you look at the apprenticeship route it takes time and in today’s world, time is money. Most importantly, time is our most precious resource. I think it safe to say we all want to become a professional tattoo artist as quick as possible.

The next option is teaching yourself. Teaching yourself is a long, tedious process of trial and error. Not everyone has the motivation to work in a solo study environment. I have found that in my years of being an artist that most of my learning has come from attending conferences and getting around other top artists for example.

Working a tattoo machine is very easy if you know what you are doing but it is not something that one picks up the first time they try it. For example, we spend 200 hours teaching that process at Florida Tattoo Academy. So the self study route does have the perk of being free for many it is not the best option.

The last option is why the Florida Tattoo Academy was founded. We want to make it easy for students that have good artistic ability to learn tattooing in a short 12-week program that covered everything they needed to know to put their art on human skin. Also, we accept and train students who want a profession in medical tattooing.

Our goal with the program is to develop outstanding tattoo artists.

Before we cover the requirements to become a licensed tattoo artist, please contact us. If you have any questions about tattooing or how to become a tattoo artist, we’d be happy to help. We love the industry and helping future artists.

Requirements to become a tattoo artist

Many artists think they already have what it takes to become a tattoo artist. However, there are a lot of details one must learn to truly master the craft.

1. You must be good at drawing

We do not teach this but in our opinion if you are not good at art, becoming a tattoo artist is not the best idea for you. Learning to tattoo is simply learning how to take your art and place it in other mediums, human skin. We always perform a test to make sure a student can draw before we will admit them into our school. 

tattoo artist drawing

2. You must learn how to work the tattoo machine

A tattoo machine is a lot like a paint brush, but when you are working on human skin you do not get to start over. 

You have to be an expert to really do this well. At Florida Tattoo Academy we spend time working on pig skin and synthetic skin before we allow the artist to work on real skin. 

The more time you practice tattooing the less likely you will be to make an error on a client’s skin. Our goal is to have you just as comfortable using your tattoo machine as you would be with a marker or a paint brush.

3. You must learn how to maintain and service your tattoo machine

We teach our students how the machine works and how to assemble the machine blind folded for example. When you are working with a machine it is important that you know how to work the machine in depth.  

If something is wrong with your machine you can’t afford to have the error show up on human skin. You need to know exactly how to operate the machine and what could go wrong with it and how to prevent it.

We also go over how to select the correct tattoo machine for each individual artist.  Having the right equipment is essential to make sure your vision is properly translated to human skin. 

4. You must learn the proper techniques to perform a variety of tattoos that your customers will ask for

For example learning to do tribal bands, block letters, and standard requested tattoos.

Our master instructors have done thousands of tattoos and can show you the tricks to learn to master all the different requests of your clients. 

In our experience getting started in tattooing requires the artist to be flexible and accommodating to clients requests. You don’t want to get caught off guard and look stupid when a client asks for a tattoo that you have never heard of or practiced.

In our experience as your brand grows you will be able to provide more unique pieces to your clients that feature your true artistic talent but to start you will need to get good at standard tattoos as well.

5. You must build a portfolio of tattoos

If you want to get hired you need to have something to showcase your work.  We have found you need a minimum of 30 tattoos to get hired in most local shops.

At Florida Tattoo Academy we have a large client base that loves to get tattoos from our students since they know that we do not let anyone work on human skin till they have proven themselves on synthetic skin and pigskin. 

Getting experience on human skin with a master instructor by your side seriously compresses the learning curve to go from novice to expert.

tattoo artist portfolio

6. You need to learn how to interact with clients and sell tattoos

Often in a tattoo shop each artist will get a rotation of leads. If you fail to sell the client on using you for the tattoo they will either not get the tattoo or go to another shop.

Our goal is to teach the artists to connect with the client about why they are getting the tattoo. We want our students to be able to give the client certainty that they can take their dream and turn it into reality.  

7. You must pass the blood borne pathogen test 

You need to pass this test to get licensed to operate as a tattoo artist in Florida. This takes only about three hours but this alone will not leave you ready to work on human skin. This course is all about learning how to prevent infections and maintain a sterile work environment.

8. You must land a job at a tattoo shop

Often this is a roadblock for many self-taught artists. In today’s world of tattooing, shop owners know how important it is to protect your shop’s brand and name. Many shop owners do not want to hire an artist without much experience.

At Florida Tattoo Academy we have relationships with many local shops and will send your portfolio out to the local shops. We also certify your license under our academy to get you started right away.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Tattoo Artist?

A tattoo artist is a professional who creates permanent designs on people’s skin using ink and needles.

How Can I Become a Tattoo Artist?

  • Start by establishing and practicing your own art.
  • Learn basic design skills.
  • Create a portfolio with your best work.
  • Choose a path: Some attend art schools, while others learn through apprenticeships.
  • Obtain a tattooing license if required in your area.

Do I Need a Special License to Be a Tattoo Artist?

Yes, in many places, you need a tattooing license to work as a professional tattoo artist. Requirements can vary, so it’s essential to check your local regulations.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Tattoo License?

The time varies depending on where you live. Some places might require you to complete a specific number of hours of training or a tattoo apprenticeship before you can get a license.

What Should I Study in School for a Tattoo Artist Career?

While there’s no strict educational path, taking art classes like fine art, color theory, cartooning, and art theory in high school can be beneficial. These classes help develop your artistic skills and understanding of designs.

Do I Need to Go to College or an Art School to Become a Tattoo Artist?

Not necessarily. While some artists choose to attend art schools, many learn the trade through apprenticeships, a tattoo school, or by practicing on their own. What’s essential is your skill, dedication, and the quality of your work.

What Should Be In My Portfolio?

Your portfolio should showcase your best work. It can include drawings, designs, and photographs of tattoos you’ve done. A strong portfolio can help attract clients and get you apprenticeships or job opportunities.

How Important Is Practicing My Drawings?

Very important! Like any other art form, tattooing requires constant practice to improve. The more you practice, the better you’ll become. Draw regularly and try different styles to expand your skills.

Can I Become a Tattoo Artist if I’m Not Good at Drawing?

Drawing is a fundamental skill for a tattoo artist. If you’re not good now, don’t worry. With practice and dedication, you can improve. Remember, every expert was once a beginner.

Are There Different Paths to Becoming a Tattoo Artist?

Yes! Some people go to art schools, while others learn through apprenticeships. Some even start by practicing on their own and gradually build their skills and client base. Choose a path that feels right to you.

About Florida Tattoo Academy

At Florida Tattoo Academy, our mission is to guide our students toward excellence. Unlike simply acquiring a license, our academy focuses on cultivating a strong foundation in tattooing. We instill a deep understanding of maintaining a sterile work environment, crucial to client safety.

As a school founded and operated by experienced artists, we are dedicated to helping our students transform their artistry into successful careers. Our comprehensive curriculum covers everything from tattoo history to advanced shading techniques and even business management. We ensure graduates are well-prepared to embark on their journey as professional tattoo artists.

Our goal is to make sure you are ready to apply for a job or even start your own business upon graduating. We take pride in our school and want to make sure that you do not just become a tattoo artist, but become the absolute best tattoo artist you can be.  

In our experience, all tattoo artists are not created equal and Florida Tattoo Academy will make sure you don’t form bad habits and waste years of your life and become average. We want to lay the foundation to make you into an artist that can win awards and be featured in tattoo magazines. 

Do you think Florida Tattoo Academy is for you?  Fill out the form below and learn how to enroll today to get started turning your dreams into reality.


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General – Tattoo School Information Request