The art of tattooing has changed dramatically in Western culture over the course of the last century. Once seen as a mark of rugged rebellion, the tattoo has evolved in the mind of our culture from a discomforting sign of corruption into a sought-after artistic work of self expression and individualism. With the television shows like “LA Ink” and various other documentaries and reality TV shows about the art of tattoo, the tattoo parlour whose specialty was producing tattoos from pages of pick-and-ink designs is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Emerging now is the demand for tattoo art studios where customers can work with tattoo artists to get perfected, custom pieces. This made-to-order approach requires a higher quality of professionalism and a hint of artistic genius.
Getting paid to prick: become a tattoo artist
With the quickly-changing social status and ever-increasing artistic elegance of the tattoo, there’s never been a better time to learn how to become a tattoo artist. Another factor that makes becoming a tattooist a desirable and potentially-lucrative occupation for a creative individual is the fact that the poor economy has caused other creative positions to diminish and pay less than they once did. On the other hand, a typical hourly rate for a tattooist can start at around $50 for a pre-designed piece and go up to $400 an hour depending on your artistic skill and ability to fill custom orders. The larger or more detailed the tattoo, the more likely you are to become a successful tattoo artist.
Making it big
You don’t just start out earning hundreds for an hour for your work. To earn the big jobs you must be able to instill trust in each of your clients by always performing at your peak. Before learning how to become a tattoo artist, before even being considered for an apprenticeship with a studio, and especially if you want to get in with an amazing tattoo artist, you’re going to have to prove that you, too, are an amazing artist.
Before you think of inking
Once you know where you want to work, and you know the skill level of the professionals there, you will need to match the skills seen in their work by producing a portfolio of great drawings. Your portfolio should have a minimum of 50 and up to 200 great drawings that show your versatility and style at its best. They should be complete drawings, colored in and presentation-ready. Such a portfolio might seem daunting if you currently only have a sketchbook of half-baked ideas.
You might seriously consider attending school and majoring in some form of two-dimensional art as a resource for focusing on and developing your skills as an artist. Schooling also offers the opportunity to produce work you would not have produced on your own. Challenges can be assignments from teachers that make you think outside the box. Requirements to produce artwork in different themes or styles than you are used to can lead to the creation of a more diverse portfolio. These opportunities can also give you a hint at the type of challenges you might encounter while working with a client on a personalized tattoo. Broadening your creative horizons and capabilities is never a disadvantage for someone considering becoming any kind of professional artist.
While developing your portfolio, you should be researching and making nice with the people you’re considering getting an apprenticeship with. Don’t expect this process to be a cakewalk and don’t expect it to pay. You will find it to your best advantage to work for a shop with a good-to-great reputation and where the artists who work there will want to teach you. You may even have to invest up to several thousand dollars if you want to apprentice in a shop where you can receive excellent training. Despite the cost, the benefits of doing more than is asked of you and working hard will pay off. Your reputation in this business is what you want to spread, but you want it to be a great one.
Pins and needles
Once you’re in an apprenticeship, you will need to watch and learn how to become a tattoo artist. This transformation from artist into tattoo artist will be gradual. You’ll do the dirty work and slowly take on more important tasks such as needle making, sterilization using the autoclave, and earning your blood borne pathogen certification. Only after these steps can you start using the tattoo machine. At first, you will tattoo on fake skin and fruit. Your apprenticeship can last from 6 months to 2 years and you’ll need to do about 100 free tattoos during this time, meaning you will pay for supplies.
When you’re ready, you can take the test to become a certified tattooist. Only after you’ve passed your test can you start charging for your work. You should take pictures of every tattoo you do for your portfolio. This offers potential clients a way to see your artistic ability and tattooing skills. Networking continually will be how you keep a steady flow of work coming your way. Continually growing your skills and popularity, you’ll be well on your way to a successful career as a tattoo artist.