Close in shot of a new tattoo being inked

How to Become a Good Tattoo Artist

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  1. Do your research
  2. Do an apprenticeship
  3. Make it your full-time job
  4. Practice
  5. Build a portfolio
  6. Get tattooed

The best way to become a good tattoo artist is to work under established tattooists and listen to their advice. Tattooists work extremely hard to be successful. Whether success means to earn a lot of money, become famous within the industry or to be booked weeks in advance, you’ll have to put the effort in.

The tattoo industry seems to be constantly growing, and with so many good artists out there, how do you make sure you stand out and become more than just good? In order to become a great tattoo artist, you need to be capable of more than just tattooing well. After speaking to a number of artists ourselves, we’ve compiled some helpful tips.

A close in shot of a dedicated female tattooist tattooing her client

1. Do your research

Firstly, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into when you decide you want to be a tattooist. Yes, it is a cool, rock and roll job with very exciting perks, but it’s also extremely long hours and it will take over your life. So, before you rush into it, make sure you’re willing to do the work.

Lianne Moule, who has been a tattoo artist for almost 20 years advised, “Really question your decision as to why you want to become a tattoo artist. It might seem like a great way to make money, but it becomes your life, so you really need to love it. A lot of people give up after a short while because they haven’t really thought about it and it’s such a great opportunity”.

You should also learn the basics first. Make sure you understand what actually goes into the art of tattooing. It’s more than just administering ink onto someone’s body. Tattooing is a very personal thing for a lot of people and as a good artist, it’s important to share that understanding and passion.

“It might seem like a great way to make money, but it becomes your life, so you really need to love it.”

Lianne Moule, Immortal Ink, Essex, UK

2. Do an apprenticeship

If you want to be a professional tattoo artist, simply put, you’ll need to do an apprenticeship. Working under someone with a lot of experience is probably the best way to learn, and, as a lot of tattooists have told us, the learning never stops.

Getting an apprenticeship isn’t easy though, so you’ll need to have the determination and perseverance to keep at it. You’ll need to know what tattooists are looking for in an apprentice, how to go about getting one and how to build a portfolio. Luckily, we’ve already written a handy article about How to Get a Tattoo Apprenticeship.

3. Make it your full-time job

In a perfect world, you’ll love the shop or studio you’ve completed your apprenticeship at. In turn, hopefully, they’ll love you and want you to stay on as an employed artist. However, if that’s not the case, it’s time to decide where you want to go.

Have a good look into more studios or think about whether you’d like to open a shop of your own (you might find our blog on How to Open a Tattoo Studio useful). In our opinion though, working with other artists in someone else’s shop is the best way to go as a newly qualified artist as there is so much you can learn from those around you.

“Take criticism and advice from the tattoo artists around you, and have a good attitude.”

Alex Rattray, Empire Ink, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

4. Practice

Once you’ve made it as a tattoo artist, keep going. Make sure you keep drawing and never stop trying to better yourself. On your days off, draw. Free evenings? Draw. The best tattooists know that you never stop learning and will constantly strive to improve.

A tattooist attentively working on a drawing

5. Build a portfolio

When it comes to building a great portfolio, there are a couple of things to consider. Depending on how long you’ve been tattooing for, you may need to showcase a lot of your art/drawings as well as your actual work.

Most artists nowadays use Instagram and Facebook as an online portfolio, so, do as the experts do and try to build your client base that way.

“Draw… draw a lot and draw in a variety of styles. There are hundreds of people looking for apprenticeships but a good, varied and well put together portfolio will improve your chances in getting one.”

Alex Rattray, Empire Ink, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

6. Get tattooed

It might sound silly but getting tattooed is a great way to keep learning and to build your network. Find as many artists as possible who you admire and get booked in – you might actually learn more than you expect.

A dedicated female tattooist tattooing her client

It’s easy enough to say you want to be a good tattoo artist, but, to become great, you’ll have to live and breathe the art. If you care about the work you do and are dedicated to creating designs you and your clients love, success will hopefully follow!

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Meet Our Experts

Chris Harrison Tattoo Artist

Chris Harrison

Bridgend Tattoo Studio

Bridgend, South Wales, UK

Sneaky-Mitch, tattooist at Gold Room Tattoo, Leeds, UK

Sneaky-Mitch

Gold Room Tattoo

Leeds, UK

Tito Inkid

L’Atelier Sans Nom

Armentières, France

Lianne Moule

Immortal Ink
Chelmsford, UK

Julian ‘Corpsepainter’ Siebert

Corpse Painter Tattoo
Munich, Germany

Alex Rattray

Empire Ink
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

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