You have an arts background and you really love tattoos, so you figure becoming a tattoo artist should be easy. Think again, before you jump into the industry consider these 5 things first:
1. Expect a huge upfront investment for equipment as well as ongoing costs for supplies. You will need at least two tattoo machines (liner and shader), power supply, foot pedal, clip-cords and a basic set of ink. Disposable supplies includes: needles, grips, tips, tubes, ink caps, gloves, rubber bands, thermal transfer paper, and so on. All in, it can cost upward of $5,000 USD in equipment alone to get you up and running.
2. Don’t expect to get paid until you have at least 100 tattoo hours under your belt. There are several routes you can take here and tattooing fruit or pig’s skin doesn’t count. If you’re looking to get paid quicker, the most popular method would be to apply for an apprenticeship with a local tattoo shop in your area. There you can expect to receive training from a seasoned pro, which will significantly reduce the likelihood of applying errors and injuries to you or your clients.
3. Being an excellent illustrator doesn’t mean you’ll be an excellent tattooer. The best example I can give is drawing on a flat piece of paper versus drawing onto a balloon. The contours and flex of skin adds a whole new level into the equation. Being blessed with artistic talent helps, but it takes practice and time to appreciate the difference between what you can draw and what you can tattoo. Don’t worry, your tattoo illustrations will improve over time, but it’s critical to start out with simple design a first.
4. You’re going to mess up sometimes. When you’re first starting out, it can feel like all your lines are shaky. Here’s the bad news, even once you get good, you’re not immune to mistakes. You’re technique will improve, but if you don’t triple check your designs and have the client approve it, you can run the risk of errors such as spelling mistakes, wrong placement or position.
5. Your artistic medium is a human-being with their own tastes and opinions. One thing you will have to learn quickly, you’ll rarely apply a tattoo that you have full control over. You can expect 95% of the time your client will have their own design in mind and you will need to learn how to accommodate them. It’s your job to provide guidance and feedback about the tattoo they want to get. Some people are adamant about what they want, and if you can’t visualize a way to make their idea look good as a tattoo, you should turn down the job. Remember, if you’re not fully confident in the style your client is requesting, decline them.