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Training to Tattoo

Hands down, tattooing is an art. That much we can agree upon. Nevertheless, the practice gets a bad rep what with all the terrible examples of tattoo art out there--there's something about the permanency of the act that inspires people to constantly make choices they'll later regret.

Nevertheless, there are artists out there who know how to tattoo like nobody's business (as seen in photos 1 and 2) and choose to draw on perhaps the least forgiving  canvas in existence-- human skin-- professionally.

"Wow, you're drawings are great-- you should be a tattoo artist!" The amount of people I've met who have made this comment (or something rather similar) is outstanding considering the faulty logic behind it. Yes-- it takes tremendous artistic skill to tattoo. Yes--you need to know how to create impacting and effective designs. But knowing how to draw isn't going to necessarily land you a job in a tattoo parlor. It takes a whole lot more than that to be successful.

"Like what?" you ask.

Prepare to be educated.

As with most anything you wish to accomplish in life, insists that "The first step is proper knowledge," Now, we're not just talking about artistic knowledge or experience drawing a variety of styles, but information on how to operate tattoo machines (as seen in photo 3, a modern tattoo machine), what type of inks to use, where to obtain said ink, and extensive safety measures regarding the use of such equipment (sanitary issues are included in this as well).

Imagine you were asked to give someone a tattoo right now, at this very instant. What would you need to know? Can you smear the ink by mistake? How do you mix color palettes? How often does ink need to be replaced? How do you get the ink colors to blend together? How do you change from one color to another? How do you even turn the tattoo machine on? (as seen in photo 4, -- a handy little chart for getting to know the your way around your equipment). This is only the tip of the iceberg as far as possible questions an individual with no tattooing experience yet ample experience drawing may generate if given this task on the spot.

When learning any new medium, learning your way around the material and how to properly use it is essential. Tattoo Today has an extensive online guide to help get you started building your wealth of tattooing knowledge as does Tattooing 101 (mentioned before), who also provides links to other resources that an aspiring tattoo artist may want to check out, including tips and tricks and even a link to a free tattooing e-course. Whatever online sources you choose to check out-- notice most (if not all) these sites discourage the practice of "scratching"-- or giving tattoos without a proper tattoo license. This act is not only dangerous, but is also illegal in most places.

Skill is essential, but all that pretty work isn't worth anything if you can't get it right the first time. According to Wikipedia, tattoo machines today "can control needle depth, speed, and force of application, which has allowed tattooing to become a very precise art form." Believe me when I say, precision is essential when it comes to tattoos (as seen in photos 5 & 6-- Check out that detail!). To make the process of giving a tattoo even more complex, you're working on a soft, potentially flabby canvas which sweats, smells, and curves in strange places-- it's a lot different from drawing on a flat surface. Not to mention, you're working under high pressure. Many tattoos are done on the fly or with only a few hours of preparation. Not to mention, you've got to talk to the customers you're working on-- so some social skills would be more than beneficial.

There's a lot of variables to work with here.

So...How do you get started?

In order to even attempt to get a job tattooing, you have to get a license. Different states have different requirements, but most require you to attend a licensed tattooing career school in addition to having completed blood borne pathogens training, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and basic first aid training.

Despite its rough reputation, tattooing-- and especially tattooing well-- takes time, patience, training, preparation and skill. It's not something you can just jump into. It takes passion and commitment to succeed. If you think it "looks fun," but don't want to invest the energy into learning the ins and outs, being a tattoo artist may not be for you.

Photo Credits

Photos 1, 2, 4, 5: Mugnai, F. (2012, September 13). 55 OF THE CRAZIEST AND MOST AMAZING TATTOO DESIGNS FOR MEN AND WOMEN. Retrieved March 27, 2015, from Blog of Francesco Mugnai website:

Photo3:Learn how to tattoo. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2015, from Wordpress website:


“Do You Have What It Takes To Become A Great Tattoo Artist?”. (n.d.). Retrieved from website:

Chase, C. (2013, November 14). How to tattoo w/o wasting 4+ years of your artist career? . Retrieved March 25, 2015, from TrueArtists website:

Learn how to tattoo. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2015, from Wordpress website:

Master the Art of Ink as a Tattoo Artist. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2015, from   TheArtCareersProject website:            with-a-tatooing-career/233/

Licensed Tattoo Artist: Job Description and Education Requirements. (n.d.). Retrieved March       2015, from website:          uirements.html

How to Become a Tattoo Artist: Career Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved March 2015, from       ebsite:

Home. (n.d.). Retrieved March 2015, from tattoo-school website:

Learn How to Tattoo from the Master. (n.d.). Retrieved March 2015, from Youtube website:

Tattoo machine. (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2015, from Wikipedia website:

Board of Body Art Practitioners. (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2015, from website: