A future in body art is not something that any school or college career officer will actively promote. It can therefore be difficult to find the information needed in order to get yourself on the right career path.
Tattoo artist training is usually done via an apprenticeship which can last for around 2 to 3 years. This means that you will need approach some artists directly, and ask them if they are willing to take on an apprentice. To gain an apprentice position a potential employer will need to see proof that you have some creative ability, so have a portfolio of design work available to show. Artists come from all kinds of backgrounds so any artistic experience would be good, whether it is in the form of graphic novel design or another genre.
Once in a position you will be expected to supply your own equipment and sterilising kit, some businesses may pay you whilst you are with them, others may not. Over the course of the apprenticeship you will gain the knowledge, skills and experience that will allow you to work unsupervised. When you reach the end of your time as an apprentice a license to practice will need to be obtained from your local council.
A license will not be granted unless you have proven experience of working in the tattoo business, which is why a good apprenticeship is important. If you are found to be working without a license you are liable to prosecution and will incur a substantial penalty. And the end of your apprenticeship you should be confident to work on simple designs progressing onto the more complicated patterns as you gain experience. Many professionals agree that an artist is considered truly qualified after five years of full time work experience.
Tattooing is a very specialised job and you should show that you have the following skills and personality traits: creative flair and a talent for design; an interest and understanding of alternative cultures and lifestyles; good communication skills; an eye for detail and most of all a steady hand.
You should be prepared to take responsibility for the cleanliness and sterilisation of all tools and equipment, whilst being up to date on all health and safety issues relating to the industry. Keeping abreast of the latest trends and influences in tattoo design and using any spare time to design your own work is advantageous. You will also be interacting with clients and suppliers so a professional image is important.
The majority of tattoo artists are self employed and income can vary as it dependant on the amount of trade that passes through the doors. Whilst a trainee tattoo artist may start on approx £12,000 a year an experienced artist can expect to earn anywhere between £18,000 and £30,000 a year. An artist that owns his own business and employs other artists has the ability to earn over £50,000, by renting out space to other tattoo artists.