Tattoo Apprenticeship: Why Is It So Important For Your Tattoo Career?

Before you start a job professionally, you need to learn about it. However, sometimes you cannot just learn on your own. You need to also learn from other professionals and experienced people who have done the same job for years, even decades. This applies to numerous career paths, from a doctor or a surgeon to a tattoo artist. Doctors specialize, tattoo artists do apprenticeships and get certified.

A tattoo apprenticeship is one of the most important steps in your future career as a tattoo artist. During the apprenticeship, you’ll learn about the craft, practice it and build upon your resume until you get certified to practice tattooing yourself, on your own.

So, if you’re looking to become a tattoo artist, and you’d like to know more about the road leading you there, you’re at the right place. In the following paragraphs, we’ll talk about what tattoo apprenticeship is, how you can get one, and why it is so important for your career in the tattoo industry. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Tattoo Apprenticeship: Everything You Need To Know

Tattoo Apprenticeship Everything You Need To Know
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What Is Tattoo Apprenticeship?

Tattoo apprenticeship comprises hands-on training provided by an expert, professional tattoo artist at their tattoo studio. The student, or apprentice, gets to learn all about tattooing, cleanliness, safety, tattoo machines, and tools, behaving around and with the clients, and so much more.

The student also builds upon their creativity and artistry, learning to improve their art skills and designs for tattoos. The tattoo artist is there to help you, guide you, and ensure you develop your own tattoo style, throughout the whole process.

Now, all of this seems kind of perfect. But, sure enough, there are some things people don’t mention when they talk about tattoo apprenticeships. For example, the student is there free of charge. You don’t get paid for any work.

And, tattoo-related work isn’t the only work you’ll be doing. The student is also responsible for cleaning the studio, bringing in coffee or food to the staff, and generally helping everyone out, as a part of the learning process.

Although this part doesn’t seem appealing, it is necessary to go through this. It helps the future tattooist develop discipline, multitasking, as well as how to set priorities and get used to a great load of work.

How Can I Become a Tattoo Apprentice?

If you don’t have any true and genuine aspirations to become a tattoo artist, then let’s make this quick and say you probably want to find another calling. However, if this is something you’re passionate about and see as your career path, then keep on reading.

To become a tattoo apprenticeship, you’ll have to;

  • Be an artist, at heart and on the paper – first things first, to become a tattoo apprenticeship, you need to be exceptionally good at drawing and sketching. This skill is the basis for the rest of your journey. Even if you have ‘okay’ drawing skills, you can build them up and improve through education and art courses.

It is essential you have your own drawing style and be truly creative and artistic in what you do. Without this, becoming a tattoo apprenticeship, or even a tattoo artist will be impossible.

  • Gather your best drawings and sketches in one place – also known as building a portfolio, you’ll have to choose the best of your drawing and sketches and use them to showcase your skills.

You’ll bring the portfolio to the ‘teacher’ tattoo artist, who will study it and see whether you’re a good potential for this career path. They might even tell you what to improve and whether you need to change the style, but that is just some good and useful feedback, even if you don’t get the apprenticeship.

  • Find the perfect mentor – without a tattoo artist accepting to be your mentor, you can’t really do much about becoming an apprentice. So, to do that, make sure to research the local tattoo studios and contact them to see if anyone’s offering apprenticeships or whether the tattooists are interesting in seeing your work and mentoring you.

It is essential you find a certified, experienced tattoo artist who has been in the business for some time. This might be hard, and it might take time to find a suitable match for you. However, make sure not to give up and contact as many tattoo artists as possible. If you don’t feel like visiting every tattoo artist at their shop, try sending your portfolio via email.

Also, if you’re not sure whether you’re ready to go for an apprenticeship or a career in the tattoo industry, make sure to consider these questions, and your answers will show if you’re ready or not;

  • Am I objectively good at drawing? – people are going to want significantly different designs for every tattoo. If you cannot deliver, or work on your drawing skills, then tattooing may not be for you. Ito f course goes without saying that without any drawing skills, you cannot become a tattoo artist, and almost no tattooists will mentor you.
  • Am I really committed to this career? – becoming a tattoo artist is a difficult journey. First, it will take you a few years to do apprentice work, which you’ll have to probably pay on your own. Then, you’ll have to get certified and licensed, which also takes time and money. And, if you’ve come so far, you’ll either work as a tattooist at a parlor or open your own place. Both take time and money. So, without full commitment, you might look for another career. And, if you’re in it just for the money, you won’t go far either.
  • Am I ready to work on my skills constantly? – becoming a tattoo artist requires constant work and improvement of your skills. It also requires you to stay in touch with the current tattoo trends and technology. If you want to stay at the top of your game, you will need to beat the competition, and there will be a lot of it. This is essential for keeping clients and attracting new ones. So, if this sounds like too much work, then you’re not ready.
  • Are my hygiene standards enough? – your hygiene will be one of the most important aspects of your career as a tattoo artist. Unless you have proper hygiene and sanitary habits, you’ll be looking at some major issues at work. Without paying special attention to cleanliness, you’ll be putting at risk your clients, and yourself. So, be sure to address your hygiene early on into the apprenticeship and if it lacks, then work on it.
How Can I Become a Tattoo Apprentice
Credit: Instagram

How Can I Know Which Tattoo Apprenticeship Is Best For Me?

Here are some of the things to look out for in a tattoo artist to know they’ll be a good mentor;

  • They’re a professional tattoo artist with years of experience and a good reputation amongst clients and colleagues
  • They’re friendly and approachable, open for questions, and ready to guide you through your apprenticeship journey
  • They’ve already held apprenticeship programs for other tattoo artists
  • They have enough free time to mentor you
  • They’re willing to give you proper exposure to tattooing
  • They’re willing to help you improve your skill and learn new ones
  • They’re willing to challenge you and open you to new, out-of-the-comfort-zone, experiences

To find the right mentor, make sure to check or available tattoo artists, and those who have experience in mentoring apprentices. Also, look for tattooists who have an educational background, and who have a good public reputation, amongst clients and colleagues. If a tattoo artist doesn’t seem too keen on mentoring you, move on. Chances are they’ll just drag you for years without providing actual mentorship and experience.

How Do I Approach a Tattoo Studio For Apprenticeship?

The best thing you can do is show up prepared. Make sure your portfolio is filled with your best work, so focus on quality over quantity. Try to show off your different drawing skills and styles as well. This will pique anyone’s interest in you and see you as a good potential for the job.

Other than this, you also need to do research on every tattoo studio you’re about to approach. See what the tattooists in the studio specialize in and whether they’re available for apprenticeships. If you can’t find this info, don’t worry. You can always as in person or via e-mail.

Also, avoid going to a tattoo studio during their busiest hours, or during the weekend. Check out on Google when the studio is at its busiest. When you type in a name of a tattoo studio on Google, there is a small section on the right side titles Popular Times, which shows when the studio is the least and most busy.

It is best to show up in person if you want to talk apprenticeship. But, because of the COVID-19 situation, make sure to check out the studio’s COVID practices. Contact the studio via e-mail if you find that in-person visit too risky, and explain your stance of course.

How Long Does Tattoo Apprenticeship Last?

Generally speaking, the majority of tattoo apprenticeships last for about 2 years. However, some last for 3 years and more, depending on your state requirements for certification and licensing, as well as the state’s Department of Health. Future tattoo artists need to do this research for their own state before embarking on the journey of a tattoo apprenticeship.

Do I Have To Pay My Apprenticeship?

Chances are that you’ll be required to pay for your apprenticeship. How much? Well, that depends on the tattoo artist, but, the price usually goes from $5,000 to $10,000. The majority of tattoo studios require money up-front for the apprenticeship, but some mentors tend to split the payments to make it easier for the apprentice to pay for everything. You will also need to buy your own tools for the apprenticeship as well. So, a tattoo apprenticeship can get pretty pricey.

Do I Get Paid During My Apprenticeship?

No, people don’t generally get paid during their tattoo apprenticeship. You do all the work for free, and you have to pay for your own tools. Consider this apprenticeship as a college education; you have to pay for it, but while you’re studying, and until you graduate and get a job, you won’t get paid for anything. Consider getting a side job to manage all the costs of the apprenticeship. However, once you get certified, you can expect a more-than-a-decent salary.

Is There an Apprenticeship Contract I Need To Sign?

Yes, you need to sign an apprenticeship contract so that both you and your mentor know what you’re agreeing to. This especially applies to cases where you have to pay for the apprenticeship, which is almost 95% of cases. The contract will state how many apprenticeship hours you’ll take, which will be especially important when you7re getting certified as a tattoo artist.

Among the hours info, the contract will show how much the apprenticeship will cost, what your responsibilities are at the shop, what skill and how you’ll learn them, etc. Some tattoo shops require their apprentice to work at their studio after the mentorship is done. That should also be stated in the contract for future reference.

Final Thoughts

This is pretty much everything you need to know about a tattoo apprenticeship. Hopefully, you’ll be encouraged to go through with it and find a really good tattoo artist to guide you. Tattoo apprenticeship requires commitment of every kind, from financial to mental. So, bear that in mind before you make a final step towards your new career.

After your apprenticeship is done, you’ll have to get certified and licensed according to your state’s laws and requirements. You’ll have to take some tests, fill out forms and provide documents regarding your apprenticeship. After you’ve been successfully certified, you can finally charge for your tattoo and start your well-deserved tattoo career.

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