Tattooing is a rewarding and exciting career for those who are artistically inclined. Learning to be a tattoo artist is hard and learning to be good is even more difficult. There are many things that you need to practice and learn to become a good tattoo artist. If you've managed to get yourself an apprenticeship then you've already gotten through one of the hardest parts and you must have talent or they wouldn't have hired you. While you're observing, copying, and getting the hang of it you will start to get a whole lot of information thrown at you so it's important to keep up. Learning to be a tattoo artist encompasses several different aspects of tattooing, and depending on where you are these may need to be documented or used for state exams.
Probably the first and most important thing you will study learning to be a tattoo artist is cleanliness. A tattoo studio has to be sterile and clean to protect both the artists and clients from disease and infection. Universal precautions are commonly taught as the basic foundation for disease control in the tattoo industry. For clients this is as important as knowing the artist can draw because if cleanliness is not observed it can literally be deadly due to risk of contamination from bloodborne diseases like HIV and Hepatitis.
Drawing obviously is a pretty important part of learning to be a tattoo artist, but not every artist can draw. There are plenty of people eking a living being tattooists – people who simply copy pre-made designs and cannot think outside the box and draw their own. For those that can and do draw you will learn both the fit and flow of tattoos in relation to the body as well as color theory and dynamic shading. It is important to remember that the mentor can only teach the student what they themselves know so if you are studying under a tattooist don't expect to become a tattoo artist.
Another thing that is part of learning to be a tattoo artist is machine mechanics. Though many artists are now swapping over to rotary style machines most state board exams and such will still require you to know and understand how a traditional tattoo machine works. This can be really useful in the future as there are few artists who truly do know how to work on machines and it can be quite lucrative if you're the only one in the shop who knows how to repair and maintain coil machines.
Probably the most boring part of learning to be a tattoo artist is learning how to run your business. Most artists are independent contractors and therefore responsible for their own taxes, license etc. This can be very tedious to understand but if you're not on point it can also be very expensive if you get caught for your mistakes. Some states also require you to know the state laws when it comes to contractor payments and taxation for the exams.
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