Can anyone learn to tattoo? The 5 Most important questions you need to ask yourself
Being a Tattooist is one of the best jobs in the world. It’s rewarding both financially and artistically and gives you a lot of personal freedom. However, you may be asking, “Can anyone learn to Tattoo?”. Is there anything stopping you learning to Tattoo and landing your dream job?
Well, before you start down the road to learning to tattoo there are a few things you need to consider.
Why do you want to be a Tattooist?
So, before we go any further, let’s examine why you want to be a tattooist. You really need to look honestly at why you want to do this and you thoughts about what being a tattooist is like.
Some ideas you have about being a tattooist may not be that accurate. Let’s look at a few.
I want to be a tattooist because they make tons of money…
Well, not necessarily. It’s probably not as much as you think.
The Tattooists hourly rate looks great but it’s not calculated in the same way as the hourly rate at Walmart.
Tattooing involves a lot of unpaid work, for example time taken to draw up designs and to prepare for the next customer. Tattooists aren’t tattooing at that hourly rate all day.
Tattooists also have to pay rent and over heads for their shop or a large chunk of money to the person they rent a studio chair off. It’s not uncommon for tattooists working in a shop to pay 60% of their takings to the shop owner. A 60/40 % split is common (60% to the shop owner obviously). I’ve even heard of a shop taking 80% off their Tattooists.
Tattooists also generally have to buy their own supplies (needles etc) Which can be expensive.
After all these overheads have gone out the hourly rate doesn’t look as lucrative.
As an apprentice you are starting out unpaid and it can take many years to be pulling in good money and it isn’t guaranteed.
Having said all that, a skilled tattooist can make good money once they have made a name for themselves.
The bottom line is, basically, you shouldn’t be doing this for the money.
I want to be a tattooist because it’s a glamorous job…
Sorry but this is not Miami Ink or one of those nicely shot tattoo rockumentaries.
It’s bloody hard work and weird and grim and nasty things happen.
- Clients fart in your face when you are tattooing the bottom of their back (really!).
- People stink so badly of BO when you are tattooing their arms that you throw up in your own mouth.
- People are mad and abuse you and get weird and angry and throw up and faint and piss themselves.
Glamorous it ain’t!
I want to be a tattooist because I love Tattoos and everything about the industry
Yup. That will get you a long way. Tattooing is a wonderful job. No two days are the same and you are never bored (well maybe a tiny bit when filling in endless tribal on a massive rugby player).
You meet some awesome and interesting people who tell you all kinds of fascinating things and their innermost secrets.
You get to draw all the time (paying art jobs are like hens teeth)and it’s creatively fulfilling.
If you are coming at it from this kind of angle you should do OK.
Are you cut out to be a tattooist?
The question is can anyone learn to Tattoo? Well yes, anyone can learn, but maybe some people are not best cut out for this career. Before you go any further it is worth seriously asking yourself if you are cut out to be a tattooist.
There’s no point going through all the work of getting an apprenticeship if you later find out that you really hate the job. Here are a few things to consider before you go any further.
1 – Can you draw?
Drawing is the basis of all good tattooing. Can you draw? Do you enjoy drawing?
You have to be honest with yourself about if you have the right skills for this. Just because you mum says your drawings are great doesn’t mean they are. You have to look at the work you produce and ask yourself honestly if people would want it tattooed on their bodies for ever.
However, drawing is above all else, a skill, and it can be improved by practice and working hard at it.
If you loved hanging out in the art room at school and have the motivation and love of art to get good at it you will probably do just fine.
2 – Are you stable mentally?
This is actually a really important thing to consider. Tattooing can seriously mess with your head.
Confidence can be an issue. The confidence to mark people permanently. The confidence to do the job when people are staring at your work and questioning everything that you do. The worry that maybe you didn’t do the tattoo as well as you could have. The sinking feeling when someone bad mouths a tattoo you did or something you said all over Facebook.
All this can get to you. You need to have the mental stability and resilience to deal with all this and more.
3 – Are you physically fit?
Tattooing is actually hard physical work.
It’s especially hard on the back and hands. Twisting clients into the odd positions needed to tattoo can mean your back pays the price. If you have serious back issues it might be worth bearing that in mind.
Wrists and hands can be an issue if you use heavy framed coil tattoo machines. However, newer rotary machines are lighter to use and can avoid many of the hand problems that tattooists suffered from in the past.
4 – Do you actually like people?
Stupid as it sounds this is a big consideration.
When you tattoo you spend a lot of time in the intimate company of people.
You have to deal with them when they are scared or feeling unwell or just want to tell you stuff. Tattooing is a intimate thing that you do with someone you may have never met before. It can be strange, it can be scary and it can be beautiful.
But the bottom line is that you have to like people and be good at getting on with them and making them feel comfortable.
If the general public scare you or get on your nerves then it’s probably not a great career for you.
5 – Have you got the balls to keep going when it’s HARD or are you a quitter?
Learning to tattoo is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt. The learning curve is so steep its like a cliff face.
There will be days when you just want to lie down and cry and chuck everything in, sell your machines and go back to an easy life. There will be days when you feel absolutely HORRIBLE about a tattoo that you have done and just don’t think you are cut out for this life.
In the beginning these days will be fairly regular. I promise it gets better, but you need to be the kind of person who will stick at this through the toughest of times.
You need to ask yourself if you have the balls to keep going when others would have quit.
Can anyone learn to Tattoo? Be honest with yourself.
So, can anyone learn to tattoo? Yes, as long as they consider these questions. Just think about these points and be honest with yourself. Better to be realistic now than in 5 years when you are having a nervous breakdown because you hate the job you tried so hard to learn.
However, if you answer these questions positively, Tattooing could be the career for you. Its an amazing job that is rewarding in so many ways.
For more tips on how to become a Tattooist, download the guide below.
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