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If you are thinking about a career as a Tattoo Artist, you may be wondering just how difficult this path is. I’ll summarise the hurdles you have to get over on your mission to become a Tattooist.
Tattooing is hard to learn. The secrets of Tattooing are closely guarded. You will struggle to find an apprenticeship and someone to teach you. Tattooing on skin is very different to drawing on paper. Having said that, Tattooing is an amazing and enjoyable career that pays well once you do learn.
Many potential Tattooists struggle to enter the industry. However, knowledge is power when it comes to what you will be up against.
I wrote a detailed post about How To Become A Tattoo Artist which you can read here.
Is Tattooing hard to learn? Is it the right career for you?
According to the Pew Research Centre 40 per cent of Americans between the ages of 26 and 40 have at least one Tattoo. There is plenty of demand for Tattoos and it isn’t going away soon. It is an interesting and lucrative industry to work in.
However, you may be wondering, is Tattooing hard to learn?
As a general rule, Tattooing IS one of the hardest skills to learn but it’s worth it. It’s an old industry that is really difficult to break into. God knows, I struggled in the beginning.
I’ll break down some of the things you may face as you progress in your goal to become a Tattooist. If you know what you are facing you can decide if Tattooing is for you and create a battle plan to get through it.
If you can learn to Tattoo, it’s one of the most amazing ways to earn great money from your art and an exciting career.
I wrote this post which may help you figure out if it’s for you. Can anyone learn to Tattoo?
Tattooing is hard to learn because it is a secretive industry
Tattooing has a history of secrecy. Going right back to the early days, each artist had tricks and recipes they didn’t want to share. That was what kept them in business.
Shops were territorial there were fights over who could open a shop and where. You had to know someone to gain access to the inner circle. This history still affects Tattooing today.
The knowledge of how to tattoo is still a hard-won secret so Tattooists don’t want to just share it with just anyone and potentially create a competitor to their own business.
Tattooing is hard to learn because it’s difficult to find an apprenticeship
This secrecy is why it’s still so difficult to find an apprenticeship.
You have to prove yourself before someone will give you the information they themselves had to battle to learn.
They don’t want to teach you to see you quit in a year or so to open your own rival shop down the road. They need to know that if they teach you, you will stay around and work for them, bringing them in more income. That’s how it works.
So to get an apprenticeship you need to find someone willing to take this chance on you. That can be hard.
The chances of you finding that in your locality may be slim if there are only one or two Tattooists there.
You may need to relocate to a different area to find the right opportunity.
You may also need to pay the Tattooist for teaching you. [More on this below]
Tattooing is hard to learn because it’s difficult to work it out for yourself by trial and error
You might be thinking, “That’s OK. I will just buy a machine and teach myself”.
I’m afraid that’s really not an option.
There are so many different configurations of machine, needle, voltage, speed and skin type that if you were to just experiment you would take forever before you got even a half-decent tattoo.
YouTube contains a LOT of misinformation as well so it’s easy to learn the WRONG way. Techniques that will come back to bite you on the ass later on.
To do your experimenting on real peoples skin is just downright wrong as well.
You need to know what you are doing BEFORE you start tattooing real skin.
So you can see that you really need to get access to the knowledge of HOW to Tattoo the right way at the beginning to cut out any experimentation stage.
Tattooing is hard to learn because Tattoo Schools aren’t a recognised way to enter the industry.
Tattoo Schools are fairly recent phenomena and may look like an answer. However, the sad truth is that many are just set up to make money and won’t help your career.
Tattooing as an industry has resisted formal college-type courses like this in favour of the apprenticeship system so this kind of course isn’t really recognised by Tattooists.
In fact, Tattoo Schools are disliked and looked down upon by most established Tattooists.
If you walk into a shop clutching a Tattoo School qualification you will get laughed out of the door.
Tattooing is hard to learn because Tattoo apprentices get treated badly
The truth is that many Tattooists feel it’s OK to treat their apprentices badly.
You may be treated as the lowest of the low. It’s a way of weeding out people who REALLY want to tattoo and aren’t just in love with the idea of a rockstar lifestyle. It can be unpleasant. There are some horror stories out there.
You will often find yourself working long hours [for free] and doing the most menial and often disgusting jobs to prove yourself.
You do have to prove that you are a humble student and worthy of training.
Having said that, my own mentor was great and taught me a lot so there are good apprenticeships out there.
Tattooing is hard to learn because it is not like drawing on paper
This is one of the hardest learning hurdles, making the leap from drawing on paper to drawing on skin.
You may be a great artist on paper but skin is soft, slimy and 3 dimensional and comes with a person attached to it who’s complaining about the pain and jumping about.
The learning curve of beginning to translate your art onto the skin is incredibly steep.
Many people fall at this hurdle.
Tattooing is hard to learn because it involves health risks
This is an area that many people don’t pay enough attention to as they learn to Tattoo. You have to pay great attention to learning about the infection control side of tattooing.
You can’t catch a disease from drawing wrong on paper but you CAN catch something nasty if you don’t understand how to tattoo safely.
You also risk infecting your clients with potentially fatal diseases.
You HAVE to take this side of Tattooing seriously as you learn.
Tattooing is hard to learn because you won’t earn as you learn [and even may have to pay}
However you learn to Tattoo you won’t be earning money in the beginning.
You will need to support yourself through other means as you struggle to acquire the skills and improve your work. This can mean pretty much working two full-time jobs.
Some Tattooists will charge for them to teach you their skills. In many ways, this can be better than working as a free apprentice as it can mean that you are entering a business deal with them.
They may be more willing to teach you properly if money has changed hands.
However, that depends on the individual circumstance.
Tattooing is surprisingly physical
This was a surprise to me when I started Tattooing. It’s actually a very physical job.
You will find that your back, neck and eyes all hurt after working. Many Tattooists actually develop back problems as they go along.
If you use a heavy coil machine this can result in wrist and finger issues. RSI is not uncommon.
If you have any physical issues it is worth checking with yourself if they would stand up to the rigours of Tattooing day in and day out.
How long does it take to learn Tattooing?
On average it should take you around 2-3 years to complete a Tattoo Apprenticeship according to The Alliance of Professional Tattooists
However, this is only the start of your tattoo learning journey.
As a general rule, it will be around 5 or 6 years or so until you will be able to charge higher fees and become a more fully-fledged Tattooist, established in your career.
You never stop learning as a Tattooist so you need to keep improving and developing throughout your career.
Can I teach myself to Tattoo?
An apprenticeship IS the best and safest route into Tattooing for most people.
However, it isn’t possible for everyone. You can teach yourself to Tattoo if you have access to the right information and are focused and diligent.
Many famous Tattooists are self-taught.
I wrote a post here How Do I Become A Self Taught Tattooist?
Is Tattooing hard to learn. YES. But you CAN do it?
The truth is that Tattooing IS hard to learn. However, this is no bad thing.
The difficulty is like a gatekeeper that keeps out the people who aren’t really up to it.
It’s a Granny Stopper that weeds out the people who wouldn’t be a good fit for the job. This leaves them free to find another career that would be a better fit for them.
However, if you have read all this and are still sure that Tattooing is the career for you then I’m here to reassure you.
Even though Tattooing is hard to learn it is not impossible.
If you can draw
- If you are determined
- If you are mentally strong
- If you are physically fit
- If you are single-minded and focussed
- If you want it enough to withstand the trials and tribulations.
Then you will make it.
Tattooing really is the best job in the world. You get paid well to draw and create all day in an awesome and enjoyable environment. Tattooing is one of the best ways of making money from your art
So stay strong. Keep focused and you WILL get there.
Start the right way on your journey by downloading my free e-book below
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