How Do I Become A Self Taught Tattooist
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How do I become a self taught tattooist? 14 crucial things you MUST do to survive

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How do I become a self taught tattooist? 14 crucial things you MUST do to survive

How do I become a self taught Tattooist? The answer is LOTS OF PRACTICE, dedication and learning. If you have exhausted EVERY possibility of getting an Apprenticeship and find yourself looking at this option here are some important guidelines which will help you to learn to Tattoo.

If you can possibly get an Apprenticeship this is definitely the easiest route. Try this route first. Read my post “How To Get A Tattoo Apprenticeship – 5 Tips plus 1 killer secret to getting your foot in the door”

However, I understand that some people will find it impossible to get an Apprenticeship. You may have to go the self taught route so I think it best to give you good information on how to do it safely.

People without good information make dangerous mistakes.

I wrote a detailed post about How To Become A Tattoo Artist which gives you information about how to break into the tattoo industry.

Can you self teach tattooing?

Some amazing tattooists have taught themselves to tattoo. You need dedication and mental strength to go down this route. It IS possible IF you have the right kind of drive and focus. Maybe you can become a self-taught Tattooist.

Can You Self Teach Tattooing?
Can You Self Teach Tattooing?

You might also like this post. Can you be a self taught tattoo artist?

14 Things you must do to be a self taught Tattooist

I’ve made a list below of 14 things that you need to do to become a self-taught Tattooist. This is not a route to be taken lightly. The health of your future clients depends on you following these closely.


Enrol and complete a bloodborne pathogens course. There are many good online video-based courses which do not charge too much and will explain the theory of cross-contamination. These courses are aimed at health workers but equally, apply to you.

Don’t skip this. Your life and the life of your clients depend on you understanding this inside out.



2 – Draw, draw draw… and draw some more…

Sorry but you MUST be good at drawing before you even think about learning how to Tattoo. Focus on your art. Don’t worry if you aren’t good to begin with. Contrary to popular opinion, drawing is a learnt skill. That means you can improve but you need to put the hours in.

  • Enrol in art classes – life drawing from the figure is a great way to learn
    There are many good online art classes that you can invest in
  • Get a sketchbook – draw in it all the time
  • Draw everywhere. Instead of being on your phone on the bus or in a cafe, draw in your sketchbook
  • Drawing should take over your life

3 – Take it slowly.

Don’t dive straight into working on people. You need to spend an awfully long time practising on fruit, pigskin and yourself before you go anywhere near anyone else skin.

4 – Get a mentor

If you can find a tattooist who will help you with questions and problems this is an amazing help. You may find someone who is willing to help, even if they can’t offer an Apprenticeship.

Having someone to talk things through with, especially when the going is tough, is invaluable.

self taught tattooist
Can I Become A Self Taught Tattooist?

5 – Learn EVERYTHING you possibly can about tattooing.

Immerse yourself in the industry. Find out about the history of the craft. Watch documentaries and films. Read books. Learn everything.

6 – Don’t just buy a “how to tattoo DVD”

Invest in DVDs from top Tattooists explaining and demonstrating their work processes. These can be pricey but are worth getting. You can learn so much from watching how a top Tattooist works.

Also, watch videos about learning to paint. These can help your drawing and designing process.

7 – Invest in good equipment

Invest in a good quality tattoo set up. You will eventually probably be looking at spending $700 or more for a machine and good power supply.

I recommend buying a rotary machine. These avoid many of the frustrating setup and tuning issues from coil machines that can be impossible to fix if you have no mentor. The Cheyenne Hawk Pen Tattoo Machine is a great machine and uses an easy cartridge needle system. It’s expensive but you get what you pay for. This is what I use all the time.

A poor quality machine will make a terrible tattoo no matter how skilled you are. You are then battling the poor quality of the machines as well as your own lack of skill. You will make your life so much easier if you start off with careful selected good quality equipment.

If you are totally starting from scratch, I reviewed this starter kit from amazon. At around $100 it gives you a good starting point. Check out my review below.

8 – Buy your ink from a reputable online tattoo shop.

You always want to make sure that the equipment you use is top quality. Amazon is fine for equipment. However, make sure you buy ink from a professional tattoo supply shop.

Many machines and inks sold on eBay are fake. You don’t want to be putting that into people’s skin at any time. Make sure you use the best quality and genuine stuff at all times and get used to using that whilst you are learning. Even on practice skin.

Make sure your ink is genuine and the best by ordering from a professional tattoo supplies shop. No cutting corners on that.

There is a post below outlining the difference in quality of tattoo inks which you should read.

Self Taught Tattooist
Cheyenne Tattoo Machine and Disposable Needle Cartridge System

9 – Use fully disposable equipment.

Despite what you may have read elsewhere, you cannot sterilise anything using boiling water, bleach or anything less than an autoclave. Hepatitis virus is practically indestructible. Even bleach doesn’t cut it. Read this article to understand why.

Bleach won’t kill Hepatitis in dried up ink or blood lodged inside scratches in metal tubes.

Just don’t risk it.

My own studio is fully disposable and I think this is the best route to go down. Buy everything disposable and throw it away. This is so much easier if you have a Rotary Tattoo. Machine with cartridge needle system. That way there are no tubes or grips to sterilise. You can run everything disposable.

10 – Invest hours and hours working on practice skin and pig skin before you TOUCH a person

I appreciate that some readers may be Vegan or Vegetarian and this can be a BIG ASK. I was vegan when I started learning and I struggled with pigskin. I totally get it. However, you absolutely owe it to your future client’s skin to practice as accurately as you can. Pigskin is the closest thing you can get to real skin to practice on. The new silicone-based practice skin is much better than it was though so this is also good for practice. Then progress to working on your own leg.

If you want to be a tattooist you need to sacrifice your own skin first.

11 – Get registered.

This is not about being some fly under the radar scratcher working from their dirty kitchen. Register legally with your local authorities and comply with their rules. It’s so important to do this right from the beginning.

You don’t want to get shut down before you even begin.

12 – Build your confidence slowly.

Start with small simple tattoos and work your way up as you gain more confidence. It’s really easy to scare yourself badly if you try to do it all too quickly. Some potential Tattooists freak out and hit at this point. Don’t let that be you. Just stick to small palm-sized tattoos at first using simple methods. Don’t go trying to do a full-colour sleeve for one of your first few tattoos.


The bottom line is you need to take great responsibility for learning safely and not harming anyone. You need to be focussed, careful and driven. Move forward carefully with passion and then maybe you just might make it…

14 – Keep Going

Tattooing can be hard to learn. You can read more in this post. Is tattooing hard to learn? Can you do it?

But it’s worth doing. Tattooing is an amazing career. The people who fail to make it are the people who stop.

Don’t stop, keep going, be brave and believe in yourself.


Good Luck

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