Tattoo Artist

What Is Tattooing?

Tattooing is one of the oldest art forms known to man. It is a type of body modification that involves creating permanent words or images on the skin. In order to get these images on the skin, ink must be injected under the surface of the skin, by piercing it with a small needle.

In ancient times, tattoos were not only applied for decoration, but they were also held symbolic significance as well. Some tattoos were applied because they had religious meaning, for instance, while others were status symbols. At a few points in history, tattoos were even used to mark slaves, as well as prisoners and other criminals.

Today, tattoos are generally used as a form of decoration and self-expression. Some modern tattoos can be quite simple, while others may be very elaborate. Different images can range from simple flowers and cartoon characters, to more ornate portraits and scenes. While not every tattoo has a deep meaning to its wearer, most tattoos still signify something. Individuals will usually choose a tattoo that means something to them, such as an important turning point in their lives.

Work Environment

A tattoo artist is a professional that applies tattoos. These individuals will typically create tattoos based on what each individual client wants. Some tattoo artists might also perform other forms of body modification, such as piercings or brandings.

One of the major aspects of a tattoo artist’s job is safety and sterilization. Because so many dangerous pathogens and diseases can easily be transferred through blood and bodily fluids, a tattoo artist must take precautions to prevent this. These precautions may include discarding tattooing needles after each client, and sterilizing other hard to replace equipment, like tattoo guns.

While most tattoo artists will usually have hundreds or sometimes thousands of existing images for clients to choose from, most will also create custom tattoos for clients that request them. A client may provide a picture for the artist to recreate, or they may just provide a specific idea for the artist to use.

Once a design has been chosen, a tattoo artist will usually transfer the basic outline of the tattoo onto the client’s skin. From there, the artist can then begin the tattooing process.

First, a tattoo artist will usually start with an outline of the tattoo. He will then fill in the rest of the tattoo using different colors and shading techniques. Depending on the look he wants to create, a tattoo artist will usually use a several different types of tattoo needles.

After a tattoo has been applied, a tattoo artist will also educate his client on proper tattoo aftercare. Generally, tattoos should be kept clean in order to avoid infection and speed up the healing process. Some tattoo artists might also recommend a special salve or ointment to apply to the fresh tattoo as well. These serve to keep dirt and debris away from the tattoo and keep it moisturized. Most tattoo salves also contain antibiotics, which can help prevent infection and scarring. Tattoo artists must be careful which salve or ointment they recommend, however, since some of these can react negatively with certain inks used to create tattoos.

Education Requirements

Individuals interested in a tattooing career should be very skilled artists and drawers. To fine tune these skills, some aspiring tattoo artists may choose to take drawing classes at an art school, although this is not absolutely necessary.

In most areas, individuals must first complete a tattooing apprenticeship before they can begin their tattooing career. These apprenticeships usually require aspiring tattoo artists to work alongside established tattoo artists.

At the beginning of a tattooing apprenticeship, an aspiring tattoo artist will often find himself sterilizing equipment and practicing his drawing skills, and he may help create or modify tattoo art. Before he can begin tattooing clients, however, he will usually need to practice using a tattoo gun on inanimate objects, like fruit rinds and leather. Once a master tattoo artist is confident that the budding artist can successfully and safely use the tattooing equipment, he will then begin to apply tattoos to real live individuals.

Since safety and cleanliness is such an important issue in tattooing, aspiring tattoo artists will also need to learn all of the different sterilization techniques necessary for this career. In most areas, an individual must be certified by the Health Department before he can start his tattooing career.

Learn more about how to become a tattoo artist.

Salary and Job Outlook


The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not offer specific salary data for individuals with a career in tattooing. According to, however, the average annual salary for a tattoo artist in 2011 was around $33,000. As with most art careers, however, this salary is not a constant, and it can vary depending on a tattoo artist’s skill and location, among other things.

Job Outlook

New tattoo artists may want to work in an existing tattoo or body modification studio at first. This type of employment will allow them to gain experience and earn money. After a while, though, many tattoo artists choose to start their own tattooing studios. Before they can open shop, however, these studios must first be examined by the Health Department to ensure that they abide by all of the rules and regulations that must be followed before a person can begin their tattooing career.

Helpful Resources

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Tattoo Artist Jobs