Who needs a tattoo apprenticeship anyway?

who needs a tattoo apprenticeship anyway

tattoo apprenticeWith all the online tattoo education and training like YouTube tutorials, webinars, online courses, tattoo time-lapse videos and the vast, vast ocean of products that can be easily purchased online and delivered to your doorstep… Why would anyone submit themselves to 2-5 years of unpaid work?

Tattoo Apprenticeships don’t grow on trees

What if your only chance of an apprenticeship is under an artist that barely deserves the title? What if there is no artist that would take you in as an apprentice?
Well, you might as well do it on your own, right?


The internet has indeed made everything easier to learn and easier to get, but there is no equivalent video or forum to being in a tattoo shop day in and day out, soaking it in live action.

It’s opening the shop – which is a meditation on its own, waking your creative self up, chat over morning coffee trying to warm up your hand and eye muscles to start drawing.

During the day, you see the artists deal with walk-in clients and their unexpected and unstudied requests, you see them dealing with custom designs, trying to connect to the client’s vision and still be true to their art, you see them dealing with pricing, time, frustration, satisfaction and pride of a well done tattoo but you most of all see them dealing with their ego, which is perhaps the most crucial skill to succeed in this industry.

Who needs a tattoo apprenticeship anyway

If your ego is bigger than you, you’ll never be open to learn. So put your ego aside, because being the tattoo shop’s “bitch”, believe it or not, is a privilege; it’s the chance you get to put your foot in the industry’s door, explore and eavesdrop.

What if I can’t get an apprenticeship?

Then offer yourself as a receptionist, cleaner, errand boy/girl or whatever.
The point is hanging out in the shop and getting the hang of it.

Now I’ll let you in on a little secret: sometimes, you learn how NOT to do stuff. Be it interaction with clients, shop routine, attitude or technical/artistic issues. You get to learn from other people’s mistakes and that’s priceless.

If you’re already under an apprenticeship, please share your story in the comments; I’d love to know how you’re doing – ego aside! Subscribe here for more 🙂

Love & Ink,


12 thoughts on “Who needs a tattoo apprenticeship anyway?

  1. I love to paint and I began to take interset in the tattoo world not long ago. I purchased some basic home equipment and started to learn by myself with videos from the internet. I do have a local tattoo shop close to my home and I was thinking if it is crucial to go trough the process of employment as an aprentice. You really clerify me that it is super important. I never thought about all the backgroud stuff you need to take care of like dealing with customers and the internet usually doesn’t teach you want NOT to do.
    Thank you a lot! I think the next time I step by the tattoo shop I’ll see if they need emplyees.

    1. Dear Jacob,

      Welcome to the amazing world of tattooing! I’m glad my post made you reconsider learning alone. Which home equipment did you get? I do recommend researching carefully every little thing since low quality equipment will make you develop wrong habits to compensate for it, which can take you backwards instead of forward. I would love to hear what you’ve tried and done so far and if you’re struggling with anything! I’m always here to help:) Thank you for your comment and best of luck!


  2. I love tattoos and have a few myself. I’ve thought tattoo artiest were good drawers point blank simple that’s it. It’s interesting to learn that there are ways to learn more about the art. Will you be posting art that you have done or linking your social media sights of your work?

    1. Hi Angie,

      I was taught as a child that you either have talent or you don’t, but over the years I’ve learned that it isn’t so. The technique, the sharp eye and agile hand can be learned through constant practice, trial and error.
      To me, talent is actually creativity. An amazing copycat is a technocrat, not an artist. Since the art of tattooing involves no less technique than any other medium – tattoo apprenticeships take a good while. But then, once having mastered the technique, the artist can emerge. It is creativity that you’re either born with or not, the kind that stretches the boundaries, jumps off the comfort zone with a curious heart. 

      I will definitely post a link to my Facebook and Instagram accounts, thank you! 


  3. Great site. I believe the same thing that being an actual apprentice within an industry is a way better education than if u just learn it off of the web. As u say, all the other experiences that go along with being an apprentice is priceless. I am a budding artist that is looking to maybe go into the world of tattoos. I just need to find a decent tattoo parlor that I could talk to about it. I did not know that an apprenticeship could take up to 5 years, wow. I do have a silly question that I am curious about. Is there an age u reach where u cannot get a tattoo, medically speaking? I know it is a silly question but I really would like to know. Thanks for some great info on the world of tattooing.


    1. Thanks Carl, I’ve just published a new article about the “tattoo apprentice portfolio”, http://thetattooapprenticeclub.com/what-should-the-perfect-tattoo-apprentice-portfolio-include-part-1
      you’re very much invited to take a look, you’ll even find some of my art there. I’d really like to see your artwork too! to answer your question: all conditions in which you cannot get a tattoo are health conditions that could be present at different ages. So there’s never too old, only too sick.
      From a tattoo artist’s standpoint though, the older people get, the thinner and crispier their skin gets, which makes it very difficult to work on and have good results. The oldest person I’ve tattooed yet is my mother (65), and her skin is in better condition than a lot of other 40 year old’s:)

      1. Hi Noa

        That is so cool. Thanks for the answer to my question, I appreciate it. I did not even think of the condition of the skin but u are right seeing as that is the canvas u work on so its condition would be important. U have some awesome artwork here, I am not that good yet but working hard at it. Need a lot more practice, lol. I will be back to read some more wonderful articles. Thanks.


  4. I love this! You’re spot on with the ego thing and that’s true for every aspect of life. Being a lifelong learner is no easy task. It’s super interesting to learn about the inner workings and behind the scenes of aspiring tattoo artists. Thanks for the good info.



  5. Hey Noa – Thanks for this article it is very interesting to see a profession on tattoo designing. I have some tattoos on myself the small ones. But I just need to know a small thing – I have seen most people who does/design the tattoo in the shop they also have a variety of tattoos on themselves, Is it mandatory? Also how much does this profession pay? Just curious to know. Have a great week.

    1. Hi Manasir,
      Thank you! I’m glad you found the article interesting.
      While it is by no means mandatory to have tattoos, most tattoo artists are in it first of all because they loved tattoos long before they became tattoo artists. Most of them are tattoo collectors, meaning they have art pieces by several artists on them, as well as some self inflicted trials, and teenage-ish decisions… having said that, I do know a (very) few top line tattoo artists who do not have tattoos on them.
      To answer your question about the pay – the higher the quality, the higher the price an artist can charge for their work. Some artists charge hourly rates that can range between $50-$450 per hour. Others charge by piece. Professional equipment and ink are not cheap, and the training period (i.e. apprenticeship) takes at least a couple of years of (usually and traditionally) unpaid work. Once they become an in-house artist at a shop they get a cut and the rest goes to the shop’s overhead.

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