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How to Get a Tattoo Apprenticeship

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Before you become a professional tattoo artist, you have to go through an apprenticeship first. Getting an apprenticeship means having an impressive tattoo career ahead of you. Although it is not easy to get one, prepare for, and pay for, it is worth all the hard work (and money). All of this is for a reason. Apprenticeships are not only a crucial training period, they are a rite of passage. 

Before you can earn a good living honing your craft, you'll need to learn the basics of tattooing, and be trained under a reputable artist.  

Here are a few tips on how to get yourself a tattoo apprenticeship. 

 

Build a Portfolio 

A portfolio consists of 50 to 200 drawings, both completed and coloured. You don't walk into the shop with a sketch book full of doodles and half-complete ideas. Choose only your best work, what you feel best showcases your talent. Portfolios should be in an actual portfolio, placed and matted in sheet protectors. Presentation is all about showing how professional and serious you are about getting your apprenticeship. 

Your portfolio should include an array of art that focuses on certain tattoo-specific traits, such as line consistency, an understanding of colour theory, design flow, and uniqueness of the designs. So, draw every day. Don't give up on an idea just because it's too hard or boring, because you will not always have a choice when it comes to tattooing.  

 

Do your homework. 

Before talking to the staff of any shop if they offer apprenticeships, make sure that it is a shop of your desire and that you’d be excited to learn from them. The best places to start are at a shop where you or someone you know have already been tattooed. Get to know a place and the artists who work there; get a feel for the atmosphere there to make sure that you’ll be a good fit. 

 

Come prepared.  

A tattoo artist is not looking for your knowledge of the tattoo industry and a portfolio of your tattoo experience. Apprenticeship is not about that. It is about teaching someone who knows very little to nothing about tattooing at all. However, it is best to possess some skills that are needed to learn how to tattoo. Research common and popular tattoo designs. Draw and colour your own unique version of these.  

 

Determination is key. 

Some shops don’t usually offer apprenticeship. No one wants to dedicate their hours to a newbie, only to have that person walk away in a few weeks.  

The best way to show that you won’t disappear is to be consistent. Don’t be a hindrance to the artist’s work. Instead, let them know you loved the tattoo he/she did on you, or you can even bring down a friend and watch him/her get tattooed. Offer to give them some of your tattoo designs to use or hang in the shop if they’re interested. 

Even if the shop that you’ve been pursuing still won’t give you an apprenticeship, maybe they can refer you to some shops that offer apprenticeships. Research other shops, and periodically visit your choices over the coming months to see if they’ve changed their mind.

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  • Matthew Nelson