How to Get a Tattoo Apprenticeship in 6 Steps (With FAQs)

Updated June 28, 2023

A tattoo apprentice gives a tattoo to a customer.

Apprenticeships offer the opportunity to develop your skills and gain valuable trade experience. Completing an apprenticeship can prepare you to succeed in this role if you're considering a career as a tattoo artist. To become a tattoo artist, you can secure an apprenticeship by learning about the apprenticeship process. In this article, we discuss how to get a tattoo apprenticeship, explain why apprenticeships are important and describe what tasks you can expect to perform in this role.

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How to get a tattoo apprenticeship

If a career as a tattoo artist interests you, follow these steps on how to get a tattoo apprenticeship:

1. Research tattoo artists and studios

Start by researching studios where you want to work or professional tattoo artists to work with as an apprentice. Use search engines and social media as part of your search. Once you find studios where you'd like to work, visit the website and review their work. Similarly, if you want to work with a specific tattoo artist, check their bio and portfolio. Tattoo apprenticeships may require referrals, so it's important you contact people in your professional network and inform them you're looking for open positions.

Related: What Is Professional Networking? and How to Master It

2. Find a suitable tattoo apprenticeship

Next, look for open positions in the studio where you want to work as an apprentice. Review job posting websites for these opportunities. You can also check provincial or territorial government websites for apprenticeship opportunities. For example, the Ontario government has an education and training page where you can find information about apprenticeships. If you want to work under a particular tattoo artist, reach out to them and politely state your intentions.

Regardless of how you look for a tattoo apprenticeship, consider contacting previous or current apprentices to learn more about the position. You can benefit from working in an environment where you can learn and improve your ability to create and execute stunning tattoo designs. You'll also want to learn from a tattoo artist who works in a reputable shop, has years of experience and has a similar artistic style to yours.

Related: What Is an Apprenticeship?

3. Meet the eligibility requirements

Apprenticeships typically have requirements for candidates. For example, you may need basic training on sterilizing tattooing equipment. Similarly, you may need a high school diploma or GED to become a tattoo apprentice. Ask the tattoo artist or recruiter to determine these eligibility requirements. You can also review the studio's website or job description to find out whether you're eligible. Once you discover what you need to qualify for the apprenticeship, start working toward meeting those requirements. Also, confirm whether there's an application deadline to help you plan.

4. Prepare your resume and portfolio

Even if you don't have work experience, you may need to create a resume when applying for a tattoo apprenticeship. You can discuss your soft skills and describe your work ethic. Soft skills are qualities that explain how you interact with others. Look for keywords that help to communicate your greatest strengths. For example, you can list your attention to detail as your greatest strength. Your potential employers may use software such as an applicant tracking system (ATS) to review your resume. So be sure to include relevant keywords, as this can increase the likelihood of your resume being short-listed.

Related: Writing a Resume With No Experience

Prepare a portfolio of your art to show your skill set. You can include any tattoos you've done for friends or on test pieces or other artwork, like detailed drawings and paintings. Be sure to include pieces that showcase your relevant art skills that apply to tattooing, like fine line drawing or excellent shading.

Related: Online Portfolio (With Benefits and Steps To Create One)

5. Apply for tattoo apprenticeships

Next, submit your application documents. You typically need to send these documents online or in person. Ensure you read the application details carefully. Follow the required process the recruiter lays out to improve your likelihood of getting the tattoo apprenticeship you want.

Read more: How To Apply for a Job in Person (and When It Can Help You)

6. Follow up with the sponsor or recruiter

A sponsor is an individual or group of employers that can provide you with the tattoo training you desire. Reach out to them or the recruiter a few weeks after sending your application to get updates. Email is typically an effective way to follow up with the tattoo artist or recruiter.

Related: How to Follow Up on a Job Application (With Email Template and Examples)

Why is completing a tattoo apprenticeship important?

The primary reason to become a tattoo apprentice is to learn from an experienced tattoo artist. Here are other ways you can benefit from a tattoo apprenticeship:

  • Provides practical tattooing experience: Apprenticeships offer an opportunity to get relevant experience before you start drawing tattoos on clients. It helps you determine your preferred tattoo style and designs.

  • Offers the likelihood of improved earning potential: You can earn more money after completing a tattoo apprenticeship, as this experience helps you develop your skill set early in your career.

  • Helps to build your network: Securing an apprenticeship can help you make more connections and form mutually beneficial relationships with sponsors. This experience can also help you find a tattoo mentor.

  • Increases your likelihood of finding a tattooing job: An apprenticeship enables you to start your career with the tattoo studio that operates the program. Seek to make a lasting impression, so hiring managers would prefer you over other candidates who apply for a position as a tattoo artist.

Related: How To Start an Apprenticeship (With Benefits)

What can you expect to do during a tattoo apprenticeship?

Here are the duties and responsibilities you can expect to perform as a tattoo apprentice:

Sterilize equipment

Sterilizing tattooing equipment is one of the critical first steps that help to prevent infections. As an apprentice, you can expect to perform this task before and after procedures. Depending on where you work, you may receive training on the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) standards for preventing infections and the procedure for using laser knives safely.

Design tattoos

Working as a tattoo apprentice typically requires you to create tattoo designs. You may work on different tattoo styles, such as realism, watercolour, or naturalistic styles. Aim to improve your ability to design tattoos by finding your niche and perfecting your personal style. As you gain experience and add more examples to your portfolio, you can create a tattoo book that contains unique designs from which clients can choose.

Related: 10 Outstanding Careers for Creative People

Operate tattooing equipment

After a few months as a tattoo apprentice, you can expect to start operating tattooing equipment. Your mentor would typically have you work on a practice skin before you start working with clients. This task requires you to apply what you learned from sterilizing equipment and designing tattoos. Depending on your progress, you may spend a few months to over a year practising how to operate tattooing equipment.

Perform administrative tasks

You can also perform administrative tasks during your apprenticeship. For example, you may be responsible for welcoming clients to the studio and informing them about the styles and designs. Ensure you confirm what your duties and responsibilities are and check that they align with your career goals before you start your apprenticeship.

Related: 10 Administrative Skills for the Workplace

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FAQs about getting a tattoo apprenticeship

Here are common questions about getting a tattoo apprenticeship:

How long does a tattoo apprenticeship last?

Tattoo apprenticeships typically take one to three years, depending on your progress. Aim to understand the business aspect of running a tattoo shop during this program. You can also use these experiences to learn about the tattoo industry's standards and technology.

Do you need to sign a tattoo apprentice contract?

You need to sign a contract before you begin your apprenticeship. Doing this helps to clarify all expectations. The contract typically includes how long the apprenticeship will last, your duties and responsibilities, and who you'll report to in the studio. It should also outline whether you can expect to receive a job offer after your apprenticeship ends.

What should you include in a tattoo apprenticeship portfolio?

Include your tattoo designs in your portfolio. If you have experience working directly with clients, outline your work in this document. Seek to include a range of tattoo styles in your portfolio to show your versatility.

Do you get paid to be a tattoo apprentice?

Many tattoo sponsors pay you to learn the trade while working in their studio. Ensure you find out how much you can expect to receive and whether you need to purchase other materials for work. For example, you may need a personal apron and disposable gloves. You can also receive financial aid as an apprentice if you make a low wage. Review the Government of Canada website for financial aid options before deciding how to proceed.

Can you work part-time as a tattoo apprentice?

You may work full-time or part-time as a tattoo apprentice, depending on your contract. Full-time employment is generally considered to be 40 hours per week. Part-time employment typically requires you to work 30 hours or less per week.

What is the next career step after a tattoo apprenticeship?

Consider earning additional certifications to show that you can safely tattoo clients. After completing your tattoo apprenticeship, you can start looking for a job. Alternatively, you may decide to open a tattoo studio of your own.

Related: How To Become a Tattoo Artist in 11 Essential Steps

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