Becoming a tattoo artist can lead to an exciting career. But how much does it cost to be a tattoo artist? There’s no specific degree] you need to complete beforehand, and outside of BBP (blood-borne pathogen) and CPR training, there is not much required when it comes to certifications.
Because you’re almost entirely on your own when it comes to preparation, it’s hard to estimate how much time and money it will take to become a tattoo artist or even calculate the cost of running your own shop.
We’ll break it all down in this article and point out all your options.
Cost of Learning to Tattoo
Learning to tattoo requires both time and money. Each education style will call for different levels of commitment both from you personally...and from your wallet.
1. Traditional Apprenticeship: “Free” - $10,000
In a traditional tattoo apprenticeship, you’ll either pay a professional artist, your “mentor,” to teach you, or you will work in the shop for free in exchange for your education.
A traditional apprenticeship can last anywhere from one to four years. You will be expected to work 40-50 hours a week at the shop and may be required to relocate.
Most artists and shops are familiar with traditional apprenticeships. You’ll get a feel of the atmosphere of the tattooing world by spending time with other artists and customers.
2. Tattoo School: $5,000 - $15,000
Tattoo schools teach you proper sanitation and cover simple designs. Because of this, some tattoo school graduates usually need additional training or an apprenticeship to learn more complicated tattooing techniques and styles.
Most tattoo schools require a minimum of 360 hours in order to graduate (often with a tattoo certificate). Tattoo school workshops periodically require in-person classes for 6 hours a day, several days in a row, usually on the weekends (expect to miss work, social events, or family gatherings).
Tattoo schools get you making money faster than a traditional apprenticeship. Many of these schools can help you get a work placement in one of their associated walk-in shops (basic, small tattoos) after graduation.
ConsBecause you are expected to show up for in-person training, you will have to schedule time off of work or rearrange your schedule on a regular basis. You will be expected to pay fees upfront. You do not receive training in advanced techniques.
Total Approx. Cost
$12,610 + equipment (see Equipment section)
Missed work/social events + incomplete education
3. Learning to Tattoo Online: "Free"
After seeing the costs of apprenticeships and tattoo schools, it’s tempting to go it alone. YouTube and other online resources certainly offer a lot of information. However, it’s impossible to tell whether the information is outdated or incomplete, or if the person uploading the content is a reputable tattoo artist.
YouTube and online resources are free. You can learn on your own time without giving up your job or time with friends and family.
ConsPiecing together incomplete information and creating artwork with no feedback from a teacher or mentor can slow your process and lead to unsafe practices. And developing bad habits that are limit your potential and are difficult to correct later on.
Total Approx. Cost
Equipment (see Equipment section)
Incomplete education despite years of research.
4. Tattooing 101’s Artist Accelerator Course: $497 or $49/month
The Artist Accelerator program was created to give artists a new option. Learn online at your own pace from professional tattoo artists all over the world. With 500+ video modules, you can break down your tattooing education into bite-sized pieces that work with your schedule, and you can cut out the hours of searching through unhelpful information online.
In addition to the online course, you’ll become part of the Tattooing 101 online community, a thriving mastermind group t where students support one another and receive feedback from tattooing instructors with years of industry experience
You can go from beginner to professional tattoo artist in as little as 90 days. You’ll learn proper sanitation, tattooing fundamentals, advanced artistic design, and how to operate your tattooing business on your own time while receiving the support and feedback you need to succeed. We also get students jobs without studio partners program.
ConsWith an online course, you will need to be self-motivated to go through the modules.
With over 500 modules (around 50 hours of watchtime + “homework” and personal practice), you can easily work your way through the Artist Accelerator without the major sacrifices.
Total Approx. Cost
$497 + equipment (see Equipment section)
Time spent drawing and practicing
Fees and Certifications: $250+
While tattooing remains a fairly unregulated area of practice, doing the job correctly requires specific equipment and legal certifications.
Most states do not require individuals to be licensed. The shop itself must have a license to tattoo (approx $1000 for permanent location, $500 for temporary). Individual artists simply register themselves under their shop’s license.
- OSHA-approved BBP (blood-borne pathogens) certification: $25-$50
- First-aid certification: $25-50
- Hepatitis B Vaccine: $60-$150 (without insurance)
Different states have different laws. Some states require Red Cross first aid, while others require state-specific exams. The information above is the average requirement.
Art materials (our recommended)
- Strathmore 80 lb weight drawing paper (or Toned Tan paper): $13.29
- Canson tracing paper: $14.99
- Drawing pencils (HB, B, 2B, 4B, 6B, 8B): $8.65
- Prisma Col-Erase Carmine red pencil: $1.28 each
- Marker Pens (Pitt Artist Pens by Faber Castell, Microns, or Copics): ~$40+
- Arches cold-pressed 140lb watercolor paper: $36.45
- Dr. Martin’s Radiant Concentrated Watercolors: $79.99
- FW acrylic paint: $30.00
- Plastic palettes: $3.00
- Paint brushes: ~$13.00+
- iPad(second hand): ~$300.00+
- Procreate app: $9.99
Fusion Ink set
Cost of Running Your Own Tattoo Business
As with any business, keeping costs down while still delivering the service and quality you want to give your clients can be a fine line to walk. However, if you’re considering opening up your own studio, you’ll need to take the following costs into account:
Studio rent: can vary greatly depending on your location. However, cheaper isn’t always better. Clients (particularly people looking to get their first tattoo) will be looking for a storefront on a clean and inviting street.
Artists: While your artists will be making money from clients (and giving a portion of that to the shop), you will still need to pay for the license of your shop (around $1000) that your artists will register under.
Equipment: Your artists will regularly add the items they need to a running list. While buying in bulk will save you money, it’s still important to have an idea of what these items cost (see Equipment section above)
Business expenses: While these will vary depending on your location as well, you’ll need to keep utilities, trash service, advertising, cleaning products, cash register, etc. in mind.