Learn How Much Does it Cost to Become a Tattoo Artist

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.

Pros
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.

Cons

It is very difficult to get an apprenticeship. And because there is no formal agreement, some shops use “apprentices” for free labor...and never teach them anything. Additionally, most apprentices spend their first year cleaning and doing errands (hazing is common). Actual tattoo training does not begin until the second year of apprenticeship

Cost (Time)

Let’s say your apprenticeship lasts 2.5 years. You work for 45 hours a week with no pay. If you were working a minimum wage job for that time, you would make $37,695. Without that income, you will probably have to take on a part-time job, extending your workweek to at least 60-65 hours a week. This is the real cost of tattoo apprenticeships no one talks about: never having much time to spend with the people you love.

Cost (Money)

If your shop requires $5000 for an apprenticeship (average for a reputable shop), you will be expected to pay that cost up front.

Total Approx. Cost

$42,695 + equipment (see Equipment section)

Non-Monetary Cost

hazing + social isolation/relocation + extensive work weeks

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).

Pros
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.

Cons

Because 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.

Cost (Time)

360 hours working at the minimum wage amounts to $2,610 (remember, your time is money). Upon graduation, you will have to spend more time searching for information on advanced tattooing techniques or enter into an apprenticeship.

Cost (Money)

The average tattoo artist school cost is about $10,000 in tuition and course fees.

Total Approx. Cost

$12,610 + equipment (see Equipment section)

Non-Monetary Cost

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.

Pros
YouTube and online resources are free. You can learn on your own time without giving up your job or time with friends and family.

Cons

Piecing 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.

Cost (Time)

It’s nearly impossible to get a comprehensive education with the free resources online. There's no one but yourself to hold you accountable so you need to be disciplined. While you can work at your own pace, it could take years to prepare to work in a shop.

Cost (Money)

While learning is free, you will still need equipment to learn.

Total Approx. Cost

Equipment (see Equipment section)

Non-Monetary Cost

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 

Pros
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.

Cons

With an online course, you will need to be self-motivated to go through the modules.

Cost (Time)

The Artist Accelerator allows you to cut out arbitrary the time spent “earning your stripes” in an apprenticeship, provides more information than a tattoo school, and lets you work around your schedule while receiving a complete education that prepares you to work in a shop full time.

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.

Cost (Money)

Purchase the Artist Accelerator Course YOUR way: 12 installments of $49/month OR a one-time payment of $497 (almost $100 in savings!).

Total Approx. Cost

$497 + equipment (see Equipment section)

Non-Monetary Cost

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.

Tattoo License

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.

Certifications

Vaccines

  • Hepatitis B Vaccine: $60-$150 (without insurance)

Note

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.

Equipment

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

  • 3RL
  • 7RL
  • 14RL
  • 7M1
  • 15M1
  • 7RS

Inks

Fusion Ink set

Lining black

Grey wash

Station setup

  • Painters tape
  • Gloves
  • Eye loupe
  • Hand santizer
  • bibs
  • Scissors
  • Massage table
  • Tattoo trolley
  • Tounge depressors

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. 

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years experience working at studios across the globe including Celebrity Ink the world's largest tattoo studio chain. When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry

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