All You Need To Know About A Tattoo Artist Career

You consider becoming a tattoo artist but are not sure whether you should pursue this career or rather go for a different job option instead?

Great! Stick with me since I will show you everything you need to know about working as a tattoo artist in the following chapters.

Not only will you learn how much you can make as a tattoo artist, but we will also talk about job satisfaction, future outlook, working hours, work-life balance, educational requirements, duties, responsibilities and much more.

You will also find an FAQ section at the end of this article where I answer the most common questions about being a tattoo artist for you.

After reading this article, you will have a much better idea of what being a tattoo artist really looks like and whether you still want to go this career path or try something different instead.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

Table of Contents

What does a Tattoo Artist do?

Tattoo artists create new tattoos and alter existing tattoos customers don’t like anymore.

They use tattoo machines so that tattoos last for a lifetime.

Responsibilities & Duties of a Tattoo Artist

  • Sketching and designing new tattoos
  • Altering existing tattoos
  • Doing tattoo makeovers
  • Making sure that hygienic requirements are met
  • Consulting clients on what tattoos they should choose
  • Making sure that age requirements are met
  • Complying with laws, rules and regulations related to tattooing
  • Keeping up with latest tattooing trends
  • Sterilizing tattoo equipment
  • Creating outstanding tattoos to stand out from the crowd

What a Typical Day of a Tattoo Artist looks like?

Tattoo artist usually start their workday between 9 and 11 a.m.

The first thing they do when they get to work is to structure their workday and have a look at their schedule.

After cleaning and sterilyzing the tattoo studio, tattoo artists open it for customers.

Not only do tattooists advise clients regarding what tattoos they should get, but they also sketch and design custom-made tattoos.

Tattoo artists not only create new tattoos, but they also alter and cover up existing ones to make them look better or to hide unpleasant residues from the past.

After working in this client-oriented environment for many hours, most tattoo artists usually finish their workday between 5 and 7 p.m., even though some of them also work in the late evening or even at nighttime.

Tattoo Artist Salary 2022

Tattoo Artist salary brackets 2022

Salary BracketsSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Top 10 %> $78,000> $38.91
Top 25 %$66,000 – $73,000$32.97 – $36.43
Bottom 25 %$38,000 – $44,000$18.88 – $21.96
Bottom 10 %$26,000 – $32,000$12.92 – $15.93
Range$26,000 – $85,000$12.92 – $42.45
Average (Mean)$53,000$26.47
Median$51,000$25.44

Tattoo Artist salary 2022 by expert level

Level of ExperienceSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Entry level$26,000 – $37,000$12.92 – $18.39
Junior$35,000 – $48,000$17.46 – $23.94
Professional$46,000 – $56,000$22.91 – $27.89
Senior Professional$52,000 – $69,000$25.93 – $34.48
Expert$66,000 – $78,000$32.94 – $38.88
Top Expert$75,000 – $85,000$37.45 – $42.47

Tattoo Artist salary by state 2022 (average)

StateSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Alabama$48,300$24.13
Alaska$50,600$25.27
Arizona$51,700$25.82
Arkansas$47,600$23.78
California$56,800$28.37
Colorado$50,300$25.14
Connecticut$52,900$26.42
Delaware$51,700$25.84
District of Columbia$54,300$27.13
Florida$52,600$26.29
Georgia$49,400$24.68
Guam$50,100$25.03
Hawaii$53,800$26.89
Idaho$51,600$25.78
Illinois$48,400$24.17
Indiana$46,100$23.04
Iowa$49,300$24.63
Kansas$46,800$23.37
Kentucky$47,200$23.59
Louisiana$52,900$26.42
Maine$51,400$25.69
Maryland$55,600$27.78
Massachusetts$53,800$26.88
Michigan$48,200$24.09
Minnesota$49,100$24.53
Mississippi$48,400$24.18
Missouri$47,600$23.77
Montana$51,300$25.63
Nebraska$52,800$26.38
Nevada$48,500$24.23
New Hampshire$53,100$26.54
New Jersey$55,200$27.58
New Mexico$48,300$24.13
New York$57,100$28.52
North Carolina$48,900$24.41
North Dakota$51,200$25.58
Ohio$52,600$26.29
Oklahoma$49,800$24.87
Oregon$50,600$25.28
Pennsylvania$54,800$27.39
Rhode Island$52,100$26.03
South Carolina$48,300$24.14
South Dakota$46,900$23.44
Tennessee$47,500$23.72
Texas$49,800$24.89
Utah$51,300$25.62
Vermont$52,700$26.31
Virginia$48,400$24.18
Washington$54,200$27.09
West Virginia$48,100$24.03
Wisconsin$49,300$24.62
Wyoming$47,500$23.73

Job Security of Tattoo Artists

Tattoo artists have pretty poor job security since educational barriers to entry to be able to work in this field are pretty low and almost everyone can start working as a tattooist.

Thus, competition is fierce and only really good tattoo artists will be able to make a living from what they are doing in the long run.

Future Outlook of Tattoo Artists

While good tattoo artists will also be able to make decent money in the future, the average tattoo artist will have a pretty hard time competing in this environment since quite talented tattoo artists will make it hard to compete for them just a few years from now.

Working Hours of Tattoo Artists

Tattoo artists usually start their workday between 9 and 11 a.m. and finish their workday between 5 and 7 p.m.

However, some tattoo artists who own their own stores also work much longer to make as much money as possible and to make clients happy in the long run.

Job Satisfaction of Tattoo Artists

Most tattoo artists are not fully happy with what they are doing for a living.

Even though most of them love the work itself, many tattooists also complain about overall working conditions and the high levels of insecurity that come along with this job.

Promotion Opportunities of Tattoo Artists

Promotion opportunities for tattoo artists are pretty limited and you will do the same job for many years or even decades.

Thus, unless you open your own tattoo studio, you will get stuck with your career and will not be able to make really good money as an employed tattooist.

Career Levels of Tattoo Artists

  • Tattoo artist intern
  • Junior tattoo artist
  • Senior tattoo artist
  • Manager of a tattoo studio
  • Owner of a tattoo studio

Fields and Types of Tattoo Artists

  • Tattoo artists focused on designing tattoos
  • Tattooists specialized in tattoo makeovers
  • Tattoo artists specialized in exotic tattoos
  • Tattoo artists focused on mainstream tattoos
  • Tattooists focused on landscape tattoos
  • Tattooists specialized in portrait tattoos
  • Tattooists focused on black-white tattoos
  • Tattooists with expertise in doing colorful tattoos
  • Tattoo artists focused on phrases and words

Educational Requirements for Tattoo Artists

Tattoo artists don’t have to spend many years in college and also don’t have to get any other fancy qualifications.

Instead, you can become a tattoo artist right after finishing high school.

How to become a Tattoo Artist

  1. Inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of being a tattooist
  2. Work as an intern at a local tattoo studio
  3. Stay in touch with your colleagues
  4. Finish high school
  5. Apply for jobs as a tattoo artist
  6. Master the job interview
  7. Sign your labor contract
  8. Get really good at tattooing and hone your craft
  9. Open your own tattoo studio

Character Traits you need as a Tattoo Artist

  • Patience helps you deal with difficult clients
  • Attention to detail helps you deliver the best possible results
  • Persistence helps you stay in the tattoo business in the long run
  • Creativity helps you design new motives
  • You should be client-focused
  • You should be willing to help people out
  • Ability to deal with critical feedback in an emotionally healthy manner
  • You should be a good listener
  • You should be friendly and outgoing

Tattoo Artist Skills

Hard Skills for Tattoo Artists

  • You should be good at designing tattoos
  • Talent for creating tattoos
  • Ability to do complex tattoo makeovers
  • Knowledge of what colors fit individual skin types
  • You should be good at acquiring new clients
  • Digital skills help you promote your tattoo studio
  • Math skills help you run your studio profitably
  • Knowledge of possible complications related to tattooing
  • Good knowledge of laws and regulations related to tattooing
  • Steady hand helps you do your work as best as possible

Soft Skills for Tattoo Artists

  • You should have good people skills
  • You should be able to calm down clients who are not happy with your work
  • Patience for complex tattoos that take quite a lot of time
  • Good time management skills help you get things done
  • You should be open to critical feedback
  • Talent for spotting latest tattoo trends
  • You should know how to bond your clients
  • Good communication skills help you reduce fear and pain of your clients
  • Ability to deal with drawbacks in a healthy manner.

Exit Options for Tattoo Artists

Tattoo artists have pretty poor exit options.

Even though they might be able to work as designers or painters, tattoo artists often have a hard time working in different fields since they often don’t learn enough hard skills to do so.

Tattoo Artist – Similar Careers

Tattoo Artist Career FAQs

Is working as a tattoo artist physically demanding?

Working as a tattoo artist can be physically demanding since you will work with your hands all day long and even though tattoo machines are not that heavy, working with them all day can still get pretty exhausting in the long run.

Is working as a tattoo artist mentally demanding?

Being a tattoo artist is not heavily mentally demanding.

Even though you have to stay focused for your entire workday to avoid mistakes that could lead to unpleasant surprises on the skin of your clients, you still don’t have to stress your brain as much as financial analysts or engineers who often have to work on complex models all day long.

Is it dangerous to work as a tattoo artist?

While working as a tattoo artist is not overly dangerous, there are still some risks involved in it.

For instance, if you are not careful, you may cut yourself with the tattoo machines and may transmit potential diseases of your clients onto yourself.

Thus, you always need to stay focused to minimize the risk of suffering from those issues.

How long do tattoo artists stay in their jobs?

Tattoo artists stay in their jobs for many years or even decades since they are pretty specialized and often have a hard time finding a job in a different industry due to a lack of hard skills needed in the job market right now.

Is it easy for tattoo artists to find a new job?

Since competition in the tattoo industry is pretty fierce and almost everyone can give it a try, you really have to do exceptional work and stand out from the crowd to get enough new clients and find enough new jobs to make a living as a tattooist in the long run.

Is it hard to switch from being a tattoo artist to another field of work?

Since tattoo artists are pretty specialized, they are not able to provide much value in other industries and they therefore often have a pretty hard time finding a job in a different field.

Do tattoo artists have a high social status?

Tattoo artists have a pretty low social standing.

In fact, the tattooing industry is often considered dodgy and many people will not understand your career choice once you tell them that you want to become a tattooist.

Can you help out your family and friends as a tattoo artist?

Since the majority of your loved ones will likely not aspire to get a tattoo, your positive impact on your loved ones will be pretty limited and while roofers and carpenters are able to fix many things around the house, you will not be able to provide the same value to your family and friends.

Can tattoo artists work remotely?

Tattoo artists are not able to work remotely since they have to tattoo people in person and therefore don’t have the luxury to work at home as many other people like compliance officers or digital marketers are able to do on a regular basis.

Is it easy to find a partner as a tattoo artist?

Since tattoo artists have a pretty low social status and also don’t make really good money, many tattoo artists also have a hard time finding someone for a long-term relationship since they are not considered good providers or family persons.

Do tattoo artists have to work on weekends?

Tattoo artists sometimes also have to work on weekends.

While employed tattoo artists often just work Monday to Friday, self-employed tattoo artists often also work on Saturdays or even Sundays to make additional money on the side.

Do tattoo artists have to work on holidays?

Tattooists don’t have to work on holidays. Instead, they can use those days to make nice trips with their loved ones or spend them on their favorite hobbies.

Do tattoo artists have to work at nighttime?

Tattoo artists don’t have to work at nighttime most often.

Your shift will usually end in the evening between 5 and 7 p.m. even though some tattoo studios may also require you to work in the late evening.

Do you have to travel as a tattoo artist?

You don’t need to travel as a tattooist apart from commuting to work and back and while many other people like consultants and investment bankers will be away from home for business trips quite often, you as a tattoo artist will be able to enjoy your leisure with your loved ones.

Are tattoo artist pensions good?

Since tattoo artists don’t make really good money during their active careers, they are also not able to save and invest enough money for retirement and their pensions will therefore be rather poor compared to dentists or other people who make significantly more from what they are doing.

Are tattoo artist salaries going up?

Tattooist salaries have not been going up significantly over the past years since many people want to start a career in this field and the demand for tattoos is not increasing significantly.

Consequently, wages will likely remain rather low also in the future.

Can you have a positive impact on society as a tattoo artist?

While you can make many people happy with your work, you will still not have the same high social impact as teachers or influencers who can really influence and change the lives of many people in a positive direction.

How long does it take to become a tattoo artist?

Since you don’t need to spend many years in college, you can become a tattoo artist within a few weeks.

However, it will still take you some time to get really good at what you are doing and you should have a real passion for tattooing to stay motivated with your job in the long run.

Is it difficult to become a tattoo artist?

Becoming a tattoo artist is not difficult since educational barriers to entry are pretty low.

However, becoming and staying successful as a tattooist is a completely different animal and only the best tattoo artists are able to make a living from what they are doing in the long run.

Do you need to be smart to work as a tattoo artist?

You don’t need to have a high IQ to succeed as a tattoo artist.

Instead, what’s much more important is that you are a creative person and also really passionate about tattooing to provide the best possible results to your clients.

Do tattoo artists have a good work-life balance?

Since tattoo artists sometimes have to work on weekends and also have to be rather flexible regarding their schedules in general, tattoo artists have rather poor work-life balance and are often not able to spend as much time with their loved ones as they liked to do.

Do tattoo artists have to work many extra hours?

Tattooists don’t have to work many extra hours.

Instead, they rather work according to their schedule and once their shift is over, they will just finish their workday and get back to work the next morning.

How to maximize your chances of becoming a tattoo artist?

The more you practice and the more experience you get from a rather early age, the better you will get at tattooing and the more value you will be able to provide to your clients, which in turn translates into better job prospects and higher wages.

Can tattoo artists work part-time?

While some tattoo artists work part-time, most of them still work full-time since hourly wages are not high enough to make a living from a part-time job in the tattoo industry in most cases.

Do tattoo artists work indoors or outdoors?

Tattoo artists work indoors all day long and don’t have to worry about adverse weather conditions outdoors as garbage collectors have to do on a regular basis.

What does the workplace of a tattoo artist look like?

Tattoo artists work with their hands all day long.

They also have many different clients and you should therefore be a client-oriented person and should be friendly and outgoing to stay successful with tattooing in the long run.

Do you have to look good for working as a tattoo artist?

You don’t need to look good for becoming a successful artist.

What’s much more important is that you are competent and really know what you are doing so that your clients trust you and will rely on your expertise for many years to come.

Is a tattoo artist career beneficial for your private life?

Working as a tattoo artist is not greatly beneficial for your private life since you will have to work rather exotic hours and will also not be able to make really good money from what you are doing while you constantly have to worry about losing your job.

In turn, your spouse may start cheating on you sooner or later to find a better deal.

Do you need a college degree for becoming a tattoo artist?

You don’t need to get a college degree for becoming a tattoo artist.

In fact, educational barriers to entry to be able to work in this field are pretty low and while many of your friends might have to spend many years on education, you can become a tattoo artist rather soon without having to spend lots of time and money on fancy degrees.

Do you need to be certified to work as a tattoo artist?

You often need a license or a certification before you are able to open your own tattoo studio.

However, this also greatly depends on the state and the region you want to work in and requirements in this regard are pretty different depending on where you want to open and operate your tattoo studio.

How much does it cost to become a tattoo artist?

Since you don’t need to get a college degree, you don’t have to spend enormous amounts of money and can become a tattoo artist at reasonable costs.

Thus, while many other people have to take on student loans to finance their degrees, you as a tattoo artist can even start making money at a rather young age.

Is being a tattoo artist a good career?

Working as a tattoo artist is not considered a good idea by the majority of the general public since you will work in a rather dodgy industry and you will also not make really good money from what you are doing and also constantly have to worry about losing your job.

Is it easy to start your own business as a tattoo artist?

It is relatively easy to start your own tattoo studio.

Even though you might have to meet some formal requirements, you still don’t have to invest lots of money upfront and can grow your business slowly but steadily.

Can tattoo artists teach themselves?

Tattoo artists can teach themselves all they need to succeed in this field.

In fact, the more you practice, the better you will get at what you are doing and the more money you can demand for your services.

Do tattoo artists make good money?

While very few tattoo artists are able to make good money, the vast majority of tattooists will not make good money and some of them will even struggle to make a living from what they are doing.

Is it ever too late to become a tattoo artist?

It is never too late to become a tattoo artist since you don’t have to spend lots of time on education to work in this field.

However, since working as a tattoo artist can still be physically demanding, it may not make sense to become a tattoo artist in your 50s or even later since you might not have enough power and physical fitness to successfully work in this industry anymore.

Do tattoo artists have to quit their careers early?

Many tattoo artists have to quit their careers early due to the physical nature of the job and since they are just no longer able to provide excellent results for their clients once their vision gets worse and their hands start to shake at an older age.

What is the hardest thing about working as a tattoo artist?

The hardest part about being a tattoo artist is that you always need to stay focused at work to avoid mistakes that may people have to carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Moreover, many clients will not be happy with the end result and may even sue you and you therefore need a pretty stable mindset to succeed as a tattooist in the long run.

Can you provide for your family by working as a tattoo artist?

Since most tattoo artists don’t make good money from what they are doing, many of them also have a hard time providing for their families and their spouses may have to work as well to pay their bills and may not enough have time to look after the kids.

Will tattoo artists suffer from old-age poverty?

Since tattoo artists often don’t make good money during their active careers, many of them are also not able to save and invest enough money for retirement and may therefore suffer from serious old-age poverty.

Can tattoo artists retire early?

Most tattooists are not able to retire early since they don’t make and save enough money during their active careers and rather make barely enough to cover their basic expenses.

Do tattoo artists get a fixed or variable salary?

Tattoo artists often work commission-based.

Thus, the more jobs they do, the more money they can make and you should therefore be good at building a loyal customer base so that you can make decent money for many years to come.

Can you get rich as a tattoo artist?

It is impossible to get rich as an employed tattooist.

If you really want to make good money in this business, you should open your own tattoo studios and scale your tattoo business as much as possible or rather become a judge or work in a completely different field.

Do tattoo artists need a second job?

While good tattoo artists are often able to make a living from what they are doing, poor tattoo artists often don’t have enough clients in the long run and have to get a second job to pay their bills.

Do you get continuous training as a tattoo artist?

You don’t get continuous training as a tattoo artist. Instead, it is on you to hone your craft and to get really good at what you are doing so that you can excel in this business in the long run.

Do you get sick pay as a tattoo artist?

You don’t get paid while you are sick as a tattoo artist most of the time.

Thus, it is a good idea to put some money on the side during good times that you can use during times you get sick and are no longer able to pay your bills.

Do tattoo artists have a high level of responsibility?

Tattoo artists have a high level of responsibility since mistakes on their side may ruin the visual appearance of their clients’ skin and may even lead to the transmission of serious diseases.

Can tattoo artists work abroad?

Tattoo artists are able to work all over the world.

However, you should still not expect the same salaries and working conditions as in your home country.

Is it stressful to work as a tattoo artist?

Being a tattoo artist can be stressful since you always need to focus on your work to avoid mistakes that could lead to serious adverse outcomes for your clients.

Moreover, you will also have to deal with lots of critical feedback and need a strong mindset to deal with those things in a proper manner.

Is it boring to work as a tattoo artist?

Working as a tattoo artist is not boring at all since every day will be different and you can be really creative at work since every client will have different preferences.

Is being a tattoo artist hard?

Working as a tattoo artist can be hard both on a physical as well as on an emotional level since you will have to work with your hands all day long and will also have to focus to minimize the risk of serious mistakes.

Are tattoo artists at risk of burnout?

Since working as a tattoo artist can be stressful, many of them are also at great risk of suffering from burnout and other mental problems and really struggle to do their work in an emotionally healthy manner.

Is there a dress code for tattoo artists?

Tattoo artists don’t have to comply with a certain dress code.

Instead, they can wear whatever they feel most comfortable with.

What kind of tattoo artists are paid the most?

The more experience you have in the tattoo industry, the more value you can provide to your customers and the more money you can make as a tattooist in the long run.

What percentage of tattoo artists are women?

While only 24% of all tattooists are women, a whopping 76% are men.

Thus, this industry is still dominated by men and will likely also continue to be dominated by men in the future since more men than women aspire to a tattooist career.

Do I need a mentor to succeed as a tattoo artist?

You don’t need a mentor to succeed as a tattooist.

What’s much more important is that you really work hard and spend lots of time honing your craft so that you can get really good at what you are doing in the long run.

Do tattoo artists have a high life expectancy?

Tattooists don’t have high life expectancy since they often live a pretty unhealthy lifestyle and also don’t make enough money to afford the best possible medical treatment in case of emergency.

Do tattoo artists suffer from sleeping problems?

Tattoo artists don’t suffer from sleeping problems related to their jobs most often since they often come home from work early enough to maintain a healthy sleeping pattern.

What states are best for working as a tattoo artist?

As a tattooist, you should choose a state and a region where the demand for tattoos is high while living costs are still low enough to make a living from a tattooing career so that you don’t have to work a second job to pay your bills.

Who do tattoo artists work with?

Tattoo artists work with many different clients on a regular basis.

Thus, it is crucial that you are a friendly and reliable person to bond your customers in the long run so that you are able to make a living as a tattooist for many years to come.

Is working as a tattoo artist cool?

Being a tattooist is considered cool by many people out there.

However, you should still not choose your career according to what’s cool but should rather ask yourself what’s in it for you in the long run.

Can you start a side hustle as a tattoo artist?

Since tattoo artists are often pretty creative people, you can also start a side hustle as a tattoo artist if you are willing to work hard after finishing your actual workday or also on weekends and holidays.

Do you have to be creative as a tattoo artist?

It is urgently necessary to be creative as a tattoo artist since you always have to come up with new design ideas to make your customers happy and to stand out from the crowd.

Do tattoo artists suffer from being overweight?

Since tattoo artists work in a physically exhausting manner, they burn enough calories at work to stay fit and slim and are not at great risk of suffering from being overweight.

How employable are tattoo artists?

While really good tattoo artists will always be needed, the average tattooist is not that employable anymore and many people in this industry struggle to find enough jobs to make a living from what they are doing.

Are tattoo artists happy with their jobs?

While most tattoo artists are happy with creating tattoos and making clients happy, they are still not happy with overall working conditions and often complain about working conditions, poor wages and lots of insecurity related to their work.

Is working as a tattoo artist exciting?

Being a tattooist is not that exciting since you will do many things over and over again and may also develop a certain routine pretty soon.

Can you have a positive impact on our environment as a tattoo artist?

Tattoo artists don’t have a big positive impact on our environment since they just care about improving the visual looks of people and can’t really make the world a better place.

What are the pros and cons of working as a tattoo artist?

If you still think about becoming a tattooist, you should also have a look at additional pros and cons of a tattoo artist career.

Sources

https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/market-size/tattoo-artists-united-states/

https://www.ibisworld.com/united-states/market-research-reports/tattoo-artists-industry/

Interviews and own research.

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.

This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.

Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.

I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.

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