5 Traits of a Successful Tattoo Artist

Tattoo ArtistThe world of tattooing is a competitive one, and in order to be successful, you need to have passion and be willing to work hard.

There are a number of skills that you need to learn, from the basic operation of a tattoo machine, to art and design skills, to understanding the business end of things.

However, there are some traits that will be necessary to turn your love of tattooing into a full time career…

Tattoo Trait #1:  Artistic Ability

Whether or not artistic talent can be taught has been debated for a long time.  There’s no doubt however that certain skills and techniques can be learned in order to improve whatever abilities you already have.

Those who are most likely to succeed in tattooing are the people who love art, and view tattooing as their medium.  Just as some people choose oil and canvas to paint, the tattoo artist chooses ink and skin.  The client’s main concern is going to be what the final tattoo looks like, and those with artistic ability have a better likelihood of having a visually pleasing finished product. (As long as the artist is also comfortable and has the technical ability to use the tools of the trade to translate the image into a tattoo.)

Tattoo Trait #2:  Attention to Detail

Attention to detail might not seem like the most exciting trait needed to become a successful tattoo artist, but it is one of the most important.  Tattooing is very exacting work.  You must listen carefully to clients’ ideas in order to turn them into pieces of art that fit their desires.  The tattoo machine is made of many tiny parts that have to be used and maintained regularly.

Tattooing also requires a thorough knowledge of safety procedures and strict adherence to laws and regulations put in place to keep both artists and customers safe. Remember, “how you do anything is how you do everything”, so never settle for good enough in any area of your life, and you’ll see your tattoos consistently improving.

Tattoo Trait #3:  Curiosity

The tattoo industry changes all the time.  New tools and techniques are developed that advance both the art and science of tattooing.  Trends change as well, with styles going in and out of fashion.  Keeping up with these changes and advances makes for a better prepared, and more successful, tattoo artist.  Fortunately, there are lots of trade magazines that you can read to keep up on what’s happening in the industry, and trade shows and conventions are not only educational, but also a lot of fun.  Someone with innate curiosity will have fun staying informed and continue to become a better and better artist. Following sites such as this one, signing up for our educational newsletter, and reading this far into a post about tattooing already proves you’re the type of person who is curious and diligent enough to do well in this industry.

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Tattoo Trait #4:  Work Ethic

Tattoo artists work very hard.  While there may be a   perception that their days don’t start until noon and their nights are full of parties, this is not a true representation of how hard tattoo artists really do work.  The truth is that they often work late into the evening, they must find their own clients, and they have to continue to develop new skills and keep up with the industry. Tattooing really does “take over your life.” To get ahead in tattooing you’ll often need to take you work home with you. Fortunately for us, our “work” is painting and drawing, which is fun, and why we love it!

However that’s AFTER they become professionals.  The path to becoming a tattoo artist is full of challenges and hard work.  From learning how to hold the tattoo machine to becoming skilled at different styles of shading, every step of the process takes practice, practice, practice!  Add to that the likelihood that you’ll be doing a lot of the “grunt” work during your apprenticeship, and you can see why having a strong work ethic is an important trait for someone who wants to become a tattoo artist.

Don’t let this discourage you. I wouldn’t trade the ability to travel the world, set your own hours, and make a career doing something I love for anything. The “juice is definitely worth the squeeze.”

Tattoo Trait #5:  Adaptability

Clients will have different ideas about what they want, where they want it, and everything else regarding their tattoos. Some may change their minds many times during the consultation, and even occasionally not show up for an appointment. While you will be the professional who will guide them through what will look the best on their skin, you will still need to be flexible enough to give them the experience they’re looking for with an outcome that reflects well on you.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, I hope it gives you a bit of insight into the traits you’ll need to have outside of the technical aspects of the craft. If you found value in this post please share it with a friend. If you’d like to learn about something not listed in the blog, don’t hesitate to drop me a line here, and finally, if you’d like to stay updated on current events in tattooing and how to become a licensed professional you can sign up for our newsletter here.

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Nathan Molenaar