How Much Does it Cost to Become a Tattoo Artist

Becoming a tattoo artist can lead to an exciting career, but it can take some serious cash to get there. In this article, we’ll break down what costs you can expect along the way.

tattoo artist applying a hand tattoo

Cost of Learning to Tattoo

As an aspiring tattoo artist, learning to tattoo will require both time and money. How much of each you’ll need depends on how you learn. 

1. Traditional Apprenticeship: “Free” - $10,000+

tattoo parlor / tattoo shop

In a traditional tattoo apprenticeship, you’ll either pay a professional tattoo artist, your “mentor,” to teach you, or you will work in the shop for free in exchange for your education.

Pros
Most 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 because you need a strong portfolio before you ask, and if you do get one, hazing is common. Additionally, actual tattoo training does not begin until the second year of apprenticeship.

Cost (Time)

The average tattoo apprenticeship lasts 2.5 years, working 45 hours a week with no pay. If you were working a minimum wage job for that time, you would make $37,695. Most apprentices take on a part-time job to pay bills, extending the workweek to 60-65 hours a week. Because of this, apprentices don’t have much time for friends, family, and relationships.

Cost (Money)

The average cost for an apprenticeship is $5000.

Total Approx. Cost

$42,695 + Equipment

Non-Monetary Cost

Possibly abusive environment + social isolation + extensive work weeks

2. Tattoo School: $5,000 - $15,000

artist applying a small forearm tattoo

Tattoo schools teach you proper sanitation and cover simple designs - and only that. Tattoo school graduates usually need additional training or an apprenticeship to learn advanced tattooing.

Most tattoo schools require a minimum of 360 hours in order to graduate (classes are usually 6 hours at a time on weekends).

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

You will have to schedule time off of work and skip social events to the in-person classes, and you’ll 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). 

Cost (Money)

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

Total Approx. Cost

$12,610 + Equipment

Non-Monetary Cost

Missed work/social events + incomplete education

3. Learning to Tattoo Online: "Free"

tattoo artist studying

YouTube offers tattoo learning resources, but they’re usually incomplete (or outdated with wrong information).

Pros
YouTube and online resources are free.

Cons

Piecing together incomplete information and not getting feedback from a more experienced artist can cause you to develop bad habits.

Cost (Time)

While you can work at your own pace, it could take years to prepare to work in a shop because it’s hard to get a comprehensive education with only free resources.

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

Artist Accelerator Program “Tubes” Module

The Artist Accelerator Program gives artists an easy-to-follow, 9-step system they can use to go pro. Students also get feedback from tattoo instructors with years of industry experience.

Pros
You can go from beginner to professional tattoo artist in as little as 90 days by diving into advanced tattoo techniques and getting feedback from tattoo artists. We also get students jobs with our studio partners program.

Cons

You need to be self-motivated to do the online course.

Cost (Time)

The Artist Accelerator allows you to cut out the time spent “earning your stripes” in an apprenticeship, provides more information than a tattoo school, and lets you work around your schedule.

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.

  • Most states do not require individuals to be licensed, but they do need to be registered under their licensed shop.

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: ~$2,000*

*material prices may have changed since time of publishing

tattoo machine and equipment

Art materials (our recommended): ~$550

paint used by famous tattoo artists

Dr. Martin’s Watercolors

drawing pencils for art classes

Drawing pencils

sketchbook for tattoo artists

Strathmore Paper

Click to reveal full list

TOTAL: ~$551.58

Click to reveal full list

  • Station setup:

TOTAL: ~1413.72*

*total does not include stencil machine

Note

Many tattoo shops will pay for their artists’ disposables.

Cost of Running Your Own Studio

artist applying a full sleeve tattoo

If you’re considering opening up your own tattoo studio, you’ll need to take the following costs into account:

Studio Rent: Cheaper isn’t always better. Clients (particularly people looking to get their first tattoo) will be looking for a tattoo shop on a clean and inviting street.

Tattoo Artists: While your tattoo 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. 

EquipmentBuying 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 the location of your tattoo parlor, you’ll need to keep utilities, advertising, etc. in mind. Click here for cost estimates

Get the Help You Need From Experts

The biggest cost of becoming a tattoo artist is the time it takes to learn. The Artist Accelerator Program lets you speed up the process of learning to tattoo so you can start making money from your art as soon as possible.

Inside the program, you’ll get all the information you need in easy-to-follow lessons. You’ll be able to take what you learned and apply it to your tattooing right away to improve FAST.

You don’t have to go it alone, either. With the Artist Accelerator Program, you get access to our online Mastermind Group. There, you’ll be able to ask questions and find additional video content. You’ll also get feedback on your artwork from professional tattoo artists and receive personalized tips to help your tattooing.

Check out some of the work from current students:

student large tattoo
student rose tattoo
Student tattoo design
student large tattoo
student rose tattoo
Student tattoo design
student large tattoo
student rose tattoo
Student tattoo design
Student panther/rose tattoo design
student half sleeve/shoulder tattoo
Student panther/rose tattoo design
student half sleeve/shoulder tattoo
Student panther/rose tattoo design
student half sleeve/shoulder tattoo

If you’re ready to cut the learning curve…

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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  1. I am disabled and want to learn this as a hobby There is so much stuff out on the market how do I know what to buy to get started and would I be able to get discount on equipment to save it can get very pricy. And would I be able to ask a lot of questions

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