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.
*material prices may have changed since time of publishing
Even if you’re working in a tattoo shop, you’ll be expected to buy most of your own materials as an artist.
You will need art supplies to create tattoo designs, tattooing equipment, and all the things you need to keep your tattooing station sanitary. The equipment below are our artists’ recommendations (with prices listed).
Art materials (our recommended): ~$550
Dr. Martin’s Watercolors
- 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): $9.57
- Prisma Col-Erase Carmine red pencil: $1.28 each
- Marker Pens (Pitt Artist Pens by Faber Castell, Microns, or Copics): ~$40.00+
- Arches cold-pressed 140lb watercolor paper: $37.30
- Dr. Martin’s Radiant Concentrated Watercolors: $79.99
- FW acrylic paint: $30.00
- Plastic palettes: $2.17
- Paint brushes: ~$13.00+
- iPad (second hand): ~$300.00+
- Procreate app: $9.99
Tattooing Equipment: ~$1500
- Beginner rotary machine: $200
- Station setup:
- Barriers or plastic wrap: $11.99
- Grip tape: $23.99
- Squeeze bottles: $6.75 each
- Paper towels: $26.99/case
- Ink caps: $14.00
- Clip cord sleeves: $11.99
- Isopropanol: $21.00/case
- Plastic cups: $6.99
- Vaseline: $12.87/pack
- Painters tape: $11.92
- Gloves: $22.49/box
- Eye loupe: $20.00
- Hand sanitizer: $16.09/pack
- Dental bibs: $16.93
- Scissors: $7.98
- Massage table: $127.99
- Tattoo trolley: ~$200.00
- Tongue depressors: $8.99
*total does not include stencil machine
Many tattoo shops will pay for their artists’ disposables.
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+
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.
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.
Total Approx. Cost
$42,695 + Equipment
Possibly abusive environment + social isolation + extensive work weeks
2. Tattoo School: $5,000 - $15,000
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).
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.
ConsYou 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.
Total Approx. Cost
$12,610 + Equipment
Missed work/social events + incomplete education
3. Learning to Tattoo Online: "Free"
YouTube offers tattoo learning resources, but they’re usually incomplete (or outdated with wrong information).
YouTube and online resources are free.
ConsPiecing together incomplete information and not getting feedback from a more experienced artist can cause you to develop bad habits.
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 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.
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.
ConsYou need to be self-motivated to do the online course.
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, but they do need to be registered under their licensed shop.
- 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.
Cost of Running Your Own Studio
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.
Equipment: 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 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:
If you’re ready to cut the learning curve…