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
As an aspiring tattoo artist, learning to tattoo will require 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 tattoo artist, your “mentor,” to teach you, or you will work in the shop for free in exchange for your education.
A traditional tattoo 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. Additionally, most tattoo shops require a portfolio before they’ll take you on as an apprentice.
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.
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).
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.
ConsBecause 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.
Total Approx. Cost
$12,610 + equipment (see Equipment section)
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.
YouTube and online resources are free. You can learn on your own time without giving up your job or time with friends and family.
ConsPiecing together incomplete information and creating artwork with no feedback from a more experienced artist can slow your process and lead to unsafe practices. Developing bad habits that limit your potential as a tattoo artist can be difficult to correct later on.
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 was created to give tattoo artists a new option. Learn online at your own pace from professional tattoo artists all over the world. With an easy-to-follow, 9-step system, 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
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.
ConsWith an online course, you will need to be self-motivated in order to complete the modules and develop as a tattoo artist.
With high-definition video modules and follow-along “homework,” you can easily work your way through the Artist Accelerator without the major sacrifices.
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. The shop itself must have a license to tattoo (approx $1000 for permanent location, $500 for temporary). Individual tattoo artists simply register themselves under their shop’s license.
- 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.
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): $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
- Beginner rotary machine: $143.00
- 3RL: $27.78
- 7RL: $32.04
- 14RL: $35.19
- 7M1: $32.04
- 15M1: $35.19
- 7RS: $32.04
*total does not include stencil machine
Note: Many tattoo shops will pay for their artists’ disposables.
Cost of Running Your Own Studio
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 tattoo 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 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: Your tattoo 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 the location of your tattoo parlor, you’ll need to keep utilities, trash service, advertising, cleaning products, cash register, 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…
Click here to learn more about becoming a professional tattoo artist with the Artist Accelerator Program.