Getting your tattoo license is an important step toward becoming a professional tattoo artist. If your state requires artists to be licensed, you must get your license before tattooing clients in a shop.
In this article, we’ll explain how to get a tattoo license by looking at:
How to Apply for a Tattoo Artist License
While each state has its own guidelines for applying for a tattoo artist license, most areas will require the following steps:
Not all states use the term “tattoo license.” Some states might say “body art permit” or “tattoo technician registration.”
Fill Out a Tattoo Artist License Application
The tattoo business can be hard to break into, especially if you don’t have any experience with how tattoo shops work. You’ll need to know how to get into a tattoo shop, what it takes to be a successful tattoo artist, or how to work with clients before starting your journey.
Any state that requires you to get a license will have an application. The application is for artists that need to get a license for the first time or for artists that need to renew their license.
Some states will require apprentices to get a separate “apprentice license.”
If you are already licensed in another state, you will need to prove that you received proper tattoo training in your old state. In this case, you’ll be required to fill out an affidavit alongside your application.
If you are moving from a state that does not require any training to become a tattoo artist, you will most likely be given a “grace period.” This means you can keep tattooing, but you’ll need to update your training according to the laws of your new state during that time.
If you’re traveling for work, you will need to get a temporary license in the state you’re visiting. That application will either be on the same webpage as the normal tattoo artist application, or there will be a separate section for guest tattoo artists on the regular application itself.
If you are going to a tattoo convention, the convention may have an agreement with the county allowing for guest artists to not have to go through the process of getting a temporary license. Make sure to check with the convention beforehand.
In most states, artists that want to specialize in cosmetic tattooing will need to get a tattoo license.
If you want to also be licensed in body piercing, you might need a separate license. Some states will let you apply for both on the same application. Other states will have you fill out a separate application.
Both body piercing and PMU artists have to go through communicable diseases training.
Pay Required Fees
Most states will require you to renew your license every 1-2 years. Each time, you will have to pay an application fee. The renewal fee is usually cheaper than the first-time application fee.
Have 2 Forms of ID
Most likely, you’ll need to provide two forms of identification. At least one of them will need to have a government issued photo, like a driver’s license or passport.
One of these forms of ID will need to show that you’re older than 18. Additionally, a few states will require you to have a high school diploma or GED (this is pretty rare).
Get Your Bloodborne Pathogens Certification
Your local department of health will have a list of approved bloodborne pathogen/communicable diseases training. You must successfully complete and submit proof of your attendance in the course.
To maintain an active license, you must keep your BBP certification up to date.
Some states will require you to be CPR certified.
Some states require tattoo artists to be vaccinated against hepatitis. You’ll need to turn in proof of vaccination, or a vaccination declination form, along with your application.
Have Proof of Tattoo Education
If your state requires formal training, it will have a list of training options on the health department’s website. Oregon, for example, has a list of approved tattoo schools. Other states just have a list of how many hours of training you need in each area of tattooing like sanitation, tattoo practice, etc.Some states won’t have tattoo education requirements beyond bloodborne pathogen training. Others will just ask you to send images showing your tattooing ability, no matter how you learned.
To learn more about what state tattoo schools do and don’t cover, check out this interview we did with an Oregon tattoo school student.
Pass the Tattooing Exam
If your state requires you to take an exam to get your license, you will either sign up for a specific test date and time when you apply online, or you’ll need to call your local county health department to secure your spot.
Turn in Your Application
You will either submit your application online or turn it in to your county’s health department.
Make sure you have all your documents:
Place Your License in a Visible Area
Once your application is approved, you’ll get it right away in person or it will be mailed to you.
Make sure to hang your license and your BBP certification at your station in the shop or studio you are working in. (In most areas, you are required to display these documents for clients to see.)
What to do if Your State Doesn’t Require a License
Some states only require tattoo establishments to be licensed. In this case, individual artists do not need to be licensed, but they must register with the state as part of that tattoo establishment (you have to register with each tattoo shop you work at if you work with more than one.)
However, you should still get your bloodborne pathogens certification, as well as tattoo training to increase your earning potential and skills.
Tattoo Training Through the Artist Accelerator Program
Having a career in tattooing is not only fulfilling, but it’s also the most stable way to make a living as an artist. However, for decades, the process to become a tattoo artist has been notoriously difficult.
The apprenticeship process requires aspiring tattoo artists to work 50-60 hours a week without pay for 2-4 years. That, combined with the toxic culture of abusing apprentices, makes getting into the industry almost impossible for newcomers.
That’s why we created the Artist Accelerator Program. Our online course provides a simple, structured way of learning to tattoo that has been proven to work by over 2500 successful students, with many of them having gone on to open their own shops all around the world.
Inside the program, we’ll take you through every step of the tattooing process in 9 clear, easy-to-follow modules and support you along the way within the Tattooing 101 Mastermind online community.
In the Mastermind group, you’ll collaborate with other students, get answers to your questions, and receive personalized video feedback on your artwork and tattoos from professional tattoo artists. With this friendly community of both new and experienced tattoo artists, you’ll never be stuck again.
When you join the Artist Accelerator Program, you’ll have instant access to the full course and the Mastermind community, as well as our 30-Day Flash Challenge and recorded interviews with tattoo artists from all over the world.