Tattoo courses are meant to replace the traditional in-shop apprenticeship by teaching all the same tattoo techniques through an online program.
In this article, we’ll be breaking down the differences between a traditional tattoo apprenticeship and taking an online tattoo course including
Time and Cost: Tattoo Course vs. Apprenticeship
Time and cost are the biggest factors that hold aspiring artists back from becoming tattoo artists.
How Long Does a Tattoo Course Take?
How long a tattoo course takes depends on your personal schedule because online courses let you work at your own pace. However, learning tattoo techniques and understanding how to use all the materials you’ll be working with will take some time.
There are some tattoo courses out there that are only a few hours long. This is not enough time to learn the skills you need to work in the tattoo industry. You need to have proper training on:
- 1Cross-contamination and preventing the spread of bloodborne pathogens
- 2Drawing tattoo designs
- 3Tattooing with good technique
- 4Business management as an artis
These are all important to be able to enter the industry and start tattooing confidently.
A good rule of thumb is that students who can spend a few hours a day learning can finish a tattoo course in a few months. If a program makes it sound like you can get through everything in a week or two, it is not a complete course.
How Much is a Tattoo Course?
How much a course costs depends on:
Courses that are under 5 hours and don’t come with any extras can cost less than $50. Extensive courses cost several hundred dollars. Courses taught by celebrity artists might cost over $1000.
If the tattoo course is at an in-person tattoo school, this can drive up the cost - especially if you need to stay at a hotel or campus for the duration of the workshop.
How Long is a Tattoo Apprenticeship?
How long a tattoo apprenticeship lasts mostly depends on your mentor.
Some tattoo apprenticeships can last 3+ years. Unfortunately, apprenticeships that last this long are usually because a mentor is trying to get as much free labor as possible from an apprentice. They will teach them very slowly (or not at all) to make the process take as long as possible.A good tattoo apprenticeship will last 1-2 years. You are working full time for a professional tattoo artist in exchange for your tuition.
How Much Does a Tattoo Apprenticeship Cost?
How much an apprenticeship costs depends on which type of apprenticeship you’re doing. If you’re doing a longer apprenticeship, you’ll spend your first year working for free to pay for your tuition before your mentor lets you pick up a tattoo machine.
If you’re doing a shorter apprenticeship, you’ll probably be expected to pay $5-10K up front. You’ll still be working for free. However, you should start learning right away since you’ve already paid for your tuition.
What You Learn in a Tattoo Course vs. Tattoo Apprenticeship
Both tattoo courses and tattoo apprenticeships should teach you:
Feedback is important to improving in any art form. Whether it’s from an instructor or mentor, getting constructive criticism is the fastest way for students build good technique.
Who Teaches You in a Tattoo Course vs. Tattoo Apprenticeship?
In a tattoo apprenticeship, you will learn under the guidance of a professional tattoo artist mentor. Tattoo course lessons are also taught by professional tattoo artists.
If you are going to take a course, make sure you have a way to talk to professional tattoo artists associated with the program so you can ask questions and get personalized feedback like any other apprentice.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of tattoo schools and tattoo shops out there that will try to scam aspiring artists out of their money by promising to teach them to tattoo. The best way to make sure you’re not getting scammed is to look at the work of previous students or apprentices and see if it’s good.
How Your Choice Affects Your Tattoo Career
How you choose to learn to tattoo can affect your career in a few ways. Knowing what these differences are will help you make the right choice for your current situation and your future goals.
Connections in the Industry
FAQ: Can a Tattoo Course Get You Licensed as a Professional Tattoo Artist?
Neither a course nor an apprenticeship can get you licensed. Either option can help you get there by teaching you the things you need to know to work professionally. But only your local health department can actually give you a license to tattoo.
Most tattoo courses will give you a certificate of completion to show that you’ve gone through the training you need to become a tattoo artist. This is not a license.
FAQ: Can I Get Hired Without an Apprenticeship?
Yes. However, you may run into a shop owner who says otherwise.
Tattoo apprenticeships have a reputation for being abusive. Because of this, there are some tattoo artists who believe you don’t “deserve” to tattoo unless you’ve gone through the same experience.
For this reason, new artists who learned online or are self-taught might get rejected from shops owned by tattooers who have an “apprenticeship-only” attitude.
In this case, we recommend looking for shops owned by artists who look at your skill level as opposed to your work history or going to shops owned by entrepreneurs. (Entrepreneurs will not care how you learned; they want to hire good artists that will make the shop money.)
Learn to Tattoo Without an Apprenticeship
In the past, learning in the shop through an apprenticeship was the only way aspiring artists could learn to tattoo. Today, however, artists are skipping the apprenticeship to learn on their own time at home with the Artist Accelerator Program.
The world’s oldest and largest online tattoo course, the Artist Accelerator Program’s easy-to-follow, 9-step framework lets anyone go from complete beginner to professional tattoo artist without the year of grunt work or hazing.
Inside the program, you’ll be taught everything you’d learn in a traditional apprenticeship by professional tattoo artists and receive feedback on your art and tattoos in the program’s private online Mastermind community.
Over 2500 students have used the Artist Accelerator Program’s 9-step framework to break into the tattoo industry, with many opening their own studios or working in shops around the world.If you’d like to see the framework they used, click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.