If you’re interested in getting into tattooing, figuring out how you’re supposed to learn might feel like a mystery. However, it’s likely that you’ve heard of tattoo schools.
Tattoo schools are an alternative (and often faster) way of learning than traditional tattoo apprenticeships. They take place in a classroom setting.
But how do you get into a tattoo school, and does it work like a normal “school” or university?
In this article, we’re breaking down:
Do I Have to Go to School to Be a Tattoo Artist?
*image from Tattooing 101’s Artist Accelerator Program
You do not have to go to school to become a professional tattoo artist unless you live in an area that requires it - but that’s pretty rare. Currently, Oregon is the only state in the U.S. that requires you to go to a licensed tattoo school before you can get your license.
In the past (before tattoo schools were even an option), aspiring artists would learn through a tattoo apprenticeship under the mentorship of a professional artist.However, the reason a lot of new artists are choosing tattoo schools is because apprenticeships are full-time, unpaid positions. For most people, giving up their job to learn to tattoo is impossible. Tattoo school allows them to take tattooing classes and earn a living.
What Schools Do Tattoo Artists Go To?
*image from Tattooing 101’s Artist Accelerator Program
There are two types of tattoo schools that aspiring tattoo artists attend. They either go in person and learn in a classroom, or they learn online at home.
Online classes are pre-recorded courses that students can work through at their own pace.
Professional tattoo artists walk them through each part of the tattooing process - sanitation, lining, packing, shading, tattooing different styles, etc. Students practice tattooing on fake skins until they find or make a sanitary space for tattooing clients.
In-person classes meet regularly (usually nights and/or weekends), and a tattoo artist teaches a group of students color theory, tattooing sanitation, and how to break down and rebuild tattoo machines. Students will then practice tattooing on themselves or one another.
Additionally, some in-person tattoo schools offer intensive class options that have an additional fee for housing. These programs range from $6-$12K for about 2 months of instruction, and advanced courses can be up to $3000 for one week. Each course usually focuses on a specific style.
Can I Go to College for Tattooing?
There is no formal education or “degree” for tattooing. Depending on where you live, some community colleges list that they have permanent makeup and tattooing courses. However, whenever we tried to look into them, we found their requirements and applications are very difficult to track down.
There are a few states that require you to have a high school diploma or your GED to tattoo.
Are Tattoo Schools Bad?
Tattoo schools are a pretty new concept, and there’s plenty of professional tattoo artists that don’t like them. It’s true that there’s a lot of tattoo schools out there that do not teach you enough about tattooing to get hired at a tattoo shop.
Many in-person tattoo schools take too many students to make money, which makes it hard for students to get the help and attention they need, especially when it comes time to start tattooing.
Additionally, if an online tattoo school only has a few hours of content, it’s unlikely that you’ll be getting all the information you need to be a successful tattoo artist. Tattooing is a complicated art form, and it’s impossible to learn all the skills you need in just a few hours or days.
The best way to avoid these “scam schools” is to:
See who is teaching the course.
It’s hard to tattoo better than the person teaching you. Make sure the instructor is a professional tattoo artist and that their work is good.
You want to be learning from highly experienced artists, and you should be able to find their tattoos online or on social media.
Take a look at the training and curriculum.
Whether you’re learning in person or online, your tattoo classes should cover sanitation, drawing tattoo designs, and tattoo technique. If you aren’t learning all of these skills, you will not be prepared to work in the tattoo industry.
Look at the Students’ Work.
A tattoo school should be displaying their students’ work so you can see the quality of the course. If you can’t find it - or it’s bad - then that school is not going to help you become a tattoo artist.
How Do Tattoo Schools Determine the Cost of Tuition?
How tattoo schools decide on cost varies on how you learn.
However, you should still get your bloodborne pathogens certification, as well as tattoo training to increase your earning potential and skills.
In-Person Tattoo School
In-person tattoo school costs more than online because of the logistics required to host classes.
Your tuition will go towards:
Online Tattoo School
Because online tattoo school doesn’t require a physical space and you buy your own materials, the cost is much lower. Even if the school has a celebrity name attached to it, the course should be more cost effective than attending a tattoo school in person.
There are plenty of tattoo courses that come with no community or way to ask questions and get feedback. These courses should cost far less than other courses because you are only paying for the content and will not be receiving personalized help.
How Do I Pay for Tattoo School?
Most in-person classes will require a larger down payment up front, especially if they’re supplying your tattooing supplies or you’re in an on-campus program that requires housing.
With an online course, you’ll either pay for the full course up front, enter into a monthly payment plan to pay for the course over time, or a monthly subscription fee.
Learn to Master Tattooing
Deciding how you want to learn tattooing is only the first step on your journey to becoming a tattoo artist. Now it’s time to dive into tattooing and start building your skills.
There’s a ton of information out there that promises to teach you to tattoo, but a lot of it is outdated or incorrect. This is why most tattoo artists trying to learn online pick up bad habits that can take years to unlearn.
If you want to learn how to tattoo the right way, you can still do it online and at your own pace.
We created the Artist Accelerator Program to give aspiring artists all the lessons and techniques they need in an easy-to-follow, 9-step roadmap that can take anyone from complete beginner to professional tattoo artist in as little as 90 days.
Inside the program, you’ll learn the skills tattoo artists use every day, get personalized guidance from professionals, and put together a portfolio that gets you hired.
Skip the years of trial and error and start building a career you love today.