Learn How to Tattoo: Schools and Courses

Tattooing is not offered as a field of study in formal education institutions; tattoo apprenticeships, where you work under a professional artist, are the standard for learning tattooing skills. Many tattoo artists do obtain formal training in an art discipline. Continue reading for more information about learning to tattoo and licensing regulations. Schools offering Culinary Arts degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Most schools do not offer a degree program for tattoo artists, and on-the-job experience is generally viewed as more valuable. Those seeking a degree that might lead to career as a tattoo artist will want to pursue visual and fine arts. Coursework will include classes that expose you to many different artistic styles and help you build a portfolio of work. Training specifically in tattooing takes a hands-on, face-to-face format. For this reason, online training isn't a viable option for learning how to tattoo.

Schools Tattoo apprenticeships are the standard educational route; some schools offer associate's or bachelor's degrees in visual and fine arts that could be helpful
Courses Art history, color theory, 2-dimensional drawing
Licensing Needed in most states; requirements vary

What Degree Programs Are Available?

An important skill for aspiring tattooists to develop is artistic talent. Though formal training isn't necessary, certificate and degree programs in the fine and visual arts can help you to refine your skills and develop your artistic vision. Because tattoo artists must be able to design a variety of tattoos, you can benefit from learning multiple artistic styles.

Colleges and universities don't generally offer programs strictly in tattooing, but you can develop the artistic skills you'll need through associate and bachelor's degree programs in visual and fine arts. You will receive feedback and be exposed to new styles of art through art history courses. You can expect to take courses in color theory, figure drawing and 2-dimensional drawings. When looking for programs, you may prefer those that emphasize technical drawing skills and encourage experimentation in student work.

Apprenticeships for Aspiring Tattoo Artists

In the tattooing industry, experience can be more valuable than a college degree. This is why most tattooists begin their career through an apprenticeship at a tattoo shop. As an apprentice, you will learn drawing techniques under the supervision of a professional tattoo artist, who will help you develop your own personal style. You will also learn to use and sterilize equipment like needles, ink, and hand-held tattoo machines. Due to the hands-on experience and training you receive, apprenticeships can be very effective for jump-starting a successful career as a tattoo artist.

You can expect tough competition for apprenticeships, and an impressive portfolio can help you secure a position. Degree programs can be helpful when compiling your best work because many include a portfolio course into the curricula.

Be patient and professional. Don't expect to tattoo a client on your first day as an apprentice, and expect apprenticeships to last a few years. Many apprentices begin with assisting in daily shop operation and climbing the ranks from there. Having tattoos of your own can demonstrate your commitment to the art form, but keep in mind that a professional, respectful attitude can go a long way.

Schools and Training Centers for Tattooing

Here is a list of schools and training centers that offer in-depth tattooing classes and apprenticeships, as well as examples of what you will learn at each one.

  • Master Tattoo Institute (Miami, Florida): color mixing, inks and designs, safety practices, station set-up, client care
  • Body Art & Soul Tattoos (locations nationwide): drawing and design techniques, hands-on practice, tattoo portfolios, personal brand management
  • The World's Only Tattoo School (Shreveport, Louisiana): shading and color blending, tattoo traditions, special effects and cover-up tattoos, machine and equipment operation, stencil construction

Reputable training centers will prepare you to become a licensed tattoo artist upon completion of your courses. When choosing a program or apprenticeship, look for courses on blood borne pathogens, infection, and sterilization, as most states require this training for licensure.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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