Tattoos, formerly depicted as symbols of rebellion and subculture allegiance, are increasingly gaining respect in the fine art world.
People all over the world are becoming more interested in getting inked. One in every five Australians has at least one tattoo, and there is a greater need than ever for skilled tattoo artists.
Tattoos are temporary skin markings or designs created by puncturing the skin with needles loaded with dye.
Tattooing dates back to the dawn of humanity, and thanks to its long history, the craft has grown in popularity. Like many other artistic disciplines, a career as a tattoo artist is a challenging task to achieve.
If you are someone with a creative eye, a steady hand, and a love for tattoos, a career as a tattoo artist might be the right choice for you. Read the following article to learn everything you need to become a tattoo artist in Australia.
1. What Does A Tattoo Artist Do?
A tattoo artist is a professional artist who designs and applies tattoos to the customer's desire by injecting ink and other pigments underneath the skin with a small sterilised needle. Tattoo artists can open their shops and work privately for customers or others.
Many tattoo parlours have hundreds of images from which the client can choose.
However, some clients want to bring their artwork or have a custom tattoo done for them, so tattoo artists must be able to meet customers' demands and advise them on tattoo problems such as size, form, colour and placement on the body.
The tattoo artist will transfer the artwork to the client's skin after it has been chosen, and the picture's position is adjusted numerous times until the customer is satisfied.
2. Personal Requirements For A Tattoo Artist
Tattooing is a highly specialised profession that demands a distinct set of skills, such as:
3. Major Duties and Tasks of a Tattoo Artist
Consulting customers to learn more about the services they require.
Explaining the procedure to the client.
Assisting the customer with picking an image, interpreting the customer's thoughts to produce a picture, designing an image for the client, and creating a stencil of the image.
Keeping the rooms and equipment clean and sterile under state or territorial skin penetration laws.
Making tattoo stencils, designing tattoos, and creating line drawings from photocopies.
Maintaining stringent hygiene and contamination control requirements while doing needle piercings and tattoos with a tattoo machine.
Creating new designs and drawing them out.
Informing clients about after-care practices.
Promoting themselves to increase their client base.
4. Steps To Become a Tattoo Artist In Australia
Tattooing is a skill that requires a lot of experience, education, and apprenticeship. To excel in tattooing, one must have an artistic background. Therefore, before practising tattooing, one must have good drawing abilities and illustration techniques.
Here's how you can get started:
Step 1: Learn How to Draw
The best way to get started is to start drawing on your own. You only need a pencil and a notebook to get started. Draw what you see, what you think, and what others describe.
Determine whether you genuinely enjoy drawing and creating art, especially for others. Because you'll be drawing requests most of the time, you must be at ease creating work that satisfies people's requirements.
It wouldn't be hard to shift from sketching on paper to drawing on the skin if you're already a hands-on artist.
Tattoo machines come in various shapes and sizes, and a typical tattoo machine weighs between 220 grams and 226 grams. It is thus preferable to practise sketching using heavy pencils or thick pens to obtain the feel and weight of an actual tattoo gun.
Explore numerous art forms and analyse the works of great tattoo artists while learning. It will assist you in recognising the type of art you enjoy doing.
Step 2: Practise Sketching On Contoured Surfaces
Tattooing gets difficult for a novice since the human body is not as flat as a canvas or a piece of paper.
Thus, sketching on moulded or curved surfaces requires more practice. It is usually preferable to experiment on a fruit, bottle or pigskin before immediately puncturing the skin. Fruits that are great to practise tattooing are citrus fruits with thick skins, such as oranges and grapefruit, and unripe bananas.
On the other hand, pig skin is considered a perfect match to human skin, which is ideal for learning how to colour a tattoo properly. This is the recommended medium for aspiring tattoo artists because you can measure the depth of the needle in the skin.
Step 3: Purchase A Low-cost Tattoo Machine
Invest in a low-cost tattoo machine when you're confident and comfortable using your replacement pen. There are several types of basic tattoo machines, including rotary, coil, linear, shader, and pneumatic. It is best to select a coil or rotary machine to keep things simple.
Step 4: Make a Tattoo Apprentice Portfolio
Building an attractive portfolio is one of the most crucial tools for becoming a tattoo artist. It allows mentors to see your finest work and decide whether your unique style is what they are looking for in a trainee.
Below are some points to be kept in mind when collating your portfolio:
Your portfolio must be both professional and appealing.
Use an actual portfolio book with a three-ring binder placed inside sheet protectors.
Incorporate the appropriate work.
Put 25 to 100 drawings or tattoo designs in your portfolio. Make sure that the designs or the work are completed.
Ensure the drawings you choose to showcase your adaptability as a craftsman.
Incorporate a few instances of various art forms, things people might get tattooed. You can also include your drawings to exhibit your talent, even if they do not translate into a tattoo. This will reveal your strong technique and capability to design tattoos.
How To Create A Portfolio:
Include a cover letter and resume highlighting your education and experience in this field.
Your best work must be at the beginning and end of your portfolio.
The works you include in your portfolio should complement rather than compete with one another.
You will be asked about your work. Prepare to address a few main components for each piece in your portfolio so that you are ready to tackle any topic your potential mentor may bring up.
Note: Include any art that displays your skills. It may be a photograph of your sculpture, a piece of graffiti, or digital creation. Remember, this is a tattoo portfolio. Therefore your artistic talents should show through. If you have flash sheets, include them.
In other words, you can include objects that aren't appropriate for tattoos as long as most of the pieces on show demonstrate your design, drawing, line, shading, and colour scheme.
Mistakes To Avoid When Making A Portfolio:
There are a couple of things that you need to avoid when constructing a portfolio:
Step 5: Tattoo Artist Apprenticeship
The journey to becoming a tattoo artist will always involve an apprenticeship with an accomplished artist, and most of the learning will take place during this period. A tattoo apprenticeship is where you will get the most hands-on training.
You will not only learn the skill most effectively, but also you will acquire business skills, relationship-building skills, and the finest sanitary practices.
Once you are sure about your drawing skills and the ability to design beautiful tattoos, it's time to put what you have learned into practice and apply what you have studied in a real-world setting. You will need to work with a tattoo artist to learn the craft.
Here are some things to consider while looking for a tattoo artist to work with. Look for an artist who:
5. Tattoo Courses And Training
While most careers require formal education, a prospective tattoo artist is often expected to participate in an apprenticeship. Although there is no BA in Tattoos or PhD in Inking, most tattoo artists have an art degree or background before beginning their apprenticeship.
However, many major cities and universities offer tattoo artist courses where they will teach about the history, philosophy, and concepts of proper tattooing. You'll also learn about the safety precautions to reduce the numerous risks associated with tattooing and how to teach your clients about proper tattoo aftercare.
Many online courses are available for those who need help finding a course nearby or can't afford hundreds of dollars in tuition.
6. How Long Is A Tattoo Apprenticeship in Australia?
Typically a few years; however, some can last anywhere from 1 to 3 years. Some can even last longer, depending on the pace at which your mentor decides to teach you.
It's a good idea to verify the state's Department of Health website for specific requirements. Following your apprenticeship, you will be eligible to apply for certification in your state or area.
7. How To Get A Tattoo Licence in Australia?
All those who wish to work professionally as tattoo artists must have a tattoo license.
The criteria to obtain a license are relatively straightforward, although they vary by state. However, you will probably need to complete a specific amount of apprenticeship hours, attend particular health and safety training and pass a test on hygienic tattooing procedures to get a tattoo certificate in Australia.
In addition, you will need an ID, a national police check, and details regarding your previous and current jobs. You will also have to pay a modest application fee and fill out a form.
8. How To Become A Tattoo Artist Without A Licence?
A few states in the United States require tattoo artists to get licenses, which expect them to be no less than 18 years of age, have secondary school graduation, and have finished a particular amount of endorsed apprenticeship hours. Your state, city, and country might have different requirements.
Tattoo artists in South Korea are needed to be qualified medical physicians. Tattoo artists in Australia do not require a tattooing licence, but they will need an operator licence if they plan to work from home or have their store.
9. Do Tattoo Apprentices Get Paid In Australia?
An apprenticeship in tattooing is similar to a college or summer internship. Therefore, it's unusual for tattoo trainees to get paid.
While conducting your apprenticeship, it's best to obtain side employment.
10. How Much Do Tattoo Artists Get Paid In Australia?
Your pay will be determined by various factors, including your reputation, experience, location, the number of customers you deal with, and the amount you charge for your tattoos. Tattoo artists are often paid by the hour. However, some artists charge per tattoo or by dimension size.
In Australia, most tattoo artists charge by the hour, starting at $AUD17.70 per hour and going up to $AUD500 per hour. The typical tattoo artist's salary is about $AUD 48 000 per year.
When you initially start, you might expect to work for less money or perhaps for free (as an apprentice). As your portfolio and confidence increase, you'll be able to charge more, attract new clients, and make a steady income doing what you love.
11. Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)
Do You Need a License To Be A Tattoo Artist in Australia?
Yes. You usually need a tattoo licence to offer paid services as a tattoo artist. As the eligibility criteria vary between states, you must check with your state rules and regulations to understand the exact licencing requirements.
ACT, Victoria, NT, and Western Australia don't need a licence to work as professional tattoo artist; however, you must have a valid First Aid certificate before training.
How Much Do Tattoo Artists Get Paid in Australia?
According to PayScale, the average salary for a Tattoo Artist in Australia is AU$42,500 per year.
The lowest and the highest average pay for a tattoo artist in Australia is A$39k / year and A$97k / year, respectively. Mandurah, WA, is the highest-paying city for Tattoo Artists in Australia.
Is Tattooing Regulated in Australia?
Certain states of Australia regulate tattooing:
Consumer and Business Services is the authority that governs the tattoo industry in South Australia.
NSW Fair Trading regulates tattoo businesses and tattoo artists in NSW. They must be registered and follow the Tattoo Parlour Act 2012 requirements.
In QLD, the Queensland Fair Trading regulates tattoo businesses and tattoo artists. They must have a tattoo operator licence to operate a body art or tattooing business in Queensland.
Is it Illegal To Tattoo at Home in Australia?
Home tattooing is unregulated in Australia. It may be illegal (in some cases) to perform home tattoos on yourself or your friends.
As per the current Victorian legislation, tattooing anyone below 18 years in Victoria is not legal. Due to health and safety concerns, you should not buy tattooing equipment for their home use. You should get it done only from professional tattoo premises registered with your local council.
How Much Does a Tattoo License Cost in Australia?
The tattooist licence cost usually varies between states.
The tattooist licence cost in NSW for 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year is $693, $843, and $991, respectively.
In tattooist licence costs in Queensland, the 1-year and 3-year are $246.70 and $513.60, respectively.
Is It Illegal To Buy A Tattoo Gun in Australia?
It is legal to buy tattoo guns online, irrespective of your age or qualifications. However, it is illegal to tattoo a child without the consent of his parents.
Due to no restrictions, anyone can buy and sell tattoo gun kits online. EBay, a popular online retailer, provides a range of tattoo guns to customers across Australia.
However, due to the health risks linked to tattoo guns, some tattoo artists and removalists favour making it mandatory to have a licence to sell and purchase tattoo equipment.
Local councils should regulate the buyers and sellers of tattoo guns.
Do Tattoo Apprentices Get Paid in Australia?
Apprentices don't charge for their tattoos in the beginning. Once they develop tattooing skills, they might start charging at a "discounted rate" compared to an experienced tattoo artist's rate.
Where most tattoo artists charge between $100 and 150 per hour when starting in a full-time role, apprentices usually charge between $50 and 60/- per hour. The shop owner takes 50 to 60% of that pay as their share of the split.
According to Pay Scale, the average hourly pay for a Tattoo Apprentice in Australia is AU$50.00 per hour.
Is it OK to Copy Someone's Tattoo?
No. You can't copy an existing tattoo design as it will lead to copyright violation.
Do you Need Permission To Use a Tattoo Design?
Yes. You will require permission from the tattoo owner/copyright holder to use their design.
Else, the tattoo artist will require a license or consent from the copyright holder to replicate the copyrighted tattoo design. However, you may ask the tattoo artist to modify the design slightly.
What Do You Need To Do For Tattooing at Home?
You will require the following sterilised supplies to get started:
A tattoo design
Fake skins and Stencil paper
Cotton balls or soft batting
Nitrile gloves or Rubber gloves
Tattoo ointment or Aquaphor for aftercare
Plastic wrap or Saniderm
Tattoo machine/Tattoo gun
Specialized tattoo ink or carbon-based Indian ink
Ink caps to hold the ink
You can also buy a Tattoo starter kit online instead of individual items.
How Old Must You Be To Be A Tattoo Artist in Australia?
Most Australian states, like Queensland, require you to be 18 years or older to become a tattoo artist in Australia.
Do Tattoo Artists Reuse Designs?
When the tattoo artist traces the image onto a transfer paper or "stencil," you can use it several times to imitate the same appearance on different body parts.
Can A Tattoo Artist Fix a Mistake?
The tattoo artist and the client must check the design's clarity and placement when applied to the area.
In case of any corrections, the tattoo artist must remove the complete design with alcohol and apply another stencil (with the same design).
Where Do Tattoo Artists Get Their Ideas?
Some of the familiar places where tattoo artists can take inspiration:
1. Social Media, Instagram feed, Pin Interest, etc., shows emerging styles such as specific ink tattoos, floral tattoos, etc.
2. Tattoo shops and studios where tattooists share their artworks within the community.
3. Collaborative events where tattoo artists gather to share their inspiration, techniques, and art.
4. Books and illustrations
5. Websites that show free tattoo designs, such as:
Custom Tattoo Design
Some of these websites are also available as Android and iOS smartphone Apps. You can choose designs from the in-built image gallery or create tattoo ideas and imagine them on your body with the help of augmented reality.
Do Tattoo Artists Sketch First?
Tattoo artists draw a rough draft on tracing paper and transfer the sketch to the skin. However, freehand tattoo artists are skilled at drawing designs directly onto the skin without any stencil, guide, or marker.
The general tattooing process involves:
A client chooses the design for the tattoo.
A tattoo artist traces the image onto transfer paper or stencil.
Once the client approves the design, the artist performs the following steps to transfer the paper-based design onto the skin.
Shaves the area with a one-time-use razor and cleans it with an antibacterial soap.
Once the area is ready, the artist applies the stencil on the skin such that the fluid side faces the skin.
Next, pat the stencil on the skin and allow it to sit for some minutes.
Slowly peels the paper off from one side to the other.
Once the design gets placed on the skin properly, the artist uses the tattoo machine to insert tiny ink droplets into the area to create a tattoo.
How Can You Practice Tattooing?
The best ways to practice tattooing are:
Sign up for an art/drawing class to learn the art of drawing designs and shading. You can then try copying tattoo designs available on Instagram or Pinterest.
Join a class in tattoo ink to learn to draw outlines, trace sample tattoos, and interpret an original pencil sketch.
Use natural and non-toxic henna as a medium to practice your skills. You can apply it using a toothpick or a piping bag to practice working with the skin and on various body parts.
As fruit peels can mimic the skin, tattooing on fruit skin is another great idea to practice. Some fruits you can consider for practice include honeydew melon, oranges, grapefruit, and apples.
Once you are good at drawing designs with a pen or pencil, practice wherever you can. You can draw tattoos for your friends using a non-toxic pen or marker. It will give you a feel of drawing on a live canvas and the outlines of body parts.
Having achieved confidence and perfection in working with pens and markers, begin practising with an inexpensive tattoo machine. Familiarise yourself with the applicator and its weight, and practice holding it for a long duration. It will help build strength before you start working on people.
Become an apprentice with an established tattoo artist. Prepare a portfolio of around 50 to 200 sketches to amaze the tattooist with your artistic talent. Usually, you will need to train for about a year before being allowed to work on your first client.
How Do Tattoo Apprenticeships Work in Australia?
During your apprenticeship, you will work in a shop alongside a professional tattooist and learn several things to help you throughout your career.
During the second year, you will learn to draw tattoos that could involve smaller tattoos or walk-ins dedicated to apprentices.
In your third year, you will learn how to master line work, do shading and packing, and create your tattoo portfolio. You may also learn lessons on business aspects of tattooing that help you develop the skills to start your shop.
A typical day of a tattoo apprentice may involve the following tasks:
Perform chores around the shop to help the tattoo artists in their work, such as dealing with customers at the front desk, drawing designs, etc.
Visit the store to take stock of supplies and inform about the same to the tattoo artist.
Prepare and set up the workstations for each artist before every tattoo. It may include cutting and folding paper towels, restocking needles, razors, and other disposables your mentor requires, etc.
Clean and sterilize the place after every tattoo for your mentor or each artist working in the shop, depending on your mentor.
How Do I Promote Myself as a Tattoo Artist?
Make an impressive portfolio and promote it both online and offline to maximise your chances of getting a training opportunity:
Approach a local tattoo artist and get them to look at your art. If they like your work, they may display your portfolio to the other tattoo artists in the shop. They may want to know more about your art, which could also initiate a conversation about apprenticeship.
Scan your artwork to digitalise your physical portfolio so that potential clients can examine your work and follow you. Showing your digital art proficiency is also beneficial, as nowadays, most customers prefer working with tattoo artists on digital designs (designs on a computer).
So, if you have digital art forms, you must include them in your portfolio. Ensure you explain to potential employers how you created the digital art, including the computer programs used.
Once your online portfolio is ready, you can promote it on your social media handles. Create an Instagram account and a professional website specifically for your tattoo work, and upload your portfolio.
Use an online contact form to answer clients' inquiries and book appointments. Constantly update your online portfolio to keep it fresh and current.
How Do I Make A Tattoo Portfolio?
A tattoo portfolio showcasing your best artwork is essential for getting a tattoo apprenticeship or an assistant job at a tattoo shop. It makes you look more professional and credible to a prospective mentor.
Here are some tips for creating a comprehensive and impressive tattoo portfolio:
Consider taking courses like a Diploma of Cosmetic Tattooing to develop your artistic skills and learn to draw different styles of tattoos.
Include Your Artwork in a Variety of Styles
Most tattoo shops look for artists who can do varied styles to serve a range of customers. So, create flash sheets of different tattoo designs to show how versatile you are as an artist. It makes it easier for people to look at and choose a tattoo.
Some of the standard tattoo styles you can include, such as:
Black and white
Line Art Designs
Neo Style Tattoos
Tattoo Lettering Style
Include The Latest Trends in Your Designs
Track the design trends and styles clients ask for more often in your area. By getting good at drawing art people want on their skin, your possibilities of getting a tattoo apprenticeship increase.
As your work will be in demand, it will become easier to find customers and, in turn, help the shop make more money.
Scan Your Designs
A digital portfolio enhances your visibility, but a physical portfolio allows people to experience your artwork firsthand. Therefore, it is advisable to scan your artwork and upload it to digital platforms, maximizing the opportunities for potential clients to evaluate and engage with your work.
Organize Your Work
Once your portfolio is ready, the last thing is to select a professional portfolio case with transparent sheets that properly hold your design sheets and are easily visible.
Next, organise your portfolio by style so it becomes easy for people to gauge your work correctly. Make sure to update your portfolio by including a new tattoo design you create.
What Are The Rules About Tattoos in Australia?
Before applying for a tattoo, it is better to check state-wise tattoo rules. According to Youth Law Australia:
In NSW and ACT
You must be 18 and above to get a tattoo. If you are under 18, you will need your parent's written consent to get a tattoo. The written permission should explain the type and size of tattoo you wish to get and where you get it on your body.
You may also require to provide the age-proof document or sign a statutory declaration stating your age and that you understand the risks associated with the procedure.
In QLD, SA, NT, and VIC
You must be 18 years to get a tattoo. You cannot get a tattoo below 18, even with parental permission.
To avoid risks of infections, you should not buy tattooing equipment for home use and visit a tattoo parlour registered with your local council instead.
In Western Australia
If you have written consent from a parent, you can get a tattoo between 16 to 18 years.
In addition to the state-wise age constraints, you should check with your workplace or school about their specific tattoo policies or rules.
How to Start A Tattoo Business in Australia?
Consider starting your business once you have gained immense experience and a good reputation as a tattoo artist.
Take business courses like Certificate IV in Entrepreneurship and New Business to gain the necessary business understanding and skills to set up your business.
11. Closing Words
Tattoos are an excellent method of self-expression. So, if you are passionate about becoming a tattoo artist, you must brush up on your artistic skills. The rest will come to you with time and practice.
Hopefully, this guide on becoming a tattoo artist in Australia has given you a better knowledge of the standards you must meet to become a licensed tattoo artist in Australia.
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