How To Become A Tattoo Artist In Australia: Explained

A student wants to know if he can become a tattoo artist without an apprenticeship and how much money they make.


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:


  • Maturity – A tattoo artist should be very mature in dealing with their clients. They should be able to say 'NO' to undesirable tattoo designs.


  • Interpersonal skills – Tattoo artists must be able to work well with people. They must have good listening skills and must be able to comprehend client instructions for drawings. They also need to explain how to care for a tattoo.


  • Steady hand – You must understand tattooing is painting art on live skin. Therefore, the skills and talents must be exceptionally high, with a steady hand and attention to the minutest details. They also should be comfortable with needles.


  • Personal hygiene is essential – The customer's safety should be crucial for any tattoo artist. Therefore, the prerequisites for a tattoo artist include skills and knowledge in the fundamentals of health and cleanliness.


  • Artistic skills – The art tattoo artists draw on their customers will endure a lifetime, so it's crucial to have excellent drawing skills and understand client preferences.


  • Concentration skills – Tattoo artists have to be highly focused. They require physical and mental stamina to sit for long hours on a detailed drawing. They should also have excellent hand-eye coordination. Tattoo machines are powerful steel devices with needles that pierce the skin up to 3,000 times per minute, so any lapse in concentration or shaky hand can result in painful, costly mistakes for customers.



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:


  • Plagiarized works - Presenting someone else's ideas or works as your own might land you in trouble and jeopardise your career before it ever gets started.


  • Including photographs of tattoos you've had done - If you are not a professional tattoo artist, do not submit pictures of tattoos you have done. For starters, tattooing without a licence is illegal. Second, it shows that you are unconcerned with your client's well-being or the art of tattooing. It additionally warns them that you might have some undesirable "scratcher" behaviours that need to be addressed making it more challenging to coach you.



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:


  • Works at a reputable tattoo parlour.


  • Make sure they follow fundamental hygiene requirements and have many clients. Avoid stores that appear vacant or those that can't inform you about basic hygiene practices.


  • Look for someone with mentoring experience and a better understanding of what works and doesn't.


  • Who is capable of challenging you: You should choose someone who can push you to your limits, challenge you, and hold you accountable. Choose a mentor who isn't overly eager to be pleased; a relaxed attitude will not help you in the long run.


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. 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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