Can You Teach Yourself to Tattoo?

Teaching yourself to tattoo means using online resources, videos, and books to learn on your own instead of in a tattoo shop – and it’s 100% possible.

As the tattoo industry continues to grow and utilize online teaching, the number of self-taught artists will continue to grow as well, making now the perfect time to dive into tattooing.

In this article, we’ll explain:

  • Why more tattoo artists are choosing the “self-taught” route
  • How to find online resources so you can teach yourself to tattoo
  • The #1 thing tattoo shops need to see before they hire you

Is it Easy to Learn to Tattoo?

youtube videos to improve artistic ability
Peony drawing tutorial on thebrokenpuppet’s YouTube channel.

Tattooing is not “easy,” and learning to do it on your own is certainly challenging. Every tattooer will admit that their first tattoos weren’t their best, but overtime, they’ve gained the skills to tattoo any design they want. 

That being said, learning to tattoo is much, much easier if you know how to draw, which is why we’re big fans of thebrokenpuppet on YouTube. His drawing tutorials teach you how to draw tattoo designs step-by-step. 

Please note: Some regions have specific requirements for becoming a tattoo artist, but in many places, you can teach yourself and will only need your bloodborne pathogens certification.

Why Be a Self-Taught Tattoo Artist?

artist making a permanent mark on human skin
Self-taught tattoo artist “Bang Bang” tattoos celebrities like LeBron James, Rihanna, Adele, etc.

The traditional path to becoming a tattoo artist is through an apprenticeship. During that time, an experienced tattoo artist teaches an apprentice how to tattoo. 

However, apprenticeships are unpaid, last anywhere from 1-4 years, and are notorious for the amount of hazing (and sometimes abuse) that comes with them.

Because of this, many aspiring artists are learning online instead. While doing so takes a fair amount of research, all the information artists learn in a traditional apprenticeship is available online. 

How to Become a Self-Taught Professional Tattoo Artist

practice tattooing with a tattoo machine on fake skin
flash art used to practice art skills
Images from Tattooing 101’s free Linework Secrets Guide.

While you can learn to tattoo entirely online, there’s a big leap between learning at home for fun…and building a tattooing career on your own.

The #1 thing you need to do if you want to become successful as a tattoo artist is to learn to tattoo the right way and use the correct, professional techniques. 

Because tattooing is an art form that has evolved a lot over the past 20 years, it’s no surprise that a good amount of the information online is outdated (or even downright dangerous). However, tattoo studios will not hire artists that don’t use the right techniques. 

If you don’t have much knowledge about tattooing in advance, it can be hard to tell if you’re getting that correct information. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re learning from reliable sources:

  1. Check that the information was published in the last 10-12 years. Tattooing technology – and health standards – have changed a lot in the past decade, and you want to make sure you’re up to date.
  1. Make sure the person teaching is a professional tattoo artist by checking out their social media. If you can’t find examples of their work online, that’s a major red flag.
  1. Look at the comments on their posts or videos. If other aspiring tattoo artists are saying that the information helped them, it’s probably a good resource. If there are professional artists giving negative feedback, it’s best to steer clear.

If you want to learn more about how to tattoo, we highly recommend checking out Tattooing 101. They have a ton of free resources, guides, and videos created by professional tattoo artists, as well as a full tattooing program for self-taught artists who want to follow a structured course. 

Ready to Become a Tattoo Artist?

Learning to tattoo on your own is the ideal route for artists who want to do tattooing as a side hustle, people who want to make a career change but still need to keep a full-time job while they build their skills or independent learners who prefer to work at their own pace. 

Tattooing requires patience and practice, but it leads to a rewarding career and an exciting, creative lifestyle. If you’re ready to forge your own path, then it might just be the right time for YOU to start preparing for your dream job.