The Good, Bad, and Ugly – A Guide to Tattoo Apprentice Portfolios

Tattoo Artist
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Putting together a tattoo apprentice portfolio is a project that requires weeks or months of work. But, if your dream is to become a successful tattoo artist, there is no shortcut you can take! 

Luckily, while compiling your portfolio, you can also gain valuable experience, showcase your talent to future customers, and build the foundations needed to succeed in the industry. 

Wondering how to get started? The guide below can help!

Find Your Niche and Showcase Unique Selling Point

With top tattoo artists making over $260,000 a year, your dream of opening a tattoo parlor is curtailing worth pursuing. But before taking the first steps on this career journey, it is important not to underestimate the fierce competition you’ll face. 

Indeed, the number of tattoo artists in the US has been growing consistently over the past decade, and, today, there are nearly 31,200 professionals actively operating in the industry. 

In such a competitive environment, your portfolio is your most powerful tool to showcase your talent and hone your unique selling point. Make sure to choose your niche wisely and specialize in a certain type of tattoo!

Create a Photo Book of Client Pictures (It’s Easier Than You Think!)

Tattoo apprenticeships can take as long as 1-3 years to complete. But while this period of your life might be marked by low income and long days at work, it also provides you with the tools you need to establish a tattoo parlor – starting with a collection of projects!

Every time you complete a tattoo for a client, make sure to take a high-quality picture. With your snapshots, you can then make a photo book online that will showcase your skills to future clients. All you need for this project is a high-quality camera (your iPhone lens will do!) and a handful of pictures!

Keep It Short and Sweet – But Include Your Best Designs!

So, how long should your portfolio be? While guidelines change from one industry to another, for tattoo artists, it is recommended to have a collection of at least 50-100 designs.

Although a large percentage of these should be your best or niche designs, make sure to include tattoos of all types, as well as behind-the-scenes and work-in-progress snaps. 

Keep Your Portfolio Organized By Date or Type

There is nothing more embarrassing than not knowing your own portfolio! When a client is in the process of choosing their tattoo design, you’ll need to know where relevant examples are and how to look for them with confidence. 

As your portfolio grows, a surefire way to know where your best designs are is to organize them by type, color, design, or date. And, don’t hesitate to add labels to help clients freely navigate your collection of designs. 

Create a Digital Portfolio Through a Business Website or Develop a Community on Social Media

Aside from the hard copy of your portfolio, consider spending time putting together a digital collection of your work. For example, you might choose to create a digital portfolio on your website, which is a vital marketing tool to promote your tattoo shop

Additionally, you might take advantage of photo or video-sharing apps such as Instagram or TikTok to showcase your work through digital channels. 

Include Your Qualifications and Experience

Although your portfolio should focus on showing your past work and talent, make sure to include other essential details. These should include relevant qualifications you have obtained during your academic career, on-the-job experience, and additional certifications in specific techniques or styles. 

And, don’t forget to include an “About” page! Although your portfolio should not be about your personal history, telling your clients more about you can add a great personal touch!

Make Sure Clients Can Find You From Your Portfolio

Whether it is your digital portfolio or the hard copy of designs you store in your apprenticeship studio, make sure prospective clients and employers can get in touch with you!

From adding a “Contact Us” page to your website to adding QR codes that link to your social media pages on your physical client photo book, a direct contact link can help you turn prospective leads into paying clients!

No Experience? Sign Up For Apprenticeships!

One of the steps you’ll need to take to become a fully qualified tattoo artist is to undergo apprenticeships. These are not just a rite of passage, but they are also a great way for students to start building their portfolios. 

So, if you don’t have enough clients or experience to put together a collection of past projects, make sure to sign up for the next apprenticeship that becomes available in your town or city!

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