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Becoming A Great Tattoo Artist 101


Leah has become a great tattoo artist under the apprenticeship of Jared.
Leah Tattooing

Nobody wakes up one morning and is instantly a tattoo artist. Just like anything else in the world, it takes much more than that. Unfortunately, even with practice and persistence, not everyone can make it as a top tier tattooist.

So, what is involved with becoming one of the greats? Many factors are involved. Skill, practice, an artistic mind, stamina, persistence, presence, reliability and consistency, an eye for detail, a steady hand, customer service, foresight, patience and a good teacher.


Some artwork by Jared

Having innate skill and an artistic mind go hand in hand. In order to become a truly great tattoo artist, these two are a must. You need to be able to create new and exciting designs for clients from either your own internal inspiration or by ideas brought to you by your clients. You have to be able to make things unique and not repeat yourself on what you draw up.

You might be very good at drawing or painting, recreating something someone has already done. That doesn’t mean you’d make a good tattoo artist. You need to create something completely new, to stand out and to truly make it as a bonafide artist. Copying isn’t art, it’s just copying. Would you call your printer an artist? There is a very distinct difference.


Jared was the mentor to Leah

When it come down to it, having a highly skilled mentor is important. Is it possible to not go through an apprenticeship? Of course, but having a great teacher to inspire you and to show you all their details and methods, help you refine your skills, recognize your strengths and weaknesses and to help you overcome your obstacles is a far better way to go. It’s not very common to hear about a renown tattoo artist that didn’t go through some sort of apprenticeship.

During an apprenticeship, the student artist will learn how to do things correctly and safely. They’ll also learn skills they don’t currently possess and methods they may have never even thought of. Many master tattoo artists STILL meet up with other artists so that they can learn from each other. Those serious about their craft are always looking for ways to be even better.

Even the most skilled tattoo artists still take time to practice. This could be done on an orange or a fake skin that’s designed for tattoo artists. Maybe they’re not too comfortable with their methods when concerning hand and finger tattoos, so they may practice on a fake hand. Just like any other skill, it’s always a good idea to take the time to practice now and then. It’s especially true for those that have taken a significant amount of time away from their craft.

Practice Tattoos On A Fake Hand


To be successful in this profession, you need to have a good amount of stamina. Very often, a tattoo artist will be sitting for long periods of time. You wouldn’t think it takes stamina to be sitting, but that’s untrue. You have to keep good posture, stay steady and keep your hands from shaking or getting tired/numb. It’s a discipline that all good tattooist need to hone.


Mental acuity is the ability to focus, recall information and having a sharp mind. Again, this is a must for a tattoo artist. Staying focused is very important. Keeping track of past, current and future clients and their projects isn’t easy. It’s nearly impossible for any artist to remember every single person and what artwork they got, are currently getting and what they will be getting later on. It helps to have a sharp mind to remember a good portion of them, however.

This skill also aids in the ability to think in the moment. If there needs to be a sudden change to a design, quick and sharp thinking are crucial. Acuity also helps an artist come up with new ideas. Coming up with new ideas and concepts on a daily basis isn’t as easy as it sounds. Imagine a veteran artist, say 15 years in the industry, how many different versions of a butterfly has this person had to come up with, plan out and eventually tattoo? Even if it was a very low estimate of 10 butterflies a year, that’s still 150 designs. It’s definitely higher than that.


Vitalii in all his glory
Vitalii has a great presence and is very likable

Although it may sound ridiculous, having a ‘presence’ about an artist makes them more alluring and more people will want to get tattooed by them. Your presence greatly depends on your personality, likability and how you carry yourself.

Sure, with some people, their art speaks for itself and they may have a really lousy presence but are still booked out well in advance. That artist may have started off differently and through the praise, may have gotten a grandiose sense of self importance and no longer feel like they have to try to be likable. This can work in the short term, but over time, they will start to fail.


Finally, one of the most important factors is how consistent and reliable a person can be. If you put out great piece after great piece, constantly getting noticed for that work, word will get out organically. Word of mouth is a very powerful FREE tool for advertising and for gaining a reputation. This can work in the opposite direction if you are putting out mediocre work, poor lines, bad shading, etc. Word of mouth, in this case, will work against you.

It’s incredibly common in the tattoo industry for an established artist to get a good percentage of their work from new clients due to referral or word of mouth. Having a reputation for great work helps you both with bookings and notoriety. Through notoriety, you can make into the media. Once you have completed this mix of skills, you are on your way to becoming a great tattoo artist.


If you’re ready to get your next tattoo done, schedule an appointment with an award-winning tattoo parlor. Here at Lucky Bamboo Tattoo, we have some of the best and most experienced tattoo artists in the Salt Lake City area. We can tattoo any style you’d like, and our artists can even design your next piece as well.

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