Ask a Sydney Tattoo Artist

Sep 22


Annie Dee

Annie Dee

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Plenty of people are drawn towards becoming a tattoo artist, but not many people comprehend what it takes. It’s not a job you can’t take shortcuts in: tattooing is an art which takes years of practice and experience to perfect.


Getting a tattoo is becoming increasingly common in the younger society as a way to express your individuality. It’s partly thanks to pop culture and glamorous television shows like La Ink and Miami Ink,Ask a Sydney Tattoo Artist Articles as well as the climbing number of tattooed celebrities and icons with tattoos - like Angelina Jolie, the Beckhams, Kat Von D and Robbie Williams – and as a result, many starry-eyed people are looking towards becoming a tattoo artist themselves. However being a tattoo is certainly not all about glamour. What many people don’t realise about the tattoo artist career is, while it’s definitely rewarding, it also demands an exceptional amount of hard work and raw talent.

Plenty of people are drawn towards becoming a tattoo artist, but not many people comprehend what it takes. It’s not a job you can’t take shortcuts in: tattooing is an art which takes years of practice and experience to perfect. For example, a recent feature all about tattoos appeared in the Australian magazine, Drum Media. A number of prominent tattoo artists in Sydney were given a brief interview about their tattoo experiences and becoming a tattoo artist. One Sydney tattoo artist Carl Carlson, answered a question on whether Miami Ink and LA Ink were really what being a tattoo artist is like. His reply was “Hell no. They give people a false impression that we all live this mad rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and do jack shit work.” This is exactly right, and any real tattoo artist will tell you the same thing. Many of them, including Carl Carlson, will tell you it’s extremely hard to get recognised for your own individual talent, and not working in a glorified tattoo studio makes it almost impossible.

Prospective tattoo artists who can’t draw are severely disadvantaged, and usually won’t make it further than tattooing basic flash in a flash studio. The top tattoo artists are extremely skilled as artists, and especially for custom tattoos, there is a great difference in the calibre of tattoos done by tattoo artists who can really draw and tattoo artists who can’t. If you already have great drawing ability and good colour sense, you must then build a porfolio of artwork and find an apprenticeship with a real tattoo artist. Sometimes tattoo apprentices come for free, but usually they cost big dollars. For anyone who’s passionate about pursuing the career of a tattoo artist, this initial investment isn’t much – and luckily it helps prevent many non-committed people from entering the tattoo industry. However even for the dedicated, a tattoo apprenticeship is a huge sacrifice. Over years, a tattoo apprenticeship can be financially and physically draining.

An even bigger side of working as a tattoo artist, is being able to understand and maintain proper health regulations in the tattoo studio. Tattoo artists are constantly dealing with other peoples’ blood, so a good tattoo artist needs to know how to safely sterilise all tattoo equipment, as well maintain a clean and non-hazardous working environment. The tiniest mistake can cause cross-contamination and lead to infection. You will need to understand how to protect yourself and your customers from infection, and you will need to ensure that your bio-medical waste is safely disposed of.

A lot of learning and experience goes into making a tattoo artist. Having natural talent is a great start, however not all artists can succeed as tattoo artists. To really succeed in the demanding and competitive tattoo industry, you need plenty of personal determination and the capacity for constant hard work and continuous learning.