Job Description of a Tattooist

Written by adam blevins
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Job Description of a Tattooist
Tattooing is an attractive career choice for many young artists (Jupiterimages/ Images)

A tattooist, also known as a tattoo artist, is one who applies permanent tattoos to paying clients. Modern tattooists apply tattoos using an electric tattoo machine. The tattoo machine is a handheld device that applies tattoo ink under the skin using a needle that pierces the skin over 100 times per second. A career as a tattoo artist is an attractive prospect for many young artists due to the flexible hours, earning potential and creativity involved.

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The primary responsibility of a tattoo artist is cleanliness. All reusable tools must be sterilised prior to each session, and non-reusable tools must be kept in vacuum-sealed packages until they are needed. The area of skin to be tattooed must be thoroughly sterilised prior to the session, and a sterile bandage must be applied at the conclusion of the session. In a addition to sterilisation, the tattooist must be prepared to create artwork that meets each customer's satisfaction.


First and foremost, a tattooist must be a good artist. It is also helpful if he is skilled in a variety of art styles, though specialisation is OK and is even preferred by some patrons. He must be a good listener, and able to take direction. Many customers are happy to pick a previously drawn tattoo, however some will insist upon having a custom tattoo that the artists must create. In this case, the artists will have to have the skill necessary to listen to the customer's ideas and deliver upon them, while offering suggestions that the customer may not have thought of.

Work Environment

Tattoo artists typically work out of a tattoo parlour. Good tattoo parlours are kept immaculately clean, some even rivalling hospitals in their level of cleanliness. A tattooist has his own room with his own chair, tools, inks, flash (previously drawn tattoos) books, etc. Each artists is responsible for keeping his area clean and sanitary, and also for making sure that his clients are comfortable during their visits.


Hourly rates for a tattooist averages from £52 to £78, with roughly half of that going to the owner of the tattoo parlour. Some studios will take more, but will also cover the costs of supplies, such as: ink, needles, tattoo machines, gloves, sterilisation supplies, etc. The bad thing about getting into tattooing is that the work is not always steady. There are busy days and there are slow days, which will have a heavy impact on your earnings. It is also tough to gain a reputation, and many tattoo artists spend many years honing their skills and making a name for themselves.

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