How to Start a Tattoo Shop

Updated April 17, 2017

As the art of tattooing has become more popular, more tattoo artists have branched out to start their own businesses. Opening a tattoo shop requires skill, research, supplies and an education in disease prevention.

Tattoo in a reputable shop for at least five years. Discuss your idea with other shop owners to get advice and insight. Prepare a portfolio of your best work to showcase in your new business.

Research the building and zoning codes in the area you are planning to open your tattoo shop. Obtain a tax identification number and register your business. Call the health board to schedule an inspection that will lead to your operating license.

Find a location with plumbing that will meet the needs of your shop. In each work station a sink is required for hand washing. You will also need a biohazard sink for tool cleaning and a public rest room with a sink.

Take a blood-borne pathogens class on how to protect yourself, your employees and your clients from diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

Purchase an autoclave and ultrasonic. These two instruments are required by law to clean and sterilise your biohazard materials.

Make a list of the supplies you will need and order them wholesale. Tubes, needles, gloves, sterilisation supplies and inks are the most crucial supplies. You will also need a copier, reference books, tracing paper and an adequate power supply for your tattoo machines.

Conduct interviews with established tattoo artists. Look at their portfolios closely, making sure their artwork and ethics meet your standards.

Design a card or use an image of some of your best tattoo work to promote your business. Have cards or flyers printed with your new shop's name, address, business hours and website.


Hire a manager to be responsible for inventory and scheduling so you can spend more time tattooing your clients. Hire an accountant for your taxes. Make your shop's lobby inviting to customers.


Owning a tattoo shop can open the door for lawsuits. Follow the law when it comes to minors and have a professional release form written up by a lawyer for each client to sign. Do not tattoo anyone who does not have state-issued identification.

Things You'll Need

  • Tax identification number
  • Permits
  • Health board inspection
  • Tattoo supplies
  • Autoclave
  • Ultrasonic
  • Promotional materials
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About the Author

Maude Coffey retired after 10 years working as a professional body modification artist in the tattoo industry. She is certified in principles of infection control and blood-borne pathogens. Coffey received additional training and classes, such as anatomy, jewelry standards and aftercare, from the Association of Professional Piercers. Coffey aims to educate about safe tattooing and piercing practices while writing for various websites.