Just like with any other art, if you want to learn how to tattoo you have to undergo an apprenticeship with an experienced tattoo artist. This will not only enable you to learn the basic tattooing techniques, but also enable you to get feedback on your work so you can improve your skills. Before you try to get an apprenticeship, however, you have to develop your drawing skills since being able to draw is a basic talent that every tattoo artist must have. If you feel your art skills are not developed enough, you might want to take some drawing classes at a local college first.
Then you need to prepare a portfolio that you will show to potential mentors. This portfolio should include a substantial number of samples of your work to show off what you can do. These samples should not be simple drawings but fully colored and completed pieces of art that will demonstrate what your tattoo designs will actually look like; they should also be signed as proof that they were done by you. Make the samples as varied as possible to demonstrate that you can be versatile and handle a range of designs. Presentation is also important so your portfolio should be in a professional-looking artist’s leather case with a zipper rather than a three-ring binder; the samples should also be protected by being placed in a protective plastic sleeve.
Now that you have a portfolio, you can find a mentor who will teach you how to tattoo. Visit various tattoo shops and show around your portfolio. Focus on shops that have a good reputation with their clients, and who have tattoo artists with at least five years of experience. You will have to be persistent and patient, since it may take you some time to find a tattoo artist who will agree to an apprenticeship.
The most important consideration when choosing a mentor is to find one that you will get along with. Obviously you will want an accomplished tattoo artist to guide you, but if you don’t feel comfortable with each other then you obviously will not learn anything from him; in fact, you may not even complete your apprenticeship. Keep in mind that you will be working closely with this person for an extended period of time.
Another consideration is money. While you may be lucky enough to find a mentor who will take you as an apprentice for free, the majority of them will charge you a fee that can be as much as thousands of dollars. Beware of tattoo artists who will take your money without giving you anything of value; find one who will give you value for money by giving you the education you need to become a professional.
Once you have found a mentor, you should adjust your expectations before you start your apprenticeship. While you might want to immediately plunge into the more artistic aspects such as making stencils, you will have to master the technical aspects of tattooing first. This includes learning how to operate, maintain and sterilize the tattoo machines as well as how to avoid infection and safely dispose of contaminated materials. And of course, for a time you will have to do the scut work such as cleaning up around the shop and running chores.
For basic techniques you can also purchase DVD tutorials, watch videos on youtube, or online tutorials such as the one here: http://www.howtotattooblog.com/