Aspiring to become a tattoo artist? Here’s what you need to know
The concept of body art is no longer a stranger to India as it has now been well accepted. Only four years ago, there were about 14,000 well-established tattoo studios in the country, and this number has significantly risen thanks to the influence of the film industry, especially that of Bollywood. Needless to say, a tattoo business of your own will be born into good times given, of course, that you’re an artist. Before starting off, however, it is wise to have a sense of direction and a plan because talent alone is handicapped.
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Training to acquire
The best training you can receive will be through an apprenticeship programme with professionals. Many skilled artists today recommend the same path because, frankly, there is no better way to get a holistic and a realistic picture of the business. At least two to three years of experience with a professional is necessary in order to acquire the skill set. Most people tend to open their own studios after a few months of training, but this isn’t the wisest decision because without sufficient experience, you’ll be putting your clients and your business at risk. Working with a professional will teach you everything about running a studio, handling clients, and the science and usage of equipment.
Inking is difficult work. It requires you to pay attention to minute details, have steady movements, and work for hours at a stretch. If you look at it, it’s very much like a medical procedure since your client is at your mercy – or rather, your skills. These are techniques you will pick up and get used to only through apprenticeship programmes. Now that many studios have been well established, some of them provide certificate courses for amateurs. Witch Art Tattoos, Devilz Tattoos, KDz Tattoos, and Ink Inn Tattoo studio are a few of them.
There are also many tattoo conventions organised nationally and internationally where you’ll get the opportunity to meet and learn from a number of established tattoo artists. In this regard, the Indian International tattoo convention would be a good place to start.
Regulations to know about
The tattoo industry in India is part of the unorganised sector, and therefore licensing regulations are loosely bound in comparison with, say, the United States. But this doesn’t mean you don’t need any licences at all. You’ll have to acquire a studio license and follow health regulations. Health is of top priority for a tattoo artist because HIV and HVB viruses are easily transmitted through needles. In a country with the second highest number of Hepatitis B cases, a tattoo artist cannot get lazy with hygiene.
What to invest in
Once you’re a trained and certified artist, the next step would be to open a studio of your own. That is, of course, if you’re not content with merely working as an artist in an already ready established studio. So if you’re that ambitious, you will need to know what to invest in.
Clearly, the first will be the rent of your studio space. While you’re looking for economically merciful areas for rent, keep in mind that the location should be easily accessible to your customers.
It also goes without saying that a tattoo kit is essential. Kits are now easily available online for less than Rs 10,000. But if you’re keeping durability in mind, a long term investment of around Rs 20-25,000 for a good set and a tattoo machine is advised by many. Medical supplies and sterilisation equipment are other necessary investments. Sterilisation equipment is pricey, and if you’re unable to make such heavy investments, be sure to buy single use needles and tubes to maintain hygiene.
While you’re planning your finances, don’t forget to factor in your utility bills because a tattoo machine needs a constant supply of electricity that is sure to drain the power of an unprepared budget.
What income to expect
Your income depends heavily on your popularity, which in turn depends on your skills. The average charge per square inch of tattoo is Rs1,000 to 2,000. Most people are willing to spend more for a tattoo as it is a permanent investment (as permanent as things get). The price to put on your art will also depend on its size and complexity. In such cases, most artists charge by the hour. This price in turn depends on your popularity. A highly sought after artist can charge over Rs.10,000 per hour for a complex tattoo. So in the end, your income comes down to your skill and talent which of course can be honed with practise.
How to establish yourself
Since your entire business will depend on your popularity, making yourself well-known is of utmost importance. It is first important to know that for artists, establishing their work takes time. If your work can produce satisfied customers, they will pass on the word. Publicity by word-of-mouth is the only way for a beginner. Once you’ve generated enough interest, get onto to social media and showcase your work. Create your own website to authenticate it better. A good website says a lot about an artist’s professionalism.
With regard to specialisation, if you have a niche such as typography or portraits, your competition will be negligible. On the other hand, if you don’t have a specialization, and offer many options, your customer base will be bigger. With experience, you will slowly begin to realise what you’re comfortable with.
Body art will never go out of style, so as an artist your only concern should be acquiring some formidable skills. So get talking, start learning, and happy inking!