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July 21, 2022 12 min read


The History of Tattooing is Complicated…

The history of tattooing in the United States is an incredibly complex journey, with evidence of its existence stretching as far back as the Inuit people of Alaska. Located among these ancient Arctic populations, mummified remains of a 16th-century woman have been discovered bearing markings that are suggestive of rudimentary tattoos. It is believed, however, that this practice may even predate this discovery, with native American tribes having a long and deeply entrenched history of tattooing within their culture. 


In the indigenous Americas, tattoos were often used for spiritual protection and personal adornment. Different tribes had their distinct practices linked to the etching of skin - some were used to mark moments of transition or pivotal life events, while others were employed to decorate or enhance personal beauty. Native Americans also used tattoos to signify belonging within a specific tribe or clan and as symbols signifying courage in battle and on hunts. Additionally, some cultures would even use facial tattoos as identifiers when selecting marriage partners or marrying two clans together. 


Tattoo artistry has been an integral part of many Native American cultures since before European colonialists arrived on their shores. Designs are often passed down through generations at a time and vary between different tribes - from intricate geometric patterns made up of shapes like crescents and circles to more simple designs featuring animals such as eagles and wolves. Tattooing was often seen by Native Americans as a rite-of-passage ceremony marking important transitions such as turning into adulthood or joining the warrior class within the tribe. 


Beyond the spiritual meanings attributed to them by the various indigenous peoples across the Americas, tattoos have also served another purpose - that of cultural preservation. By adorning one's skin with symbols representing ancestry, events from tribal history or other elements from their culture; these body art forms can be seen as physical markers connecting one generation with another through time via meaningful imagery which transcends language barriers.


The modern tattoo style that we have come to recognize today first flourished in the late 19th century. In 1872, Martin Hildebrandt, a renowned tattoo artist, opened his studio in New York City and began offering his services to brand civil war soldiers with tattoos for identification purposes. This marked an important milestone in the history of tattoos as it was previously mainly limited to sailors or criminals who had their code or symbolism for gang affiliation. A few years later, Samuel O Reilly further advanced the possibilities of the art form when he invented the world’s the first electric tattoo machine, allowing for much more intricate designs and precise detailing than ever before. 


The mid-1920s saw an incredible surge in popularity for tattoos around the world, with many notable figures from all walks of life experiencing them. One such figure was Sailor Jerry – a stick-and-poke artist who was trained to use a tattoo machine while working in Chicago. After learning his craft there, he then moved to Hawaii and popularized traditional colour work by introducing a never-before-seen purple ink called carbazole violet into the usually pared-down colour palette of red, black and green. This addition opened up new possibilities for colour combinations and unique designs that were highly sought after by people all over the world at the time. 


Tattoos also experienced an unprecedented level of mainstream acceptance during this period. With great artists like Hildebrandt and O'Reilly establishing their respective reputations as some of the best practitioners in the field – coupled with advancements in technology improving quality and precision – tattoos went from being considered taboo to becoming widely accepted cultural symbols among large sections of society. This newfound popularity meant that more people than ever before could enjoy getting body art done without judgement or fear of social backlash; many individuals used it as a symbol of strength, resilience and identity – something which has been maintained right up until the present day.


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Tattoo Stigma and the Tattoo Artist

Tattoo stigma has been a long-standing issue in the United States. In past decades, it seemed as if tattooing was only accessible to those who knew someone or were members of a certain subculture; in general, it was seen as something to be frowned upon and looked down upon by the majority of society. Tattooed individuals were often seen as desperate people who only got tattoos to make money during hard times, such as during the Great Depression. This stigma was further perpetuated by figures such as PT Barnum, known for his circus ‘The Greatest Showman’, which featured a tattooed woman in his beauty contest to draw attention from audiences. The difficulty of obtaining access to the tattoo industry is compounded by people's preconceived notions that those with tattoos are untrustworthy or have loose moral values.


These negative views have slowly been changing over time, however. More recently, there is more acceptance and appreciation for tattoos due to an increase in understanding of their meaning and symbolism; many modern tattoo artists are now able to make a decent living practising it and being appreciated for their craftsmanship. While there will always be some people who don't accept tattoos and judge those with them harshly - regardless of context - generally speaking more members of society these days understand why one might get a tattoo and acknowledge that it can be a form of self-expression or artistry. Furthermore, many successful celebrities proudly wear their ink and promote its positive aspects; this has allowed the bias against tattoos to begin fading away into the background. 


The rise in popularity of body art has increased the number of professional tattooists available for hire; today, anyone can find an experienced artist thanks largely to online services like Yelp and Google Reviews making it easier than ever before. These days there are also many different styles of artistry within the world of tattooing – from traditional Americana designs through New School designs – allowing customers more freedom when selecting artwork they would like permanently placed on their bodies. Additionally, since most states have enacted legislation regulating safety protocols for both customer care and sterilization techniques used by licensed parlours - this helps ensure customers receive clean service even though stigma remains surrounding body art practices.



As tattoos have become more socially acceptable, the number of people wanting to pursue a career as a tattoo artist has increased dramatically. Even though it may now appear easier to get started in this field, competition is stiffer than ever before. To be successful and stand out in the crowd, aspiring tattoo artists must take the time to properly prepare themselves for this profession. 


To begin, understanding the basics of tattooing is essential. Knowledge about needles, ink pigments and techniques used for shading are all important fundamentals that must be learned. Aspiring tattoo artists should also know how to handle various types of skin, understand safety protocols and be up-to-date with sanitation practices. Taking classes on these topics or interning with an experienced tattoo artist can help ensure that one has the necessary knowledge required for practice.


Having a portfolio of artwork is also essential for success in this industry. This will allow potential customers to view an artist's work before they make an appointment and will demonstrate their talent and style. Building a portfolio can take some time but can ultimately help lead to more business opportunities and recognition within the field. 


In addition to technical knowledge and artistic ability, communication skills are important when it comes to being a successful tattoo artist as well. Knowing how to effectively interact with clients while they are getting inked is key as it can help ease any nerves they may have and provide them with a positive experience during their visit. Tattoo artists should also stay abreast of current trends so they can make suggestions accordingly when needed; ensuring frequent visits from satisfied customers in the future! 


Ultimately, becoming successful as a professional tattoo artist requires hard work, dedication and persistence. Taking classes on relevant topics such as safety measures and techniques used for shading, building a portfolio of artwork, staying up-to-date on trends and cultivating strong communication skills are just some of the ways that aspiring artists can gain an edge over competitors in order to make their mark in this industry!

Tattoo artist doing Tattoo on a person body


Practice Your Artform

A good artist may believe that they are already halfway towards becoming an excellent tattooist. However, experience in the industry is required to truly understand the nuances of this craft. Working on a human canvas requires significantly more skill and finesse than working on paper, a stretched fabric canvas, or a digital tablet. The evolution of tattooing as an art form has created the need for even more specialized knowledge when it comes to correctly executing tattoos on human skin - which is a permeable and breathing material that shifts with each undulation of the body. 


For starters, the artist must take into consideration the curvature of bodies to provide adequate coverage while also highlighting certain areas; this is especially true when it comes to larger pieces and intricate designs. Additionally, skin tends to be thicker in some areas and thinner in others, forcing artists to adjust their needle depth accordingly depending on where they are working on the body. Furthermore, since the skin has its natural imperfections - such as wrinkles or scars - extra attention must be paid to ensure that these don't interfere with any design elements or distort them beyond recognition. 


Apart from knowledge about skin anatomy, professional tattooists must also have a strong understanding of colour theory; different colours require different needle depths and speeds for optimal pigmentation depending upon one's skin tone. As well, certain pigments can fade faster than others due to environmental factors like excessive sun exposure or chemical compounds found in everyday products like makeup and sunscreen. A great tattooist needs to not only have technical skills but also possess keen observation skills so they can determine what works best for each client's situation and tailor their techniques accordingly. All these elements come together to create a truly unique art form - requiring both artistic expression and meticulous skill for tattoos to look great over time!  

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During a tattoo session, even the most stubborn of sitters will find themselves unconsciously making slight movements, twitching their muscles and shifting to get comfortable. This is of course completely normal; after all, the human body naturally vibrates in its subtle way, although it's typically imperceptible to the naked eye. However, this can be problematic for a tattoo artist, as these tiny vibrations can hurt the crispness of their lines and shading. As such, tattoo artists must take extra care to ensure that their client remains as still as possible throughout their session, thus avoiding any unwanted distortion in the final product.


In addition to these minute vibrations, other factors can interfere with a successful tattooing experience. For example, if a person is feeling anxious or nervous about getting inked up, then their body may tense up which can lead to jerky movements or sudden flinches at the wrong moment. Furthermore, if they're not well-rested or dehydrated they may find it difficult to remain still for long periods; something that most tattoo artists already come accustomed to dealing with regularly. Lastly, given how delicate skin is when being pierced with ink needles; even a small shift from one side to another can cause an unexpected bleed and further blur the precision of a line work pattern. 


Overall then, when it comes down to successful tattooing experiences for both clients and artists alike; maintaining stillness during the process is paramount for ensuring that you end up with the desired outcome. From flexing muscles in pursuit of comfort through to minute bodily vibrations – staying properly aware of your body's movements is key for keeping those flash lines looking sharp and clean from start to finish!



 Practising your art using any medium is essential for improving your art skills and will enable you to measure proportions more precisely, as well as assist you with the intricacies of shadows and highlights. Additionally, it will assist in creating crisp line work. Building up a portfolio that includes flash sheets, and physical artwork across all scopes of styles such as blackwork, trad and neo-trad colour, as well as sketching down inspirational ideas or concepts will demonstrate to those within the tattoo industry that you take your work seriously. It is important when compiling these portfolios that they showcase a variety of different elements to truly capture the depth and breadth of your artistic abilities. 


By simply spending time honing your art skills regularly, you can learn how to bring out intricate details like fine lines and shadowing that can be difficult to achieve with traditional methods. As well as this, practising enables you to train your eyes for accuracy when measuring proportions; creating images within an exact framework allows for a more pleasing end product. Moreover, by committing yourself fully to learning these techniques through practice, you can begin to understand how light interacts with dark elements in a scene or environment and how these nuances affect the overall look of the final product. 


Having a portfolio full of diverse works which display these newfound capabilities is essential for anyone trying to break into the tattoo industry. Submitting pieces that demonstrate an understanding of different styles including blackwork, trad, neo-trad colour etc., gives industry professionals assurance that an artist has taken the time to perfect their craft and is confident enough in their skillset that they are looking for ways to further develop them. Furthermore, adding sketches or smaller pieces which capture just snippets or fragments of bigger ideas shows potential employers that not only do they have artistic skill but creative originality too; something which counts greatly when it comes to tattoo work. 


Overall thus far it has been established that practising one's art with any medium is highly beneficial to improve technique; when it comes specifically to tattoos however having a portfolio that displays mastery over multiple styles alongside creative originality is key in terms of being successful in this field.


Understand Anatomy and Health Guidelines

Behind every art form, from sculpture to poetry, are rules and guidelines to help you provide an excellent end product. Yet while it’s fine to play fast and loose with the rules of some artistic endeavours, ignoring the rules behind tattooing can lead to disastrous results. 


When dealing with the human canvas, it is crucial to adhere to relevant health and sanitation regulations to create a safe environment for both the tattoo artist and their clients. In particular, tattoo artists are extremely strict when it comes to maintaining a high level of cleanliness. This entails using new sterilized needles for every single client (a practice that originated from renowned tattoo artist Sailor Jerry) as well as thoroughly sanitizing their station and couches before and after each session. What’s more, they must also equip themselves with knowledge of anatomy and physiology to gain an understanding of the layers of skin and related issues that may occur when proper aftercare instructions are not followed. 


There are several ways to acquire such expertise - for instance, one can take part in a state-run certification course that usually covers this subject matter, though certain requirements may differ from one state to another. Doing so not only provides you with a comprehensive grasp of the key concepts but also offers a significant advantage over your peers who are vying to break into the industry.

Fake female body for tattoo designs


Look For A Tattoo Apprenticeship

The best way of learning the tattoo trade is to seek out a tattoo apprenticeship from a shop that you respect and trust. Be prepared to do some legwork here, as your ideal tattooist may not have an apprenticeship slot available; or, perhaps they work with an art style very different from your own and feel you’re not the right person for their shop. 

 When NY Ink’s Megan Massacre first started tattooing, she sought out a tattoo apprenticeship at the tender age of 14 but was run out of the shop before she had a chance to ask any decent questions. Perseverance was key for her, though. 

A few years later, she found herself in a tattoo shop after driving a friend for an interview there and was asked to draw a few sketches for the owner. The result? They asked her if she wanted to make her first tattoo right then and there. Eighteen years later, she is still tattooing; and she is now the face of Grit and Glory, a New York tattoo parlour and clothing boutique that offers mentorship to people hoping to work in the tattoo industry. 

Learn the Tools of the Trade

When you’ve found a tattoo apprenticeship that suits you, it’s important to continue your learning process to improve your tattoo ability and the skills you’ll need to stand out against the glut of artists worldwide. 

Some tattoo apprentices have very generous artists at their disposal who don’t mind offering you an inch or two of body space to practice on. Most likely, though, you’ll learn to tattoo on fruit – grapefruit seems to be a good replica for human skin – and tattoo practice skin, which is a replica skin made of natural pig skin or synthetic material that replicates the feel and porosity of human skin. 

You’ll also need to learn the difference between tattoo machines and you’ll likely find a preference for one over the other. The three main types of tattoo machines are coil machines which use an electromagnetic current that powers an armature that presses the needle onto the skin to release ink; the quieter rotary machine which tends to be better for smoother linework; and the pneumatic tattoo machine that is easier to clean using an autoclave. 

While traditional tattoo machines are wired, wireless tattoo machines that are operated by a foot pedal are becoming increasingly popular for tattooists interested in lightweight pen-style machines for shorter artworks.



Genisynth Tattoo Kit for Tattoing

Getting Started With Tattooing

While understanding the latest techniques and equipment used in tattooing is an essential part of the job, it’s important to remember those who paved the way before us, such as Sailor Jerry who introduced a style that is still popular today. 

 With detailed knowledge of the art form and an understanding of the human anatomy, an apprenticeship is not out of the realm of possibility. However, as always, hard work and dedication to your art form give you the best chance of succeeding as a tattoo artist.

3 Responses


August 02, 2022

Loved reading this! Some fantastic points. Look forward to seeing more articles soon!


July 22, 2022

Thank you Richard,
We can send it out asap just jump online and add to your cart and we will help with the rest. Thank you

Richard Nederpel
Richard Nederpel

July 22, 2022

Awesome read. Great tips. What’s the best way to het my kit?

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