The Official Blog for Tattoo Artist Magazine

Brandon Collins: “So you wanna be a tattoo artist?”

By Brandon Collins

Reblogged from:


With the invention of tattoo “reality” shows, the average un-tattooed or mildly tattooed person is led to believe that tattoo artists are superheroes: they can draw an entire back piece in 15 minutes, go out to the clubs all night and still come to work on time, able to tattoo whatever you want, wherever you want it.

That sounds awfully appealing to some kids–but it couldn’t be any further from the truth. Anyone who has spent time in a tattoo shop knows that most tattooers are your average hardworking dads and moms with mortgages, car payments and phone bills,not prima donna rockstars that get VIP everywhere and drive Lamborghini’s. Those TV shows make a mockery of our profession and because of them, our trade has been diluted by half-ass, mediocre tattooers. Not only have these hacks not paid their dues, but they pump out crappy $20 tattoos that the average joes doesn’t even realize are shit.

Before deciding you want to be a tattooer, think about this: Say my appointment for the day doesn’t show up, so that $400 I needed to pay rent and put food on my table will just have to wait. If YOU go to work and no one shows up, YOU still get paid and so you can afford to sit home home and watch “TATTOO SCHOOL” and say to your stoned roommate “bro, I can totally do that shit!”. You get breaks and paid holidays, insurance and an guaranteed paycheck every week. We don’t. We work 50-60 hours a week tattooing, drawing and painting with no medical benefits and no retirement funds.

Don’t listen to your family. That skull with the lightning bolts and a joint in its mouth you drew in the 8th grade ISN’T amazing. Your parents, close family members and friends are always going to tell you that you are a natural artist. Their biased encouragement will only give you the false confidence to go into a tattoo shop and get your feelings hurt. Tattooing isn’t a hobby or something just to pass the time. It is a profession and a sole mean of income, so if you think we will welcome you and your “tat guns” into our trade with open arms, you are sorely mistaken. Apprenticeships are meant to be hard–to weed out the undeserving. If you are lucky enough to get one (and I do mean lucky) you will be taught a skill that can carry you for the rest of your life and you are forever indebted to the person who taught you. There are those dip-shits that don’t have the balls to go into a tattoo shop and try to get an apprenticeship – or they did and were tossed out, just order some “guns” online and “do tats” out of their house. Not only is this completely disgusting, unsanitary and unethical, but also illegal. Don’t even think about doing that. Those fucktards can do some real and irreversible damage to someone not to mention potentially spread disease.

Most tattoo artists don’t make a lot of money. Tattooers get paid by the hour but that money isn’t dumped right into our pockets. We have to give a percentage to the shop and pay for supplies and what-not. In reality we only get a fraction of what we charge for your tattoo. So when you tell me, “Dannnng $100?… Thats a lot, you must be rich!” and I want to run a steel spike through your head, you will understand why. As I mentioned before, if an appointment doesn’t show up or you don’t have anything scheduled, you don’t get paid. Imagine going to your job at Home Depot or where ever and working a full day without pay.

So next time you have the urge to be like Kat Von D or whatever rockstar tattooer is the flavor of the week… remember this: Countless hours of work for minimal pay and no benefits is the life that we have chosen and will defend with extreme prejudice. Do yourself a favor: keep your day job, and leave our profession alone.

Brandon owns and works at Nightmare Studios in Reno, NV.

9 responses

  1. I agree with you, but I have a steady job and I love drawing and painting, I would love to tattoo. I do not see it as a profession, I see it as a hobby, because I can become so skilled as a professional (of course require much more time to practice and learn) and I would do it for the love and passion not for the money.

    November 26, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    • Glad to know you ignored everything he wrote. Don’t begin a comment with “I agree” and then follow it by telling us how much you actually disagree… or, maybe you just didn’t understand. Read again. In fact, keep reading until you get it.

      December 6, 2013 at 11:56 PM

      • Jack, I was about to say the same thing.

        March 1, 2014 at 1:41 PM

  2. I know this is true but not for all…I will not be discouraged with this…instead I will be more challenge to pursue my interest in tatooing…thank you for this…

    November 27, 2013 at 12:53 AM

  3. This is not only true for tattoo artists. Try being self employed at a LOCAL business (not one of the big corporations). 80 to 100 hours a week is not uncommon and if they do have health insurance it’s because they pay for it 100% which is not cheap. I have a boat load of respect for good tattoo artists, especially the ones who own their own shop. Being a tattoo artist is not easy but being a tattoo artist who owns their own shop is even harder!

    November 27, 2013 at 7:26 AM

  4. I can relate to the frustration level of this post, but I’ve found that negative criticism only drives the herd. Tattoo TV aside, the crappy tattoo artist epidemic has its root in BAD SHOP OWNERS. You will only see a change when shop owners refuse to hire the unskilled and under qualified. Unfortunately, in my 21 years of tattooing I’ve seen more and more kids hired and handed machines with no training. It’s the quantity over quality mentality of these business owners that produced the next flock of suck ass tattoo artists. Not scratching at home mind you, in “legit” shops.
    The best thing you can offer a young artist is guidance and mentoring. You aren’t going to stop anyone from doing what they want. Let’s help them do it right.
    Keith Ciaramello

    December 6, 2013 at 7:52 AM

  5. Nice – I love when people speak the truth (especially in retaliation to whatever pop-culture phemon movement is lying to our overly-bored and highly spoiled society).

    December 8, 2013 at 11:49 AM

  6. This Is AMAZING!
    Words can not describe the accuracy of this article.
    Brandon Collins you are a pioneer of the New School Tattoo Industry.

    December 27, 2013 at 7:02 PM

  7. I 100% agree with this as somebody who goes to an amazing artist and is happy to pay what some people would consider an unnecessary amount for “just a tattoo” (as they put it) – however – it would be nice if, instead of artists bitching about the dickheads who go to scratchers and cheap shops, they actually gave some thanks and recognition to the customers who DO choose to give them their trust and hard-earned money instead of the rest of the hundreds of astounding artists they have to choose from……. Tattoo snobbery is getting a bit much amongst some artists these days… That is all.

    January 7, 2014 at 1:16 AM

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,796,152 other followers