Tattoo Artist Ringa Kirituhi

Tattoo artists use sterilised skin-piercing equipment and ink or jewellery to decorate people's skin.

Tattoo artists may do some or all of the following:

  • explain tattooing and piercing procedures to clients
  • help clients choose images or jewellery
  • copy or design images for clients
  • make stencils of images
  • prepare and sterilise skin
  • use inked needles or traditional tools to create decorative, cosmetic or paramedical (covering scars or buns) tattoos
  • pierce or cut skin and insert jewellery
  • sterilise equipment and make sure their studio meets health and safety standards.

Cosmetic Tattooist/Permanent Make-up Artist or Paramedical Tattooist

To become a cosmetic tattooist/permanent make-up artist or paramedical tattooist, you can complete a course, such as a certificate in cosmetic tattooing, at a private academy.

Physical Requirements

Tattoo artists need good hand-eye co-ordination and good physical and mental stamina, as they need to concentrate for long periods.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for tattoo artists includes:

  • work in visual arts
  • hands-on arts and crafts jobs
  • work in beauty, healthcare, retail or customer services.

Personal Qualities

Tattoo artists need to be:

  • creative and artistic
  • patient and confident
  • responsible
  • able to handle criticism
  • calm 
  • good at listening and communicating with people

Tattoo artists should not be squeamish.


Tattoo artists need to have :

  • drawing skills and the ability to create different artistic styles
  • skill in using tattooing or piercing equipment
  • knowledge of human anatomy and how to prevent, recognise and treat infections
  • knowledge of disinfectants, health and safety, and hygiene
  • first aid skills.

Self-employed body artists also need business management skills.


Tattoo artists usually:

  • work varied hours, including late nights and weekends
  • work in tattoo studios, beauty salons and cosmetic clinics
  • work in conditions where they may be exposed to blood and infections.

Subject Recommendations

No specific secondary education is required for this job. However, painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking (combined), maths, te reo Māori, design and visual communication, and health to at least NCEA Level 1 are useful.

Experienced tattoo artists may progress to set up their own tattoo business.

Tattoo artists may specialise in tattooing or body piercing, or in the following roles:

Cosmetic Tattooist/Permanent Make-up Artist
Cosmetic tattooists/permanent make-up artists apply tattoo make-up, such as lipliner and eyeliner.
Paramedical Tattooist
Paramedical tattooists apply tattoos to people who have had accidents, operations or illnesses. For example, they may tattoo eyebrows for someone who has lost their hair.

Years Of Training

<1 year of training usually required.

There are no specific requirements to become a tattoo artist. 

Tattoo artists are usually trained in an informal, often unpaid, apprenticeship by experienced tattoo artists or body piercers.

Art courses are useful for tattoo artists. Small business courses are useful for tattoo artists who want to run their own business.

Tattoo Artist