There are two ways to become a licensed tattoo artist. Traditionally, tattooist have trained via apprenticeships with a particular parlor. These apprenticeships can be hard to get depending on where you live and how well you know the current staff at the parlor. Apprenticeships typically run for two years depending on the studio and the student's skill level. They can cost upwards of $20,000 or involve two years of non-paid work. Tattoo schools teach students the art and safeties of tattoo in a classroom-type setting.
Create a portfolio of drawings to prove that first, you are an artist, and second, that you have the ability to ink someone's body. A portfolio is a collection of work that you've created. In this case drawings. Include 10 to 20 drawings that indicate your diversity as an artist. This portfolio will not only help you land an apprenticeship or get you into a school, it may also help in obtaining an artist's grant.
Apply for a tattoo school or apprenticeship. Schools, like the International Institute of Tattoo, Brazos Valley, Texas, have been approved for different types of financial aid. In order to receive federal financial aid the school must be recognized as an accredited vocational school. Depending on your dependency status, you may also qualify for government grants. There is no financial aid for apprenticeships.
Speak with the school you have been accepted to about funding options. If there are any known grants or sources of financial aid, the school will know about it and provide you with that information.
Search the internet for tattoo school and apprenticeship grants and artist education grants. Sometimes when trying to locate a grant you have to get creative. The National Endowment for the Arts is the national organization that funds artists. An arts education grant or an arts grant focused on developing a talented artist's career may include learning how to be a tattoo artist a career development in the way of art.
Write a proposal and apply. A well-prepared, concise and provocative application will get you noticed, especially if you're applying for something different than anyone has ever applied for that particular grant. Tattooing isn't yet seen as an art form by the majority, and in that way, you may have to work harder at finding a funder, but it could also set you apart. Write a compelling grant application and have the portfolio to back-up your talent and funding through an arts grant may be possible.