Tattoo artists earn their title through an apprenticeship, when they’re professionally trained to safely and sanitarily tattoo skin. To become an apprentice, one must have natural artistic ability, especially since customers request customization. The apprenticeship lasts for two years, and for the first six months, the apprentice is not allowed to tattoo. It’s during this time that he or she is trained on sanitation and proper safety techniques.
After the apprenticeship, a person can call him- or herself a tattoo artist and work in a tattoo parlor. Those who do not complete the apprenticeship and practice the art of tattooing are called scratchers. They often operate out of their home and do not have the proper licensing, so they could put people’s health in jeopardy.
Training differs in other parts of the world. In Japan, for example, the apprenticeship lasts many years. An apprentice often lives with her or his instructor and spends several years cleaning the shop and building the necessary tools before they begin tattooing. During their training, apprentices must copy their master’s designs over and over again until they’re perfect.