How To Create a Tattoo Apprentice Portfolio in 8 Steps

Updated June 30, 2023

Most aspiring tattoo artists complete apprenticeships before working independently. When hiring apprentices, employers usually require you to submit a portfolio. Knowing how to create a portfolio can help you showcase your work and differentiate yourself from other candidates. In this article, we explain how to create a tattoo apprentice portfolio in eight simple steps.

What is a tattoo apprenticeship?

A tattoo apprenticeship is a learning experience for professionals aspiring to enter this field. An apprentice receives training from an experienced tattoo artist for around one to two years. Positions are available at various tattoo shops and may or may not offer compensation.

During the first several weeks, apprentices learn basic skills like how to build a machine. They also study essential safety and sanitation techniques so that they can practice on fake skin and eventually work on actual clients. Continual supervision from an experienced artist ensures apprentices maintain a sterile environment and recommend the appropriate body placements for tattoos.

Related: How To Get a Tattoo Apprenticeship To Start Your Career

Why is a tattoo apprentice portfolio important?

Most employers typically require a portfolio with a tattoo apprentice application because it can:

  • Demonstrate your artistic capabilities: Tattoo shops serve many clients, making it important for you to demonstrate your familiarity with common styles and drawing techniques.

  • Convey your unique style: While your portfolio may comprise common designs, you can incorporate your unique style to prove that you can present clients with original drawings.

  • Highlight your qualifications: The "About" page of your portfolio supports your illustrations by elaborating on formal education and training.

  • Differentiate you from other candidates: If a tattoo artist receives several applications for an apprenticeship, your portfolio can differentiate you from other candidates in this competitive field.

Related: 11 Pros and Cons of Being a Tattoo Artist (Plus Duties)

How to create a tattoo apprentice portfolio

Here's how to create a tattoo apprentice portfolio:

1. Make a compelling cover page

A cover page introduces your portfolio to employers considering you as a tattoo apprentice. It's a professional component that many candidates exclude, so adding one can help you appear more professional. Consider including your name, phone number and email address so that employers can easily schedule an interview.

While simple cover pages are appropriate, you can use unique designs to convey your creativity. Incorporating your signature tattoo style can assure employers you're a good fit for their tattoo shop. If you decide to make a creative cover page, consider designing it after you compile your pieces so that you can summarize them in a single design.

Download Portfolio Cover Page Template

To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.

2. Create an "About" page

Consider making the next page of your portfolio an "About" page with a professional headshot and bio. The bio can list relevant qualifications, such as a degree in fine arts or illustration training. These qualifications assure tattoo artists that you have a good foundation to learn more advanced techniques. You can also describe your artistic style, passion for tattooing and professional goals. Many employers like to hire apprentices who want to advance their careers within their shops. Consider including your social media handles on your "About" page. Employers can gauge your professionalism and view other pieces that you post.

3. Select 50-100 of your best designs

Review your sketchbooks and digital drawings to select 50-100 of your best designs. You can demonstrate your artistic abilities by choosing illustrations that use techniques like shadowing, highlighting and blending. Showcasing styles that clients might ask for can also increase the chances of employers hiring you. For instance, clients commonly request tribal designs, watercolor styles and realistic tattoos. Try to incorporate a mix of color and black-in designs to showcase your range.

Related: How Much Do Tattoo Artists Make? And Other FAQs

4. Scan your designs

If some of your designs are in a sketchbook, you can scan them into your computer or upload well-lit pictures of them. Once you have all of your physical and digital drawings as files, upload them to your website or a page layout software. Try standardizing the image quality and resizing each picture on its own page. This process ensures your portfolio is uniform and clearly displays each design to tattoo artists.

5. Use photo editing software

Some aspiring apprentices use photo editing software to make their portfolios appear more professional. You might want to remove distracting elements like marks and dust from a page's white space. You could also increase the brightness to help tattoo artists see your work. If you decide to use photo editing software, try to keep your adjustments subtle to accurately showcase your artistic abilities.

Related: Learn How To Become a Tattoo Removal Technician

6. Organize your designs by category

Aspiring apprentices include several designs to showcase their unique styles. You can make it easier for tattoo artists to sort through your work by organizing designs. Consider how you might group your work and designate a category for each one. Common categories include color, black ink, tribal designs and intricate lettering. Then add dividers for each category or create a table of contents at the beginning of your portfolio.

7. Publish your portfolio online

When you finalize your portfolio, consider publishing it to a personal website. You can easily share this digital copy with tattoo artists who are looking for apprentices. As you create more pieces, you can update your website by replacing the old ones with new ones. Your website is also ideal for providing more information about your career and linking to your social media pages.

Related: How To Write an Effective Tattoo Artist Resume in 7 Steps

8. Print a hard copy

Consider printing a hard copy of your portfolio that you can reference during apprenticeship interviews. Try printing each design on its own page and inserting two pages into clear page protectors. A hardcover binder is practical for further protecting the pages while maintaining a professional appearance. The cost of the page protectors, binder and colored ink is often worth it to differentiate yourself from other candidates who may not have a hard copy of their portfolio.


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