So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and become a licensed tattoo artist, or open your own studio. Congratulations! The question probably on your mind is ‘how do I get a tattoo license?’
Nowadays, tattooing has become a booming business. For artistically inclined individuals, becoming a certified tattoo artist is a fantastic career choice. However, in the United States, tattooing regulations differ depending on your age, education level, certifications, and the state in which you plan to practice. In addition, there are a few fundamental criteria that can aid you on your way to getting your tattoo license.
Most states in the United States mandate you to obtain a tattoo license before becoming a tattoo artist, while others may require you to maintain a formal business location.
It should be emphasized that there is no federal law that regulates the profession of tattooing, therefore each state’s regulation of the industry is up to them.
This article will take you through everything you need to know to get a tattoo license in any state the USA.
Things You'll Need to get a Tattoo License
Tattoos have become more widely accepted over time. Thus, tattooing, the art of creating permanent ink designs onto a person’s skin, has become a profitable business.
While the admiration for body art continues to grow, states have struggled to keep up with ensuring tattoo artists operate safely and have the minimum knowledge in subjects such as Bloodborne Pathogens.
As a result, requirements for obtaining a tattoo license were established in most states.
The following are the general requirements you need to get a tattoo license in the United States:
CPR Certification (Only required in some states)
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification is earned by successful completion of a certified first aid course at an accredited hospital, health care facility, or training facility. The course covers both theoretical and practical aspects of CPR.
In taking up CPR classes, you will learn how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation as well as how to determine when it is necessary to use it if it is ever necessary in your tattoo studio.
First Aid Certification (Only required in some states)
Obtaining a first-aid certificate empowers you to assist other individuals and even animals in need during emergencies. While most individuals attend training as part of a job requirement, these abilities are extremely useful in everyday settings, and the course is open to anybody.
First aid training typically addresses a broad range of techniques for assisting someone who has been injured in emergencies like choking, cuts, fractures, and everything in between.
OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Certification for Tattoo Artists (Required by all states)
This certification is the most important as it is required as part of the federal OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1030 Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. In addition, it is the most pertinent certification to tattoo studios.
Bloodborne pathogens training is required for all tattoo artists, body artists, micro-bladers, permanent cosmetic artists, body modification artists, piercers and others who are exposed to blood and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) in the course of their daily practice.
The course must meet the minimum requirements of OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, in addition to any extras specified by the state.
Here is an example Bloodborne Pathogens Certificate for tattoo artists from our site:
The training will cover subjects such as bloodborne pathogen terminology, modes of transmission, exposure control plans, universal precautions, hepatitis B immunizations, engineering and work practice controls, the anatomy of the skin, infection controls in a body art studio or clinic, and other material crucial to the tattoo artist’s and clients safety.
This course may also include additional subjects on infection control, aseptic procedures, and disease transmission prevention. While the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard does not mandate these subjects, several states do, and it is strongly recommended to take a tailor made bloodborne pathogens training for tattoo artists course even if they are not required in your state.
If you like, you can take a bloodborne pathogens certification for tattoo artists practice test here before you take a course
Practical or Written Exam (State specific)
The written tattoo artist test will cover required knowledge for professional tattoo artists as well as the laws that regulate their profession.
Candidates who score less than 75% on the laws and regulations section or the professional knowledge questions for tattoo artists must retake the entire written test.
As for the practical exam, on a live model, you will exhibit the abilities you have learned by performing a service linked to your profession. Examiners will assess your competence to complete these activities while keeping a safe and sanitary environment.
Documentation of Apprenticeship
One of the initial stages of getting a tattoo license is to complete an apprenticeship. A formal apprenticeship is like enrolling in a trade school; you do it for the skills and information you will gain, the connections you will establish, the certification you will get, as well as for your professional résumé.
You must seek a skilled tattoo artist who believes you have enough potential to be worth the time and work it will require in training you.
Tattoo Art Portfolio
Tattoo artists, like all other artists, require a portfolio. A tattoo artists portfolio may be a physical portfolio, an online portfolio website or other digital showcase. It should display all the designs, sketches, and examples of your previous tattoo work such that clients may get a sense of your tattoo style.
Most tattoo artists nowadays have a web profile in addition to a printed copy of their portfolio.
Obtain Your Tattoo License Certifications and other Requirements
So now you know what you need and why, the next question you probably have is how the heck do I get all that? Don’t worry – we will now go thru step by step on how to obtain all those requirements.
Step 1: CPR Certification
In many states you must be certified to perform CPR and first-aid. Aside from the American Heart Association (AHA), you can also obtain a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification through the American Red Cross.
The American Red Cross has something of a monopoly on CPR training despite there being many other (in our opinion much more modern and better made) online CPR courses – to save yourself some hassle it’s probably best just to use them for CPR training so you will know your state will accept it.
In contrast we do not recommend the American Red Cross bloodborne pathogen training – it is very outdated, only works on desktop computers and is not tattoo specific – don’t worry though, we’ve got your covered for bloodborne pathogens training.
Step 2: First Aid Online Course
A First Aid Online Course is also required. It must consist of an online element as well as a hands-on session with a certified first-aid instructor.
Step 3: Bloodborne Pathogen Training and Certificate
Here at bloodbornecertification.com, we offer free Bloodborne Pathogens training for tattoo artists that will get you bloodborne pathogens certified online in about 2 hours. Register for a course and take it either on your laptop, tablet, or phone, you can choose to buy an immediate Bloodborne Pathogens Certificate valid for 12 months once you pass.
Ready to jump in and make a start now? Just enter your email below to immediately start the training course and finish it whenever you like.
Step 4: Creating a Tattoo Art Portfolio
After selecting the pieces that you want to exhibit, purchase a portfolio large enough to hold your largest drawings and outputs. Remember to include a watermark or signature in all of your work and ensure that everything is accounted for. To create an online tattoo portfolio there are many options – you could host your own site on WordPress or Wix, or simply create a portfolio page on your favorite social media platform.
Step 5: Get a Tattoo Apprenticeship
The most expedient way to find an apprenticeship is to walk into your neighborhood tattoo business and inquire whether they are taking apprentices. It is important to remember to bring your portfolio together with your Bloodborne Pathogens certificate, and your CPR and first-aid certifications if they are required in your state.
Step 6: State Tattoo License Examination
The final step in earning your tattoo license is through undertaking a written exam, which is normally intended to fulfill the state health department’s standards. The cost of obtaining the required license and the exam varies by state.
What Do I Need To Get a Tattoo License In My State?
This is one of the things that gets people very confused because many states in the USA have specific criteria that you need to meet to get a tattoo license.
To make things super simple for you we have provided a quick overview and links to every state tattoo licensing information in the table below. Just locate your state and make sure you have all the requirements covered before applying for your tattoo license!
Just type your State Name in the search box to find out what you need to get a tattoo license.
|State (A-Z)||CPR Required||First Aid Required||Bloodborne Pathogens Required||High School Diploma Required||State Specific Requirements||Link to .gov state licensing info|
|Alabama||✓||Documentation of attendance at a bloodborne pathogen course or training program offered or approved by the Health Department within the last 36 months before applying for the permit||https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/foodsafety/body-art.html|
|Alaska||✓||✓||A certified true copy of the current CPR card and blood-borne pathogens card||https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/portals/5/pub/bah4464.pdf|
|Arizona||No license required|
|California||✓||LEA-Approved Bloodborne Pathogen Course Completion Certificate||https://www.placer.ca.gov/3294/Tattoos-Body-Art|
|Colorado||✓||✓||✓||LEA-Approved Bloodborne Pathogen Course Completion Certificate and Red Cross CPR and First Aid Certification||https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/tattoo-and-piercing-body-art|
|Connecticut||✓||✓||A completed course on disease transmission prevention and blood-borne pathogens that meets the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration's standards is required. A basic first aid course by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association must be completed.||https://portal.ct.gov/DPH/Practitioner-Licensing--Investigations/Tattoo/Tattoo-Technician|
|Delaware||Shops must be registered and store owners must have permission from the Delaware Department of Health however no individual license is required.||https://firststeps.delaware.gov/body_art/|
|Florida||✓||Proof must be provided. A score of 70% or above is required.||http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/tattooing/tattoo-artist.html|
|Georgia||✓||✓||✓||Evidence of completion of an OSHA-approved Bloodborne Pathogen/Universal Precautions training program and a Red Cross Basic First Aid/CPR certification or equivalent is needed.||https://dph.georgia.gov/environmental-health/body-art|
|Hawaii||✓||Proof of Successful Completion of a Bloodborne Pathogens Course from an Accredited Training Facility is required||https://health.hawaii.gov/san/files/2018/06/instructions-to-obtain-tattoo-artist-license.pdf|
|Idaho||Businesses must be registered and store owners must have permission from the Idaho Department of Healthb but still, no individual license is needed.|
|Iowa||✓||✓||Online diplomas will not be accepted. A high school transcript is acceptable but it must specify the date of graduation.||https://idph.iowa.gov/tattoo/artists|
|Kentucky||Tattoo artists are not required to obtain licenses in Kentucky but they must register their operations to be certified and inspected.||https://louisvilleky.gov/government/health-wellness/services/tattoo-and-body-art|
|Louisiana||Tattoo artists in Louisiana are not required to be licensed. It simply requires shop registration and permission from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals for business owners but no individual license is necessary.||https://ldh.la.gov/index.cfm/page/622|
|Maryland||✓||Tattoo and body piercing shops are not licensed by the Maryland Department of Health. However you must adhere to special tattooing standards which specify that all tattooing must be carried out under State regulations governing skin penetrating body ornamentation methods.||https://health.maryland.gov/phpa/OEHFP/EH/Pages/Tattooing.aspx|
|Missouri||✓||✓||✓||Proof must be provided. The CPR and First Aid course must be offered by reputable organizations such as the American Red Cross American Heart Association or National Safety Council.||https://pr.mo.gov/tattooing.asp|
|Nebraska||✓||✓||✓||For bloodborne pathogen training. If you have not accomplished so in the last three years completion of two hours of bloodborne pathogen training that includes cleanliness infection control safety and sterilizing protocols is required. For first-aid training. If you have not accomplished so in the last three years completion of two-hour first aid training from a registered facility is needed.||https://www.nebraska.gov/rules-and-regs/regsearch/Rules/Health_and_Human_Services_System/Title-172/Chapter-044.pdf|
|North Carolina||✓||✓||A tattoo artist must have a certificate of completing a Bloodborne Pathogens course as authorized by the Department. A current American Red Cross First Aid Certification. A current Adult Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Certification must also be obtained from either the American Red Cross the American Heart Association or the National Safety Council on an annual basis.||https://www.guilfordcountync.gov/our-county/human-services/health-department/environmental-health/tattoo-piercing-information|
|Oregon||✓||✓||✓||✓||For bloodborne pathogen training completed bloodborne pathogens training from an HLO-approved provider. For CPR and First Aid Documentation from an HLO-approved provider demonstrating completion of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and basic first aid training must be submitted.||https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/HLO/Pages/Board-Body-Art-Practitioners-Tattoo-Artists-License.aspx|
|Pennsylvania||Tattoo artists in Pennsylvania do not need to pass exams or obtain a license to practice.|
|South Dakota||✓||In South Dakota the practices of tattooing and permanent makeup are not regulated by the state.|