How To Get A Tattooing License

  • Written By Dan Hunter on December 16, 2019
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

If you’re considering becoming a tattoo artist, you might need to get a tattoo license. This career path entails creativity and artistic abilities, as well as observing strict rules and regulations to assure safety and health.

In the United States, most states require some form of procedure for you to become licensed. You can start by checking out the laws related to tattooing in your state and county to know what applies to you.

Get a tattoo license by:

  • Considering an apprenticeship program
  • Checking out what the law is in your state and county
  • Applying with the necessary paperwork
  • Knowing and following the rules and regulations

Before Getting a Tattoo License

In some states, to become a licensed tattoo artist, you’ll need to first complete an apprenticeship period. According to the Alliance of Professional Tattooists, this should last at least three years.

If becoming a tattoo artist is part of your life plans, you may also benefit from taking tattoo artist education courses. Joining the Alliance of Professional Tattooists can also be a great idea to stay informed about licensing and regulations. It can also help you network and provide you with continuing education courses for your professional advancement.

Tattoo Artist Licensing

In the United States, tattooing is not regulated by federal law. For you to get a tattoo license, research the specific state where you’re going to be working.

Check the local health boards and ask them for information about the local rules and regulations on tattooing. Although most states require licensing for tattoo artists, the requirements vary according to the state.

Basic Laws

The basic laws to get a tattoo license are as varied as the colors in a rainbow. In some states, you’ll need to register with the state or boards of health to get permission to tattoo. But in states like Virginia, the matter is in the hands of civil and local governments. 

Rules and Regulations

All tattoo artists and parlors are under the jurisdiction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — OSHA. As a result, they’re obliged to receive initial and annual training on hazards and protective measures against exposure to blood-borne pathogens. 

In some states, such as Nevada, there’s no requirement to get a certification, and you’ll only need to comply with the health rules and regulations. In others, such as Oregon or North Carolina, you’re required to get a license from the state to be able to work as a tattoo artist.


The cost of the license also varies. According to where you are, it can usually be anything between $25 and $500. For example, in New York, the cost is $100, whereas in, New Mexico, it’s $300.

License Renewal

In some states, you may be required to complete several seminars and classes for you to be able to renew your license. These can be seminars in disease prevention, training in blood-borne pathogen prevention, and about skin diseases and infections.


The documents you need to get a tattoo license vary between states. Make sure to check which ones you need before applying.

Here are some examples of the most common forms of documentation that might be needed:

  • High school diploma or G.E.D. 
  • Communicable Diseases course certifications
  • Proof of completion of Basic First Aid/CPR training
  • Proof of completion of OSHA-approved Blood-borne Pathogens/Universal Precautions training
  • Proof of current vaccination status for hepatitis B or documentation of refusal to receive vaccination

OSHA’s Rules and Regulations

All tattoo artists and parlors have to comply with specific rules and regulations from OSHA to get and keep their license. The most critical areas in these regulations are around:

  • Sterilization
  • Best practice for before and after tattooing
  • Waste disposal
  • Flooring and furnishing


  • Non-disposable equipment should be scrubbed in hot water and soap and sterilized after use
  • If a tattoo artist uses acetate stencils, they should be sterilized with an antibacterial solution after every use
  • Paper stencils and markers used on the skin must be single-use only 
  • Tattoo needles must be new and sterile for each person being tattooed. 

During and After Tattooing

  • Artists with diarrhea, vomiting, fever, or with rash or skin infections aren’t allowed to tattoo
  • Cuts and sores should be bandaged 
  • Before any procedure, artists must first wash their hands with warm water and antibacterial soap
  • Needles, tattoo machine tubes and razors to shave the skin are meant for single-use only
  • After applying a tattoo, the artist must wash the area with a towel soaked in an antibacterial solution

Waste Disposal

  • Used wipes, bandages, exclusion drapes and gloves should be disposed of in a hazardous waste bin
  • Sharps bins should be solid and feature puncture-resistant and leak-proof walls
  • Hazardous and sharp waste should be disposed of by a licensed contractor 

Floors and Furnishing

  • Tattoo parlors should have separate work and waiting areas, allow for customer privacy, be well-ventilated and have adequate lighting
  • There should be a clean and working toilet 
  • The studio must be constructed in a way that makes it easy to clean
  • Furniture should be made of smooth, non-absorbent and corrosive material
  • Floors shouldn’t be carpeted to avoid absorbing absorb blood
  • Material applied to the skin, such as dyes or pigments, should be single-use containers. These are to be stored in an area away from bathrooms or contaminated areas

Get Your Tattoo License 

Getting a tattoo license is often required for you to become a tattoo artist. Researching the law on tattooing in your specific state and county is very important, as there are many variables.

We advise you to check with the authorities and local health board about the requirements that are needed for tattoo licensing. In the United States, all tattoo artists and parlors are under the jurisdiction of OSHA. If you want to get a license, know that you will have to follow their rules and regulations, and take courses regarding safety and health measures related to tattooing.

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