I Was A Tattoo Apprentice For A Day, And Here Are All The Do's, Don't's, And Random Tidbits I Learned


    Hi, I'm Syd! As you could probably conclude, I'm a writer here at BuzzFeed. HOWEVER, when I'm not hunched over my computer screen scouring Reddit for all the good things that happened that week or the hottest take from Hooters employees, I dream of being a tattoo artist.

    I've always been fascinated by the world of tattooing — the traditions, the different styles, the simultaneous appreciation and reinvention of the old — and so I got inspired to start drawing tattoo designs during the height of the pandemic.

    Since falling more and more in love with art and design, all that's been on my mind has been getting behind a tattoo machine. Needless to say, when High Hopes Tattoo Shop said they'd let me apprentice for a day — and even let me do one of my own designs!!! — I IMMEDIATELY said yes!!!!!!!!

    When the morning came, I hightailed my tush to Brooklyn. I was so excited to learn to tattoo and to get to do so in a kind, inclusive environment.

    Once I arrived, I was quickly thrown into my "apprenticeship," where I got to talk to and learn from several artists: Ilia, ET, and Szabla. For your reading pleasure, here's everything they taught me during my experience (which is one I wish I could relive 10 times over!!!):

    1. First off, the amount of times you need to "re-glove" before, during, and after tattooing is EXHAUSTING (crucial, yet exhausting).

    2. NEVER touch your cellphone while tattooing unless you've wrapped it in a clear bag or something.

    A photo showing where to never put your cellphone while tattooing.

    3. Once you get behind a machine, you have to practice tattooing on fake skin, or sometimes even pig skin.

    Fake skin to practice tattooing on.

    4. You can't tattoo over birthmarks, moles, or any other skin condition.

    Arrow pointing to a mole on someone's clavicle

    5. The most common tattoo requests they get are butterflies and roses.

    6. Unsurprisingly, you should never get tattooed while you're drunk or hungover.

    7. Color theory in tattooing is an art in and of itself.

    8. Promoting yourself on social media is an overlooked part of the job.

    9. There are a bunch of types of tattoo machines, with the two most popular being coil and rotary.

    A coil and rotary tattoo machine

    10. There are lots of different kinds of needles, with them either being for outlining or shading.

    Various tattoo needles

    11. Apprentices usually spend months working on their craft before ever getting behind a machine.

    A tattoo apprentice drawing a tattoo

    12. A common exercise for apprentices is tracing their designs over and over again until they're perfect.

    13. Every artist sets up their station with their own personal preferences, but across the board, setting up involves a lot of disinfecting, re-gloving (over and over again), and saran wrap.

    Syd Robinson setting up her tattooing station.

    14. There are certain tattooing necessities every table needs.

    Arrows pointing out what every tattoo artist needs at their station

    15. You have to wrap your machine — and its cord, if it has one — in plastic wrap and then apply a grip.

    Syd Robinson applying a wrapping grip

    16. You sometimes have to retrace your stencil with marker if it comes out too light.

    17. The power you feel when first holding a tattoo machine is nothing short of EXHILARATING!!!!!!!

    Syd Robinson holding a tattoo machine.

    18. It takes a second to get used to the machine's vibrations, and it'll most likely throw you off.

    19. Technique is EVERYTHING, and there's a lot of it.

    20. You run out of ink quickly, and it pools up, so it can be hard to see what you're doing.

    Syd Robinson's tattooed stencil.

    21. Shading is a lot easier than line work (IMHO).

    Stencil with shading and line work

    22. Shading comes out SOOOOO MUCH lighter than you'd think it would.

    Examples of shading in tattooing.

    23. You have to be just as hygienic with cleaning up your station as you were setting it up.

    A dirty tattoo station

    24. And lastly, my biggest takeaway from this experience was witnessing firsthand how empowering tattooing is, and just how much care, artistry, and heart goes into it.

    Syd Robinson holding up her tattoo

    All in all, my day apprenticing at High Hopes was everything I'd hoped it'd be and so, SOOOO much more, and I couldn't be more grateful.


    Syd Robinson's tattoo