Evolved Tattoo Apprenticeship Curriculum


The information in each stage is not necessarily in chronological order. It will be presented little by little in context to the daily routines.

*Each stage must be thoroughly completed before progressing to the next level.

**Previous stages must be continued efficiently throughout progression!

***The duration of stages will vary according to each apprentice’s individual proficiency and motivation. This curriculum is not designed for independent study. It is imperative that the following curriculum is studied under the guidance of a trained, experienced professional tattooer.



-CPR, First Aid, and Blood Borne Pathogens and Principles of Infection Control certificates

-Hep B shots and/or a serological test (titer test)



-Personal Statement, “Why do you want to tattoo? (1pg) Why did you choose Evolved? (1pg)

-Read: “Modern Primitives” and write a response to each article

-Research and write about 10 favorite tattooers.

-A portfolio consisting of your own drawings, artwork, tattoo work, sketches or any other materials to support your artistic journeys

-Any other pertinent and/or interesting artistic affiliations or interests



Safety/ Hygiene:

-How and when to wash hands

-How and when to use hand sanitizer

-Keep fingernails clean

-Cuts, hangnails, and non-intact skin, How to Protect?

-Hand-Lotion – What kind and how often?

-What is bio hazard?

-Designate bio hazard areas

-What is cross contamination?

-What are universal and standard precautions?

-Learn how to put on and take off gloves

-Learn one-handed techniques

-How to open a clean field

-Read exposure control plan and needle stick procedure

-Spore Test: when, why, with who and what to do if test fails



-Dusting (non-bio)

-Counter tops (non-bio)

-Changing garbage bags (non-bio & bio)

-Restocking: cups, water, paper towels, and toilet paper (non-bio)

-Learn how to use/maintain Hepa filter, and Distiller (non-bio)

-Mopping (bio)

-Cleaning bathroom (bio)

-Learn to watch out for cross contamination in lobby and how to handle


Customer Service:

-Greeting customers – to relax and address fears

-Answering telephone – FAQs

-Learn register – receipts, ring in, and void out

-Credit card machine

-Learn to explain aftercare

-Begin learning to address problems in aftercare

-Read, know and be able to explain all customer release forms

-Learn how to address all tattoo-related customer issues – text, white tattoos, hand/foot tattoos, size/detail/aging, sunlight, body design/location/size/fitting, etc. Know when it’s appropriate for you to answer these questions and when it’s time to refer the client to an experienced tattooer


Written documentation/ readings:

-Start a personal  file for the shop

-Read and initial all state required literature, safety procedures, laws, manuals, policies, procedures, and equipment manuals

-Read labels and record observation of MSDS’s for everything in the shop

-Start a journal to record notes, observations, and questions

-Start promoting the shop – web, submissions, fliers, radio, business cards, social media, etc.

-Begin side readings and response to research on history of tattooing, tattoo publications and tattoo websites: Stoney Knows How, Machine Gun magazine, Tattoo Artist Magazine, etc.



-Start a sketchbook. Draw and sketch as much as possible. These sketches will eventually go on your 5 page set of flash.

-Practice lettering – Tracing and custom

-Meet with another tattooer at least once a week to show and discuss your work



Safety/ Hygiene:

-Learn the pros/cons of disposable tubes and steel (reused) tubes. Include the several options of steel-tipped disposables/ disposable tip only etc. and their perceived benefits. One piece tubes vs. multiple piece tubes

-Get familiarized with the bio hazard work areas

-Write out step by step procedure on how to change a sharps container. Begin changing sharps containers under observation

-Know about the bio hazard pickup/ drop-off

-Learn to use/maintain the ultrasonics

-Write out step by step procedure on how to clean tubes. Begin cleaning tubes under observation

-Learn the use of the Autoclave and keeping logs

-Learn to flush and maintain autoclave

-Learn to conduct spore tests

-Aprons, sleeves, masks, and goggles

-Start to learn cleaning and disinfecting


Observations, Set-ups, Break-downs and Stencils

-Watch and observe basic tattoos. Keep notes and ask questions after the client leaves

-Learn to explain and show everything you do during set-up and break-down. Write out detailed description

-Write out step by step procedure on how to make and apply stencils to the body. Begin performing the procedure under observation

-Write out step by step procedure on how to set-up and break-down for a tattoo. Begin performing set-ups and break-downs under observation


Written documentation/ readings:

-Rewrite/ update all procedures

-Make sure that new colleagues/ guest artists are following procedures

-Make a list of notes/ questions on any difficulties with these processes


Tattoo Supplies and Promotion:

-Learn products/ companies, keep log of who uses what and why

-Learn to place orders

-Obtain all equipment and supplies you will need (machines, power unit, needles, tubes, inks, clipcord, footswitch, etc.)

-Create self promotion materials (business cards, fliers, social media accounts, etc.)



-Lay out a 5 page set of flash in pencils using ideas from your sketchbook. 11” x 14”

-Continue working with lettering – Tracing and custom

-Meet with another tattooer at least once a week to show and discuss your work.

-Decide what medium and canvas you are going to use to finish your set of flash

-Design and finish a page of flash with simple, small, black designs for your clients to choose from



Basic Tattooing:

-Perform small tattoos on friends, co-workers under observation.  Always check with another tattooer before scheduling or doing a tattoo

-Get a photo of every tattoo, and a healed photo whenever possible (learn to use camera: lighting, healed pieces vs. fresh, online vs. print)

-Meet with a tattooer and discuss each tattoo you do:

-Differences between a fresh tattoo and a healed tattoo

-Learn about the various problems that can occur with tattoos. Such as blowouts, color not holding/patchy color, scarring, overworking, etc.

-Needle depth

-Tattooing on different areas of the body and the difficulty of each area

-Stretching skin

-Touch-ups and ways to avoid touch-ups in future tattoos

-Keep notes on tattoos – thoughts / results / observations / problems

-Make contact with other professional tattooers

-Trade information on techniques, aftercare ideas

-Start a hard and digital portfolio


Tattoo Machines, Tubes and Needles:

-Study machines and machine parts. Know and be able to explain how a tattoo machine works and the necessity of each of the various parts

-Study and know the various parts involved in the operation of a machine, and their effect on the machine: tubes, needles, pigments, power supplies, clip cords, RCA jacks, foot switches, clip cord sleeves, machine bags, etc.

-Learn how, and show that you can assemble and disassemble different tattoo machines

-Learn the basic methods of proper machine maintenance, including tuning, spring type/tension, throw, alignment, cleaning, etc.

-Learn the possible differences between liners and shaders, different frame materials, coils, etc.

-Learn the differences between Rotary machines, Traditional machines, etc.

-Know and be able to explain the differences between a properly made and functioning machine and a poor one

-Learn the effects different tubes have on the performance of machines. Steel vs. plastic

-Learn needle composition: type (standard, bugpin), taper (long, short), material (stainless steel, textured), groupings (tight, loose, mag, curved mag, etc.)

-Understand and be able to explain needle position and depth in relation to skin for lining, fill, shading etc.


Bedside Manners:

-Learn ways to keep the client relaxed and comfortable

-What to do if a client is feeling faint or nauseous

-Learn the best position for the client depending on the area being tattooed

-Learn how to explain aftercare, and problem-solve any issues which may arise with a healing tattoo



-Complete a fully finished and rendered study for every tattoo you do, including a line drawing

-Continue meeting with a tattooer at least once a week. Review your drawings/ideas for upcoming tattoos, notes on previous tattoos, and your portfolio of previous tattoos

-Line and shade each page of flash with a permanent medium

-Continue working with lettering – Tracing and custom

-Have a good understanding by now of Photoshop use for editing / resizing / graphic element addition (name in photo or “in progress”) and resolution. Learn the advantages of using Photoshop to design certain aspects of tattoos. (curving letters, creating an outline, etc.)



Intermediate Tattooing:

-Perform unobserved, half-price tattoos on friends and co-workers

-Continue meeting with a tattooer and discussing each tattoo

-Continue discussing basic tattooing subjects

-Discuss intermediate level tattooing subjects:

-Pricing tattoos

-Time it takes to complete a tattoo (single session, multiple session)

-When it’s the right time to take on larger work

-How to treat clients with respect and gain their respect

-Custom tattoos vs. Walk-ins

-Time management, scheduling appointments, having drawing ready, being prepared, deposits, etc.

-Continue recording own tattoos – thoughts / results / observations / problems



-Add color and complete set of flash

-Continue working with lettering – Tracing and custom

-Complete a fully finished and rendered study for every tattoo you do, including a line drawing.

-Continue meeting with a tattooer at least once a week. Review your drawings/ideas for upcoming tattoos, notes on previous tattoos, and your portfolio of previous tattoos




-Continue tattooing, drawing and expanding your knowledge of tattooing

-Finish your professional portfolio

-Get interviewed about your experiences (local paper, school reports, magazines, web, social media)

-Stay focused, friendly, and humble.