If you have plenty of beautiful tattoos or are ready and willing to get more, working in the industry as a tattoo model may be best for you. But like with most modeling careers, you’ll need to take a lot of initiative and put in the effort to make it work.
Not to worry, though, as I’ll walk you through the steps of becoming a successful tattoo model!
By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of the job position, learn how to become a tattoo model, and be able to set financial goals for yourself.
So let’s get started and unveil this lucrative career opportunity!
What is a tattoo model?
A tattoo model is a professional who models for clients in the tattoo industry. They usually work with photographers, designers, and other professionals to create promotional content featuring their tattoos and style themselves to show their tattoos in the best light.
Working as a tattoo model will also involve knowing how you market yourself to prospective clients.
Tattoo models have an opportunity to represent brands or products related to the tattoo industry, or work on shoots strictly for the purpose of creating beautiful art with their bodies. As a tattoo model, your tattoos will be shown off and admired by photographers, designers, and even potential employers.
You may work with print publications, blogs, local brick-and-mortar tattoo shops, or even runway fashion shows. You’ll have to hone your skills in the areas of posing, styling, and marketing in order to be successful.
How to become a tattoo model
1. Clarify your personal style
Naturally, the first requirement of becoming a tattoo model is to have a fair number of tattoos. You may have tattoos from head to toe or a few show-stopper pieces that could be beautifully photographed with proper draping and clothing.
You may also have piercings and other body modifications that are adjacent to the tattoo industry. It’s important to establish a personal style that reflects the type of modeling you’d like to do.
Ask yourself what category your tattoos fit into. Are they illustrative and delicate, like a painting or pages from a book, or do you have bold flash-style tattoos that are edgy, bright, and full of personality?
You’ll want to showcase your tattoos in a way that best represents you and the type of modeling you’d like to do.
2. Research the industry
It’s important to have a good understanding of both the general modeling industry as well as the tattoo modeling industry. Get familiar with the terminology, the players in the industry, and the types of work available.
You should also have an understanding of what type of compensation is typically offered for jobs and what sort of licensing may be required by certain employers or clients. Researching these areas will help you determine if this career path is right for you.
Talking to someone who presently or previously has worked as a tattoo model is one of the best ways to get specific honest feedback on what it takes to be successful in the industry.
If you don’t know anyone specifically, you could join forums or online communities that discuss tattoo modeling in order to get an idea of what the expectations may be.
3. Build and practice your modeling skills
Now that you have an idea of what the industry is like, begin to build and refine your skills as a model.
Start by taking some modeling classes that focus on how to pose, how to move, and facial expressions. You’ll also want to practice in front of a mirror or with a friend who can help you critique your poses.
In addition to posing, it’s important to practice your styling skills so that you can create the perfect look for each job.
It’s also a good idea to invest in wardrobe pieces that make your tattoos look their best, create a portfolio of your completed work, and work on putting together a professional headshot.
4. Get great headshots and photos of your tattoos
Headshots are an essential tool in the world of modeling, and you should absolutely invest in professional headshots that capture your unique look.
It’s also important to get great photos of your tattoos so that prospective employers or clients will have a clear understanding of what you can offer them.
You’ll need to work with a photographer who is experienced in taking photos of tattoos, as they understand the technical details of lighting and positioning that will make your artwork look its best. This can be expensive, but it’s well worth the investment if you’re serious about pursuing this career path.
If you can’t afford a professional photographer, consider bartering or asking a friend to take photos of your tattoos. Just make sure the photos are professional-looking and accurately represent your work.
5. Create a resume and portfolio
Your new beautiful tattoo modeling photos need a home. The best way to showcase them is to create a portfolio and resume.
A portfolio should include your headshots and photos of your tattoos, as well as any other relevant work experience or modeling jobs you have under your belt.
Your resume should focus on highlighting your experience, skills, and accomplishments related to the field of tattoo modeling. It should also include contact information, so make sure to include your phone number and email address.
You can create a website for your modeling portfolio or use an online portfolio service that allows you to showcase your work in an attractive, professional format.
You may also be interested in: 25 Best Ways to Make Money Drawing
6. Clarify your offerings
Now that you have your portfolio and resume ready, it’s time to clarify what type of modeling you do.
For instance, are you available for continued work or short-term contracting opportunities? Are you willing to travel, or are you looking to work with local clients only?
Having clear expectations and offering specifics on what you can provide will help ensure that you find the type of work that is best suited to your skill set and interests.
At the beginning of your career you’ll likely be open to more opportunities than down the line, but having a general idea of what you’re willing to do will help ensure that you stay focused on finding the right type of job.
7. Build your social following
These days, having a successful social media presence is essential for any kind of modeling work. Start by creating accounts on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok dedicated to your tattoo modeling career.
Be sure to post regularly about your work, share photos of your tattoos, and interact with other tattoo models in the community. This will help you build an audience and create connections that may lead to modeling opportunities.
You can also look into influencer marketing campaigns that offer payment in exchange for promoting products on your social media channels. This is a great way to make some extra money and get your name out there as a tattoo model.
8. Network and apply for opportunities
It’s time to find and apply for modeling opportunities. Start by networking with other tattoo models, agencies, photographers, and industry professionals who may be able to connect you with job openings or potential clients.
You can also use online resources such as modeling forums or freelance websites to search for work in your area.
Be sure to present yourself professionally and emphasize the skills and experience you bring to the table. But don’t only talk about yourself, remember to ask for their needs as well, because networking is a collaboration, not a handout.
9. Keep up with your appearance
You may have the perfect tattoos and a great portfolio, but if you don’t maintain your appearance, it won’t matter.
Make sure to stay on top of grooming habits like hair care and skin care, as well as clothing choices that will flatter your body type when taking updated portfolio shots.
A professional makeup artist can also help you create an interesting look that complements your tattoos and adds to your overall aesthetic.
Finally, remember that the world of tattoo modeling is challenging. You’ll be working long hours with high demands, so prioritize your diet, rest, and exercise to stay physically and mentally fit.
How much do tattoo models make?
A full-time tattoo model with intermediate experience can expect to make about $80,000 a year. The range of salaries or total earnings varies between $13,000 per year to $300,000 a year. This is because the modeling industry is very competitive, and getting a “break” can make the difference between huge and meager earnings.
Going to modeling school isn’t necessary or even common when it comes to finding jobs. However, these credentials can earn you an average of 10% more overall. Experience is the largest factor when it comes to earning potential.
When it comes to booking rates, most models earn per hour or per day.
The amount you make depends on your location and experience level, but beginner tattoo models can expect to start around $20-30 an hour with higher rates for more experienced models.
When you’re starting out, you may even do shoots in exchange for free products or services from the company that you’re working with. This can be a great portfolio builder as well as a way to establish relationships with future paying clients.
Is it possible to be a model with tattoos?
It’s absolutely possible to model with tattoos and there is even a specific industry that focuses on tattoo models. It also helps to have an interesting look, style, and personality that will differentiate you from other models so you stand out from the crowd.
It’s common for models to at least have a couple of tattoos, which can be covered up or revealed depending on the job.
If your tattoos are more visible, make sure they represent the brand or image you’re trying to portray. Some companies may have specific guidelines on what types of tattoos are acceptable for their campaigns, so be aware of these before applying for a job.
Is it harder to be a model with tattoos?
It’s possible that having tattoos or piercings can restrict the number of opportunities available as a model. This makes it hard to find modeling jobs in conservative or high-end industries. Many modeling companies require that their models have no tattoos at all to even consider signing them on.
That said, the tattoo modeling industry is growing and there are many opportunities for those who embrace their ink. Like most other industries, going niche can help you stand out and open up more doors.
Be creative, use your unique look to your advantage, and don’t be afraid to express yourself. It’s most important to lean into your unique tattoos and show confidence so that potential clients can see that you’re the right person for the job.
There’s a bit more leniency with piercings in the modeling industry because they are easily removable or coverable. It’s best to consult with an agency or client to make sure your piercings fit their aesthetic and won’t be a liability.
Should I get tattoos if I want to be a model?
Essentially, getting tattoos as a model comes down to personal preference. If you’re comfortable with tattoos and they add to your overall style, then go for it. However, going overboard could limit potential opportunities and make you less desirable in the eyes of agencies and clients.
Here are some tips for deciding if getting tattoos is right for you:
- Consider what type of modeling industry you want to work in and the potential restrictions that come with it. You may even reach out to specific companies and agencies to ask them what their tattoo policies are to make sure that you can work with them.
- Decide how visible or bold your permanent ink should be. It’s best to go for something small, subtle, and meaningful that won’t take away from your look. You can get a tattoo on a less visible area such as the back of your shoulder or the inside of your arm.
- Think ahead – how will you feel about your tattoos in 5, 10, or 15 years? Not only will you want to make sure that your tattoo will be meaningful to you forever, but that it will be stylish in the modeling industry for many years to come.
- Research the tattoo artist and make sure they are reputable before getting any work done. Just like other aspects of grooming and self-care in the modeling industry, your tattoos should look professional and consistent.
- Avoid getting any explicit or offensive tattoos that may limit your potential opportunities. This means no swear words, nudity, divisive offensive imagery, or anything else that could turn off a client.
How many tattoos do you need to be a tattoo model?
There isn’t exactly a minimum number of tattoos you’d need to have to become a model. Many tattoo models only have one permanent piece of skin art. However, having a handful of tattoos could give you a unique look and make you stand out as a tattoo model.
The size and placement of your tattoos have just as much of an impact as the amount you have. Generally, models with more tattoos have a more interesting look and could be suitable for more creative projects.
The most popular areas for tattoo models to get tattoos are the arms, chest, neck, or legs. Consider getting a tattoo in an area that’s easily visible and can add to your overall aesthetic.
Can you be a model with one tattoo?
Yes, you can get hired as a tattoo model with only one tattoo, especially if it’s very prominent, artistic, or distinctive. However, if you choose to have a smaller or discreet tattoo, this likely won’t qualify you as a tattoo model.
In this case, the tattoo can be more easily disguised or may be acceptable to many mainstream modeling agencies.
Can runway models have piercings?
Yes, traditional modeling agencies are usually fine with standard ear piercings. However, many models also have other piercings, such as navel piercings or nose piercings. In many cases, they are often asked to take them out for the shoot.
It’s much less common for traditional models to have facial piercings such as septums, lip piercings, or eyebrow piercings. These body piercings leave more noticeable marks and can be challenging to take in and out between shoots.
However, if you’re working as a tattoo model or an alternative model, this may work to your advantage. Many tattoo models have various piercings and even gauged piercings, which can complement tattoos and alternative fashion very well.
About the author
Anna is the founder of LogicalDollar and a personal finance expert, having been featured in Forbes, HuffPost, Reader’s Digest, Bankrate, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, CreditCards.com and many more. With more than 10 years of experience in the financial and legal industries, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in these fields, as well as her own journey in turning $60,000 in debt into a thriving investment portfolio, she’s committed to helping others get on the path to financial freedom. Find out more.