How to Become a Tattoo Model

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According to a recent study, 21% of Americans have tattoos. This beautiful art form is a popular way to express yourself and cover your body in gorgeous, vibrant pictures, words, and other images. Although they’re painful and costly, people can’t seem to get enough ink these days.

If you’re covered in tattoos, only have a few, or simply love the art form and want to explore ways to make money off your body art, this article is for you. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to become a tattoo model so you can earn some cash to support your habit.

What is a Tattoo Model?

When most people hear the phrase “tattoo model” they probably assume it’s someone who models tattoos, when in fact, it’s actually a man or woman that has visible body art but actually models clothing. That’s right. Tattoo models are hired by clothing companies to show customers how different pieces of clothing will look on someone with permanent ink versus ink-free skin. 

Tattoo models are essentially the same as traditional models except they have visible tattoos that clothing designers, retail stores, and other companies want to model their products. Tattoo models purposely show off their beautiful body art instead of covering it up. The hope is that their tattoos will actually enhance the look of the product while also increasing sales. Tattoo models help show versatility and inclusivity in the retail market. 

Most tattoo models work in the fashion industry and require the same level of professionalism, networking skills, and abilities as traditional models. The best tattoo models have numerous visible tattoos on different areas of their bodies, increasing the likelihood they’ll get hired by various companies producing a multitude of products. Where your tattoos are placed may determine which modeling gigs you land. And as always, you set your own personal boundaries in terms of how much skin (or should we say, ink) you’re comfortable showing off for all the world to see. Bonus tip – many tattoo models also have body piercings, which add to their appeal and demand.

How Much Money Do Tattoo Models Make?

If you’re considering a career as a tattoo model, chances are, you’re looking to make some extra income. Whether modeling is your full-time job or just a side hustle, you need a realistic idea of how much money you can make. Unfortunately, a tattoo model’s income is highly subjective and can vary greatly from one model to the next.

A multitude of factors affects how much money you can make as a tattoo model. These include everything from location and experience to the types of tattoos you have, including size, color, and body placement. Some reports claim that tattoo models make anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 per year. Bigger cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Miami offer higher pay and more opportunities than small towns. For example, tattoo models in San Jose, California can make up to $96,000 in a single year.

How to Become a Tattoo Model and Kickstart Your Career

Now that you know a little bit more about what tattoo models do and who their clientele is, let’s talk about entering this potentially lucrative and colorful industry.

Get Inked

The most obvious first step to becoming a tattoo model is to get some tattoos (if you don’t already have some). Or add to your collection if you only have a few, small, or non-visible tattoos. Your main purpose as a tattoo model is to showcase how certain merchandise including clothing and jewelry, look on someone with tattoos. The more visible ink you have, the better. 

But keep in mind that not every company wants a model covered from head to toe in tattoos. A few strategically placed, well-designed tattoos go a long way. Also, this is your body we’re talking about which means whatever tattoos you get are forever. Don’t just throw anything on your skin permanently. Make sure the tattoos you get as you launch your career as a tattoo model are meaningful and something you’re prepared to live with forever.

The most popular areas where tattoo models get inked are the arm, back, chest, and hands. Some companies also want tattoo models that have artwork on their legs, including ankles and thighs. Remember, wherever you place your tattoos, they need to be seen by the masses. That means if you want to model a rib, chest, or stomach tattoo, you need to be prepared to show some skin on set to give people a good look at what you have to offer. 

Research This Subset of the Modeling Industry

Modeling is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of subsets – including tattoo modeling. As a tattoo model, you can apply for other modeling subcategories including fashion, fine arts, and stock photo modeling.

When you’re just starting out, it’s best not to spread yourself too thin. Focus on tattoo modeling and one other subcategory. Learn as much about these industries as you can. The more knowledgeable you are, the more professional you’ll appear and the more likely you’ll be to land multiple modeling jobs. By focusing on just two branches of the modeling industry, you can create high-quality photographs and portfolios while also dedicating time to self-promotion (more on this later).

Build a Versatile Portfolio

Speaking of building your portfolio, every good model needs one. And tattoo models are no exception. Take high-quality photographs that showcase your abilities and your ink from various vantage points. You can either take these photos yourself or hire a professional photographer. While the latter will cost you money upfront, think of it as an investment in your future modeling career. Another option is to find amateur photographers who are also trying to build their portfolios. These creative minds are in need of models and you’re in need of modeling pictures. Strike up a deal that works for you both.

The best portfolios include both body shots and headshots. This shows potential clients your potential and versatility. Consider your personal boundaries before posing for and taking pictures. Don’t model anything you’re not comfortable with including underwear, bathing suits, or other revealing clothing. If you’re uncomfortable with it, don’t include it in your portfolio. 

Promote Yourself on Social Media 

If you plan to make it in the modeling industry, there’s no better place to turn for exposure than social media. A treasure trove of opportunities, social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even Snapchat, and TikTok let you showcase yourself and promote your brand. As a tattoo model, your accounts should display plenty of your gorgeous ink from a variety of different angles. Make new social media accounts dedicated strictly to your career as a tattoo model. This way, when interested agencies or clients visit your pages, all they’ll see is your professional online portfolio.

But you can use social media to achieve more than just self-promotion. You can actually land jobs as a tattoo model ON social media. There are plenty of Instagram models that make a living working for large companies, brands, and designers to promote their products and merchandise on social media. The more followers and exposure you have, the more likely you are to catch the eye of a marketing agency.

One of the best ways to get noticed on social media is to use plenty of hashtags associated with tattoos and tattoo modeling. Find communities and groups on Instagram that align with your goals and beliefs. Focus your attention and efforts on tattoo modeling, specifically, versus modeling as a whole. The latter will quickly become overwhelming. By networking within the tattoo community, you’ll find people with similar interests and discover more job opportunities. 

Create a Modeling Website

If you want full control over what you post and how much exposure you get, consider developing a website or personal blog for your tattoo modeling career. Here, you can advertise yourself and your services. Add your website link to your social media accounts, use it in your portfolio, and send it via email when applying for gigs or pitching yourself to photographers. 

Platforms like WordPress are easy to use and let you customize every aspect of your website from the layout to the theme and both navigation and menu bars. In addition to high-quality photographs and plenty of variety, your personal website should include the following information about yourself:

  • Your name (or the name you’re using), age, height, measurements, eye and hair color, and distinguishing features. Describe how many tattoos you have, where, and what they’re of. And, of course, include up-close, detailed photographs of your artwork. 
  • A page dedicated to your photographs
  • An “About Me” page that shares more personal information about yourself, your experience, and your background

Network in Person

Although your online personality is extremely important and will take you far on your journey to becoming a tattoo model, you also need to network in person. Tattoo models often run in different circles than traditional models. Regular models frequent fashion shows and designer parties, whereas tattoo models and photographers are more likely to hang out at tattoo festivals and conventions. Networking at these types of events is essential for drumming up interest and finding prospective clients. This is especially true if you don’t plan on using a modeling agency. 

Be sure you have plenty of business cards to hand out so you never miss an opportunity to make a connection. Include important information like your name, phone number, email address, and social media handles.

Find an Agent 

Many successful models work with an agency. Agents often have a pulse on the industry and may hear of modeling opportunities before you do. If you decide to go this route, be sure to work with an agency that has experience with tattoo models. A few agencies to consider include Go Models and Tattooed Models. The latter works all across the globe in countries like the US, Spain, Germany, and Australia. As of this writing, Go Models is one of the largest agencies in the US and works with all sorts of models. While that’s definitely an option, you may struggle to find work in the tattoo niche.

Pick a Lane

Speaking of a niche, there are a few different types of modeling you can do within the tattoo industry itself. Find an option that appeals to your personality, talents, your body type, and your tattoo collection. Most tattoo models will find success in the following areas:

  • Fashion
  • Fine art
  • Print ads and commercials
  • Stock photo modeling
  • Live modeling (on runways or at trade shows)

Although these niches can and do overlap, as previously mentioned, it’s best you stick to one or two and give it your all until your career takes off.

Tips for Success as a Tattoo Model

While it’s important to know the basics of becoming a tattoo model, these tips can help you take your career to the next level.

Find Your Best Angles and Practice Posing

Before you pay a photographer or ask your friends and family to start snapping pictures, you need some practice in the mirror. Every good model knows that perfecting your poses, finding your best sides, and experimenting with different lighting and angles is key to taking high-quality, flattering pictures that show your skills and abilities.

Practice by posing in the mirror. Try wearing different styles of clothing including T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, dresses, tank tops, and bathing suits or underwear (if you feel comfortable modeling these. Take note of which garments show off your tattoos the best and which ones offer too much coverage. Next, experiment with different poses, positions, and angles. In time, you’ll learn how to move and position your body to show your beautiful ink in all its glory. 

Keep Your Tattoos Fresh

As a tattoo model, people are hiring you because of your ink. Similar to a foot or hand model who needs to pamper their money makers, you need to invest time, attention, and a little TLC in preserving your tattoos.

For starters, always apply sunscreen or cover your tattoos when going out in the sun. UV rays will dull your tattoo's color, making them look worn, less vibrant, and faded. If you get new ink, be sure to carefully follow the aftercare instructions provided by the artist. This includes keeping your tattoo clean and dry. Let all of your tattoos heal before getting them wet or sweating. Avoid getting cuts, scrapes, bruises, or injuries on or in the area of your tattoos. While the ink is injected into your skin, if you get a scar, or deep wound, or remove a scab prematurely, it can result in imperfections in your tattoo that could cost you a modeling job. 

You should also consider getting your tattoos touched up every six months to a year. This keeps them as sharp and clear as they were on day one. As a tattoo model, your body art is what people will notice first. Always put your best foot forward by keeping your tattoos looking clean and pristine. 

Stay Positive and Consistent

Landing tattoo modeling jobs isn’t easy. Although this is a more specialized career than traditional models, which means there’s less competition, there may also be fewer opportunities. That means being successful will take patience and consistency. Even if you get turned down for multiple jobs, keep applying and stick with it. Consistently post to your social media accounts and on your website, if you have one. 

Don’t get discouraged after a few rejections. Instead, use it as motivation and a learning experience. Find out as much as you can about why you didn’t get hired and use this to your advantage. Make necessary changes and adjustments to your approach for your next application. It’s important to be open to constructive criticism while also staying true to yourself.

Get Paid for Your Beautiful Body Artwork

If you love tattoos and love showing off your body, why not consider a career as a tattoo model? Tattoo models are similar to traditional models except they’re hired specifically to show how certain clothing and accessories will look on someone with tattoos. All you have to do is get some ink, harness your skills, and start networking both online and in person.

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