Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Tattoo Artist

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Occupation: Tattoo Artist

Overview: Tattoo artists are responsible for using needles and ink to tattoo a person’s skin. They may copy a customer’s design or render an original one based on what the client wants. These artists may work for a studio or be independent freelancers.

Necessary Training: While no formal education or training are required, most people begin their career working as an apprentice and grow their craft under the eye of a master tattooist.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Good listening skills, high pain tolerance, promotion

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Calm, confident, cooperative, creative, imaginative, kind, meticulous,  patient, persuasive, quirky, responsible, sentimental, supportive, talented, tolerant

Sources of Friction: An indecisive customer who can’t decide what they want, overzealous health inspectors, a client asking for a design that’s offensive to the artist, customers with low pain tolerances, tattooing a customer who has self-medicated in an effort to proactively manage the pain, working for an unlicensed or unregistered parlor that takes shortcuts resulting in a client getting sick, a customer requesting a design that’s too complicated for the artist, tattooing a customer with an undisclosed health risk (hemophilia, specific allergies, etc.), difficulties arising from working at a parlor in a dangerous part of town, conflict with family members who are morally opposed to one’s occupation, an underaged client lying about their age

People They Might Interact With: other tattoo artists, a landlord, administrative personnel, vendors, customers,

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: Many tattoo artists choose this profession because it enables them to satisfy their creative needs. But this need could go unmet if their work situation requires them to do more commercial, standard work that doesn’t allow them to flex their imaginative muscles.
  • Esteem and Recognition: While the old stigma regarding tattoos has largely gone away, there are still certain people and cultures who look down on the profession. This could be a problem if the naysayers are important or influential people in the character’s life.

Common Work-Related Settings: Art studio, big city street, parking lot, shopping mall, tattoo parlor

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype: 

  • Tattoo artists are usually fairly well inked themselves. But what about a character who couldn’t get tattoos due to a health problem but pursued the job so he could be creative?
  • You could also play with the kinds of tattoos an artist creates. Maybe their work is philanthropically based, such as turning scars into art or covering prison, slave, or concentration camp markings.

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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