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How to Become a Tattoo Artist in New York

Becoming a tattoo artist in New York has nothing to do with your art skills. If you have trouble drawing a straight line and most of your stick figures look like squiggles, local health departments will still license you. As of June 2011, regulations to oversee tattooing and tattoo artists are being put into place by the New York State Department of Health. Until the regulations are in place, local laws apply. Licenses exist to help keep tattoo studios clean and encourage artists to follow proper health and safety procedures to prevent the spread of disease. There are about 1,900 licensed tattoo artists in New York City alone, at the time of publication, according to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Navigate to NYC Business Express website and create a NYC Business Express account if you don't already have one.

Click "Apply Online." Scroll down to the DOHMH Applications heading and click the check mark next to Tattoo License. Scroll to the bottom of the page. Click the check mark agreeing to the privacy policy and select "Continue."

Sign in with the email address and password of your NYC Business Express account. Click "Sign In."

Fill your personal information, including your name, Social Security number and birthday. Input your address, phone number and email address. Continue to the next page.

Select the date and time of the Infection Control Course you want to attend. Continue to the next page.

Pay the $26 fee for the Infection Control Course and the $100 Tattoo License fee, plus a 2.9 percent convenience fee, with a credit card. Submit the application and print your confirmation.

Bring your government-issued identification and the confirmation page to the exam. It takes place at:

The Health Academy East Harlem Multi-Service Center 413 East 120 Street, 2nd Floor New York, NY 10035

You will be told after the exam whether you've passed or failed. If you passed, your license picture will be taken immediately. If not, you can register for the next available course at no additional charge.


Requirements will vary by New York county, but will require an application, one or several classes and possibly an apprenticeship. Some counties may have no regulations at all. Contact your local Health Department for details.

In NYC, you should receive your license four to six weeks after successfully completing the Infection Control Course.

Study for the NYC exam with materials provided by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Apply for an NYC Tattoo License in person by downloading the application form online. Bring it to:

The Citywide Licensing Center 42 Broadway, 5th floor New York, NY 10004

You can pay the fee there with a check, cash or a credit card. You will apply for the class when you turn in your application.


Your license can be denied if you've been convicted of the criminal tattooing of a minor in the year before applying.


Melly Parker has been writing since 2007, focusing on health, business, technology and home improvement. She has also worked as a teacher and a bioassay laboratory technician. Parker now serves as a marketing specialist at one of the largest mobile app developers in the world. She holds a Master of Science in English.