The Top 10 Essential Books for Aspiring Tattoo Artists


Embarking on the path to become a tattoo artist involves more than just an artistic flair. It requires understanding the nuances of skin, knowledge about sterilization and hygiene, mastering various techniques, and possessing a deep respect for the artform’s history. While professional apprenticeship is a significant step in this journey, the wealth of knowledge available in books cannot be understated. Here, we have curated a list of the top books essential for anyone aspiring to be a tattoo artist.

1. Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo by C.R. Jordan

This comprehensive guide is a must-read for any budding tattoo artist. C.R. Jordan, a professional tattoo artist, provides insights into tattoo machine building, tattooing techniques, and essential safety procedures. The book demystifies the art of tattooing, making it an ideal resource for beginners to grasp the basics.

2. Tattooing A to Z: A Guide to Successful Tattooing by Huck Spaulding

A timeless classic, “Tattooing A to Z” is considered the tattoo artist’s bible by many professionals. Huck Spaulding, a renowned name in the industry, covers all aspects of the craft, from setting up your workspace to the intricate details of tattoo application. A noteworthy feature of this book is its business advice, providing tips on running a successful tattoo parlor.

3. The Tattoo Encyclopedia: A Guide to Choosing Your Tattoo by Terisa Green

The Tattoo Encyclopedia
Understanding the history and meaning of traditional symbols is crucial for any tattoo artist. “The Tattoo Encyclopedia” is a vast reservoir of knowledge, cataloging over 1,000 tattoo symbols, along with their historical and cultural significance. A fascinating read, it’s a useful tool for those who wish to design meaningful and culturally aware tattoos.

4. The Mammoth Book of Tattoo Art by Lal Hardy

“The Mammoth Book of Tattoo Art” is an enriching resource for visual inspiration. It showcases an array of styles and designs from top tattoo artists worldwide. This book is invaluable for keeping up with global trends, providing a broad spectrum of artistic inspiration.

5. Tattoo Color-In Postcards by Megamunden

While this book may initially seem unconventional in a list of educational resources, it offers a hands-on approach to understanding tattoo designs. Filled with 20 detachable postcards featuring iconic, intricate designs by tattoo artist Megamunden, it allows you to explore and experiment with color, getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t.

6. The Art of Drawing: How to Use Advanced Techniques to Become an Expert Sketcher by Angela Gair

Mastering the art of drawing is essential for any aspiring tattoo artist. This book, while not tattoo-specific, offers a deep dive into advanced drawing techniques. It’s a valuable resource for anyone looking to elevate their sketching skills, which is a crucial foundation of tattoo design.

7. The Tattoo Artist’s Black Book by Samuele Briganti

Briganti’s Black Book is a fantastic addition to a tattoo artist’s library for those seeking to specialize in bold, traditional tattoos. It comprises a comprehensive collection of Briganti’s own designs and offers invaluable insights into the style, technique, and execution of traditional tattoos.

8. Tattoo Machine Builder: The Bulldog Frame by Erick Alayon

Delving into the technical aspect of tattooing, Alayon’s book is a detailed guide to building your tattoo machine, specifically the Bulldog Frame. The ability to build, tune, and maintain your machine is vital knowledge for any serious tattoo artist, and this guide offers a step-by-step approach to mastering this skill.

9. Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia by Danzig Baldaev

For a deep, culturally fascinating dive into the history of tattoos, Baldaev’s three-volume encyclopaedia is unrivalled. It explores the rich, dark history of Russian criminal tattoos, each design carrying specific meanings. This is more of a cultural resource than a how-to guide, and it offers valuable lessons in the historical significance and storytelling power of tattoos.

10. Tattoo Sourcebook: Pick and Choose from Thousands of the Hottest Tattoo Designs by

An immense collection of over 1,000 tattoo designs, this book offers a wealth of inspiration for both tattoo artists and clients. It covers an extensive range of styles, from traditional to tribal, Celtic to contemporary, making it a great reference guide.

Becoming a skilled and knowledgeable tattoo artist involves a commitment to continuous learning and practice. The journey is as rewarding as it is challenging, and every step contributes to your development as an artist. The books listed above provide valuable insights into different aspects of the art form, from technique and design to history and cultural significance. Each of them offers a unique perspective, and together they form a comprehensive library for any aspiring tattoo artist.

While books are an important source of knowledge, they should be complemented with hands-on experience. An apprenticeship under a seasoned tattoo artist, alongside regular practice, is indispensable. But as you delve into these books and soak up the knowledge they offer, remember that each line you ink is a unique story. Your role as a tattoo artist is to tell this story in the most beautiful way possible.

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