Body Art Jobs

Tattoo artist, makeup artist and body painter are all body art jobs.
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For thousands of years, people have used their bodies as living canvas for artistic expression. If you are interested in helping people from all walks of life give voice to their hopes, fears and triumphs through one of the many forms of body art, explore the roles in this lucrative industry.

Body Modification

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Body modification in its various forms comprises a large portion of the body art industry. Jobs that fall under this category focus on permanent or extreme alterations of a client's appearance. Tattoo artists use machines equipped with sterilized needles to rapidly penetrate the dermis layer of skin, leaving behind colored permanent ink to create the desired illustration. Body piercing uses sterilized needles to puncture the skin to decorate the body with jewelry, wood, bone, metals or other objects. Branders use a hot instrument or knife to burn a design, pattern, word or other mark into the skin to create a decorative scar. While you don't need formal education for these jobs, you must be over the age of 18 to work in body modification.

According to the Alliance of Professional Tattooists, expect to train for a minimum of three years as an apprentice alongside a mentor with extensive experience in the body modification specialization of your choice. Depending on your preferred area of expertise, you will need to develop an understanding of basic to advanced human anatomy as well as health and safety procedures.

Aspiring body modification artists can look forward to a robust job outlook in this once-niche field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes body modification jobs in the “artists and related occupations” category. According to the May 2012 wage and employment report, jobs in this industry have increased by 2.4 percent with a national average annual salary of $73,870 or $35.52 hourly.


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Artists who work in the entertainment industry work closely with performers and directors to create the visual effects necessary to bring a theatrical script or special event to life. You do not need an advanced degree for these jobs; on the job training as an apprentice with an experienced mentor is preferred. Earning a certificate or associate's degree in addition to an apprenticeship may give you a competitive edge. Special effects makeup artists use cosmetics, brushes, sponges and other tools to alter appearances to create a specific visual effect as dictated by a script, setting or special event. They often have expertise in both special effects makeup and prosthesis creation. Prosthesis creators use plaster, clay, plastic and other materials to make artificial body parts to alter the overall physical appearance of a performer. Body painters use an airbrush or traditional paint brush to create temporary illustrations on the body. The detailed, intricate designs usually cover large amounts of skin and fade after several hours. Many body painters also work as special effects makeup artists.

The bureau's May 2012 occupational employment and wage report shows a national average annual salary of $67,580 or $32.49 hourly for these types of artists. Employment in these jobs is expected to increase by 13 percent.

Personal Care Services

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Spray tanners and makeup artists are another form of working as a body artist. Although specialization in one area may lead to more success, artists in these jobs are often cross-trained in both areas. An advanced degree is not required, but it may increase your credibility in the field, especially when combined with on the job training. Spray tanning is the art of using airbrushing techniques and equipment to darken a client's skin tone and temporarily alter the appearance of body type. Make-up artists use cosmetics, brushes and other materials to emphasis the beauty in a client's natural features.

The bureau includes these jobs in the "hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists" category. According to the May 2012 employment and wage report, the national average annual salary is $26,790 or $12.88 hourly. Employment in this profession increased by 1.1 percent.


Although there are many varieties of body art jobs, they share common requirements: advanced artistic abilities and an understanding of how a body's texture and shape will interact with the overall design to create the desired effect. You need to be creative, focused and reliable with a spirit of collaboration.

Working Conditions

Body art jobs may be freelance or permanent. You can expect long hours, intensive training and nontraditional work environments. Depending on your specialization, your workplace may change according to the specific project. One day you may find yourself working in a cramped backstage dressing room and the next day you may be working outdoors on a photo shoot. You can anticipate variety as well as potentially uncomfortable spaces and extreme temperatures.

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