If you live in the Golden State, having a business license, tax identification number and the skill to make your living as a tattoo artist is not enough to get you up and running legally. California also requires you to register and get a tattoo license through your county health department before you can ink a single customer.
Get a copy of the Sterilization, Sanitation and Safety Standards for Tattooing, Permanent Cosmetics and Body Piercing from the health department in the county in which you will be performing your services. According to the California Health and Safety Code, you must read over the required standards carefully and agree to meet the standards.
Sign, date and return the form, acknowledging that you understand and are committed to upholding each of the required standards. (See resources for Sterilization, Sanitation and Safety Standards for Tattooing, Permanent Cosmetics and Body Piercing.)
Give the county health department the addresses of any locations where you will be performing services relating to these standards when you return your signed and dated copy of the standards, and register to be a tattoo artist.
Pay a one-time registration fee and the first yearly inspection fee to the county at the time of registration.
Maintain the industry standards and pass the Department of Health annual inspection to keep your tattoo license legal and current. Pay any fines and correct any violations found during annual inspections in a timely manner.
It is illegal to tattoo anyone in California without a license.