How to Get Your Tattoo License in California

By Jennifer Mueller - Updated March 15, 2018
Tattoo artist at work

Tattoo artists and other body art practitioners in California are regulated by the state's Safe Body Art Act. This state law was enacted in 2012 to protect both clients and practitioners in the body art industry from the transmission of infectious diseases through the use of needles. If you want to become a professional tattoo artist in California, you must register with the department of health in the county where you plan to work. Your license must be renewed every year. Training in control of blood-borne pathogens exposure also must be completed every year.


To get your tattoo license in California, you must be over 18 and vaccinated against Hepatitis B. You also must complete a county-approved training course in blood-borne pathogens exposure control.

First-Time Applicants

If you've never registered as a tattoo artist in the state of California, visit the health department office in the county where you plan to work. There, complete an application for your license and learn where to complete the mandatory training. All tattoo artists in California must complete a training course covering blood-borne pathogens exposure control. Your county health department will have a list of county-approved providers.

The health department will vaccinate you against Hepatitis B at no charge. You have the right to refuse this vaccination, but you must sign the declination form indicating that you know and understand the risk, but have chosen not to get the vaccination.

If this is your first time applying for a tattoo permit, provide evidence that you have at least six months of related experience in the tattoo industry. You may be asked for precise dates and procedures completed, or for references if you worked as an apprentice or went to tattoo artist school. A tattoo license from another state could serve as evidence as well. While these state requirements are the legal minimum, some counties may have additional requirements for first-time applicants.

Along with your completed application, you must present a government-issued photo ID to prove you are over the age of 18, proof of vaccination against Hepatitis B, and a certificate of completion for the training course. As a first-time applicant, you should also bring along a 2-inch by 2-inch passport-style photo of yourself. This photo will be used on your body art photo ID card.

You'll have to pay a fee for your permit to be issued. The fee varies among counties ranging from an annual fee in Los Angeles County of $47 to $175 in Santa Clara County.

Annual Renewals

Your tattoo license must be renewed every year before the expiration date. Your county health department will send you a renewal notice a month or two before it expires. When you get this notice, start making plans to take your training and update your Hepatitis B vaccine, if necessary. The blood-borne pathogens exposure control training must be taken every year before you can renew your license.

You'll complete the same form to renew your license as you did when you originally applied. Submit the form to the health department with your renewal fee, and a new body art photo ID card will be mailed to you. There's no need to take a photo for renewals, although you can if you want. If not, the photo you originally submitted will be used.

About the Author

Jennifer Mueller has a J.D. from the University of Indiana, Maurer School of Law. She has been sharing her legal knowledge on the internet since 2009. Mueller has been published in the Indiana Law Journal, and her writing appears on legal websites such as LegalZoom.

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