How Much Will a Tattoo Cost?
Generally speaking, tattoos aren’t cheap and shouldn’t be. Most shops have a minimum of around 50$ or so, that would probably cover a small tattoo. On average in the U.S., hourly rates currently range from 100-250$. Demand and geographical location may effect the cost of a tattoo. I’ve heard of some high-profile artists who charge an hourly rate of 500-750$ or more. If you have a budget and can only spend so much, it may be good to consult your artist about it so they can give you some options. Of course, some artists will tell you to come back when you've saved up, but there are some artists who are willing to be flexible. It may mean splitting up the tattoo into smaller sessions OR less detail in the design.
*NOTE: This is a GENERAL guide based on my own rates/pricing. Tattoos with color and gray shading will cost more (I don't really do either). Placement of the tattoo will factor into cost as well, some areas take longer than others. Density of detail in the piece is also a factor for pricing.
A small tattoo can be around 2” or smaller.
This should take less than an hour.
A medium sized tattoo, maybe between 3-6” can range from 100-400$
A large tattoos around 7-10” can cost around 400-800$
Large projects such as half sleeves, thigh/calf wrap arounds, upper/lower back tattoos, chest/stomach pieces, whole side/rib pieces, can cost 800$+
Enormous projects such as full sleeves, full back, full torso, or full leg pieces is nearly impossible to accurately quote and is often worked on in sessions. Expect to be spending 300-800$ per session, likely totaling thousands. Commitment is important when working on bigger projects with your chosen artist.
Tipping etiquette? Tipping is a traditional thing in tattoo culture, a lot of artists will appreciate it considering over half the $$ you give your artist will go towards shop fees/taxes. Some artists don't care! Generally speaking the average tip for a tattoo is about the standard tipping percentage of 15-20%, from what I have observed. It's honestly all over the place. Some people tip a lot thinking their tattoo didn't cost them that much, some people don't tip at all because they can't afford to (that's ok with me, no judgements here). Everyone is in different financial positions AND have different perspectives on a value of a tattoo. If an artist did a lot of work for you as far as being in good communication and drafting a custom design for you, your artist will definitely appreciate something extra for their effort/time/energy. It's good to practice awareness around how people treat you and how you could be treating others as well.
Seems like a lot of money, right? Here’s a general explanation of a tattoo artist’s expenses and what your money is going towards:
+A large portion of the money you give to your artist will be for shop fees/rent alone. This averages anywhere between 50-30%.
+Most tattoo artists are self employed, which means we pay in our taxes (literally an extra HUGE bill every month/quarter/year to keep track of). That’s about 10-20% of the total.
+A set up for one professional tattoo costs around 25-50$, more if you are getting a larger tattoo/with color.
+Tattoo equipment can cost anywhere from 200$ for a cheap setup and upwards from there depending on the quality (assuming around 2-5k is normal for the average tattoo artist who isn't cutting cost corners)
+Education for tattooing can cost anywhere from 5k-15k on average, even without a formal apprenticeship is takes a lot of $$ to build up your equipment and education
+Art materials are not cheap, including tattoo ink. Neither is the computer/phone/internet that we use to communicate with clients and the printers, lightboxes, stencil machines, and autoclaves we use for the process.
+It takes time/energy to conjure a new and unique design in the imagination, then place it on paper in a communicable way. Email and communication takes up a LOT of time. Organization takes a LOT of time. Maintaining a business takes A LOT OF TIME!
+Remember that you are working and FAIRLY paying a human being, which is unfortunately rare in consumerism of the world. Think about how most of our clothes, technology, food, and tools are created by poor labor standards in other countries. It’s an unfortunate condition that we can only begin to reverse by paying attention to where something is made and by whom. Money controls the world and it’s good to remember that where we put our dollars is where we are forcing power into.
This is not to say that tattoo artists don’t get paid well, it’s one of the more profitable jobs in the creative field. It’s just that some artists get paid better than others, expenses will vary from artist to artist, and life situations differ as well. It is good to be aware of these facts when choosing and working with your artist.