How Much Do Tattoos Cost?

What goes into the cost of a tattoo? Is tipping required? This brief article provides an insider view of tattoo pricing and payment etiquette

Brooke H.

5/3/20232 min read

close-up photo of assorted coins
close-up photo of assorted coins

Ever wondered why tattoo prices vary so dramatically? Or what appropriate tattoo tipping culture is? I'm here to help de-mystify some of the common questions and confusions surrounding tattoo pricing.

To start, let's talk about why tattoo prices vary so widely. This is because most tattoo artists are technically self-employed, or independent contractors, and set their own prices for work. This price is usually based on some combination of experience, skill level, demand and supplies used for the tattoo. This price also reflects the time the artist spends drawing up designs behind the scenes- not just the time actively spent tattooing. Some designs take significantly longer to design and plan out then they do to tattoo. The more complex design, the longer the artist had to spend preparing and drawing the design for your appointment.

Here's a quick bullet point list of all the things that may go into the price of your tattoo:

  • Years of experience

  • Demand for the artist

  • Disposables- like needles, dental bibs, plastic wrap, and ink

  • Medical grade cleaning supplies

  • Tattoo furniture

  • Price of the tattoo machine (anywhere from $200-1000+)

  • Social media marketing

  • Time spent on administrative tasks

  • Rent or commission split

  • And more...

Most artists bundle all of these factors up into a convenient hourly rate for their clients. In Phoenix AZ, the average starting rate for tattoo artists is $120/hr, with more experience artists charging closer to $200/hr. Some artists also choose to book only half or full day appointments, with a flat price corresponding to each. This makes booking much easier on the artist's end, since there are no gaps left to fill or times that can't be booked because of other appointments in the day. Most artists will provide a free quote giving a price range for the tattoo when booking, just ask!

Another big factor in pricing is whether your artist pays for their tattoo space through commission or through a flat rent. Some tattoo shops take as much as 50% of the artists income as payment for their tattoo booth space. This turns a piece that was $300, into only $150 of take home pay for the artist- even less if they also pay for their own supplies. This causes artists to price higher so they can have a larger take home amount and it's also where the tipping culture really comes into play.

Many people consider tips as a way to simply show their appreciation of the artwork, but for traditional tattoo studio environments this extra tip is a significant boost for the artists income. This is why tipping culture for tattoos can seem vague or unclear- the importance of the tip varies widely between commission and non-commission based shops. Tips should always be 100% to the artist, and can have up to double the impact then your actual tattoo payment in commission based shops.

Luckily there does seem to be an accepted standard tip for any tattoo artist you go to. The most accepted standard is 20% of the cost of the tattoo, or a flat $100 for larger tattoo sessions. These general guides aren't the only options, and you can tip your artist however you feel is right. Tips are also never required by artists, but it's a great way to show your artist how much you love the tattoo and appreciate their time.

Have any questions about tattoo pricing or tattoo tipping culture? Send me a DM over Instagram @painted_vulture_tattoo