How Much Does a Tattoo Cost?

As you can imagine, most tattoos aren’t free. Sure, if a close friend of yours is a tattoo artist you might get him or her to give you a freebie or even a discount, but for the most part you’ll have to pay like everyone else. Also, remember the saying “you get what you pay for.”

Statistics show that most single tattoos cost somewhere in the $75 - $200 price range. Many different factors affect the final cost of a tattoo:

the size of the tattoo
the complexity of the design
whether you’ve selected tattoo flash from the tattoo studio or request a custom design
the reputation or fame of the tattoo artist
the location of the tattoo shop
The cheapest tattoos are English lettered names or small hearts. The more expensive tattoos are custom designs that cover a large part of the body and take many hours and many sessions to complete. If a world famous tattoo artist provides your tattoo you could end up paying well over $500 for a single small tattoo. Imagine what a famous tattoo artist like Mario Barth of Starlight Tattoos in Vegas charges. He’s the guy that performed the first ever tattoo in the air (he tattooed Tommy Lee on a flight from Burbank, CA to Miami, FL). He’s tattoed people like Lenny Kravitz, Nikki Six, and Ja Rule.

Of course there are lots of talented local tattoo artists in your state.

Tattoo Prices

On average you’ll pay $80 - $200 dollars an hour depending on the factors listed above. Most tattoo shops have a minimum charge for a tattoo, regardless of the size and the time it takes to complete the tattoo. Additionally, in some shops the amount charged per hours depends on the experience of the tattoo artist. For example, apprentice artists will have a lower price range than more experienced or senior artists. This is not to say that you shouldn’t get a tattoo from someone just starting out. Quite the contrary, they have to start someplace. Just be sure to take a look at the portfolio of the artist, regardless of their experience.

Also, the cost of a tattoo will vary depending on the location, i.e., urban vs. rural. In large urban cities you may be able to get a small tatto for $80 - $100 while the same tattoo may cost several dollars less in more rural areas where the cost of living is lower.

If you provide the artwork for the tattoo or use a flash design provided by the tattoo shop you may simply pay a lump sum price for the tattoo. If you’re looking for custom work or a design that’s large or complex, the tattoo artist will probably charge by the hour. Here’s what you SHOULD NOT do: don’t haggle with the tattoo artist over the price, especially if they quote you a flat rate (which should be posted in the shop). In some shops you may see the sign “the price depends on your attitude.” That’s sometimes true. Also, think about this might affect the quality of the work they do. Don’t ever try to cheat the artist out of what he/she deserves or try to talk them down from their normal prices. This is a business for them; treat it with the respect it deserves.

Shop Around for Tattoo Prices

As with most things it’s important to do some comparison shopping. Not only should you visit more than one tattoo shop to get a feel for tattoo pricing in your local area and to look through portfolios, you should also visit shops to get a feel for their procedures, cleanliness of the tattoo shop, and their customer service attitude. If you find one shop whose prices are considerably lower than others in the area, beware. The shop may be cutting costs by skimping on safety and health issues, like reusing items that should be thrown away after being used, or hiring artists that, for whatever reason, are willing to work at reduced rates. You want to proceed with caution if you come upon a shop like this.

Also, when you’ve selected the shop you’ll use, be sure to get a price estimate UP FRONT. Don’t leave it up in the air. You should come to your appointment with a set cost in mind based on your conversation with either the tattoo artist himself or the person working behind the desk at the shop.

Should You Tip a Tattoo Artist?

In a word YES. Tattoo shops and artists provide a service, just like a hair stylist. If you get a haircut or a hair coloring done you usually tip the stylist. They take pride in their work and want to do a good job. They also want to make sure the customer is happy and that they leave the shop with good looking hair. Tattoo shops and artists are no different. If customers aren’t happy they don’t come back. They also tell their friends about the experience (both good and bad). Equally important is the fact that the tattoo wearer (if the tattoo is located in a visible place) is actually a walking advertisement for the artist. The artist wants others to look at their work and think “Wow, that’s a great looking tattoo. Where’d you get it from?” Therefore, if you’re pleased with the work that the artist does and you feel they treated you well as a customer, you should tip them. Don’t base your tip on whether you experience any pain during the application process. You’ll experience some discomfort during the process. Instead, base your tip on whether the design is well done, whether you actually got the design you asked for, and if you were treated well as a customer.

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