How Much Will My Tattoo Cost?

Updated on November 8, 2017
Skull tattoo on female
Skull tattoo on female | Source

Knowing how much your tattoo will cost will help with planning for your dream tattoo.

Many factors determine the price charged by the tattoo artist: Skill, reputation, artistic ability, location on the body, size of the tattoo, and complexity.

Typically, a quality tattoo performed in a registered professional tattoo studio or parlor would be more expensive than some scratcher working out of his back room. Considering that you could potentially take home a disease along with a crappy permanent tattoo, paying a little more can certainly be worth the cost in the long run.

In general, the old adage applies that you get what you pay for. Though there's no guarantee that the quality of the tattoo increases with its cost, at least you can ensure that you're somewhere on the playing field.

Tattoo Hourly Rate

Tattoo Artist
$ Hourly Rate
Full Sleeve
Apprentice or Beginner (1-3 yrs)
$80 - $120 per hour
$800 - $1000
Solo Tattoo Artist (3-5 yrs)
$120 - $150 per hour
$1200 - $1500
Established Artist (5-10 yrs)
$150 - $180 per hour
$1500 - $1800
Teaching Artist (10+ yrs)
$150 - $220 per hour
$2000+
Popular Artist
$180 +
Whatever thay want
Note: Although costs throughout the world are similar, please contact your tattoo shop to get exact figures for your country. These amounts are only an estimate and should only be used as a guide.

How Much Do Tattoos Cost?

The price of your tattoo will depend on the following the factors, but can range anywhere from $50 to $2000+.

  1. The Skill and Experience of the Artist: This is the leading factor in determining the price a tattoo artist charges. A professional tattooist will charge more for his/her service. They usually charge by the hour but will charge for the price of the tattoo if it is a small one that can be done in one sitting. If they have tattooed for years but have no skill, or alternatively, they have skill but no experience, they won't be able to charge a premium price. An artist must possess both of these attributes to ask for the big bucks.
  2. Complexity: A complex design with lots of intricate details will take multiple sessions and long hours. Watercolor tattoos, for example, cost a lot more than getting simple writing in black ink because they require a lot of color and skilled technique to create. Therefore, the amount of time it takes to get a tattoo will be a strong determining factor.
  3. Color: The more colors there are, the longer it will take because multiple colors means that the design is somewhat more complicated. Watercolor tattoos can cost as much a $400 for a four-inch wide area.
  4. Body Placement: Tattoo placement is also a big determining factor. Some artists charge 10% to 25% more for a tattoo on a challenging body area. Difficult locations include the neck, elbow, feet, and face. Hand or finger tattoos are relatively easier.
  5. Custom Design: A simple flash design that the artist or tattoo parlor already has a stencil of will cost around $50 to $100. If the artist has to create an original design based on what you want, the time he/she takes to conceptualize and draw the piece will factor into the price.
  6. Geographical Location: The price for a tattoo will be greater in bigger cities than in smaller towns. In the U.S., a large tattoo might cost thousands of dollars in a metropolitan location, but only hundreds in a small-traffic city. The cost of a tattoo in the U.K. is usually around £40 to £100.
  7. Size: The smaller the tattoo, the cheaper it will be. A small tattoo on your wrist might bring you down 50 bucks, but a full back tattoo will cost an average of $2000 to $5000 and upwards.
  8. Popularity of the Artist or the Studio: Artists and tattoo shops that are popular or famous can also charge higher rates. When appointments are limited, the expense will most likely always go up, too.
  9. Tattooing Tools: The tools and supplies used to create your tattoo are another expense incurred by the artist and passed onto you, the consumer. Such items include ink, needles, sterilization units, inkwells, lotions, wipes, and sprays.

Example Tattoos and Their Costs (All Prices and Lengths Are Estimates)

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This tattoo is not too detailed and has a fair amount of negative (blank) skin. It took approximately 3-5 hours. Average price for a quality tattoo of this size would be $350 to $500.This is a detailed, medium-sized piece in full colour that would take approximately 5 - 7 hours. The average price for a quality tattoo this size would be $650 to $800. This is a full back piece that would take approximately 14 - 18 hours tattooing. The average price for a quality tattoo this size is $1000 - $1500.This is a partial sleeve with intricate detail and no negative that would take approximately 8 - 10 hours. The average price for a quality tattoo this size would be $850 - $1200.
This tattoo is not too detailed and has a fair amount of negative (blank) skin. It took approximately 3-5 hours. Average price for a quality tattoo of this size would be $350 to $500.
This tattoo is not too detailed and has a fair amount of negative (blank) skin. It took approximately 3-5 hours. Average price for a quality tattoo of this size would be $350 to $500. | Source
This is a detailed, medium-sized piece in full colour that would take approximately 5 - 7 hours. The average price for a quality tattoo this size would be $650 to $800.
This is a detailed, medium-sized piece in full colour that would take approximately 5 - 7 hours. The average price for a quality tattoo this size would be $650 to $800. | Source
This is a full back piece that would take approximately 14 - 18 hours tattooing. The average price for a quality tattoo this size is $1000 - $1500.
This is a full back piece that would take approximately 14 - 18 hours tattooing. The average price for a quality tattoo this size is $1000 - $1500. | Source
This is a partial sleeve with intricate detail and no negative that would take approximately 8 - 10 hours. The average price for a quality tattoo this size would be $850 - $1200.
This is a partial sleeve with intricate detail and no negative that would take approximately 8 - 10 hours. The average price for a quality tattoo this size would be $850 - $1200. | Source

What's the Average Cost of a Small Tattoo?

Again, this will depend on a number of factors covered above. A smaller tattoo doesn't necessirily mean it will be cheaper. If you get something with a lot of complex details, often times, a smaller size will make it harder to draw in those details.

With that said, a simple small tattoo will cost an average of $50 to $80 and will take about 45 minutes.

Cost Estimate of a Simple Tattoo

The average cost of a simple tattoo can be calculated at $10 per square inch.

So if you get a 6 x 6 inch tattoo (36 square inches), you will pay roughly $360.

Again, this is just an estimate. Consult with your artist to get an accurate price.

Rose tattoo on underarm
Rose tattoo on underarm | Source

How Your Tattoo Artist Will Quote the Cost

There are two forms of pricing within the tattoo industry and your artist will quote you based on one of these methods.

1. Set Price for the Whole Piece

This is often done when the customer comes in with a predetermined design and the artist can predict approximately how long it will take to complete the tattoo. For very large or complex designs that are going to be expensive, your tattoo studio may ask for a non-refundable deposit of around the first $100.

2. By the Hour

This quote will usually include the time it takes to apply the stencil as well as to complete the tattoo. In some cases, if the artist has created a custom design for you, they may include some of this creative time in the price.

The minimum charge for a by-the-hour quote is always one hour, even if your tattoo only takes five minutes. This is because irrespective of the time it takes to tattoo you, your artist must provide new and sterilized equipment for each tattoo.

Good Tattoos Aren't Cheap and Cheap Tattoos Aren't Good

"Backyard" or home tattooers (also called scratchers) literally work out of their garages, backyards, sheds, kitchens, and living rooms. It’s true that some very talented artists produce decent tattoos in their home studios. Notice, however, that I am talking about studios—places dedicated to tattooing work. You will be able to tell the difference between a studio and a scratcher’s den by looking out for a couple of things.

How to Tell If Your Home Tattoo Artist Is Legitimate

  1. Is the studio or workplace sanitary? This includes the benches, the equipment, the table, and the place in general. Does it look clean?
  2. Is the artist using all the equipment usually seen in a tattoo parlor?
  3. Do they wear gloves when tattooing?
  4. Can you see the sterilization station? Hint: a sterilization station should not just be a pot boiling on the stove.
  5. Where did they get their equipment? Did they purchase it from a legitimate merchant or buy it off eBay?
  6. Does the artist consume alcohol or drugs while tattooing? This is a huge red flag.
  7. Do they give only vague or confused instructions on how to take care of your tattoo?
  8. As they tattoo, do you find that it really hurts and that they're rough with the equipment?

Now, if you have the slightest of concerns about any of the above, you need to go now! Besides getting a dodgy tattoo, you may also take home a lot more than you bargained for in the shape of an infection or even a disease. Plus, you may experience more pain if you get a tattoo by a crappy artist instead of a professional.

Because they often cut corners, scratchers can offer tattoos at bargain prices. Even though you'll save a bit (maybe even a few hundred on a large tattoo), in the end, you'll triple the money you initially spent by either having to cover it up or get it removed.

Tattoo removal is costly, painful, and takes a long time. Laser tattoo removal costs around $200 to $500 per session and will require at least six painful sessions. This could set you back $1,500 to $5,000! If you end up with a bad tattoo and don't want to go through the pain of laser removal, the only other choice is to get a cover-up tattoo, which will cost as much or be even more expensive than you original tattoo because it will be more complicated for the tattooist to design.

On the other hand, if you want your tattoo to last long, a professional artist will use better quality ink that won't smudge.

Spend a bit more and, by the first payday after you get inked, the pain of your poverty will disappear as you gaze at your fantastic new tattoo.

Tips to Keep in Mind Before Getting a Tattoo

By knowing the general standards and asking questions beforehand, you should be able to estimate the general price range of the tattoo you want and make a good decision.

  • Talk to the artist and make sure you feel comfortable with them and their skill.
  • Consider the timing. Some tattoo designs will take several sessions, and you need to make sure that you will not be out in the sun between sessions or for a while after the design is complete. I'm looking at you beach bums!
  • If you don't currently have the cash to afford a decent tattoo artist, keep saving. The dude down the road will not make you happy, I promise.
  • I'd also advise you to wait if you are under 18. Your body art will be there forever, and when you're 50 it won't matter what you spent—your crappy tattoo will still be just a crappy tattoo. That is, of course, if you haven't died or lost your limb from a deadly disease.
  • If there is something awry, don't be afraid to speak up or go back and ask for a touch-up if the ink comes out too light. Sometimes tattoo artists practice caution the first time, so going back a second time to ask for stronger coloring is okay.
  • Just like when you buy a car, you shouldn't buy your tattoo from the first parlor you see. Shop around! See what the tattoo community is offering in the way of amazing artists. You might end up being $300 poorer, but you'll definitely be happier over the years. Start saving. It's not that far out of reach.

Scratchers vs. Studios

Have you been to a Scratcher and got an awesome tattoo?

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    • profile image

      Pissed of 11 days ago

      Hi guys just commenting on my back yard tattoo at first I thought this is great he had pictures of others and they looked fantastic so I sat down and picked one out for myself turning my head and herd the words how would you like his eyes I turned around and said you are doing the fucken the you should know how eyes on a skull go to my horror he totally f???? My arm up and at the end said that will be $120 I turned and said I will jam that tattoo gun so far up your ass if you think I am paying one dollar for fu??the bottom of my arm he backed of straight away and said nothing don't waste your time guys go to the real deal

    • profile image

      Isabel ashley 2 weeks ago

      I wanted to get a tatoo with my Husband - Hank Steven Nundhirribala name on my right arm and both of us name on the right of my chest ? HOW MUCH DOSE IS COST..

    • profile image

      Asha 3 weeks ago

      Hoe much would it be to get a name with 7 letters on my arm

    • profile image

      Che 4 weeks ago

      I want a rosary tattoo in my arms .. how much cost ? I like is just black color thanks

    • profile image

      Sandra jureviciute 2 months ago

      Hi I jutst wondering how much will cost me to get tattoo done name Mia

    • profile image

      SMOB@SNET.NET 3 months ago

      MY HUSBAND AND I WANT TO GET TATOO FOR OUR RING BANDS FOR OUR 30TH ANNIVERSARY.

    • profile image

      Adam 3 months ago

      The amount of poor grammar and incorrect spelling on this comment string is horrific. Please stop butchering the English language.

    • profile image

      Palton Murmu 3 months ago

      I want to know how much would a full size tatto cost,? Right chest, right shoulder and full hand. Please let me know.

    • profile image

      Jules 4 months ago

      I got all off my tattoos from a guy who I used to live with he did all 4 of them in 2 days it didn't hurt after but it would've been better if I got professional work mine starting to look ruff but I've had them for 3 ,years

    • profile image

      Meg 5 months ago

      How much would a non color tattoo cost that covers my chest and has two birds, a sun, and writing?

    • profile image

      Kerrie Heartwell 5 months ago

      hi this is going to be my first tattoo and I am going to get a small one on the back of my shoulder and I am just wondering how much it would cost so I can save up enough money

    • profile image

      Debismita Bhattacharyya 6 months ago

      Hello there!

      I wanted to know how much would a medium size tattoo cost? About the size of 2"x3". Please let me know.

    • profile image

      Maria ruby Betts 6 months ago

      Nice work, i like tattoo but this time i going no money to pay

    • profile image

      Brandon 6 months ago

      Want a tattoo of my wife's name on my bicep wat would that cost

    • profile image

      Wesley 6 months ago

      For My 18th I want to get a tattoo that covers about 90% of my hand top and the palm, i want to get a rose with the word family right above my knuckles, as well as some small symbols to get along the top and bottom of my fingers

    • profile image

      Constance Rayford 6 months ago

      I want to get the name roy on my breast. How much will it cost?

    • profile image

      bree 7 months ago

      how much would having someones first and last name and there birth and death date on the left side of the rib cage

    • profile image

      Shirley Scarboro 7 months ago

      Picture of a small Angel

      With mum & Dad under neath..

    • profile image

      Krystal DiCampo 7 months ago

      I would like a tattoo wit my kids name and date of birth but i dunno a design yet can you help me please

    • profile image

      chasi kleiman 8 months ago

      How much will it be a small butterfly tattoo on the back??

    • profile image

      Justin Wood 9 months ago

      How much would a full sleeve be

    • profile image

      cheyanne 9 months ago

      I wanted to get a tattoo on the outer thigh wondering how much on average that would cost

    • profile image

      Alicia 13 months ago

      Hi my name is Alicia,

      I'm planning my first tattoo my left wirst. I wanted a small tattoo of owl because I like owls. Also I wanted for my birthday present.

      thanks,

      Alicia

    • profile image

      Kt 2 years ago

      Lol the legs with the butterflies are actually tights, not a tattoo. I've bought some like it from a shop on etsy.