How Much Will My Tattoo Cost?
Knowing how much it will cost will help when planning your dream tattoo. Many factors determine the price: Skill, reputation, artistic ability, location on the body, size of the tattoo, and complexity.
Typically, a quality tattoo performed in a registered professional studio or parlor would be more expensive than one done by some scratcher working out of his back room. Considering that you could potentially take home a disease along with a crappy permanent mess, paying a little more can certainly be worth the cost in the long run.
In general, the old adage applies: 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.
Average Hourly Tattoo Rates
$ Hourly Rate
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
Whatever thay want
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+.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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
- Is the studio or workplace sanitary? This includes the benches, the equipment, the table, and the place in general. Does it look clean?
- Is the artist using all the equipment usually seen in a tattoo parlor?
- Do they wear gloves when tattooing?
- Can you see the sterilization station? Hint: a sterilization station should not just be a pot boiling on the stove.
- Where did they get their equipment? Did they purchase it from a legitimate merchant or buy it off eBay?
- Does the artist consume alcohol or drugs while tattooing? This is a huge red flag.
- Do they give only vague or confused instructions on how to take care of your tattoo?
- 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?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.