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How Much Will My Tattoo Cost?

Updated on January 28, 2017
Rose tattoo on underarm
Rose tattoo on underarm | Source

Just like any other product out there, tattoos cost money. 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 for your new tattoo: Skill, reputation, artistic ability, location on the body, size of the tattoo and the detail in the tattoo.

Typically a tattoo performed in a registered professional tattoo studio or parlor, would be more expensive than the tattoo guy working out of his back room. Considering you could potentially take home a disease to accompany your crappy tattoo, paying that little bit 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.

How Your 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 parlor may ask for a 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 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, however, 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.

Skull tattoo on female
Skull tattoo on female | Source

Most Tattoo Artists Charge by the Hour

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: All prices quoted are in Australian dollars. Although costs throughout the world are similar, please contact your tattoo studio to get exact figures for your country. These amounts are only an estimate and should just be used as a guide.

Basic Factors for Determining the Price of Your Tattoo

Skill and Experience

This is the leading factor in determining the price a tattoo artist charges. 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 the big bucks.

Artist or Studio Popularity

Artists and studios that are popular or famous can also charge higher rates. When appointments are limited, the expense will most always go up too.

Tattoo Size and Complexity

The size of the tattoo is an essential factor when determining price. Size equals time; the larger the tattoo is, the longer the tattoo session will be. Tattoos in areas that are more challenging, and designs with complexity and lots of color will also cost more.

Studio or Artist Location

Location affects the business overheads that are incorporated into the cost of your tattoo. If the studio is in a capital city, then generally rent prices are higher. Many trendy, fashionable, and famous tattoo studios are located in expensive parts of town.

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.

Custom Design

A custom tattoo designed by your favorite tattoo artist will cost more than flash or pre-designed tattoos.

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

"Backyard" or home tattooers (also called scratchers) work literally 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.

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 spent by either having to cover it up or get it removed.

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.

Scratchers vs. Studios

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

See results

Make Smart Decisions

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

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 tattoo will be forever, and when you're 50 it won't matter what you spent, but 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 tropical disease.

Just like when you buy a car, you shouldn't buy your tattoo from the first parlor you see. Look 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.

Some 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 Australian dollars. 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 Australian dollars. 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 Australian dollars. 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 Australian dollars.
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 Australian dollars.
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 Australian dollars. | 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 Australian dollars.
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 Australian dollars. | 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 Australian dollars.
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 Australian dollars. | 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 Australian dollars.
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 Australian dollars. | Source

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    • 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.

    • profile image

      Alicia 7 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

      cheyanne 2 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Justin Wood 2 months ago

      How much would a full sleeve be

    • profile image

      chasi kleiman 6 weeks ago

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

    • profile image

      Krystal DiCampo 3 weeks 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

      Shirley Scarboro 3 weeks ago

      Picture of a small Angel

      With mum & Dad under neath..

    • profile image

      bree 2 weeks ago

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

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