Whitney is an expert on piercings and tattoos, with experience in the body modification world.
One of the most common questions I hear—besides "Is it going to hurt?" and "What should I get?"—is, "How much is it going to cost?" The short answer is: It depends!
The price of a tattoo depends on a number of elements (see the long answer below), so it's impossible to just throw out a dollar amount. It is always best to ask your artist for a proper estimate first, but still, here are the factors that will play a part in the total cost of your permanent tattoo.
What Does a Tattoo Typically Cost?
Tattoo shops commonly charge by the hour, with quality artists generally charging between $100 and $250 per hour ($150 per hour is the industry standard). A full sleeve might take over 15 hours: At $150 per hour, that could end up costing $1500, not including the tip.
Most shops have a minimum charge of around $100, so that even if you only want a tiny, simple design that would take less than an hour, you still have to pay the minimum charge.
Rough Estimates: $10 per Square Inch
Unless you talk to the artist and get a quote, you can't know for sure how much you'll end up paying, but to make a rough estimate, you'll probably pay about $10 per square inch. So if your design is 5" by 5", you might pay in the range of $250. A huge 8" by 10" back piece might cost more like $810.
Text Tattoos: Those who are getting text tattooed might want to know how much each letter will cost, but artists do not charge by the letter. There is no industry standard for the price of tattooed text, since it depends on the font, size, detail, and location of the text. Artists generally charge by the hour, so you'll have to ask for an estimate for how long your text tattoo will take.
Small Tattoos: For small designs that take less than an hour or medium-sized tattoos that take less than two, the artist will often quote a flat fee up front.
Which Factors Determine the Price of a Tattoo?
- Placement: Where you decide to place the tattoo on your body makes a difference, because some spots are more difficult to work on than others. Typically, the more sensitive (feet, hands, genitals, sternum, and neck) or difficult-to-reach places will cost more.
- Flash or original art: Most artists factor the time spent designing the tattoo into the total cost. If you choose flash right off the wall, the artist just needs to copy and tweak rather than come up with an original, custom design, so flash will typically cost less.
- Design: The more elaborate the design, the more it will cost you, since it will require more time, skill, and focus. (For design ideas, read Where to Find Inspiration for Tattoos.)
- Colors: The more colors the design entails, the more it will cost.
- Size: Bigger tattoos are more expensive, of course, since they take more time.
- Time: Some tattoo shops charge an hourly rate, so the final price depends on how long it takes.
- The artist's skill, reputation, and experience: You might find a friend who will tattoo you for free, but don't be surprised if a skilled artist charges $200 or more per hour. If an artist is well-known, widely publicized, and has a great reputation, they can charge more. Remember that veteran artists will likely work faster than noobs, so even though they charge more per hour, they might get the job done faster. (To learn more, read How to Pick a Tattoo Artist.)
- Location: Price will vary by location, shop, and artist. For example, urban centers tend to have higher prices than parlors in remote rural settings, and if you're traveling abroad, you'll find a wide range of costs.
What Are the Hidden Costs of Getting a Tattoo?
Above and beyond the factors already mentioned, there are some hidden costs involved with getting a tattoo, things you don't normally factor into the purchase price but do add up. Here are some additional things you should expect to pay for:
Do you have to tip your tattoo artist?
Yes you do, and 15% is the average. Don't be cheap and pretend not to know you're supposed to tip, just factor at least an extra 15% into your total cost.
Does aftercare cost much?
Just after the tattoo, you will need to have a mild antibacterial soap and vitamin A and D ointment. Plus, you'll need to protect your skin with sunscreen for the rest of your life to prevent the ink from fading. Read my other article on aftercare for more information.
Do touch-ups cost extra?
Tattoos fade no matter how much sunscreen you use, and inevitably, you'll want to go back in and reapply the ink to brighten and clarify the design. Some artists do this for free, but some will charge you.
What about the non-refundable deposit?
This won't affect you if you get your tattoo, but it still should be mentioned here. At most shops you secure your appointment with a non-refundable amount that is deducted from the total cost at the end, but if you don't show up, you don't get it back.
What about laser removal?
You can't imagine ever not loving your tattoo, but future you wants you to seriously consider how much tattoo removal costs. Having a tattoo removed is much more expensive than having one put on. The cost of laser removal can range from several hundred dollars up into the thousands. The price depends on the size, type, and location of the tattoo and the number of visits it takes for complete removal. Remember that medical insurance generally doesn't pay for this since it is considered cosmetic.
What's the Difference Between a Cheap Tattoo and an Expensive One?
If this is your first tattoo, you will want to make sure to find a good artist, not just the cheapest.
- Ask friends and family for personal recommendations.
- If someone has a tattoo you admire, don't be afraid to ask where they got it. (But think twice about copying someone else's tattoo!)
- Visit tattoo shops or go online to browse portfolios.
You want to make sure that you get your money's worth, especially since if you get a tattoo that looks as cheap as it cost, you'll probably end up spending extra money to get it removed. Consider this:
- Artist A charges $100 for poor quality.
- Artist B charges $200 for average quality.
- Artist C charges $150 for decent (better-than-average) quality.
- Artist D charges $250 for great quality.
- Laser tattoo removal costs from $200-$500 per session, and several treatments might be needed.
Which tattoo sounds like the best deal? The final decision is up to you.
Sindhu on August 27, 2019:
How much I inch tattoo cost
Mike on August 14, 2019:
I think $150/hr and 15 hours isn’t $150 for a sleeve. Should have been $2,250 as an average
NannyBoo on October 27, 2018:
Dude, you're math is the worst. You do know there's a calculator on your computing box, right. Especially since the post is about costs...
michael jordan on October 10, 2018:
i want a dragon tattoo
James on September 06, 2018:
The prices of tattoos when you're talking about quality isn't really factual, the most ive spent on a single tattoo has been 200 and ive see some tattoos that have costed more at other shops that look like homemade ones, just check out the artist and see what they've done and work with them. Trust me a lot of great artist will charger a 5 by 5 tattoo for 150 with great quality, you just gotta do the research.
jay on August 28, 2018:
i want a small star on ny hand how much will that cost?
Tharu on May 03, 2018:
how much it would cost for writing two letters
varun on April 03, 2018:
how much cost the color tattoo 4 inches
Elizabeth on October 28, 2017:
I want an infinity sign that has the word family through it how much would that cost me? Plain black Indian ink?
Cheyenne on October 04, 2017:
Hi I really want a tattoo and really want this particular one can you help me decided I am 18 years old and just really want to know which one should I choose okay this is how one looks like this its a heart and they have needles on it are my boyfriends name i've been dating him for 4 years a very long realshionship and his name is john I just want to know all of yall 's advice but I know what your going to say about the name a name can never get of only if u let go and that's what a lot of my friends tell me a.......…………
Taylor on August 27, 2017:
I want three butterflies on my thigh it'll have the birthstone color of my dad and mom and close friend that just died it'll only be 4 inches long ways and horizontal and each butterfly will go smaller and be 3 inches by 3 inches and then 2 inches by 2 inches
chintu on July 04, 2017:
I hand tattoo on my wrist mom and dad in letters with colour
Karina on June 24, 2017:
Way do you charge so much money for a tattoo
Courtney on May 09, 2017:
i want a small 3 bird tatt on my wrist, i don't know how much it will cost.
Kimberly on April 23, 2017:
I live in hammond la how much names on arm
shannon whitehead on February 16, 2017:
This is my first tattoo and want a name tattoo on the back of my neck How much? how long would it take? the name is 5 letters long
Brittney on January 04, 2017:
how much would a tattoo saying Live in Braille on my wrist cost
Slytherin Designs on August 13, 2016:
I want a 1x1 Deathly Hallows symbol on my chest, and a 2x4 "Always." -S.S. on my butt. How much would that cost?
Sarah on June 10, 2016:
I want my sons name on my back Kayden-Riley does anyone know how much it will cost
Michelle D on March 09, 2015:
How much will it cost me to have a rose tatoo on ma leg?
Zach on July 15, 2014:
I hand drew a Sleeve that will be in all black and a back tattoo that only has three colors over the design and will be about 2 feet across my back or at least 1'6". What's your best estimate on something like that? Just the worst case scenario.
it don't matter on April 21, 2014:
haha im 14 just got a tattoo. what great parents i have
Tenaro on March 08, 2014:
You will get nowhere closer than a wide estimate asking for pricing online.
The only way to know is together your ass into a tattoo shop with a picture of oft he exact tattoo you want and ask the artist how much it will cost.
Also, makayla...OMG where did you learn your grammar??
Alex Lungleng on March 06, 2014:
Any Tatoo you like,the cost of its per square inch Rs,500 if you're interested I'm a good well trained artist and I've got a good customers.
Srushti Bhujbal on October 02, 2013:
i wan get tattoo on my wrist with 3 words and small colourful butterfly,how much this cost
selvan on August 27, 2012:
i wantto get tattoo on my chest of plain name only what is cost inch please send me reply r call 9769480724 number thank u
Whitney (author) from Georgia on August 16, 2012:
It shouldn't cause any issues. I have never heard of issues with tattoo ink displacement due to hair growth
Jakamar on August 15, 2012:
Well, I figured I would or they would do the deforestation. The issues is when it grows back. Does this create any issues other than it may appear a bit blurred. ;-)
Whitney (author) from Georgia on August 14, 2012:
they will shave the area before tattooing.
Jakamar on August 14, 2012:
All the examples I've seen, the areas are virtually hair free. I'm now hirsute, but have a light covering on the back of my calf. Is this going to be an issue?
Stupid on July 08, 2012:
How much does a tattoo cost?
spelbee on July 05, 2012:
i'd like to have my kids names down my thighs - would this cost more in italian ?
Paige on May 17, 2012:
How much would a medium cross with wording going around the top and sides on my left shoulder cost???
D on March 26, 2012:
for everyone on here asking how much... we are not tattoo artist so we can not tell you. But a bit of advice, go to a tatto shop, tell them what you're thinking about getting and ask them what there hourly rate is... not how much is it gonna cost. any artist who just gives you a price or tries to give you a " special deal", will not give you the high quality tattoo you want. let them draw up a rough sketch and let them get a rough idea on the hours needed. an average better than decent shop will charge about $100 dollars an hour. might seem high, but you get what you pay for, if you dont have enough money just wait and save up, it'll be worth it in the end.
Nancy on March 21, 2012:
I love how everyone is asking how much their tattoos are going to cost, when the article says basically that it depends.
My advice? Go talk to a tattoo artist, or ten of them... No one else is really going to be able to answer these questions for you with any accuracy.
Eric on March 13, 2012:
How much dose a 7 word tattoo cost ?
bigb on March 02, 2012:
i want a rose going up my side onto my back with a lot of colors
NewInk740 on February 15, 2012:
I just got a cross that reaches in length of the middle from elbow to wrist and width, arms reach from mid top arm to mid bottom arm. The cross has roses growing up it and a quote i favor from the Bible. Its all black ink with shading. Tons of detail but i go mine from a xtra hygenic in home shop. I don not advise anyone to go to an in home shop due to hygein reasons but luckily for my, I have knon my artist for nearly 15 years and she clean, professional and an amazing artist. I paid 175 for mine but in a shop it wouldve costed me roughly 250 buks. The more detail, the higher the price.
bob on December 07, 2011:
It will cost between $50 and $1,000,000.
afb.smurf on November 29, 2011:
where is the best spot to have a tat?
I want one on each forearm...
Im thinking about japenese symbol for love, in black bout maybe 2in big...
Ashlie A D on November 28, 2011:
I have two tattoos and they didn't turn out the greatest. for my third I want to go to LA ink and get a drawing of mine. it has a lot of detail and it's kind of big, and I want it on my ankle. anyone have a guess at how much it would cost?
Murrsive on November 21, 2011:
If you cant come up with your own design that is very cheezy I say, even if you come up with the idea and have someone draw it is much better than getting something that's already out there
Danna on November 13, 2011:
I want "Jeremiah 29:11" behind my ear and maybe in cursive. Hoe much would that be?
desmond on November 11, 2011:
Hi how much does italina cross
90123 on November 05, 2011:
I want about a 6 word tattoo with a fairly big kinda small design on my upper right back. how much do you think it might cost?
neha on October 30, 2011:
i want 12 letter tatto on my back how much does it cost?????????
shvia raj on October 25, 2011:
i want 5 letter tatto on my hand, how much it cost
.... on October 20, 2011:
I want to get 10 stars on my back big and small how much roughly do you think it would cost
Payasa on October 19, 2011:
I wana get my mans name on my lower bak in cursive an 5 inches long.. Wats the averge cost?????
rachael on October 04, 2011:
if oi was to get a tattoo that says "no regrets" how much do you think that would cost?
brahndon on October 02, 2011:
i want to get a 20 word tattoo.
how much would it cost
Abraham Navarro on September 25, 2011:
How much is the price for 2 tatoos with my first and last name on both of my arms
heather on September 24, 2011:
i want a tiny (not that small but proubly about 5 inch) pentagram tattoo on my lower back and posibly some wording ("hail satan) im very poor and my mom would proubly pay. soooo i hope its cheap?
Kati on September 20, 2011:
How much would it cost to get a Browning logo, and country girl tattooed on your foot?
Tamara on September 18, 2011:
I'm thinking of getting a tribal phoenix tattooed on the small of my back. I'm gonna be a court reporter, so I want to be able to hide it while working. How much could you estimate something like that costing?
Jermaiyne on September 13, 2011:
How much for some pubic hair tattooed on Ma ballz? I have none due to medical condition..
Dorian Hoppie on September 08, 2011:
I've been working on a design themed around a Trilobite. I'm an entomologist, so I want to have it on the back of my neck, maybe 3" by 2". Really simple at first, pretty much just an outline, black. Later on down the road, I might consider surrounding it with Ginkgo leaves. I want a biology theme in there somewhere, lost and found species. Something like that.
Erina on September 02, 2011:
I'd like to get a 1 inch Deathly Hallows symbol behind my ear, and a 2 inch YACHT Anchor on either my forearm or hip, and a .5 inch treble clef on my hand, between my thumb and index finger bones. Not all at once, but eventually.
amy on September 01, 2011:
how much will it cost to get MICHAEL in cursive on my collar bone. not small like 2in in height and 6inches in width [approximately] ??? i live in ariozna
hinata8982 on August 29, 2011:
i want to get is Russian symbols,Wife of Jeffrey Pittman, on my left wrist and on my right ankle the Japanese character for ninja
RANDOM on August 23, 2011:
@Blup: You really want a tatoo just to show your grandma? I'm sure there's other things you can do to impress her, right? That's a waste of money for something that you may end up regret getting when you're looking to get married and have proper kids. It is permanent, you know?
BLUP on August 18, 2011:
I want IT the clown on my right cheek with a sun shining on my forehead and the rays going down around my eyes and up into my nostril. how much do you think it would cost because I really want to get one to show my grandma
Kay on August 16, 2011:
I wanna get a tattoo for my birthday coming up. I want crossed arrows behind my ear. It's not too big. How much would something like that cost?
DaddysGirl on August 16, 2011:
I drew my tattoo myself when i was 14 and i got it when i turned 19. its a very heart felt saying 'Olive You' that my childhood sweetheart used to say. im now 21 and im engaged to the boy who has said that to me for 7 years now. This tattoo makes me smile every time i look at it.
tattoos are meant to be heartfelt and special and they should be somewhere special where only the spesh people get to see them. mine is very low down on my hip.
though when i was 18 i did go all out and get 'once upon a time' and 'happily ever after' printed on my wrists and i do love them aswell :D xx
colbi on August 15, 2011:
I want a picture of Marilyn mansons face down my right side? What would be a ball park estimate for that?
jeff on August 15, 2011:
how much would it cost for me to buy my girlfriend the tattoo she wants? she wants a heart with vines coming out of it on her wrist
paul on August 15, 2011:
how much will it cost to have my girlfriends name on my back
MarieNoel on August 14, 2011:
i want to get a treble clef on my right wrist just like Julian Casablancas! i love him!!! but im only a 14 year old girl so my parents arnt so into the idea. i hope to convince them :)
slppyclwn on August 06, 2011:
hahahahaha @ Dt; I work in a tattoo shop, and your comment describes well over half the customers. Thank you for making me laugh!
Josh on August 05, 2011:
I want to get a tattoo on my wrist of a snake coming out of a tribal tattoo that goes around all of my wrist. How much would that cost and if i were to say also get one on my entire back from my shoulders to my waist line how much would all this be?
Ryan on August 05, 2011:
I want to get a piece that says "Take flight to eastern skys,
And when the winds change,
We'll be blown back here." On my calf. Estimates? No color, cursive
Anaddy on August 04, 2011:
how much does it cost to tattoo some stars near my eye?
Tatertot23 on July 31, 2011:
I'm wantin to get a heart tattoo that says DAD in a ribon on my leg how much would it cost
seanIdddI on July 27, 2011:
I love dirty needles can i request a used one i love shoot my coke and herion with dirty used needles so its only right to get tatted with a nice dirty one
Spyder on July 23, 2011:
On average a tattoo artist "kicks back between 35-45% to the shop. So I can tell you the in the tri-state area most artists have a 50$ min. face,neck,hands,feet and most sensitive areas are dbl to triple the cost of say an upper arm tattoo. I've been swingin my hammers for about 23yrs now, I work for me with 15%kicked back for matterials. custom work runs aprox. 250$ hr. generic pieces,pics off flash,are aprox. 150-175$ hr. I charge more for collar bone and up,hands and feet and genital areas.www.facebook.com/spyderswebb33
diva on July 19, 2011:
i Want my son footprints on my back with a ribbon and in the ribbon will be his name and R.I.P and bday. Any estimated prices?
Dt on July 16, 2011:
I want to get something awesome, like barb wire around my arm, something philosophical in a language nobody understands, or possibly give free advertising to a large corporation, preferably one I own no stock in like Budweiser, Harley Davidson, Dupont. Get one of their logos you see
Alexx on July 16, 2011:
i Wanna get a dragon ball on my back, not too bigi guess about 2 inches radio, how much????
emdee818 on July 13, 2011:
i got my last name inked on my left wrist...its only 4 letters...it cost me 80 but i gave my artist a NICE tip.
One thing i always ask is. "Hw much is your minimum"...Most where I live are between 60 - 80 dollars. I am getting a tattoo tomorrow...3 cherry blossoms with my moms name and some shading around it...I asked my artist and he said roughly around 200. However, they raised their minimum from 60 to 80. But then again I went there 2 yrs ago...and with this economy i dont blame them raising the price...Make sure you get somethng important ....or atleast cute lol.
Gangsta on July 08, 2011:
I really want to get a tat of a horse taking a dumb on a cats chest while there is a boxing match going on in the background with rocky and a large sausage faded out. I want this all to be within a shinning sun that says the words i eat your moms face for breakfast in it, I think it's pretty cool thought a lot about it actually and I want it on my chest, price?
Sarah on July 08, 2011:
The absolute best thing for you to do is to go to a FEW DIFFERENT tattoo shops and see the artist's style. Tattoo artists are much like well, artists themselves. Every single tattoo artist will have his/her own style. And a good rule of thumb is picking a tattoo design and keeping that in mind for a year or two. I had my tattoo idea in my mind for YEARS before I got it and I love it like the day I got it :) and getting another one very soon ;).
Another thing. Like previously said, DO NOT - I REPEAT - DO NOT go with what is cheaper.. go with quality. I know money is tight right now, but this is going to be on you FOREVER...unless it's lazered off..but even then, some pigmentation is left there and you will waste more money putting it on and taking it off than you would with a high priced artist and design you spent time thinking about. Try to attach a positive meaning to your tattoo that means the world to you. That way there, you'll always smile and love it. AND when it peels, let it do it's thing, don't go picking at it. My ex's tattoo got all deviated and messed when he did that. Dispite what he was told -__-'. Anyway. I hope this helps and remember, as Anna and Mathew already stated --- Price varies. Go into the individual InkShops and ask THEM, the people who you will be dealing with...
Random on July 02, 2011:
Want a.needle with the medical snake rapped around it. On the needle it I want it to say type one diabetic. I want it on my wrist. What do u guys think?
chris on June 29, 2011:
how much would it cost for my last name across the top of my back in bold letters?
redken on June 28, 2011:
i wont to get a tactoo on my side says itain and on my back a angle wigs too big one on my neck a rip grandpa
thank you and ps how much is a tactoo
tia232 on June 26, 2011:
I just turned 18 and I'm getting a hummingbird dipping into a flower and under it says July 1969 - January 2011 in cursive/ pretty writting on my lower right leg. Not sure about the cost going to a tattoo artist about it soon though. What ever the cost is it's going to be worth it.
Ethereal King on June 24, 2011:
How much will it cost for people to stop asking "How much it will cost?". Just ask the artist at the tattoo shop. XD
lara on June 16, 2011:
I'm only 16 and I'm thinking of getting my first tattoo without my parents knowing. I just want to get the number " 12" on my wrist (no colours)
How much could it cost?
alyssaxoxox on June 14, 2011:
how much would it be to get 'thick as thieves' under my collarbone? in cursive black writing.
matthew woolfolk on June 11, 2011:
would you people just go to a tattoo shop and ask a real tatoo artist instead of internet people
Dan on June 04, 2011:
how much would the word faith cost in japanese
jessica on May 29, 2011:
how much would it cost to get as long as am living my grandpa youll be ? thanks
Matt on May 24, 2011:
How much would a maple leaf on my back cost?
Daniel on May 21, 2011:
How much would it be to get a replica of my mom's breasts tattoed on my chest with the words, "Fuck me tender, Mother"? I REALLY need to know because Me and mom figured it would be easier to tell dad about mine and her "relationship" this way....
natalie on May 07, 2011:
hw much wil my tattoo cost its for my back and its a love heart with my sons name and date of birth with angel wings comeing out of it ?
cindy on May 01, 2011:
how much would it be to get a skateboarding hula dancer inside of a wave getting barreled while juggling two babies and a cat smoking a cigarate(the cat is smoking) and on the beach is a crowd of 213 people(symbolic) doing a flash mob with the lyrics to the song kissed by a rose by seal written in the clouds? i really want this on my left foot
Anna on April 25, 2011:
You guys are so dumb. Did any of the people commenting READ this post? The price VARIES place to place, how large it is, and depends on WHERE on your body you get the tattoo! You can't just ask online in a random comment, you need to GO to a shop and get a quote!
derrick on April 23, 2011:
how much for a name on my hand? (not so big)
ina on April 21, 2011:
How much would an 8 word quote be under the collar bone small letters one line be?
maryj on April 20, 2011:
i want to get a tattoo cause i think its sexy if i had one cause i like guys with tattoos
nami on April 19, 2011:
how much does it cost to get barcode tattoo on my hand?