Ever Wondered Why Are Tattoos So Expensive?

“Why are tattoos so expensive?” and “why do shops have minimums?” are very common questions amongst people new to the tattoo world. Similar to the ink sinking into the layers of your skin, there are multiple layers of answers to these questions. 

How a tattoo is priced can be dependent upon many things. For example, the shop or artist can charge hourly or by size, they can also charge by the artist’s skills, quality of work, and experience. Each shop and artist is going to price their tattoos slightly differently.

Like the old cliche states, you get what you pay for, and with something as permanent, bold, and visible as a tattoo, you definitely want to pay for quality. Adding to the price-quality is how clean and sterile the shop is, something you don’t want to comprise on. 

Do Tattoo Artists Keep All the Money?

Artists do not get to keep ALL the money that’s coming out of your pocket, but it does stay within the shop. There are a lot of small but important details that go into running and operating a tattoo studio. For example, most, if not all the supplies tattooers use can only be used once and then have to be properly disposed of. Gloves, needles, ink, gauze pads, bandages, creams, sterilized covers for machines, tubes, and workspaces, razors, paper towels plus other cleaning supplies. 

Regular business costs like rent and bills need to be taken care of and then some shops prefer to hire a highly organized and detail-oriented shop manager to ensure the shop runs as smoothly as possible. Someone who is going to run the phones and appointment books, answer emails, keep the shop sterile and clean, make sure supplies don’t run out, pair walk-ins or new clients with the best artist suited for their tattoo, etc. 

At the end of the day, the tattoo artist may only take home between 40-60% of what you paid. So next time you get a tattoo, or if this is the first time you are getting one, keep in mind what you’re really paying for when you’re price is stated.

Even after the take home pay that the artist gets, they still have to pay for annual licenses and trainings to stay up to date with state regulations. Some states charge several hundred dollars per year just to renew the license that a tattoo artist must have to perform their work.

 Is it Rude to Ask a Tattoo Artist Their Rate?  

Not at all! This is actually an excellent question to ask and know upfront. Agreeing to a price before getting inked keeps things professional and ensures there are no surprises along the way. Most artists and shops require a deposit once you’ve booked your appointment. 

If you are curious as to why shops require a deposit to make an appointment, check out this article I wrote.

 Can you Negotiate with Tattoo Artists?   

It is not good or proper etiquette to negotiate prices with a tattoo artist. There are SO many reasons for this. So much time and effort goes into your tattoo before you even sit in the chair with your artist, things that probably haven’t even crossed your mind.

Tattooers dedicate a lot of time and energy to their artform. Whether that looks like taking formal art classes at a university or taking on an apprenticeship in a tattoo shop, a mix of the two, or somewhere in between, it takes years of hard work and practice before someone even takes on a human canvass.

Once you’ve decided you want a tattoo and pick a place and artist, you’ll spend time together to perfectly curate what you have in mind. This will also take time and energy as the artist will take all your ideas and bring them to life, usually better than what you had in mind.

Once you’ve decided on a design, size, and placement, color or black and gray then you can finally sit and get your tattoo. So a lot of time, effort, and energy goes into creating a tattoo, not to mention all the tools and preparation as well as cleanup that goes into this beautiful art form. 

 Do You tip a Tattoo Artist? If so, How Much is  Normal? 

This is highly dependent upon the country you are in. Within the US, it is customary to tip your artist. Most people stick with an average of 20% but similar to restaurants and beauty salons if you’re really happy with you’re experience and final product, people will tip more and tend to keep coming back for more and send their friends and family, creating more revenue for their favorite tattoo artist.

Other countries that are customary to tip include Canada, Central, and South America, Austria, and Germany. If you’re traveling abroad and are unsure of tipping just ask! Or ask Google.

Is it Cheaper to Get Two Tattoos at Once? 

Not necessarily, but If you know you want to get two tattoos in one sitting and you know you can handle two tattoos in one sitting, you should bring this up from the first point of contact with the shop. Getting two tattoos at once can take on a couple of different forms that need clarification first.

For example, do you want two separate artists working on you at once, or do you want one artist to do both pieces? Do the pieces work together or are they totally separate? Are they using the same color scheme or do new containers of ink have to be opened?

What you shouldn’t expect is to walk into your tattoo appointment and get two tattoos for the price of one, regardless of how simple and small the tattoo may be. 

Tattoos are so expensive for so many different reasons, explained above. So next time you go to get a tattoo, keep in mind all the expenses, times, effort, and energy it takes to give someone a great tattoo.

What Happens If You Don’t Pay For Your Tattoo?

Fortunately, this is something that is pretty rare to occur in the industry. However, like anything else, there’s always people trying to take advantage of others. If for some reason you do leave without paying for your work, there’s a good possibility that you will be taken to court in a civil lawsuit. If the cost of the job is low enough, it could be small claims court.

Most artist will ask for a deposit up front when the schedule the appointment for your session. This is typically to hold you accountable to show up at your appointment on time and to prevent no shows. The deposits will help protect the artist from completely losing all of their time and money on a nonpayment session.

Even if you are unhappy with the work of your artist, you shouldn’t just walk out of the shop without paying. If you are unhappy with the work, you should work with the artist and owner of the shop for a resolution rather than just up and leaving. If you would like to see some tips I have to help you should you artist mess up, please take a look at this article that I wrote.