How Much Money Do Tattoo Artists Make?

Tattoo artists don’t get a set amount of money on payday like most other jobs. As a new tattoo artist, understanding how much to charge for your tattoos and knowing how tattoo artists get paid will make sure you don’t get short changed in your career.  

In this article, we’ll break down:

  • How much you should charge as a new artist for your tattoos
  • How tattoo artists get paid in a shop - and a few traps to look out for.

How Much Should You Charge for Tattoos?

Tattoo artists usually charge by the hour, and their rates rise as they get more skilled. 

If you’re a new tattoo artist that’s still learning fundamentals and working on your technique, the reality is that someone allowing you to tattoo them is doing you a favor, as opposed to the other way around. 

This can be harsh to hear, but changing your mindset in this way will positively affect your career. Here’s why:

If you’re focused on making as much money as possible right away, you might make a few extra bucks in the short term. However, if charging people (even if it’s just family and friends), you’ll run into two problems:

  • You’ll be tattooing less often because your clients do not have unlimited money. They’ll have to save up between each tattoo, which will take time and cause you to improve slower.
  • When people pay for things, they expect a higher standard. This puts a lot of pressure on you as someone who is still learning.

This is why it’s recommended that - if you can't tattoo for free - that you tattoo as cheaply as possible (just enough to cover your supplies) so that you can do as much volume as you can. 

Because you’ll be tattooing more often, you’ll be able to improve much faster. Once you get the skill set, the money will come, and it'll be a lot easier in the long run.

Note:

If you’re very new to tattooing, we recommend only practicing on fake skins until you are confident in the fundamentals (lining, shading, and packing). 

How Much Do Tattoo Artists Make?

Once you are working as a tattoo artist and pricing your tattoos according to your skills, you’ll probably be splitting your income with the tattoo shop where you work to pay for your space there (unless you own a tattoo shop yourself).

What's a Fair Split if You're Working in a Tattoo shop?

One of the most unfortunate things about tattooing is that it can be a dog-eat-dog world. Some shops out there don't give a crap about their artists, and they’ll try to get more than their fair share from their artists. If you don't know any better, then it's really easy to fall for this and get taken advantage of. It’s important to know what's fair and what's not fair.

60/40 Split

f you start working in a tattoo shop, the most common split is 60/40. 60% goes to the artist, 40% goes to the shop. On this split, you'll have to supply all your own disposables (ink caps, barriers, etc.). The shop might provide a chair or a station to work from, but pretty much nothing else. You've got to supply all your own stuff.

If you are a really famous artist, and you have a really big following or a really large clientele, you can negotiate rates higher than this if you're going to be bringing a lot of business into the shop. Because you're adding more value, you have a lot more leverage in the negotiations. But for the average artist, 60/40 is what you can typically expect.

50/50 Split

The next most common split is 50/50. If the shop is taking half your money, they should be doing a lot. They should supply all disposables: ink caps, cling wrap, Vaseline, clip cord sleeves, machine bags, etc. Some shops might provide inks and needles, but because every artist uses different stuff and they're quite expensive, they might not. 

In addition to that, they should be doing a lot for marketing. They should be running Google ads and Facebook ads and actively trying to get you work. Ideally, they’d also have a dedicated counter person to keep the shop running smoothly. 

Without these things, you’ll sort of be getting ripped off because you're giving them half your money and they're not really doing anything. So if it is a 50/50 split, you want to make sure that they're bringing you clients, advertising for you, supplying some of your stuff, and actually helping you out.

40 (or Below)

The only reason you should be on 40% is if you're an apprentice. If you're a fully qualified artist and you're not in a developing nation (where getting 40% and working for a big tattoo chain is closer to the norm), then you should be getting more.

If any shop owner says they want to put you on a 40% split, run the other way.

Learn to Tattoo at Home

While understanding how the industry works is an important part of tattooing, we’ve only just scratched the surface of what you need to know as a tattoo artist.

In the past, learning to tattoo in an apprenticeship was a full-time, unpaid job, which kept many talented artists locked out of the industry.

Today, full-time teachers, restaurant and construction workers, parents, and more are learning to tattoo at home, on their own time with the Artist Accelerator Program

The program’s easy-to-follow, 9-step framework guides you through all the information you need to know to become a tattoo artist, and our online Mastermind community gives you support and feedback on your art and tattoos from professionals in the industry.

Over 2500 students have used our proven framework to break into the tattoo industry, with many of them leaving their old jobs to tattoo in shops all around the world, or even open up their own studios.

If you want to see the framework they used to get their dream jobs…

Click here to check out the Artist Accelerator Program

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain. When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

write a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

SUGGESTED ARTICLES FOR YOU

MORE FREE CONTENT FOR YOU
November 1, 2021

Los Angeles, CaliforniaLos Angeles has an estimated 181 tattoo studios and we've ...

Tattoo Apprenticeships – Los Angeles
Tattoo Kit Reviews Directory
August 26, 2021

The most difficult thing about learning to tattoo is finding personalized feedback ...

The 10 Best Online Tattoo Forums For Artists – Message Boards, Facebook Groups & More

Our Community

Join the Tattooing 101 Community today and get free, instant access to tools and resources that take you behind the curtain of all things tattooing. From apprentice to shop owner, we've got you covered.