One of the most difficult parts of being a tattoo artist isn’t even a skill: it’s pricing your work correctly. Overcharging won’t get you many clients. But not charging enough can make it impossible to move up in your career.
If you’re not sure how to price your tattoos, you’re in the right place.
In this article, we’ll break down:
How Much Does a Professional Tattoo Artist Charge?
How much a professional tattoo artist charges for their work will vary a bit depending on their level of experience.
Tattoo Artists Used to Charge ~$100/hr
For the past 12 years, most tattoo artists charged about $100/hr, with a $50 shop minimum. In some shops, if the owner is a tattoo artist, they might have charged a bit higher. This rate was almost constant until 2021.
In 2022, Tattoo Artists are Charging ~$150/hr
In the past year, most tattoo artists have increased their prices to $150-$210/hr, depending on location. This is to cover the increasing prices of everything around us (groceries, rent, etc.).
In many places, tattoos were cheap during the COVID-19 pandemic to get clients in the door. As the world continues to open back up, there will be more customers, which means prices will go up as well.
Charging Per Hour vs. Charging Per Piece
Some artists prefer to charge by the piece instead of charging per hour. This works if you tattoo very quickly. For example, if one artist can do a tattoo for $100 in one hour, you don’t want to discount yourself by doing the same tattoo for $50 in half an hour.
However, charging per piece comes with extra risk. If it takes you longer than you think it will to design and do a tattoo, you still have to honor the price you quoted, even if it means you don’t end up making that much money for the amount of time you put into it.
A lot of customers prefer to know your per hour rate because it helps them know how much they can afford to get at one time. For example, if they want to split up the payment, you might only do the linework first and get paid for those hours and then do the shading later on.
Charging per hour makes it easier to “pace” someone’s payment for a large tattoo.
Why Do Tattoos Cost So Much?
To people who aren’t in the industry, $150/hr might sound crazy. Here’s why it’s not:
Tattoos cost money for artists to create. You need ink, needle cartridges, paper towels, gloves, and more.
Drawing and Admin Work
If you’re doing a custom tattoo, you’ll probably spend several hours drawing a tattoo design to prepare for the appointment. However, most customers think it is possible for you to just “whip something up” a few minutes before their appointment.
Additionally, tattoo artists are usually responsible for their own marketing, taxes, and booking.Remember, artists give a portion of their money to the tattoo shops they work in. Make sure to consider what you’ll make after you pay the tattoo parlor.
As an artist, you’re not only charging for a design and tattoo, you’re also charging for your years of experience. If you have a lot of experience, you’ll be able to tattoo more efficiently and create better tattoo designs.
This means that the longer you’re in the industry, the more money you’re going to make.
Charging Low Tattoo Prices?
There’s a few reasons why tattoo artists will sell themselves short and won’t charge enough for their work.
Tattooing is a Creative Field
A lot of people don’t value creative fields as much as other areas of business. Because of this, there are plenty of customers who will say that you charge too much.These aren’t the customers you want to have. If you’re charging a fair price, a customer who appreciates your work won’t try to haggle with you.
Artists Feel Awkward About Their Prices
Quoting a piece is the part of tattooing that artists hate the most. Because of this, they tend to sell themselves short because they don’t want backlash from customers.
This is one reason the average tattoo cost ($100/hr) stayed the same for over a decade. Many artists just didn’t want to deal with the awkwardness of telling the clients they’d been tattooing for years that they’ll have to pay more.
If you will be raising your prices, make sure to tell your existing customers far in advance. If someone made an appointment with you before you raised your prices, it’s best to honor the original price or hourly wage they expected when they booked in with you.
Should You Charge More for Coverups?
Most tattoo artists don’t like to touch another artist’s work unless:
Some shops have a separate hourly rate for coverups, but that depends on the shop owner. Cover ups already take more time than a completely new piece, so the tattoo cost will be higher anyway.
Charging as a New Tattoo Artist/Apprentice
If you’re new to tattooing, it’s important to remember that the friend or client is doing you a favor by letting you get quality practice on human skin.
Because of this, there are a few ways you can charge customers. Which one you pick will depend on your experience level, as well as your personal finances.
When you’re first starting out, it’s best to tattoo people for free.Getting your first clients when you have no experience is one of the hardest parts of building a tattoo career. If a tattoo will cost them nothing, they are way more likely to get tattooed, which means you can start building a portfolio.
Cost of Supplies
If you cannot tattoo for free because covering the cost of supplies will be too much, then you can charge for those supplies. (For example, if you have a private studio and you’re in the early stages, you only charge what you must to keep the lights on).
In this case, you are not charging for your time.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what to consider when charging only for supplies:
For this, about $20-30 should cover your equipment.
A lot of the time, you can say: “I’ll do the tattoo for free, but if you’d like, you can tip to cover supplies.” When you say this, most people will ask how much the supplies cost and pay you for them.
Don’t forget about taxes. If you are only covering for the most basic supplies, keep in mind that you still need enough to cover your taxes.
In tattoo shops, once apprentices can do clean lines and solid shading, they will start to charge for their tattoos.
In most areas, apprentices charge at half the artists’ rate. So if the artists in the shop charge $100/hr, the apprentice will charge $50/hr.
You need to have proper experience tattooing before you charge the same rate as other professional artists in your area. However, once you can do clean lines and solid shading, you’re ready to start charging. As you improve, you can increase your rates.
It’s important that you do raise your prices. If you are undercutting yourself for years, it will burn you out. If you’re suffering to do what you love, you’ll begin to wonder if it’s even worth doing. This blocks your creativity and your passion.
When you are ready, raise your rate to compete with average tattoo prices in your area.
Become a Tattoo Artist With the Artist Accelerator Program
Having a career in tattooing is not only fulfilling, but it’s also the most stable way to make a living as an artist. However, for decades, the process to become a tattoo artist has been notoriously difficult.
The apprenticeship process requires aspiring tattoo artists to work 50-60 hours a week without pay for 2-4 years. That, combined with the toxic culture of abusing apprentices, makes getting into the industry almost impossible for newcomers.
That’s why we created the Artist Accelerator Program. Our online course provides a simple, structured way of learning to tattoo that has been proven to work by over 2500 successful students, with many of them having gone on to open their own shops all around the world.
Inside the program, we’ll take you through every step of the tattooing process in 9 clear, easy-to-follow modules and support you along the way within the Tattooing 101 Mastermind online community.
In the Mastermind group, you’ll collaborate with other students, get answers to your questions, and receive personalized video feedback on your artwork and tattoos from professional tattoo artists. With this friendly community of both new and experienced tattoo artists, you’ll never be stuck again.
When you join the Artist Accelerator Program, you’ll have instant access to the full course and the Mastermind community, as well as our 30-Day Flash Challenge and recorded interviews with tattoo artists from all over the world.Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.