Tattoo prices vary quite a bit, but knowing what to expect in terms of cost before your appointment can help you be properly prepared. You may need to budget or save up for some new ink, so getting an...

How Much Should You Expect to Pay for Tattoos

Tattoo prices vary quite a bit, but knowing what to expect in terms of cost before your appointment can help you be properly prepared. You may need to budget or save up for some new ink, so getting an idea of how much you’ll need is the best first step before you booking your tattoo appointment. We break down some of the costs associated with tattooing, and how artists and shops charge. Read on to find out some of the average hourly and shop rates to expect so that you can have the money you need when you get your next piece.

Average Shop Rates

Every tattoo shop is different but they all have a shop minimum price which is charged to each customer. These prices are set to cover certain costs like sanitation materials, tattooing equipment, ink, studio rental costs, with a portion going to the artist. Expecting to pay less than the shop minimum will end in disappointment, so make sure you ask for an estimate prior to booking. When you get your estimate, keep in mind that this is a rough idea of what your tattoo will cost, not an exact or guaranteed number. On average, minimum shop rates at reputable studios run from $80 on the low side, and up to $150 on the higher side. This varies depends on how long the shop has been operating, how skilled their artists are, and what kind of reputation they have in the community. Going to shop that employs celebrity and renowned artists and expecting to pay less than $100 for the work would be unrealistic, so set your expectations accordingly.

Artist Rates

Artists will typically charge hourly rates, exception being with flash pieces which are set per design. The hourly rate per artist varies largely depending on skill and experience. You will either be charged the shop minimum, or by hour from the artist, rarely would you ever be paying for both. Artist rates tend to start around $100 an hour, going up to $220 for an artist that has years of experience behind them, and has earned a respected reputation in the tattoo community. Keep in mind that if you’re getting work done that’s going to take several hours, that will add up, so save up before your appointment if you need to. Make sure you ask for an estimate from the artist beforehand

Getting a Discount

Rule of thumb: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Cheap versus Expensive Tattoo

Legitimate and established tattoo artists charge what they’re worth, so you’ll never see a truly talented artist charging $200 for a full sleeve that would easily be worth $1000+. If you can’t afford the work you’re hoping to get, at the quality that you’re hoping to get, wait until you can. Shopping for discount tattoos will almost always guarantee that your next tattoo will be a cover-up. Asking shops and artists for discounts is insulting and will never get a positive result, so avoid going this route if you’re expecting a legitimate artist to work with you.

There are a few exceptions for tattoo discounts, but it rarely applies to custom designs. Many tattoo shops will be flash sales for special occasions like Friday the 13th, so check artist and shop social media pages if you want some new ink, but aren’t looking for anything custom. You can also seek out apprentices to do your next tattoo and get a discounted price. Tattoo apprentices typically don’t charge for work, as it’s considered practice to grow their portfolio and gain experience, but tips are always appreciated. Keep in mind that a lot of apprentices, depending on how long they’ve been apprenticing for, don’t take on custom designs right away, so you may be looking at flash designs for this as well. It doesn’t hurt to ask if it’s possible to get custom work done if you come across a shop with apprentice work that you like. This would likely only apply to smaller pieces, and nothing like full sleeves or large tattoos.

As with any quality work of art, you’re going to get what you pay for, so doing research and saving up until you can afford the level of excellence that you want in a tattoo is always the best way to go. Expecting to walk into a reputable studio and get a talented artist to give you a tattoo for a discount is insulting, and never goes the way you want it to. However, seeking out scratchers just because they charge less is a great way to guarantee you’re going to get a tattoo you’ll want covered up in the near future. If someone is asking $100 for a full sleeve tattoo, it’s going to look like a $100 sleeve tattoo.

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