You spent months or even years dreaming up the perfect artwork for your new tattoo. You’ve got the colors picked out, you know exactly where you want it, etc. Then the, “how much is this going to cost me” question pops in your head.
It’s a tough question to answer too. There are so many factors that go into that final price tag.
It’s a lot like shopping for a new car. Sure, I can arm you with the MSRP or retail price so you can a good idea of what you’ll spend. However, artists or car dealers in this example ultimately will sell you a car at a totally different price. If you were to shop a bunch of dealers, you’d have drastically different quotes at the end of the day.
With that said, I’m going to go over tattoo prices with you from start to finish. If you want to learn about negotiation etiquette, hourly rates, and more, this guide is for you.
Why does cost and price matter so much?
Negotiating on price
Personally, I love to negotiate and haggle when it comes to price. I’m sure you do too, however when it comes to tattoos, it’s generally one thing you don’t want to negotiate over. Though, you still can without being disrespectful.
Truth be told, there are a few ways to look at this:
First, understand that a tattoo is permanent ink. If you want the best, it might be a wise decision to pay the best. There’s an old saying, “you get what you pay for”, and well, it’s true in most cases. For instance, if you’ve done your research and found the perfect artist, you shouldn’t rule them out over price. If it takes a few extra months of saving up to afford their work, do it.
In reality, a lot of negotiation happens at more budget shops where people generally don’t care about quality. If they’re going to get a quick and grimy tattoo, they might as well do it as cheap as possible. In their case, it’s easy to see why they’d go from shop to shop negotiating; they just don’t care.
In reverse, if you do care, the difference between $150 and $175 an hour, shouldn’t worry you that much. Remember, it is $25 here and you’re getting artwork on your body that’s going to last a lifetime!
Lastly, I want to mention there are numerous studies that prove a higher financial gain does not always equate to better work performance. For some people, the opportunity to ink a certain piece of artwork can incredibly more motivating. Just something to remember… Ultimately it comes down to honesty, trust your artist.
A better way to negotiate
You’re still on a fixed budget and you don’t want to negotiate. Don’t worry, you still can stay on budget while respecting your artist at the same time. It goes back to the honesty thing, in this case, be upfront with your artist.
Pick out a design and go to your artist. Tell them exactly what you are looking for and how much you are able to spend; in other words what meets your financial means. Ask if it possible and they’ll tell you their answer.
Sure, you may get a no, however, you may also be told yes too. For instance, perhaps it’s a busy season and scheduling later in the week, or next month or during the evening helps make it possible. If your artist has downtime you may get lucky.
There are lots of artists to choose from
Sure, I don’t advise it, however, I’m still going to tell you about this. I want you to know everything!
Understand that are a considerable number of talented artists out there. By no means do you have to settle if you don’t want to; ultimately that’s up to you. However, you should know that great artists can be found throughout the world.
Even if you live in the US, you could take a trip to Mexico, save 30% and head back home with truly remarkable ink. Not to mention, traveling from CA to OH might save you about the same too. Again, there’re plenty of options out there to choose from. I just want to make sure you are aware of all them so you can make the right decision.
Hourly rates and fixed prices
It’s going to vary artist by artist. Some will flat out tell you it’s going to be $500. Others will mention their hourly rate, say $150 per hour for example. When you ask how many hours, it can be a truly difficult question to answer on the spot.
Understand, there’s no way to accurately know how many hours will be involved when it comes to artwork. The time spent drawing and designing up your piece can greatly vary. It takes a lot of guesswork.
If you already know exactly what you want, it’s reasonable to ask for the fixed price or number of hours involved. Remember, a tattoo is generally a considerable pretty penny for most people. Your artist is human, they’ll understand and want to help alleviate any worries over price.
It goes back to the negotiation and the budget part I just covered. Be upfront, and be okay with asking. Regardless if you want to know a rough estimate of how long it will take, what their rates are, etc.
If a client came in for a new tattoo that costs $1,000 and later explains they had a budget of $500… Can you imagine how frustrated an artist would be in that situation? See what I mean here. In reality, honesty is key for both parties.
What you’ll end up paying
One tattoo shop might charge $100 while another just down the road will want a $1,000. Your best bet is to always choose a shop that you believe is going to do the best work!
Common rates: $75 -$150 hour. However, it’s not unheard of to see hourly rates as low as $50-$60 or even well above $200-$250 an hour. For certain in-demand artists, $350-$500+ per hour should be expected as the minimum rate.
In comparison, think about the cost of tattoo removals for a moment here. Over seven treatments, each will cost $200 and generally take 15 mins. That’s $800 per hour! Don’t get bummed out by hourly rates for new tattoos that seem expensive, they are reasonable all said and done, with everything considered!
What affects the price?
The larger the pieces the higher the price! There is significantly more work and time involved with a full back tattoo than a simple wrist tattoo for example.
The color is another factor to consider. With black ink and simple lines, the piece is fairly simple. However, adding colored pigments, often means shading too which results in a considerable addition of more time and complexity.
Placement can often vary the price too. If you think about it, an elbow tattoo is an extremely sensitive area to tattoo. It’s not easy to work with for both the client and the artist. An arm tattoo is a cake walk in comparison.
The design. The more complex it is, the more you pay. It’s quite simple. The same is true when it comes to personalized or custom drawings, they can really drive up the final cost of your new tattoo.
For a full sleeve, you’re looking at 10-15 hours minimum. That means anywhere from $1,000-$3,000 on upwards. Some sleeves can take 15-30 hours, and come in at around $3,500 before tips and $4,200 with tips included.
Both Arms – Full Sleeves
You could double the full sleeve prices above. A simple example would be 40 hours, spaced out over 4 to 5-hour sessions at $125/hour. That would still put you at $2,500 per arm, $5,000 total.
5-8 hours minimum, with a more reasonable estimate of 8-15 hours. Anywhere from $500 to $2,000 and on upwards.
45 minutes to an hour or more. Places could include your knuckles, foot, ankle, wrist, etc.
Simple designs such as roman numerals, lines or initials, $50-80. Complex designs $200.
10-25 hours minimum for less complex designs. For full back tattoos with considerable detail, you can expect 18-40 hours as a minimum. You can look at anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 on upwards.
If you want a cheap tattoo, it’s a surefire way to get a bad one. Don’t choose your tattoo artist based on their prices. Focus on their portfolio instead, you’ll be glad you did for years to come.