Over the last couple of decades, tattoos took over the world by storm. Over 145 million Americans now have tattoos. Tattoos are a great way to express yourself and the options you can get are limitless. But tattoos do come with one downside — the cost.
There are many factors that determine the price you’ll pay for your tattoo, which includes the placement, size, design, your artist, and where you’re located. Most tattoo artists charge an hourly rate, but some will give you a set price based on the factors above.
Here’s a guide to the cost of a tattoo and what you can expect to pay.
Average Tattoo Artist Hourly Rate
Most tattoo artists will charge you an hourly rate. This simplifies the quoting process for them since they don’t have to determine a price based on the factors mentioned above.
The average tattoo artist’s hourly rate can range between $135 and $200/hour, based on skill and years of experience. A medium-sized tattoo may only take about three hours, and you’ll roughly pay about $450. But a large piece, such as a half-sleeve, may take as long as six hours. In this case, you’ll pay at least $850 if not more.
Are you concerned that your artist will tattoo slowly, costing you more money? If they charge hourly, ask them how long the tattoo will take so you know what price you can expect to pay. The best artists will also have a timer, so they won’t charge you for bathroom or lunch breaks.
However, you may not always pay that much. For example, if you have a large and complex piece, your artist may decrease this rate because they’ll spend more time on your piece. On the other hand, some artists may increase their rates in this scenario since there’s a lot of complexity in your tattoo.
This isn’t the only cost to consider. For example, you’ll likely have to pay for a deposit — this is usually $50. The deposit covers the artist in case you cancel at the last minute. In this case, they still get paid for drawing up your tattoo. They subtract the deposit from your final tattoo cost.
Set Tattoo Prices
Most artists charge by the hour, but some will set a price depending on the tattoo you’re getting. Here are some factors they may look at.
Most artists who set a price per tattoo will determine that price by size. Large tattoos require a lot of work and will take a lot of time. This is especially true if the tattoo is detailed — this may increase the rate.
For a small tattoo, you may only have to pay $75, though most shops have a minimum. Some shops only require a $50 minimum while others may require as much as $100. If this is your situation, consider increasing the size or complexity of your design to make the minimum.
A medium-sized tattoo can cost between $300 and $350, depending on what you’re getting and the artist’s experience. Large tattoos can range between $500 – $1,000.
Price By Placement
Let’s say you walk into a shop knowing you want a full sleeve. If you mention this to your artist, they may set a sleeve tattoo cost.
Here are some average price ranges by tattoo placement:
- Full sleeve: $1,500 – $4,000
- Half-sleeve: $800 – $2,000
- Back piece: $5,000
- Forearm: $300
- Shoulder: $600
- Chest piece: $2,000
- Tricep: $150-$300
- Bicep: $600
- Rib: $400
- Wrist: $75
- Hand: $100
- Thigh: $300 – $450
- Finger: $50
- Calf: $350
- Hip: $200
- Ankle: $75
- Foot: $100
If you’re getting a complex design, filled with many details and different colors, this can affect the price you pay. That’s because the artist will take longer to draw out the design and tattoo it on you.
For example, if you’re getting a simple design that only involves an outline in black, you will pay significantly less compared to a large piece that involves a lot of shading and several colors.
In addition, you may get a cheaper price for a specific design. For example, many shops have tattoo pricing deals where you pay a low price for a specific tattoo. These tattoos may be the current tattoo trends or specific artwork from an artist’s portfolio.
The price you pay depends on the artist’s experience and time. While this isn’t always the case, some artists are in-demand and only have limited time availability. Therefore, they will charge extra.
Even if you go to your local tattoo shop, your artist will charge depending on their years of experience, skill, popularity, and time availability. Other factors to consider include location. If you’re based in a busy city with a high cost of living, you’ll pay more than if you lived in a small town with a low cost of living.
With all of this being said, it’s essential to conduct research when choosing a tattoo artist. Most artists have active social media pages where they post their work. Look through different social media pages and portfolios. You can also ask family and friends for a referral. Don’t just consider their tattoo skill, make sure they work at a reputable and clean shop.
In addition to skill, reputability, and talent, consider your tattoo styling. Is your tattoo black-and-gray? Are you getting an Irezumi sleeve? If you’re getting a specific design, find an artist who specializes in that style.
Why Are Tattoos Expensive?
The typical tattoo cost is pretty high. But understand that tattooing takes years of training. Even if the artist doesn’t own their shop, they have to pay for all of their supplies such as the ink, the machine, needles, and sanitation materials. If the price seems too high, understand that your artist has a business they’re running and that comes with overhead for them.
If you do have a budget, mention this to your artist. Your piece may lose some complexity, it may be smaller, or your artist may opt to change the colors, but most artists will be willing to work with a budget.
The Cost of a Tattoo: Not Cheap But Worth It
Tattoos are peaking in popularity. Therefore, the cost of a tattoo isn’t cheap. There are many types of tattoos and they all vary in price. It’s best to find a reputable tattoo artist, know if they charge per hour or price per piece, and know what will go into your tattoo price.
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