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How Much Does a Tattoo Cost?

Posted by Drew Plotkin | Chief Dude Officer on

The top questions I get asked about my tattoos - How much money have you spent on your tattoos? How much money will it cost for me to get this type of tattoo on this part of my body? I was recently asked in an interview, by Inked Magazine, how much money total I had spent on all my tattoos. The answer may or may not surprise you.

@inkedmagazine Drew Plotkin has put some serious money into his ink 🤑 #tattoo #inkedmag ♬ original sound - Inked Magazine

My tattoos were expensive AF. That's because I choose both quality and quantity. I also have the tendacy to gravitate towards the best of the best in regard to the artist I'll let get close to my skin with a needle. But, that doesn't mean you can't get a great tattoo from a less known artist. People all over the country and world get awesome tattoos at great prices every day.

Art can be an expensive investment, so when you choose a permanent piece of body art, it’s a big commitment…a permanent one. You can’t return it and get a refund. You can’t exchange it for credit. It’s yours, forever. Unless you laser it off, which is about the same as tossing your expensive painting into the fire. So, it only makes sense to think about the costs involved with a getting a tattoo before taking the plunge.

Like any sizable or significant purchase in life, there are many things to consider before committing to your tattoo. Some things come into question—the biggest being budget—can you afford it?

So, how much do tattoos cost?

It depends. Greatly. There are varying factors involved in determining the cost of a tattoo. Such as:

  • Artist Experience – The specific skill level, experience, and reputation is a huge cost factor. Obviously if your tattoo artist is well-known and in high demand, time with them has monetary value and you should be prepared to pay a premium price for getting them to tattoo you.
  • Artist Location – Yes, where your tattoo shop is located geographically really does matter. Prices vary by artist, shop and location. Getting tattooed in a popular, expensive city will typically cost more in comparison to a small, quaint town. There may even be more discrepancy on price if you’re traveling abroad.
  • Artist Rate (hourly & day rate) – Depending on the size, intricacy and number of colors the tattoo requires will determine the time involved. Once that is determined, the artist will either charge you an hourly rate or often times a flat day rate if your tattoo session is expected to go beyond 4-5 hours.
  • Minimum charge – Most artists or shops will require a minimum for any tattoo, even the smallest. Minimum charges are used to ensure the artist’s time is compensated.
  • Time involved – Many tattoo shops and artists charge by the hour. The time needed will affect the final price of the tattoo. Bigger, more elaborate tattoos will obviously require more time.
  • Number of sessions required – Depending on your tattoo size and design, placement and your artist’s skill level, it’s necessary to discuss how many sessions are needed to complete the work. If many hours are involved to complete the tattoo, that will determine if an hourly rate or flat day rate will be charged and how many sessions needed.
  • Style of tattoo – Simple, outline only, colorful, single needle, blackout, the list goes on and on. The specific style of tattoo is a big factor in cost. The more extensive and detailed the tattoo, the more time and cost involved.
  • Complexity of design – Whether or not your tattoo will be a variation of existing artwork or if the artist has to spend time designing an original are factored into the price charged by the artist and/or shop. Custom designs and original pieces will cost more than existing.
  • Size of tattoo – Small tattoos won’t take up too much time unless they are extreme micro-needle detail, but the larger in scale and bigger in scope, the more time needed.
  • Placement on body – Picking a spot on your body is a big thing to consider especially for time and cost. The more delicate, difficult to reach areas will generally cost you more, as will the more sensitive areas on the body. Some areas (like genitals) will dictate a minimum charge from many artists due to the sensitive nature.

In the old days, you could walk into a tattoo shop, pick a design on the wall for a set price and that was it. Yes you can still do that today – but in recent years, so much more goes into choosing, designing and getting tattoos – it’s only natural that the costs reflect that. So, it’s a cardinal rule that you should do your research first to find out as much as you can prior to budgeting for your new investment.

4-Leaf Clover Tattoo | Low Cost Tattoo

There’s the old adage, “You get what you pay for.” And there is no truer statement spoken for tattoos. Good tattoos are not cheap. And cheap tattoos are not good.

More often than not, tattoo shops will have a minimum cost regardless of the size of your chosen tattoo. This is simply good business. The reason they do this is to ensure that the tattoo artist is compensated fairly for their time and work. So even if you choose a tiny, single-needle tattoo, no bigger than a pea-size, you may still be required to pay anywhere from $50-$250 for that tattoo.

This minimum range will also vary depending on your geographic region (see geographic cost ranges below). Obviously big cities like NYC, Miami and Los Angeles will generally have higher prices for tattoos – but it really will depend on the individual shop and/or artist. The more experienced the tattoo artist, the higher the starting price. Some will charge you an hourly rate instead of a flat rate for the piece. But the more experienced and notable the artist, if the tattoo will take more than 4 hours, they will typically charge you a flat day rate.

Tattoos on the larger-scale can run you typically anywhere from $350-$10,000. Big range – yep! But large-scale tattoos vary so drastically. To avoid that sticker-shock, it’s necessary to understand the average costs involved for each general type of tattoo.

BASIC TATTOO COSTS

TYPE SIZE COST

Tiny Tattoos

Under 2 inches

$50 - $100

Small Tattoos

2-4 inches

$50 - $250

Medium Sized Tattoos

4-6 inches

$150 - $450

Large Single-Piece Tattoos

4-6 inches

$500 - $5,000

Large Sleeves (arms, back, legs)

N/A

$650 - $8,000


BASIC HOURLY RATES – PER YEARS OF EXPERIENCE

ARTIST LEVEL YEARS OF EXPERIENCE HOURLY RATE

Beginner

1-3 years

$80 - $120

Established

5-10 years

$120 - $180

Experienced

10+ Years

$150 - $250

Famous Artist

*Depends on artist

$200- $500


WHAT ARE BIGGEST FACTORS AFFECTING THE PRICE?

Rhianna Neck Tattoo | BangBangNY

The biggest cost factors for tattoos are the artist and the design. The more experience and notoriety a tattoo artist has, the higher their rate. The more complex and detailed the design, the more it will cost.

But the other biggest impact on price is the size and placement of the tattoo. If you choose a tattoo or piece that’s more involved, intricate, colorful and detailed, the longer the tattoo takes to complete. Additionally, if you’re choosing to place the tattoo in a complicated spot on the body, it inevitably means the more time the artist spends on your tattoo – all of which will ultimately be reflected in the total cost.  

AVERAGE TATTOO COSTS BY PLACEMENT

LOCATION + TYPE SIZE AVERAGE COST

Ankle

Small

$50 - $250

Foot

Small-Medium

$150 - $450

Finger

Small

$50 - $150

Hand

Small-Medium

$100 - $250

Wrist

Small-Medium

$50 - $200

Forearm

Small-Large

$200 - $1,250

Bicep

Small-Large

$150 - $450

Tricep

Small-Large

$300 - $600

Shoulder

Small-Large

$350 - $900

Half-Sleeve

Large

$800 - $3,500+

Full-Sleeve

Large

$1,500 - $5,000+

Calf

Small-Large

$300 - $700

Thigh

Small-Large

$250 - $3,250+

Full-Leg

Large

$1,500 - $5,000+

Buttocks

Small-Large

$500 - $900

Privates (genitals)

Small-Large

$500 minimum*

Chest

Small-Large

$250 - $2,000+

Sternum

Small-Medium

$450 - $950

Back

Small-Large

$1,000 - $2,000

Full-Back

Large

$2,000 - $6,000+

Hip / Leg

Small-Large

$500 - $1,750+

Rib / Side

Small-Large

$500 - $700

Face

Small-Medium

$150 - $450

Eyebrow

Small

$400 - $600

Eyeliner + Cosmetic

Small

$80 - $1,000+

Lip/Inner Lip

Small

$150 - $650

Areola

Small-Medium

$250 - $900

Neck

Small-Medium

$50 - $250

Head

Small-Large

$450 - $750

Ear

Small

$50 - $250

*On average due to area

TATTOO COSTS BY GEORGRAPHIC REGION

Blue Coy Fish and Red Devil | Expensive Tattoo Cost

Where you get your tattoo has a significant impact on the cost – as in where geographically speaking. Typically, cites will charge more than rural and suburban areas. Getting a tattoo by an artist in a well-known urban city is generally higher than getting a tattoo from an artist in a remote small town. If you get a tattoo in a flourishing city where cost of living is high, expect to pay a higher rate. If you get a tattoo in a tourist location where many people visit and get tattoos, expect to pay a higher rate. Traveling abroad also has specific price variances to consider.

For example, according to studies published in 2016*, the three most expensive places in the world to get a tattoo were:

#1 – San Francisco,CA (USA) – Average $280/hour

#2 – Tokyo, Japan – Average $253/hour

#3 – New York City, NY (USA) – Average $224/hour

*As of 2016 according to Global Tattoo Trend Index

Some of the most popular and pricey places to get a tattoo are:

USA INTERNATIONAL

– San Francisco, CA

– London, UK

– New York City, NY

– Paris, France

– Los Angeles, CA

– Tokyo, Japan

– Miami, FL

– Milan, Italy

– Las Vegas, NV

– Madrid, Spain

– Austin, TX

– Rome, Italy

– Portland, OR

– Florence, Italy

– Philadelphia, PA

– Seoul, South Korea

– Detroit, MI

– Berlin, Germany


HIDDEN COSTS

Tattoo Money Jar

The cost of a tattoo has a wide range considering the above mentioned. But don’t forget that there are additional costs to consider after the tattoo is complete. The hidden costs involved are necessary to budget, especially if you’re getting larger pieces.

TIPPING YOUR TATTOO ARTIST

Should you tip?
The short answer? Yes! You should always tip your tattoo artist – so it’s important to factor that into the overall total cost. The going rate for tipping is, on average, about 15%-20%. However, if you’re getting a larger scale tattoo that requires a lot of time and detail, tipping on the higher end is always recommended. Like any good service, if you’re particularly happy with the piece - giving 20% is a good barometer. If you are getting a tattoo done by an artist that you’d like to do another session with in the future, it’s always good practice to tip more, closer to 25%. That artist will remember you the next time around and factor that into future work and availability.


Tattoo Tipping

Moisturized Tattoos

TATTOO AFTERCARE

Is it expensive?
Tattoo aftercare is critical in order to make sure that your tattoo heals correctly and looks the best that it can – after all – this is an investment that will be on your body permanently. Depending on your tattoo size and the instructions provided by your artist, you’ll need to factor in costs for the immediate aftercare using anti-bacterial or antimicrobial, along with moisturizing and nourishing aftercare products like naturally based tattoo balms, as well as long-term maintenance products like a SPF50 Tattoo Sunscreen.

TATTOO TOUCHUPS

Are they included in price?
Maybe.Yes, your tattoo will fade over time. Using a daily SPF and tattoo balm to moisturize it and keep it looking healthy and vibrant will help. But fading is inevitable. Many tattoos may require some touch ups as the years go on to help brighten and clarify the detail in the design. Some artists may include touchups in the initial cost. Some may charge separate fees on top of it. It’s important for you to ask your artist before getting the tattoo and understand the extra touch up fees upfront.


Tattoo Touch-up Before and After

FRIENDLY REMINDER: QUESTIONS TO ASK THE ARTIST

Tattoo Artist Working

Questions to ask your tattoo artist:

  • How long will my tattoo take? How many sessions? How many hours per session?
  • Do you charge hourly or a flat rate?
  • Is there a deposit required?
  • What should I do to prepare for my tattoo?
  • What do I need to care for my tattoo after?
  • I want this tattoo, but the price is too high. What should I do? (If the budget’s an issue, talk to your artist). They can most likely alter the design and intricacy to help meet your budget.

Tattoos are art that you can enjoy for many years to come! Be sure to invest in your body art wisely and do your due diligence (aka research) before you get inked!

I hope this tattoo price guide has been informative and helpful to you dudes. If you have any other questions about tattoo cost, feel free to HMU at whatsup@dermdude.com

Take it easy, dudes!

-Drew Plotkin (Chief Dude Officer)

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