Authored by Sharon Roney in Body Arts
Published on 09-17-2009
The price of a tattoo is usually measured in one of two ways: by the hour, or by the piece.
Tattoo Pricing By the Hour
Tattoo shops or artists that charge by the hour normally range anywhere from $80-$200/hr with a minimum of $40-$50. Artists can benefit from this style of pricing because it’s an easy way to advertise their clout or skill, which can draw the sector of clients to which they cater. For example, celebrity artists who charge by the hour might charge $300-$600/hr. If they advertise this they don’t have to waste time quoting prices for people who will only be turned away by the cost. On the other side of the spectrum, shops can advertise low hourly rates to be competitive.
Tattoo Pricing by the Piece
Tattoo artists that charge by the piece take into account several factors: size, complexity, and area of the body to be tattooed. These artists also have minimums, however, so anything from a tiny star on your toe to a 2”x2” simple piece will cost you $40-$50. Artists set minimums because they often have to split their earnings with the tattoo shop owner on top of providing all their own supplies.
The trouble with charging by the piece is that costs can skyrocket very quickly. Tattoo prices are subject to real concerns as well as subjective factors that artists of any kind feel a right to, like whether or not they are excited to do a design or whether or not you have a good relationship with the artist. For the effect of sizes on pricing, start your estimator clock with the simple 2”x2” design at $50. For each expansion of an inch on all sides, estimate an extra $100. This means you would estimate a 3”x3” piece at $150. For each expansion, note that the complexity will undoubtedly rise as you have more space to play with. This method will overestimate some pieces and underestimate others due to all the other factors, but at least you can have a ballpark figure to save for.
The price for a tattoo can also change depending upon the location of a tattoo. For example, the abdomen and lower back areas are harder to tattoo than a shoulder. To illustrate for yourself the problems that tattooists have with different parts of the body, take a pen and attempt to draw a picture on different parts of your body. Your shoulder, arm, or palm of your hand will be easier to draw on than the top of your foot or your stomach. This can give you a hint as to whether to expect a higher cost for your desired tattoo location.
Prices for the job performed will also rise dramatically if you enlist a celebrity artist. For example, on her website, Kat Von D from the TV show Miami Ink has a $500 minimum for regular pieces and a $1000 minimum for portraits, regardless of how small the piece. The price then increases based on the normal factors of tattoo size, complexity, and location.
In finale, tattooists are artists and prices for art have no set in stone requirements. In the tattoo world, you get what you pay for. If you are happy with what you get, you payed the right price.