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How Much Should You Tip a Tattoo Artist?

illustration of tattoo hands shaking with bank notes above and coins below

You know that it’s customary to tip service workers like restaurant servers, hair stylists, and cab drivers. But what about tattoo artists? If you’ve ever had questions about tattoo tipping etiquette, we’re here to help.
 

Do You Tip a Tattoo Artist?

The short, sweet, and correct answer is: Yes, you should tip your tattoo artist!

Even though tattooing as a profession is part fine art and part skilled trade, tattoo artists provide highly personalized service to each customer. As such, they should be tipped like any other service employee. But that’s not the only reason to tip your artist.

tip jar with cash in focus against blurred background
 

Why Tip a Tattoo Artist?

Like other service workers, tattoo artists don’t pocket the majority of the fees they collect for their services. To understand the importance of tipping in the tattoo industry, it helps to know how costs and wages generally work for tattoo artists.

While you and your artist might agree to a flat price or an hourly rate after you’ve chosen your design, understand that the artist will not receive 100% of that agreed-upon amount. According to tattoo artist Kaitlyn Stockon at Black Lotus Tattoo Studio in Hanover, Maryland, all tattoo artists work “on a percentage or booth rental basis at the studios they work with,” unless they’re the owner of the studio. That means “artists typically do not see more than half the money a client pays.” The rest of the money goes back to the shop and helps pay for overhead expenses like rent, building maintenance, and taxes, as well as owner or manager wages. Additionally, most tattoo artists have to purchase supplies like ink and needles out of their own pockets. “While tipping is not expected, it is greatly appreciated,” Stockon says, as “tips help artists out more than you would think.”

Tipping is also a way to build a stronger relationship with an artist whose work you admire enough to put on your body forever. If you plan on going back to that artist in the future, it certainly doesn’t hurt to make a good impression by giving a good tip.

female tattoo artist drawing stencil with reference picture of an elephant
 

How Much to Tip a Tattoo Artist

In Stockon’s experience, “a lot of people like to use the regular service industry 15% – 20% rule,” which is a good baseline. But you might also want to consider other factors when calculating a tip, such as how much prep time your artist spent on your design before your appointment, how long the appointment itself took, and your overall experience and enjoyment of the time you spent with your artist.

While your artist will be happy with the standard percentage tip, if you have the means and if they’ve provided you excellent service, it might be worth it to give a little more right now for a piece of custom art that you’ll have for a lifetime.

For more articles and information about body art, products and culture, as well as shop features and artist profiles check out the PainfulPleasures blog.