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How to Price a Tattoo: Budgeting Your Ink

tattooed and pierced woman with glasses using a pent tablet to draw a mandala

It can be easy to forget that tattoos are costly when you’re daydreaming about your next session. Or, if you’re a tattoo newbie, you’re probably asking yourself how much do tattoos cost, really? The only true way to know how much your tattoo will cost is to communicate with your chosen artist, but we’re here to help you get an idea of what to expect when it comes to tattoo pricing.

While planning your next tattoo, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you want your tattoo to be monochromatic or in full color?
  2. Do you want to work with a high-demand tattoo artist or an up-and-coming artist?
  3. Does your preferred tattoo artist work in a big city or a small town? Alternatively, will this artist be traveling to a convention or guest spotting at a friendly shop?

Once you’ve answered these questions, the process of designing and pricing your next tattoo will be much smoother. Remember, each aspect of the design will ultimately affect the final price, so it’s important to consider your budget while proposing ideas for your custom piece. If you approach your desired artist with clear ideas in mind, they will be able to provide a quote for the tattoo and a draft of the potential design.

Your answers to these questions will factor into the final cost of your tattoo, and don’t forget to account for the artist’s tip as well.

Choosing a Tattoo Artist: Rates, Experience, and Demand

Professional tattoo artists charge a set rate per hour, and their hourly rate typically depends upon a number of factors, such as where they work and how in-demand their services are. Artists located in big cities can afford to set higher rates than small town shops thanks to their massive potential customer base. Similarly, an artist whose been working long enough with established clients and a band of excited newcomers can charge higher rates, because their services are in great demand. Rookie artists on the other hand will begin with lower rates as they work to build their portfolio.

Black and grey flower tattoo by Luca Silvano

Most artists charge between $50-$300 per hour. Discuss your budget constraints with the artist while you’re planning the tattoo; your artist should ask about your budget during the consultation or when you book the tattoo appointment. Having this discussion in the very beginning will help keep your expectations realistic in case you’re asking for more than what they can provide with your set budget. Plus, it will help in avoiding a surprise over-the-top price once it comes time to pay. While the final cost will be a major determining factor in getting a tattoo, check out our article on tips for choosing the right shop for other helpful advice on making your final decision.

As you set your budget and design your tattoo, consider your tattoo priorities. Here is a chart providing a good range of tattoo prices you can expect to see based on artist experience and tattoo size:

Tattoo Prices Chart
Beginner Artist
$20-$50 hourly
Average Artist
$50-$100 hourly
Experienced Artist
$100+ hourly

Palm-Sized Tattoo
(3-7 inches)

$20-$50 $50-$100 $100-$200

Medium Tattoo
(8-19 inches)

$50-$100 $100-$200 $150-$350+

Large Tattoo
(20+ inches)

$100-$800 $300-$1200 $500-$4000+


Designing and Pricing Your Ink: Color, Placement, and Detail

Detailed tattoo designs come with a higher price tag. You’re paying an artist to take their time and tattoo with care, so be prepared to invest your own time and money.

If you have your heart set on certain aspects of the design, you may have to compromise on other elements in order to stay within your budget. Color tattoos are much more complicated and time-consuming than black and grey, so if you wish to cut costs and you’re willing to forego full color, then this is one area in which you can save money.

However, if vibrant color is a priority, then you may need to avoid placing the tattoo on a highly sensitive part of the body. Bony body parts like the ribs or feet and areas with a plethora of nerve endings will be the most sensitive. Artists must take greater care when tattooing in highly sensitive areas, so the process will move slower than tattoos performed on body parts equipped with a higher pain tolerance.

As you shop around for tattoo price estimates, keep in mind that any elements you wish to include in your new custom tattoo piece will increase the final price tag. More ink, more color, more detail — each of these requires more time and patience on behalf of the artist and more money from you.

In order to get the ink you really want, communicating your budget constraints with your tattoo artist is key. Tell your artist what you can afford, and together you can create a design and a timeline that works for both of you. Spreading the cost across multiple sessions will not only help the tattoo to heal well, but you’ll also avoid spending a large sum of money all at one time. When it comes to your ink, you can certainly get almost everything you want, but it might require a few extra sessions to get there. For more helpful information on tattoos, check out our PainfulPleasures infocenter and blog.