If you’ve started doing your research you’ll know that there’s no simple answer to the question “how much will my new ink cost?”. But, in this article, we give you some insight into how much you can expect to pay for different types of tattoos.
For our pricing, we’re using the average fee of a tattoo artist based in the US with a decent level of experience.
What factors affect the price of a tattoo?
There are many factors which will determine how much your tattoo will cost, so it’s important to note that how much you pay might not be what your friend paid.
- An artist’s skill and experience will make a difference
- You’re likely to pay five times as much for a popular artist at a top studio. Remember though that if an artist has appeared on a TV show or in tattoo magazines they might be more expensive, but that doesn’t necessarily equal talent. Don’t be blinded by wanting a ‘tattoo from a famous person’.
- A studio’s location will also have an effect on the price of your tattoo: big cities like New York and London can charge more as their customer base is much bigger and they’re also able to attract more talented and experienced artists, whereas shops in small cities and towns have to keep their prices lower to survive.
- We’ll go into this in further detail later, but the type of tattoo will also make a difference to the final price. Most studios offer flash, which are pre-drawn tattoos that you can select from. The artist doesn’t have to spend time designing custom work, so flash is often a cheaper option.
Do you need to go to a top artist to get an incredible tattoo?
No, not necessarily. There are thousands of amazing artists with only a year or two of experience; the key to finding them is to spend time doing your research. Look for online recommendations, talk to tattooed friends about their preferred studios, and go into tattoo shops and see portfolios for yourself.
It’s worth remembering that top studios will only hire artists with real talent, so finding an apprentice at a renowned tattoo shop can be a good way of getting a balance between quality and price.
Average tattoo prices
Hourly from $20 for an apprentice to $200
Some artists will charge by the hour rather than by the piece. An hourly rate can be anywhere from $20 for an apprentice to $200 for a famous artist. Some artists may also charge you for the time it takes them to design your tattoo before the actual appointment, so be sure to double check that before you commit to getting the new ink done.
Often, a tattoo studio will have a price list based on size. As we’ve mentioned, each studio will price their pieces differently, but the following figures are what a custom tattoo will cost on average:
- Small tattoos between 3-7” will cost $40-$80
- Medium tattoos between 8-19” will cost $80-$200
- Large tattoos over 20” will cost $300-$1200
- Half sleeve tattoos are typically on the lower half of your arm, but some people prefer the top. A lower half sleeve will cost $500-$1,500.
- A full sleeve tattoo can cost $1,500-$3,000.
- A full back tattoo is more expensive and will cost $2,000-$5,000.
By body part
Artists will often charge more for tattoos in challenging places. This includes fairly common places like feet and elbows and less common areas like the face and neck. Expect an increase of 10-25%. Fingers and hands might sound tricky but the price will usually be in line with other body parts. Remember though, that finger tattoos fade easily so you’ll need to invest more cash after a couple of years to get them touched up.
Thinking of getting an inner lip tattoo? That’ll cost around $50, but again, you’ll need to get it retouched regularly as it will fade and disappear within five years.
If you’re looking to get tattooed using a traditional method such as bamboo, be prepared to pay more for the pleasure. A traditional henna tattoo by a professional artist will cost about as much as an average tattoo, or around $50-$100 per hour.
UV tattoos or glow in the dark tattoos are a relatively new concept but they are gaining popularity as a new form of body art.
Because fewer studios offer them, you should expect to pay more for the exclusivity. The same goes for 3D tattoos: fewer artists are able to create the effect, which means that the top artists can charge top dollar.
If you’ve had a tattoo that you regret, the good news is that laser technology means you’re not stuck with it forever. The total cost of the removal will depend on the size of the piece, and also whether you go to a tattoo studio that offers the service or a dermatologist’s office.
The latter will be more expensive, and according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery average one session of laser tattoo removal will cost $463. A tattoo studio in a non-major city may offer the service for closer to $200 per session.
Those sessions can really add up though: an average-sized tattoo could need anywhere between four and 12 sessions to be completely removed, so think carefully before getting your next tattoo.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, there’s no universal price for a tattoo and your favorite artist may cost more or less than average. The most important thing to remember though is that you really do get what you pay for when it comes to tattoos. It’ll be with you for life, so don’t sacrifice great artwork for the sake of saving a buck or two.
Which of your tattoos cost the most and the least? Let us know in the comments.