How much will your tattoo cost you?

Questions surrounding tattoo prices are extremely tough to answer, and ones that can never be answered accurately by anyone besides an actual artist who knows exactly what you want as your tattoo – and even then it may still be impossible to give you an exact answer until your tattoo is completely finished. However – we can definitely help to shed some light on the many factors involved in deciding how much money any particular tattoo is likely to cost. Hopefully this detailed section can give you some insight as to why some tattoo prices add up to mere dollars, while other tattoos cost many thousands. 

How Much Do Tattoos Cost? The Factors Involved…

There are many, many reasons why two very similar-looking tattoos can be priced so differently to each other. A lot of the reasons are obvious, but there are also many obscure reasons as to why some tattoos are more expensive than others. Below are some of the main factors involved in the process of deciding how much a tattoo is going to cost.

Artist Skill & Experience

Definitely one of the biggest factors when it comes to working out how much your next tattoo might cost. Tattoo artist skill levels vary incredibly from artist to artist.

However, you must remember to take into account that you don’t need to have years of experience to be a highly skilled tattoo artist – and you’re not necessarily always going to be a highly skilled tattoo artist even after years of experience. And what I mean by this – there are some extremely talented artists around who only have a few years’ experience under their belts; whilst there are many artists who have 4x as much years in experience, but are still as mediocre as the day they first started.

Artist Speed

You must remember that all artists work at different speeds. Some artists are incredibly quick with their work while some take a lot longer. No one way is better, but if you’re paying by the hour, the slower artist is obviously likely to cost more than the quicker one.

Tattoo Planning

Many walk-in studios have pre-drawn designs (tattoo flash) in their waiting rooms displayed within books and stuck onto walls that you can choose from, which the artist can then transfer instantly onto your body-part of choice. These tattoos are normally small and relatively simple, and the fact that they’re already pre-drawn means that there’s very little planning involved before getting tattooed. This means that there are very rarely any costs involved with the planning of these types of tattoos.

On the other hand, many larger tattoos are custom-drawn to a customer’s exact requirements. These drawings can be extremely detailed and can take up a lot of the artist’s time – therefore many artists may charge extra to draw something bigger and/or more detailed up for you. 

When it comes to the costs involved in getting a custom design drawn up, prices vary between each artist.

You may be lucky however, as many artists do not charge extra for designing custom, more detailed tattoos (as long as you’re not planning on stealing the design and taking it to another studio/artist).

Be careful though – if your artist keeps drawing designs up for you, and you continue to ask for lots of changes to be made, your artist may ask for extra money from you to cover the costs of the extra hours that they’re spending on perfecting your design. Time equals money and artists need to make a living!

Tattoo Size & Detail

Another rather obvious factor. If you’re planning to get a huge back-piece or a full sleeve, it’s going to cost considerably more than a small ankle tattoo. 

Remember though, not all small tattoos will necessarily cost less than larger ones. For example, an extremely intricate and detailed half-sleeve is likely to cost more than a full-sleeve consisting of basic shapes with no shading, as it will take much longer to tattoo the more detailed parts.

Tattoo Color

Generally, color tattoos cost more than black/gray, but only marginally. As colored inks generally cost more than blacks, some artists choose to charge a slightly higher price, although this practice isn’t common and most artists will choose charge the same rate regardless of color.

Another reason why getting a tattoo in color may be more expensive is that your artist will generally have to take more time out between tattooing in order to change and mix colors ready for the next section.

This chopping-and-changing of colors can bump up the final price of your tattoo, especially if it’s a bigger piece. This is because the length of time it takes to mix and maintain colors throughout your entire tattooing session can add up to quite a lot if you’re in the chair for many hours.

Body Placement

The body part where the tattoo will be placed can also impact its price. Some areas, like the hands, feet, or ribs and neck, can be more challenging to tattoo, which may lead to higher costs.

Tattoo Materials

If your artist uses top of the range inks, needles and soaps/creams etc. then he will likely command a slightly higher price compared to if materials were of a lesser quality.

However, the price difference will probably not be worth thinking about for most of you as I’m quite sure that all of you guys reading this would rather have your artist equip themselves with the best tools available for the job to ensure that your tattoo comes out looking as best as it possibly can.

Different Ways That Artists Charge for Tattoos

Different artists have different ways of taking payment when it comes to tattooing. Below are the two most common ways in which you might pay your artist for a tattoo.

Flat rate

Some charge a flat rate per piece. In this case, your artist will usually provide a cost estimate based on the size and details of your custom design. Things like color, line work, and detail can all influence the cost estimate. 

Half / full day rates

For larger, more complex tattoos, artists often opt for half or full-day rates. Charging a flat fee for a dedicated block of time allows for focus on creating beautiful, extensive pieces without the need to watch the clock continually. This method offers value for clients and ensures artists are fairly compensated for larger projects.


Many artists prefer to charge for their work by the hour, and normally their minimum charge is for one hour’s work – so if you go in wanting a tattoo that will take 10 minutes to complete, you’re still likely going to be paying for an hour’s worth of work.

The main reason for the minimum charge is that the artist is still going to be using brand new needles and sterilizing equipment on you, and this all costs the artist more money – therefore they must charge a minimum so they don’t actually end up losing money.

Hourly charging is normally done on bigger, custom and more complex pieces where an accurate price/time of completion is impossible to predict until the tattoo is completed or near completion.

Generally, when you’re paying by the hour, you will pay the artist after each session at the studio. For example, if you go in one day for 4 hour’s worth of a new tattoo, you will pay the artist 4 hour’s worth of time at the end of the session. When you go in the next time – say for 3 more hours on the same tattoo if it still isn’t finished, you will pay your artist for another 3 hours of work at the end – and so-on.


Again, most artists tend to do things differently to each-other with regard to deposit, but the vast majority of them will require a deposit of at least some description, unless it’s a walk-in session where you’re getting a tattoo done there-and-then, in which case a deposit is pointless. A deposit is required to secure your booking and also to cover the artist in case you don’t show up when you should have. If you fail to turn up when previously arranged, or you cancel without much notice, you will likely loose your deposit for wasting the artist’s time and causing them to lose out on the money that they would have gained had they been tattooing somebody in their now-empty time slot.