Tattoo Pricing & Shopping 101
Hopefully this article can help answer a few questions you might have about tattoo industry prices and how to find a price within your budget. Let’s look into a series of common questions and answers that will best cover the fundamental understanding of the cost of your tattoo:
Q – Why are tattoos so expensive?
A – Most tattoo artists are required to pay a percentage of their wages (up to 60%) or booth rent (anywhere from $500 to $1000 a month) to help cover the cost of building rent, insurance, shop supplies and art supplies. Owners are usually the ones paying these expenses, but if it’s a small shop you can probably bet that 50% of what they charge goes straight back into the cost of running the business. Some tattoo shops charge by the hour, while others charge by the piece, but the best way to figure out what your artist is making is to divide the cost by the number of hours they are working (including set- up and drawing time) and then divide that number by 2 for their overhead cost. Sometimes this amount can range from $20 to $200 an hour. An artist that is in high demand is usually forced to raise their prices so that they can accomplish the tattoo within a timely manner. Let’s be honest, an artist who has spent years developing their skill is not going to settle for a wage they can make at McDonalds, and if you really want a quality tattoo you should be looking at the quality of their work and not their prices.
Q – What should I pay for a tattoo?
A – The price you should be paying is very subjective in a tattoo. Here’s a good list to abide by when shopping:
- First you need to look at what it is that you want, how much detail is in the image, how big you want it and where you want it placed. (All of these variables affect the price of the tattoo).
- Next you should check out shop portfolios in your area to see if they can accomplish what you want at the quality you want it done.
- Once you have found the artist or artists who can do what you want, ask them what their rates are. (This is something that should be done in person and not over the phone).
- Finally check the rates of the other artists you think can accomplish the tattoo and compare them.
Q – Why do I have to pay for the drawing?
A – Although artists are passionate about drawing, their time is worth something. Your custom design may take many days to develop, hours to draw and may not be something that can be sold to someone else if you decide you don’t want it.
Q – Why do I have to pay for a consultation?
A – Not all shops charge consultation fees, but if they do it’s usually so they can set aside the time to figure out what you want and how to design it without being interrupted. Shops that are in high demand might require a consultation fee because they are booked solid, and meeting with you means they need to set aside time specifically for you that would otherwise be spent making money doing a tattoo.
Q – Can I haggle or negotiate a different cost?
A – Yes. Usually shops don’t have an exact price for every tattoo because there are too many variables that can change between each tattoo. However, it is important to understand the prices of other shops in your area. If most shops in town quote you a price of $1000 for a half sleeve, don’t try and negotiate down to $300. It’s insulting to under price your own tattoo by a large amount and it tells the artist that you don’t value his time.
Q – What if I just ask people on Facebook which artist to go to?
A – The biggest problem with asking someone on Facebook which artist to go to is that particular artist may not be right for you. You may end up getting responses from a lot of stay-at-home parents or people with nothing to do but watch Facebook feeds. Most people are very biased towards their own artist and have never had a tattoo from every artist in town, or even seen their work, so asking them which artist to go to is counter productive. The only way to know who can do it best for the most reasonable cost is to personally go to each shop.
The regret of a bad tattoo will long outlive the benefit of the money saved
If your goal is to find the cheapest price for your tattoo you may quickly regret your decision. For the most part, cheap tattoos are not good and good tattoos are not cheap. Tattoos done right are expensive because of the overhead costs and years of training that factor into the overall cost and quality of the tattoo. You should think of shopping for a tattoo like shopping for a home and not like buying a hamburger. If your looking for a good home you don’t buy the first one you see because its cheap, because the cost in the long run may outweigh the short term savings. The same applies with tattoos. They are permanent, and even if they can be fixed it is much more expensive to do a cover-up or laser removal than to have it done right the first time. Shop around and do your research so that you can get the best bang for your buck…… or you can always leave it in the hands of your Facebook friends who’ve only been to one tattoo artist.