Many individuals get tattoos as a sign of self expression. As the general public, we begin to judge people whether right or wrong, based on appearances. Some tattoos can be portrayed as racist, derogatory, sexist, or hateful.

When viewed from different groups of people, those same symbols become signs of unity, togetherness, family, etc. As artists, we have a tough decision to make on whether we are willing to tattoo something that we do not agree with or whether the satisfaction of the client holds more weight. Is the artist’s moral restriction more important than what the client wants or should the artist be willing to do the tattoo because that is what they are paid to do?

The American flag can be both controversial and a sign of pride, etc. Other groups see it as segregation and inequality. There are thousands of things representing controversy such as, the rebel flag, political symbols, cultist images, religious artifacts, etc.

As the client, should the artist’s personal belief influence the end result of the tattoo?

As the artist, are you in favor of the business or are there limitations?

Please let us know your opinion and share this topic with your community.

Posted in Controversial Tattoos | Leave a comment



There are a vast number of different personalities in this world, but there are a few categories that really break down the different types of clients that walk through the doors of our shop. It’s important to understand what type of client you are, and how it may affect the end result of your future tattoo. I’ve decided to break these clients into 3 groups: GREEN (the most favorable), YELLOW (the middle ground), and RED (the undesirable). These clients have been put in numerical order from best to worst along with a little bit of advise for those of you that may find yourself in these categories:



happyThe Green Group (the favorite clients for tattoo artists)


1-The Professional:

  • The professional is someone who has spent plenty of time in a specific trade or profession, takes pride in his or her work, and understands that time is extremely valuable. These Customers are always the best because they are patient, understand it takes time to create something great and are willing to pay top dollar for the best quality work. If this is you, then don’t change a thing…. We already love you.


2-The Open Canvas:

  • The open canvas is a great customer for the artist who wants a little freedom. These customers enjoy creativity, may not have every detail sorted out in their mind, but they have a concept and trust their artist to create a great composition in a style they will excel at. Although being an open canvas can be good for the artist, you may want to at least check through a portfolio before putting all your trust in them.


3-The Devoted:

  • The devoted client is always a morale booster for tattoo artists. These are usually clients who where blown away by their initial tattoo from their artist or were amazed by the tattoo their friend or family member received from the shop. The devoted clients are great for promoting their favorite artist or shop but asking them which artist to go to may not be the best decision because their view may be a little biased.


4-The Tattoo Veteran:

  • The tattoo veteran knows their way around tattoo shops. The veteran is usually either covered in various tattoos from multiple shops or has had at least one large piece completed such as a sleeve or back piece. Veterans understand the pricing of the tattoo industry and usually remember to tip the artist, but some veterans can be very picky about what they want and how they want it done.


5-The Investor:

  • The investor understands that tattoos are not cheep and treat their purchase of a tattoo much like buying a car rather than fast food. Investors set aside their money a little bit at a time, weather that means setting up a payment plan with their artist until the first session is paid in full, or putting a little aside each payday. An investor usually does their research by going to different shops and checking through various portfolios to understand industry prices. If you don’t always have the money to pay for a quality tattoo you may consider adopting the investor’s personality and setting aside a little at a time. Some shops allow you to do a payment plan prior to your first sitting. Understand that quality costs money and no artist enjoys tattooing a cheapskate.


worriedThe Yellow Group (the questionable middle ground for most artists)


6-The Virgin:

  • Everybody at one time or another is or has been a tattoo virgin. There’s nothing wrong with being a tattoo virgin in general, but it can make your artist slightly more hesitant. Tattoo artists understand that tattoos are a painful process, so they may not be excited to tattoo a virgin in an area that will be extremely difficult or painful. If you’ve never had a tattoo and your thinking of getting one, do yourself a favor and ask your artist what you should be prepared for. Ultimately it’s your decision on size and placement, but don’t bite off more than you can handle… or it may be an unpleasant experience for you and your artist.


7-The Shop Rat:

  • Being a shop rat can actually be rewarding if done right, but once you start wasting valuable time for the shop or it’s artists you may not be welcome anymore. If your going to hang out at a shop, then get tattooed by them and pay for it, or at the very least help out around the shop. Many shop rats can end up getting great deals on tattoos or even apprenticeships if they make themselves useful. If you find yourself sitting around a shop regularly and you’re not benefiting the shop in any way, then you’re wasting their time, and remember it’s a place of business not a hangout.


9-The Jaded:

  • Sometimes clients have traumatic experiences at tattoo shops, but there is always a perfect shop for you if you look hard enough. Getting a bad tattoo or having a generally bad experience may make a customer slightly jaded or hesitant about getting more ink, but most artists are willing to work with you and help create a much better experience than your last. If you happen to be a little jaded, remind yourself that it’s an isolated experience, so don’t assume that every artist is going to treat you the same or produce the same quality work. Give your artist the benefit of the doubt and let him or her know about your reservations so they know how to best accommodate you.


10-The Ambivalent / Apathetic:

  • There are some clients who just have an itch for ink and don’t care what they get. The ambivalent / apathetic client isn’t picky about their tattoo, and unlike the open canvas, the gambler doesn’t care about creativity. You can always find an artist to tattoo this type of client, but artists can feel a little unappreciated when they take the time to do great work and the client could care less about the final result.


11-The Family Member:

  • The family member can also include friends of the artists. It’s always great to make your friend or family member happy by providing them with an awesome tattoo, but tattooing family members usually comes with the “family member discount”. Usually the artist can expect to make substantially less than they would with a different type of client.


12-The Artist:

  • Artists can be full of ideas and inspiration, but sometimes translating that from one artist to another can be difficult. Most artists love the idea of getting an art piece on their body forever, but remember your tattoo artist may need a little artistic freedom in order to do his or her best work, so don’t be a micro-manager.


frustratedThe Red Group (the worst clients an artist can experience)


13-The Copy Cat:

  • We’ve all seen some amazing tattoos on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram. Sometimes clients find a tattoo that’s been done on someone else and can’t live without getting the exact same one on their own body. Although that anchor, infinity knot, sparrow, or flock of silhouetted birds flying away from a dandelion seem like a great idea, you may want to at least let the artist give it an original twist unless you want to be a copycat. The worst type of copycat is the one who wants a large composition that was already tattooed custom for someone else. Artist can’t use these tattoos for their portfolio without getting a harsh reprimand from other artists within the community.


14-The Flirt:

  • It’s never a good idea to waste an artist’s time at the shop by flaunting yourself at them. If your trying to get a free tattoo, you’re better off dealing with an owner who is single and desperate, because most artists don’t have the patience for flirts looking for a handout.


15-The Bargain Shopper:

  • So you want to shop around for a tattoo? Well there’s nothing wrong with shopping around to get the best “bang for your buck”, but if you’re only looking for the best price, you will quickly be disappointed. Bargain shoppers are the clients who will ask for quotes over the phone, or quickly ask how much a tattoo will cost without ever looking at a portfolio. If you really want to get the best for your dollar, then follow the style of the investor. Look at the artists work.


16-The Dreamer:

  • There are a few people who come around the tattoo shop and love to talk about their tattoo ideas. Usually they’re all pumped up about some large back piece or sleeve they plan on having the artist do in the distant future, but they never actually pull the trigger. Artists could care less about your amazing idea if you never actually plan on getting inked, so don’t waste their time by sharing your “awesome” concept unless you actually plan to do it.


17-The Micro-manager:

  • If you plan to have an awesome experience while getting your tattoo, then allow your artist the freedom of not being micromanaged. One thing most artists absolutely hate is when the client begins to act is if they know as much or more than the artist about the tattooing process. It’s never a good idea to tell your artist where to put a line or when to put color in. If you’ve already agreed on the design before getting the tattoo, then let him or her do it. Don’t micromanage your artist, unless you want them to avoid you like the plague in the future.


18- The Smashed:

  • Coming in to any shop completely drunk or high is one of the fastest ways to get your ass kicked out. Most shops have clients sign a contract stating they have not had an alcoholic drink and are not under the influence. Not only is it irritating to be around someone who is fairly incoherent but, the tattoo itself can be negatively affected by your blood after it has been thinned out by an intoxicant. The only possible redeeming quality about this kind of client is their bankroll. The truth is, even if the client is smashed, slapping down a few hundred dollars for a tiny tattoo may change the artists mind.


19-The Cheapskate:

  • This client is possibly the worst type of client an artist can experience. Cheapskates don’t care about quality, and they don’t believe that artists deserve more money just because they have more talent or experience. Cheapskates want a tattoo for the absolute bottom dollar price, which is why many of them are covered in tattoos by scratchers who have been working out of their house. There are no redeeming qualities about this client. Combine the attributes of a cheapskate, a micro-manager, give them a few shots of whiskey and you now have the absolute worst client in tattoo history.
Posted in What kind of client are you? | Leave a comment

Tattoo Pricing & Shopping 101

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.

Posted in How to Shop for a Tattoo | Leave a comment



It’s important to understand the fundamental differences in the tattoo industry weather you are interested in getting a tattoo in the future, you’ve had many tattoos, or you’re a tattoo artist yourself. This article is meant to educate the general public on these differences, and hopefully allow them to make educated decisions. First, let’s begin with the differences between scratchers, tattooists and tattoo artists:


  • Scratchers have little to no artistic experience. This means that all of the tattoos they do will most likely be premade images (taken from Google or other tattoo artists) or they will be poorly drawn. If the person tattooing you can’t draw the image, how can you expect them to tattoo that image on your body?
  • Scratchers use the cheapest equipment and supplies in the industry. Using cheap supplies such as machines, inks & needles can result in an inferior tattoo. Many inks can be too thick, or even cause adverse reactions to the skin. Machines and needles that lack in “industry standard quality” can also cause scarring and damage to the skin.
  • Scratchers may not understand how to use their equipment properly. Most tattoo artists have gone through years of training to understand the fundamentals of tattooing. Scratchers may not understand the thousands of variables in tattooing to produce a quality tattoo, such as needle depth, appropriate power, and ink consistency.
  • The risk of infection is far greater when getting tattooed by a scratcher. Most scratchers have not had blood borne pathogens training, or hepatitis A & B vaccinations (this is a requirement in the tattoo industry). They can’t afford the type of equipment necessary to keep their products sterile, such as an auto clave to clean grips and machines to “industry standard”. Yes, scratchers can buy PRE-sterilized, disposable products to decrease the chance of infection, however, usually the products they purchase are from China (where sterilization standards are lower) and the gloves and barriers used may not hold up through a procedure, also increasing the risk of infection.
  • Tattooing without the proper certification, licenses, or insurance is illegal. Scratchers don’t usually go through the headache of getting certified in their industry. In most States it’s illegal to tattoo without a blood borne pathogens certification, or a license, but scratchers do it anyway. A good tattoo shop will also carry insurance to cover the cost of severe allergic reactions, or negligence that may occur. Good luck finding a scratcher who is insured.
  • Scratchers cheapen the industry. Getting a tattoo for $20 may seem like a killer deal, but in reality you’re taking a huge health risk and lowering the standards of tattoos when getting one done from a scratcher. Tattoo artist have a great deal of overhead costs such as ink, needles, machines, autoclaves, insurance, advertising, rent and training costs. These costs make it almost impossible for a tattoo artist to charge $20 for a tattoo and still make a profit. When people brag to their friends about getting a $20 tattoo, it spreads the misconception that tattoo shops are overcharging and pushes clients away from legitimate shops.


  • Tattooists usually have some artistic experience. A tattooist may have some formal art training, but it’s usually limited to a few “popular” designs such as skulls, roses, anchors, infinity knots, script and other “flash” designs. Although tattooists usually understand tattooing techniques far better than a scratcher, you need to ask yourself if the tattoo you want is within their scope of abilities. If you want something “custom”, you may need to find a true tattoo artist.
  • Tattooists usually charge the same prices as tattoo artists. Tattooists work at legal tattoo shops just like tattoo artists, so they tend to charge the same even though they may not have the same artistic or technical ability.
  • Tattooists don’t care if your tattoo looks flattering or not. Tattooists may posses the technical skills to apply a tattoo to your body, but they usually don’t care how it looks BEFORE it’s actually applied. They are usually more concerned about moving on to the next client, than spending the time to find out if the tattoo is “right” for the client. For this reason, you will rarely see a tattooist progress in their ability since they only tattoo what they are comfortable with.


  • Tattoo Artists have years of artistic training and experience. Most tattoo artists have gone through 4-5 years of art training (the equivalent of having a four year college degree), and have the ability to draw “custom” compositions that fit your body in a flattering way.
  • Tattoo Artists use the best equipment in the industry. It takes years to become extremely proficient in various styles of tattooing, so when you see a portfolio that looks absolutely amazing, you can almost be certain they have learned to use the best tool for the job. It’s true that 95% of a quality tattoo is the artist and not the machine, but good tattoo artists are willing to pay $500 more for their machine just for the 5% improvement.
  • Tattoo Artists are more concerned with the quality of the tattoo than making money. A good tattoo artist tries to make every tattoo better than the last, and because of this they worry about how it looks on your body and how it will heal over time. Don’t take it personal if a tattoo artist wants to change your hand drawn design to make it better. Understanding how something is going to look on your body is their job and they are passionate about it, so they wont just slap a tattoo on your body if they know it won’t fit right or look flattering.



Not every scratcher or tattooist falls into the categories described. Occasionally there are those who put out amazing work from their home, or maybe a tattooist understands how to “fit” a tattoo onto your body, but it’s rare. The odds of finding someone who is capable of doing the same quality work as a tattoo artist in a home is like winning the lottery. Even if you do find someone with the talent to do what you want for pennies, chances are it wont last long. Once a tattoo artist builds enough following and reputation, they will be forced to upgrade to a legitimate shop and raise prices accordingly to produce the best quality work.


scratcher, tattooist, tattoo artist

  1. SCRATCHER – Notice this first one is not the worst example from a scratcher, but it points out the problems that arise with such an inexperienced artist. The shaky line work, uneven shading and blotchy color packing are all signs of someone with a lack of experience and you can guarantee the tools used were low quality products.
  2. TATTOOIST – This second image has some good elements such as high contrast and solid fill, however this artist is lacking some fundamental knowledge of light and shadow. The black has been overdone throughout the tattoo and some detail is lost by lack of proper shadow and highlight.
  3. TATTOO ARTIST – The last image is a great example of what can be done with a strong artistic background combined with great technical application. This artist has a good understanding of values that range from solid black to skin tone, and uses highlights in a minimal fashion to emphasize contrast and focal depth.
Posted in Scratchers VS Tattoo Artists | Leave a comment