Tattoos & Pricing : How does an artist estimate?

Generally speaking, on of the first things a client wants to know when getting a tattoo is “How much will it cost?”  Since all licensed tattoo artists (not apprentice’s) are sub-contractors, each sets their own price bar, either pricing by the piece or by the hour, and no less than their shops minimum (usually ranging from $60-100).

Pricing Estimates :

Pricing estimates are usually only done when someone is getting a large tattoo in which detail and skin saturation can vary.  For me as an artist, I make up a lot of stuff in the detail and color work as I go, I don’t always preplan every move.  I like to be creative with my work and will ballpark an estimation within 2 hours give or take from estimated completion to compensate for any additional time I might see the work taking.  This is normal for most artists who are familiar with working larger oriented pieces.

Pricing by the hour:

To keep things fair for all customers, I have always charged by the hour to keep anyone from feeling like they got a better deal than someone else, and to keep the value of my art on an even plateau.  The only time this varies is when you book an artist for an all day rate.

The time in which it takes an artist to finish a tattoo can vary based on experience and education, so this is where you need to be cautious.

That being said, let me also make you aware that education and time in the industry plays as much bigger part in pricing, as well as custom art or something chosen from google or pintrest.  Artist’ are artist, so let them be that.

Pricing by the Piece :

Usually pricing by the piece, the artist still takes into account how long it will take them to do, and is priced accordingly, however what you have to beware of is the artist looking to “make more” than its worth.  A good example of this is as follows :

You want 6 letters spelling “TATTOO” in old english font.  I tell you it will take me an hour totaling $125.  Another shop tells you they price by the letter and will be $20 per letter totaling $180.  And yet another shop says they will do it for a flat $200.  You get the idea.

Day Rate Pricing : 

When working on large tattoos, most artists will offer a day rate, in which you are in the shop 8 hours for your tattoo session, and you sit as long as you can last, (I have many sit the full 8).  My price for this is $900, so you can see it does save some, but if you only make it 4 hours, its still the full day rate for clearing our schedule without time to fill it should you not make it.

The biggest thing is to like the artist, like their work and how they work, and feel comfortable.  If you have this, your artwork will come out better than expected, and the price really doesn’t matter.  Its something you have to live with the rest of your life and its much easier and far less painful getting it done right the first time, instead of requiring a cover up later.

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