Knowing how much tattoos cost can help you plan your next tattoo. Although tattoo prices vary and many factors can affect the cost of your tattoo, including size, design and geographic location, understanding how much your tattoo should cost can help you prepare your budget and even save you money comparing rates. Whether you want a full sleeve, half sleeve, forearm, back, chest, leg, hand or neck tattoo, it’s important to research the cost of your ink before walking into a shop.
Below, we’ll give you an idea about average tattoo prices in the United States as well as expected hourly rates and how much different types of tattoos will cost. From the average cost of a half sleeve tattoo to small and simple tattoo prices, this guide will ensure you get the best quality work for the money.
How Much Does A Tattoo Cost?
For some people, thinking about the cost of a tattoo comes before even considering ideas, locations, meaning, and everything else. As common and popular as tattoos are, they don’t come cheap; and frankly, cheap tattoos often end up costing you far more in the long-run. And although you can’t get a price quote from your artist until you’ve figured out all the details, there are ways to estimate the cost of your artwork.
Tattoo Prices Chart
Here’s a chart of tattoo prices based on hourly rates. Because small tattoos take less time and big ones require more, An hourly rate is the best way to understand tattoo prices by size.
You’ll also notice that the cost per hour doesn’t increase dramatically till you get a professional artist. Given the small difference in rates between a beginner and somewhat experienced professional, we always recommend you choose someone with at least a few years experience.
Just remember that these hourly rates are general guidelines. If you live in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, or other high-cost areas, expect to always pay more, especially for a popular tattoo artist.
Average Cost of A Small Tattoo
Most artists generally charge based on how much work it will take to complete your design. This is why tattoo prices are generally heavily influenced by size. The size of your ink and the complexity of the artwork and coloring will determine how much time is required to complete the job. Most small tattoos cost between $50 to $200. However, you also need to keep in mind that your artist’s skill and experience will affect his rates as well.
For example, the a small black and gray tattoo will likely cost $20 to $150 while a small color tattoo can range from $40 to $200. If you already have a design picked out, then it may be worth the time to visit different shops and compare prices. Ultimately, the only way to know how much a small tattoo will cost is to ask the artists you’re considering.
How Much Does A Half Sleeve Tattoo Cost?
Another popular question is how much does a half sleeve tattoo cost. Sleeve tattoos are one of the most popular types of ink because the canvas size allows for beautiful, full artwork and the exposure truly encourages you to express yourself. But good sleeve tattoos are never cheap.
If you plan to get a cool half or full sleeve tattoo, be prepared to spend a decent amount of money. Obviously, the cost of your sleeve depends on the skill of the artist, difficulty of the design, body placement, color scheme, size, and geographical location, but prices should range from $500 to $3000.
In many instances, men and women invest in their sleeve tattoo over time. Starting with a small tattoo and adding different pieces of artwork can make the process a lot more affordable. In fact, one of our favorite ideas is to essentially create a mural of your life by inking additional artwork to mark milestones in your life, such as professional success, love, the birth of children, the loss of a loved one, etc.
Factors That Affect Tattoo Prices
Although you may have seen some hourly rates or standard prices practiced at a lot of tattoo parlors, remember that not all tattoo designs are the same. How much you’ll pay is determined by lots of factors, some more influential than others. Here’s how shops estimate what a tattoo is going to cost for each individual.
If you want your tattoo done by your neighbor’s babysitter’s talented cousin who comes with such high recommendations, you will always pay for the skill level. A guy with prison tattooing on his resume inking customers in a garage can’t charge much but he can’t do them for free either.
You pay for experience in tattoo parlors too. That’s why it’s common to see different rates for different artists working in the same shop, even for the same tattoo ideas. Sure, some of them work on different types of designs and have their preferences and strong suits, but they also get to charge more based on experience.
This is just one of the few factors that determine tattoo prices in any tattoo shop, not just the ones you see on TV. In all honesty, the best tattoo will never be cheap. And here, by best we mean one that completely satisfies you and is guaranteed to last and not fade after a few months or a few days of sunbathing.
Complexity and Design
The complexity is determined by various factors such as design, number of colors, size, placement, and tools. It makes sense that a tattoo found in the shop’s catalog will cost less than a custom design because the artist is already familiar with it and knows how long it will take as well as how much ink they will go through.
Custom jobs are a bit different. They take time to draw and time to estimate cost and profit. Because of this, you will have to pay more. Some tattoo parlors may even have some standard rates that apply to popular ‘custom’ customer demands, but this is not something you can bank on.
Black and white tattoos are usually cheap. However, if you want the artist to use watercolors then everything changes. Imagine that you get a quote for a $50 tattoo done in black. That may end up costing you up to five times more if you require colors.
Finger tattoos or wrist tattoos could very well cost no more than $50 even in a nice tattoo parlor. Because they’re so small, you rarely get charged extra for custom work as there’s not a lot of ink used. If you’re thinking about covering your entire back, it might end up costing in the ballpark of $4,000-$5,000.
Not only is there more ink used in large tattoo designs, but they also take a long time to finish. As taxing as they are for the client, they’re not easy on the tattoo artist either. Sessions that go on for hours cause fatigue, which means that the artist may not feel up to working on someone else after you.
There’s another layer of complexity that’s added to large tattoo designs. Because you could lose patience or shy from the pain, there is a chance of you starting to twitch, shiver, or move at the worst moment.
You wouldn’t always know when to let the artist know you need a break, so the chances of you ruining your own tattoo are quite high. Therefore, you pay for the expert hand that’s not only steady but also knows when something is about to happen.
The placement of your tattoo helps determine its complexity. You may think that ankle tattoos should be cheap because of their size, right? Well, getting inked around the ankles isn’t easy for the client or the artist. The area requires extra care especially when dealing with a squeamish customer.
It will always cost extra to get tattooed on hard-to-reach places, very painful places, or body parts that are just a pain to draw a straight line on.
Where you go to get your tattoo done can have a big influence on the prices. Generally, tattoo shops in rural areas or smaller cities will cost less. It could cost 10 times more for a tattoo in a metropolitan area with high cost of living than in a small town.
As harsh as that may seem, it’s not all about greed. Tattoo shops need to cover rent and expenses, so it makes sense that in densely populated cities where rental rates are higher, you will have to pay more to get inked.
If you’ve been to more than one professional tattoo shop, you can probably tell the difference between mediocre and excellent equipment. Now, no one is expecting you to tell ink brands and tattoo machines apart. What you should be able to notice is the quality of the maintenance.
If everything is still shiny, the lights in the place are bright, there are no dusty areas, the walls look clean, and so on, you’re likely in a very good shop that’s operated by professionals. Whenever you walk into one of those places you can expect their prices to match the aesthetics and condition of the shop. If it looks fancy, it probably costs more than the average-looking tattoo parlor down the street.
Asking For Quotes
If you really want to know how much your tattoo will cost, all you have to do is ask the shop’s manager or an artist. If you want to get the best deal, you should try different locations. Getting a tattoo is like shopping. You either go to the place you want or have heard so much about, or you go out looking for the best deal or a deal you can afford so long as you’re getting inked in proper sanitary conditions and by a skilled individual.
Although custom designs tend to be pricier, they’re easier to shop around as you already have something to show the artist. At the end of the day, you can compare quotes from different locations and make your decision based on the best price-to-quality ratio.
One thing to note for popular or celebrity tattoo artists is that quotes from famous artists are hard to come by unless you walk into their parlors. Some of them may keep prices close to national averages, while others might end up charging you hundreds of dollars more just because of their popularity, regardless of what tattoo design you bring to them.
Pay More For A Professional
By now everyone should be aware of the dangers getting tattoos done in unsanitary conditions. Whether you are a veteran enthusiast of the industry or you’re just thinking of getting inked for the first time, you don’t need to read a book to know that the risks of infections on open wounds are real.
As clean and skilled as your neighborhood freelance tattoo artist is, you should always pay extra for the added safety. Someone’s bedroom or kitchen will never be as clean and well-maintained as a professional tattoo shop.
If not for the extra safety, you should at least go to a shop just in case something goes wrong with the design. At least you can ask for your money back if you’re not pleased, with a credit card dispute or civil suit as a fallback. Legitimate businesses put their customers first and they’re also your best shot at getting inked with the best tattoo. You can hardly rely on your cousin’s friend who picked up a tattoo kit online to be a sport and give you a refund on your misspelled Chinese characters.