Do Tattoo Artists Charge an Hourly Rate?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on March 22, 2023
    Last Updated: April 7, 2023

While some tattoo shops charge a flat fee for their services, many artists prefer to charge by the hour. This pricing structure allows them to account for the amount of time it takes to complete a particular design, as well as any necessary touch-ups or modifications.

But why do some artists charge hourly rates while others don’t? And what impact does this pricing model have on the overall cost of getting a tattoo? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the world of tattoo pricing and explore the ins and outs of hourly rates for tattoo artists.

Are Hourly Rates Common in the Tattooing Industry?

Yes, hourly rates are quite common in the tattooing industry. In fact, many tattoo artists prefer to charge by the hour rather than a flat fee. This is because tattooing is a time-intensive process, and the amount of time it takes to complete a tattoo can vary greatly depending on a number of factors. For example, the size and complexity of the design, the placement of the tattoo on the body, and the client’s pain tolerance can all impact the length of time it takes to complete the tattoo.

By charging an hourly rate, tattoo artists can account for these variables and ensure that they are compensated fairly for their time and expertise. Hourly rates can also benefit the client, as they provide a more accurate estimate of the total cost of the tattoo and allow for adjustments to be made if the design takes longer than anticipated. Of course, there are some tattoo shops that do charge flat fees for their services, but hourly rates are certainly a common and widely accepted pricing structure in the tattooing industry.

Hourly Rates: The Norm

When it comes to hourly rates in the tattoo industry, it is important to understand that there is no fixed hourly rate that applies to all tattoo artists. The rate can vary significantly depending on several factors such as the artist’s skill level, experience, and reputation, as well as the location and the complexity of the design.

For example, an experienced and highly skilled tattoo artist may charge anywhere between $150 and $250 per hour for their services, while a less experienced artist may charge between $50 and $100 per hour. Additionally, tattoo artists located in cities where the cost of living is high, such as New York or Los Angeles, may charge more than those in smaller towns or rural areas.

The complexity of the design can also affect the hourly rate, with more intricate designs requiring more time and skill to complete. A tattoo with a simple design, such as a small black outline, may take less time to complete and, therefore, cost less, while a tattoo with a more complex design that requires intricate shading, color, or detail may take longer and cost more.

It is also important to note that some tattoo artists may charge a flat fee for certain projects, such as small, straightforward designs or cover-ups. In such cases, the artist will likely provide a quote based on the size and complexity of the design.

Factors That Affect the Hourly Rate

One significant factor is the style of tattooing. Different styles require varying levels of skill and expertise, and some artists specialize in specific styles. As a result, hourly rates may vary depending on the style of the tattoo. For instance, an artist who specializes in black and grey realism may charge a higher hourly rate than an artist who focuses on traditional Americana designs.

Another factor is the equipment and materials used by the tattoo artist. Top-quality equipment and ink can be expensive, and some artists may charge more to offset these costs. Some artists may also charge more for tattoos done with vegan ink, which is more expensive than traditional ink.

The reputation of a tattoo artist can also impact their hourly rate. Highly sought-after artists with a significant following and a long waiting list may be able to charge more for their services than less well-known artists. Additionally, artists who have won awards or been featured in prominent publications may also charge higher hourly rates.

Lastly, the cost of operating a tattoo shop can influence the hourly rate charged by a tattoo artist. Overhead costs such as rent, utilities, and supplies can vary significantly depending on the location of the shop. In turn, the cost of running the shop may be factored into the hourly rate charged by the artist.

Can You Negotiate the Hourly Rate with a Tattoo Artist?

While many tattoo artists have a set hourly rate, it is not uncommon for clients to negotiate the hourly rate with the artist. Negotiating the rate can be particularly effective if you have a large or complex tattoo that will take several hours to complete. Here are some tips for negotiating the hourly rate with a tattoo artist:

  1. Do your research: Before you begin negotiations, research the average hourly rates for tattoo artists in your area. This will give you a baseline to work from.
  2. Be prepared to compromise: While you may have a specific hourly rate in mind, be prepared to compromise with the artist. If you are not willing to pay their desired rate, they may not be willing to work with you.
  3. Offer something in return: If the artist is not willing to budge on their hourly rate, consider offering something in return, such as a larger tip or referrals to other potential clients.

The Impact of Tips on the Total Cost of a Tattoo with Hourly Rates

Tipping is a common practice in the tattoo industry and can impact the total cost of a tattoo with hourly rates. While tips are not mandatory, they are a way to show appreciation for the artist’s time and skill. Here’s how tipping can impact the total cost of a tattoo:

  1. It can add up: Even a small tip can add up over several hours of work. For example, if an artist charges $150 per hour and you tip 20%, you’ll be adding an additional $30 per hour to the total cost of your tattoo.
  2. It can impact build a solid connection: If you are working with an artist on a large or complex tattoo, it is important to maintain a good relationship with them. Tipping can be a way to show your appreciation and build a positive relationship with the artist. This can result in a better quality tattoo.
  3. It is a personal choice: While tipping is common, it is ultimately up to the individual to decide whether or not to tip. If you are pleased with the artist’s work, a tip is a great way to show your appreciation.

How to Estimate the Total Cost of a Tattoo Based on the Hourly Rate and Expected Completion Time

Estimating the total cost of a tattoo can be challenging, especially if you are working with an hourly rate. To estimate the total cost of a tattoo, you’ll need to consider the hourly rate, expected completion time, and any additional fees.

  1. Determine the hourly rate: Before you can estimate the total cost of your tattoo, you’ll need to know the hourly rate charged by the artist. This information can typically be found on the artist’s website or obtained during a consultation.
  2. Estimate the completion time: Next, you’ll need to estimate how many hours it will take to complete the tattoo. This can be done by discussing the design with the artist and getting an estimate of the time required to complete the tattoo.
  3. Calculate the total cost: To calculate the total cost of the tattoo, multiply the hourly rate by the expected completion time. For example, if the artist charges $150 per hour and expects the tattoo to take four hours, the total cost of the tattoo would be $600. Additionally, if there are any additional fees such as a deposit or consultation fee, be sure to include those in the total cost.


Most tattoo artists charge an hourly rate for their services, and the rate can vary depending on several factors. It is crucial to consult with your chosen artist before getting a tattoo to get an estimate of the cost and ensure that it fits within your budget. With the right artist and communication, you can get the tattoo you want without breaking the bank.

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