How Much Should You Be Tipping Your Tattoo Artist?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on July 15, 2018
    Last Updated: May 6, 2023

You’ve just indulged in a scrumptious feast, and tipping your waiter comes as second nature. With 15% being the gold standard in the United States, it’s no mystery. But what about rewarding the skilled hands of a tattoo artist who’s just crafted a masterpiece on your skin? The answer may not be as simple as you think.

Do People Tip Tattoo Artists?

It’s hard to find hard data on how many people tip tattoo artists. Yet, it’s clear from anecdotes that it’s common practice, especially in the United States.

That makes sense when you think about what a tip is. When you’re buying a product, you pay the sticker price and any applicable taxes, and that’s it.

On the other hand, it’s good tipping etiquette to hand over a bit extra to show your appreciation for a given service.

That’s why you don’t tip when you buy your groceries, but you do when you pay someone to deliver a meal right to your front door. Likewise, you don’t pay when you buy a shirt off the rack, but you do when asking a hairdresser to give you a cut that complements your personal style.

When you step into a tattoo shop, you’re not doing it to buy a product. Tattoo artists offer the ultimate personalized service. It makes sense, then, to tip them for the attention and care they give to you as an individual.

Tattoo Artist

Should You Tip?

Okay, so people tip their tattoo artists, but is it really necessary?

One of the most common objections to tipping tattoo artists is the claim that they already charge so much money. Many believe that paying a tip on top of this is just excessive.

However, when you really break it down, that objection doesn’t hold up.

Tattoo Artists Aren’t Making a Killing

You might be hesitant to tip your tattoo artist because you already gave them hundreds of dollars, or maybe even thousands.

You might even do a little mental math and divide the number of hours you spent under the needle by the amount you paid. If you do, you’ll probably think it makes for handsome pay. Why would you give a tip on top of that?

Even though you just handed them a lot of money, not all of it goes directly into their pockets. For one thing, a lot of overhead is involved in working as a tattoo artist. The ink, needles, and other equipment they use all eat away at their profits.

If your tattoo artist owns the shop, they’re paying rent for a commercial space. This is on top of utilities, business taxes, and other basic business expenses needed to keep the lights on. It’s a misconception that most tattoo artists are loaded.

If they work out of someone else’s space, they’ll need to pay a fee for that privilege. It might even leave them with less than half the money you’re handing them.

Plus, on top of that, there’s all the additional labor involved. When you’re not getting inked by them, your tattoo artist is still doing work for you.

The time they spend advising you about your tattoo can add up to hours. This includes working on designs, figuring out the right location, and teaching you about tattoo aftercare. It’s all part of the service you’re getting.

Most tattoo artists also guarantee their work. They’ll often let you return for touch-ups and won’t charge you extra.

Once you start adding up all those extra expenses and that additional labor, it’s clear that your tattoo artist isn’t exactly making a killing.

You’re Getting a Work of Art on the Cheap

Tattoo artists are also giving you a product that should be valued more highly than it is.

Take the money you paid to get your tattoo and walk into an art gallery. How many of the paintings and sculptures on display will that money get you? It depends on the gallery, sure, but my guess is zero.

Art isn’t cheap.

And yet, your tattoo artist is willing to create a beautiful work of art at a price that most people can afford. Not only that, but it’s also customized to your exact tastes. You’re getting a real bargain when you consider how much a painter would charge for a top-quality commissioned piece.

Consider Tipping Part of the Cost

You should definitely tip your tattoo artist as much as it feels comfortable for you to.

When you’re budgeting for your tattoo, consider the tip as part of the cost. If you can’t afford the tattoo plus the tip, then wait until you’ve set aside a little more money before getting it done. Of course, you don’t have to, but you should strongly consider it.

How Much to Tip a Tattoo Artist

Tipping your artist will usually work easiest in percentages. There really is no standard amount when it comes to tipping tattoo artists. Ask around, and you’ll hear anything from 10% to 35%.

You’ll have to use your judgment for this one. While there is no single right amount when it comes to how much to tip a tattoo artist, there are ways to get it wrong.

For this reason, below is a list of guidelines that you should consider before settling on a tipping amount.

Stay within the Range

Tipping a tattoo artist usually comes down to percentages. Tipping 10% is usually acceptable, but consider it the bare minimum. Anything below 10% won’t do a good job of showing your appreciation.

Just imagine what your waiter would think if you gave them a 3% tip. Do you really want your tattoo artist to feel the same way?

There’s no reason to act like a big spender, either. You’re free to tip some lavish amount, like 50% or 75%, but no one is going to be expecting it.

Anywhere in the 10% to 20% range is enough to show that you appreciate your tattoo artist’s work and thank them for the services rendered.

While there is no specific tattoo tip calculator, here is a handy tool to help you figure out any future tattoo tipping amounts.

Work with What You Have

No one wants you to go broke getting a tattoo. Tattoo artists know that they have customers with different income levels and that their services are on the expensive end for some of them. If tipping 15% really puts a strain on your finances, don’t worry too much about it. Sticking to 10% will be enough to show your appreciation.

Set up a Baseline

If you have a bit of leeway when it comes to how much you can spend, you could consider setting up a baseline. Go to your appointment planning to give a 15% tip (your baseline) and adjust up or down based on how good the service you actually get is.

​When to Hand a Tip Over

Figuring out when to give the tip can be tricky.

Tipping is usually a no-brainer when you go to the barber, get food delivered, or bring your luggage to your hotel room. Once the service is delivered, you hand over the gratuity, and that’s that.

Getting that beautiful sleeve tattoo you’ve always wanted is different. Many tattoos take multiple sessions to complete, so what does that mean for your tip? Do you give the tip at the end of every session, or do you wait until the entire tattoo is done before tipping?

A good rule of thumb is to tip any time you pay. You’ll probably pay at the end of each session for the work done that day.

Tipping as you go is also easier on your bank account. Parting with a smaller sum every time you get some work done usually feels better than handing over a larger sum after multiple sessions.

What About Giving Gifts?

Okay, let’s get one thing out of the way. Do not give a gift instead of a cash tip.

Tipping isn’t the time to get cute. Tattoo artists are professionals offering you a specialized service. Respect their role as an artist and service provider by giving them a straightforward tip on top of the amount they’re charging you. Save the tchotchkes and gift cards for your friends and relatives.

You might also be the type of person who gives their dog walker, mailman, or dry cleaner a gift every holiday season. Should you go down to the tattoo parlor in December and hand your tattoo artist a gift, too? Like anything extra, this is all up to you, but it’s not at all expected.

What if I Can’t Afford to Tip?

While tipping in the services industry is commonplace and appreciated, it is still completely optional.

If you genuinely can’t afford to tip your tattoo artist, or if you don’t think their work deserves it, you don’t have to tip them.

Your tattoo artist won’t get angry or make a scene if you decide not to tip, so there will be no awkwardness or embarrassment inside the shop.

Other Ways to Show Your Appreciation

While tipping is the number one way to show appreciation, there are other ways to do it.

The best additional way to do this would be to share your positive tattooing experience with others. This could be via social media, review sites, or simply by word of mouth. Your tattoo artist will really appreciate the extra exposure.

Should I tip my tattoo artist if I’m not happy with the final result?

If you are dissatisfied with the final outcome of your tattoo, it is not necessary to tip your tattoo artist. However, before making this decision, consider discussing your concerns with the artist to see if they can address your issues or offer a solution. Keep in mind that they are professionals who take pride in their work, and open communication may help resolve any misunderstandings. If you still feel that the result is not up to par after discussing it with the artist, you may decide not to tip.

Is it appropriate to tip a tattoo artist with a gift instead of cash?

While cash is the most common and preferred form of tipping, some clients choose to tip with a thoughtful gift. If you opt for this route, make sure the gift is something your tattoo artist will appreciate and find meaningful, such as artwork or personalized items. However, it’s crucial to remember that cash tips are generally more practical and useful for the artist. If you’re unsure, you can always ask the artist if they would prefer a gift or cash tip.

Should I tip my tattoo artist for a consultation or only for the actual tattoo session?

Typically, you do not need to tip a tattoo artist for a consultation, as this is considered part of their professional service. However, if the consultation was particularly helpful and informative, or if the artist spent a considerable amount of time discussing your tattoo, you may choose to tip as a token of appreciation. Tipping usually occurs after the tattoo has been completed.

What if I can’t afford to tip my tattoo artist?

Most tattoo artists understand financial constraints and will appreciate your situation. Remember, though, that tipping is a way to show gratitude for their work and skill, so try to budget for a tip whenever possible.

Is it customary to tip the receptionist or other staff members at a tattoo shop, or only the artist?

While it is not expected, tipping the receptionist or other staff members at a tattoo shop can be a nice gesture if they provided exceptional service or assistance during your visit. However, the primary focus for tipping should be on the tattoo artist who completed your body art. If you decide to tip other staff members, you can do so separately or ask the artist to split your tip among the team.


Tipping is always a great way to show your tattoo artist how much you appreciate them for creating incredible pieces of artwork on your body.

If tipping is commonplace where you live, and you tip the waiter, pizza delivery guy and your barber after they’ve provided you a service, then you should probably do the same for your tattoo artist.

Related Tattoo Articles