How Much Should You Be Tipping Your Tattoo Artist?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on July 15, 2018
    Last Updated: November 28, 2020

Everybody knows you’re supposed to tip your waiter after enjoying a meal at a restaurant. It’s even common knowledge that tipping 15% is almost customary in the United States. However, do you know how much to tip a tattoo artist if they’ve done a great job?


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, when someone offers you any kind of personalized service, it’s good tipping etiquette to hand over a bit extra in order to show your appreciation.

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 you ask a hairdresser to give you a haircut that complements your personal style.

When you step into a tattoo shop, you’re not doing it to buy a product (unless you’re just there to buy aftercare products, in which case, no, you definitely don’t need to tip). Tattoo artists offer the ultimate personalized service: customized art inked right onto your body. It makes sense, then, to tip them for the attention, care, and service 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 that paying a tip would just be 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 a few hundred (or maybe even a few thousand) dollars to tattoo you.

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 that it makes for a 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, there’s a good deal of overhead 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, utilities to keep the lights on, business taxes, and other basic business expenses. 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 (the shop owner won’t just let them tattoo there for free) and it might 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.

All the time they spend advising you about your tattoo, working on designs, figuring out the right location, and teaching you how to take proper care of it can add up to hours, and it’s all part of the service you’re getting.

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

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 by doing your body art.

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, it’s customized to your exact tastes. When you consider how much a painter would charge for a commissioned piece, you’re getting a real bargain even for a high-end tattoo.

Consider Tipping Part of the Cost

So yes, you should definitely tip your tattoo artist – as much as it feels comfortable 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.

How Much to Tip a Tattoo Artist

Tipping your artist will usually work easiest is 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 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 is the Right Time to Hand a Tip Over?

Figuring out when to give the tip can be tricky.

When you go to the barber, get food delivered, or have your luggage brought up to your hotel room, when you should tip is a no-brainer. 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 for each session individually (no tattoo artist wants to chase down customers with half-done tattoos to get the money they’re owed) and you should tip at the end of each one.

Tipping at the end of each session is a good way to show your appreciation right away and not wait until several sessions have been completed. Plus, if you tip only at the very end, there’s a good chance your tattoo artist will simply assume you’re not going to tip them at all.

Tipping as you go is also easier on your bank account. While you’re paying the same amount either way, it just feels more comfortable parting with a smaller sum every time you get some work done instead of handing over a large one all at once.

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 Tipping Them?

While tipping is extremely appreciated and commonplace these days in the services industry, it is still completely optional. If you genuinely can’t afford to tip you tattoo artist, or if you don’t think their work is deserving of it, then you simply don’t have to tip them if you don’t want.

Don’t worry, your tattoo artist won’t get angry or make a scene, 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 your appreciation to your artist, there are other ways you can help them out, too. 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 word of mouth. Your tattoo artist will really appreciate the extra exposure.

Summary

While tipping isn’t customary and never will be, it’s always a great idea to show your tattoo artist how much you truly appreciate them for creating incredible life-long pieces of custom 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.