Do You Tip Tattoo Artists? – How Much to Tip a Tattoo Artist
Everyone knows you’re supposed to tip your waiter after enjoying a meal at a restaurant. It’s even common knowledge that tipping 15% is customary. However, do you know how much to tip a tattoo artist if they've done a great job?
Many of us will also tip our cab driver, hairdresser, or barber, too, though we’re not always sure how big of a gratuity we should slip them.
After that, it gets a little trickier. Do you tip the pizza delivery guy? Or the hotel staff? What about the bartender?
I’m not much of an authority on pizza delivery, so I’ll let those guys answer that question. However, I can tell you exactly what you need to know about tipping the professionals who insert ink into your skin for a living.
Do People Tip Tattoo Artists?
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. But when someone offers you any kind of personalized service, it’s customary to tip them 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. And 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 parlor, 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.
Should You Tip Your Tattoo Artist?
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.
But 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?
Although 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.
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.
And then 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, even if it stings to hand over even more of your money.
When you’re budgeting 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
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 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 Should You Tip Your Artist?
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 a tattoo 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 to Your Artist?
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.
Professional Quid Pro Quo
Offering your professional services as a gift isn’t an appropriate form of tipping, either. Stick to the standard amount.
If you’re an accountant and have valuable tax advice to give your tattoo artist, if you’re a fashion designer and have a great-looking jacket to give them, or if you’re a marketing consultant with a few ideas about how they could double their business, feel free to give it to them if you want. Just don’t do it to get out of tipping.
Some tattoo artist might welcome your goods or services and would be willing to work out an exchange.
If they offer you a few free sessions in exchange for you looking over their advertising strategy and giving your professional opinion or for some collectible items from your record shop, that’s great.
But unless you have an explicit agreement, don’t go into your tattoo session assuming you can pay or tip with anything other than cold hard cash.
You might 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.
The service providers you give gifts to every holiday have something in common: you use their services on a regular basis, usually daily or weekly. Giving a holiday gift to a service provider isn’t out of the ordinary when you receive their services year round, but it’s not typically done beyond that. If you’re not going to drop off a gift to the plumber who helped you renovate your kitchen in March or the caterer who fed everyone at your family reunion in July, then you can skip the tattoo parlor, too.
Thinking Of Getting A New Tattoo?
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Should you tip a tattoo artist? Tattoo artists occupy an unusual place in our economy. They’re artists but they’re also service providers. They provide multi-session services to people who might only hire them once in their lives. That can make it difficult to know how to approach things like tipping.
It can also make people think tipping is optional. It really isn’t. No one’s going to kick you out of the tattoo parlor or make you get the tattoo removed if you don’t throw in an extra 10 or 15 percent.
But you will be “that guy” (or gal) – the one who doesn’t show appreciation for something that is a very delicate, difficult, and personalized service.
If you’re getting a tattoo, plan to tip anywhere from 10 to 20 percent. You can base the actual amount either on your budget or on the quality of service you felt you received (where you would tip 10 percent as your baseline and go up to 15 or 20 percent for exceptional service). Anything less can be a bit insulting; anything more is unnecessary.
And stick to a standard cash tip. If you think your tattoo artist would love your hardcore band’s t-shirt or the glass skull decorations you sell as a side hustle, you can go ahead and give them one. But only if you give it as a gift, not a tip.
Tipping a tattoo artist is not mandatory, but if you instantly fall in love with you ink, I think they deserve it.