Background Photo by: James Discombe
Pricing a tattoo is not as straightforward as asking for a 'cut and finish' at your hairdresser's, nor is there a price guide for it. The price of a tattoo will depend on many factors including but not limited to size, placement, amount of detail in the design, as well as the tattoo artist's level of experience. To make things extra tricky, not all tattoo studios charge the same. A tattoo studio in London could charge more than a tattoo studio in Birmingham due to the difference in cost of living between the two cities. Even in the same area of Birmingham, one could charge more than the other.
The money you pay for a tattoo is commonly used to cover the following:
Admin time spent on the booking process
The hours spent drawing your design
All the disposable equipment, materials and products needed to tattoo (which are mostly the same regardless of the size of the tattoo)
All the PPE, sanitiser, masks, aprons, gloves, stationary, printer ink, cleaning supplies
Time spent tattooing
Studio rent, registration, insurance, electric, clinical waste, business rates, wifi.
Time and materials spent preparing and cleaning the studio
It’s really important to also know that tattooists spend years working hard to gain the skills you have sought them out for. A lot of artists will have had to apprentice for no pay, and work their way up from very low rates of pay to where they are now. So as part of the tattoo, you’re paying for this accrued experience and skill.
A tattoo is a luxury item, so if you do find that a quote you receive is out of your budget, it’s more than okay to politely say so. We can guarantee that no offence will be caused. What tends to be more problematic is if you try to haggle, or tell the artists that you think it should be cheaper. The artist will have spent time costing their work based on their own skill, circumstances, and costs. A tattoo will be with you for life, so it’s best to view them as an investment, original piece of art, rather than an off-the-shelf product.
One thing studios can offer is to draw something up to fit your budget, so if you are limited to a certain amount, let them know and ask what’s possible at that price. Most studios offer competitions, offers, and discounts, so keep your eyes peeled.
If your head's spinning from all of that information, let us break it down for you!
If your tattoo requires drawing from scratch (a ‘custom tattoo’), your tattoo artist will spend time drawing up a design for you from scratch, and the time the artist spends on this is included in the price you are asked to pay. In some cases, it can take many hours for the artist to prepare. Flash pieces or designs already drawn up alternatively, tend to cost less for the simple reason that they're ready to be tattooed.
Small, medium, large or supersize? You'll be surprised to know how many people ask “How much for a small tattoo?” Tattoo artists don't have size charts for tattoos and so it's better to use proper measurements or at least compare the size to everyday objects. Every tattoo studio or artist has a minimum charge and they usually start from there. To simplify it, the more time spent on the tattoo, the more money is required.
Not many people know this but body placement or where the tattoo will be placed also plays a factor in how much you're charged for your tattoo. Say you wanted your tattoo somewhere on the body that's difficult to get to such as the armpit, neck, ribs etc, the price could increase. Some parts of the body are more sensitive than others especially where there's higher concentration of nerves, resulting in needing for the tattoo artist to take extra care in these areas.
Depending on who you go with in regards to level of experience, the price will vary. If you decide to go with a junior artist the price will be significantly lower in comparison to an experienced artist. It's probably best not to choose an artist based on how much they charge, but whether you want their artwork on you for the rest of your life.
Fixed, Hourly or Daily Rates?
Some tattoo studios offer an hourly or daily rate with their tattoo artists and some offer fixed prices which are given based on the design you have chosen. If you're looking to get a relatively big piece for example, a full back tattoo, a tattoo artist would likely offer you a 'daily rate'. This means getting as much done in a day as possible so it's worth asking how many hours are included. An hourly rate is the most fair way to charge customers but regardless of how small your tattoo would be, you will still pay the minimum charge.
Some tattoo artists would give you a fixed price so regardless of how long it takes, you will pay the same price you were given as your quote but this doesn't necessarily mean it's cheaper.
'Minimum Charge', what's that?
A minimum charge is in place to cover materials used during your appointment, including but not limited to inks, gloves, sterilised needles, disposable grips, lap cloths etc. A tattoo artist usually pays a percentage toward the tattoo studio they're working at to cover 'renting a chair'. This is usually around 50% - so say you paid £120 for your tattoo, your tattoo artist will only keep half of it as their earnings and the rest goes to the tattoo studio to pay studio rent, energy bills, materials etc. Tattoo artists are self-employed and are also required to pay taxes just like an employee/worker which means that they will only get to keep a percentage of their total earnings after chair rent and tax have been deducted. Tattoo studios also pay their taxes or VAT where required, whether it’s a chain or an independent business.
If you like a tattoo artist's work, don't scrimp on paying for their work or ask for a discount. After all, it's somebody's artwork and it's permanent.