Illustration by sartrowski
Let’s tackle the taboo topic of tattoo pricing!
The first thing people usually think about is the cost. And it’s normal because you do have to be able afford it. It is a service and usually it’s priced by the hour.
So, why do prices differ from artist to artist? They usually set their prices according to experience, skill, quality, how fast they tattoo, colors and so on. But please note that expensive doesn’t necessarily mean good, and cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean bad. This is why you should always do research before actually getting tattooed.
When it comes to tattoos you should never search for the best price or try and bargain with the artist. It’s not like you’re buying some sneakers you’ll wear for 2 or 3 seasons and then throw away (for which, by the way, people don’t seem to have much problem spending a lot of money on) but it’s something you’ll have on your skin forever. FOREVER – let that sink in. So you want it to be perfect, of quality, done right, the colors to be vibrant and so on. You’re not just paying his/her skill to tattoo a drawing on your skin.. so what are you paying for exactly?
Tattoo by Sven Von Kratz
There’s usually a shop manager that handles everything from making your appointment, to handling deposits, payments , answers your emails, phone calls, confirmation and so on. And that person needs to be paid.
Then there’s the tattoo artist – the consultation time talking about what you want, sizing and placement, the time spent on designing your tattoo, and actually doing it. All of this besides the obvious skill and know-how of actually inking a tattoo into your skin.
The inks, needles, ink caps, gloves, paper towels and basically everything they use also cost money. (shocker, isn’t it?)
Keep in mind that most tattoo shops split the costs, so the artist only gets 40-50% of the actual hourly rate. The rest goes into the shop to pay for the rent, manager, cleaning & cleaning supplies, insurance, power, light and heat bills, tax, etc.
So let’s see what’s with the deposit and minimum rate.
Usually when you want to book a tattoo artist they ask you for a deposit. Why? It’s simple: you book their time, and their time is valuable. There’s the issue of commitment. Most tattoo artists will sketch up your tattoo after you make your deposit so firstly, you will not waste their time and secondly, so you’ll not take their sketch and have it tattooed somewhere else because they charge less. ( sadly I’ve heard stories of this happening..that’s also why the sketch will be ready for your appointment, and in most cases will not be sent to you by email.)
Also, some people just cancel at the last minute because they don’t feel like it that day, or they spent their money on something else, or something intervened and they have to cancel, either way the artist’s time is wasted and they may not get someone else to come in on short notice. So if not by common sense, then maybe because of the money people will think twice before doing so.
Tattoo by Johnny Gloom
There’s also the materials – and this is why they have a minimum rate too – when you go in to get inked the tattoo artist prepared beforehand. So there’s the paper and art supplies he used to make your drawing, the printing, the stencil paper, the ink cups, the ink, the needles, the disposable tubes, the foil to cover the water bottle, the foil to cover the tattoo machine, the bed cover, (and usually this is all laid out for when you arrive, so if you cancel at the last minute all of this is wasted – thus the deposit) the stencil stuff, the gloves, the razor, vaseline, distilled water, plastic cup, paper towels and rubber bands all cost money – thus the minimum rate. So even if you want a tiny tattoo there are a lot of things that go into this besides the ink, needles and the tattoo artist’s time and skill.
Be it a big tattoo or a small one, super minimalist or very detailed, remember that you’re making an investment in yourself – and investing in yourself is the best investment you can make! Remember that you’ll be looking at this everyday for the rest of your life, so it better be amazing and you should love every inch of it.
Tattoo by Ilya Brezinski