Especially at the outset of a relationship with your tattoo artist, tipping is an important consideration. A tip that is slightly higher than average at the beginning may ensure great service and work on your next tattoo or session, or even an appointment when the office is already busy. Tattoo tipping etiquette, in general, should hover around 15% for small tattoos and 20% for larger tattoos, but as with all tips, you as a customer ultimately determine the amount based on the quality of service and the work performed.
Consider your involvement as well. Are you selecting a design that is either hanging on the walls or in one of the design books? Most artists can create these without much difficulty at all and a minimal tip might be appropriate. However, if you are bringing in a picture of your own creation or describing something while the artist interprets it, this extra work might well merit a higher tip.
The artist’s attention to you and your tattoo will likely factor into the calculation of a tip. For instance, does your artist allow themselves to become distracted during the session, or do they give you their full attention? Good artists will check in with you at several points throughout the session to see how comfortable you are, ask about colors, to let you know when they’re switching from single to multiple needles, and, my favorite, to let you know that “this next part is probably going to hurt”. Particularly for your first tattoo, becoming acquainted and comfortable with your tattoo artist while having good communication are all essential components of a successful session and a piece of art you’re proud to sport on your body.
A tattoo is a very personal decision and a tip is one way to reward good service and encourage a positive ongoing relationship. For something that will become a permanent part of your body, tipping may be considered something of an insurance policy, and well worth the cost.
It’s simple. Just ask yourself: what can I afford? How much is this permanent, personalized piece of art worth to me? And How did my artist perform?
You’ll know what feels right.