When discussing my tattoos with people I face several of the same questions, over and over. Obviously, the first one is, “Do they hurt?”—a question I personally hate to answer, as I have a pain tolerance of a rhinoceros giving birth and this often skews my experience versus others’. The second most frequent question is, “How much do they cost?” Yet again, this is another question that can be quite hard to answer, despite seeming like a straightforward question.
As anyone who is familiar with the tattoo industry can tell you, pricing isn’t so black and white. It isn’t like a menu in which you can pick what you want and see the price right up front. The fact of the matter is that every piece is different. Everyone’s body is different—different skin textures, different skin tones, different scars or stretch marks. Placements for tattoos are always different and requests are varied. And, let’s face it, just like hair stylists, tattoo artists come in different levels and charge differently for their experience. You’re going to pay a lot less for an artist fresh off their apprenticeship than someone who has been in the industry for years and travels around the world guest spotting in different shops.
Another factor that can affect your tattoo price is the location you’re requesting. Some parts of the body are easier to tattoo than others, which can affect the price, so it’s always important to discuss the location you want with your artist when setting your budget or getting your quote. Location of the shop itself can also greatly influence your tattoo cost. A tattoo shop in the boondocks of central Florida is going to be a lot cheaper than a tattoo shop in New York City, for example.
Tattoo shops and artists charge differently—some charge by the hour, while others charge by the piece. The shop you are headed to can also have a huge influence on the price you’ll pay. If you’re going to a world-renowned shop, for example, you’re going to pay a higher price than if you’re going to the dimly-lit mom and pop shop just down the road. The reputation of the shop is a big aspect of the cost, too. If you’re getting a tattoo from a little local shop, it’s going to cost a lot less than getting a tattoo done at a shop like High Voltage (Kat Von D’s Shop) or Handcrafted Tattoo and Art Gallery (Chris Nunez’s Shop).
Design can play a part, as well. If you’re asking for a fully custom design, drawn from scratch, you’re going to find a higher price than something simple or already drawn-up.
When it comes to tattoo prices, there seems to be a conundrum lately. As tattooing is a vanity practice, essentially, and not a necessary requirement of daily life, during economic hard times, the practice seems to slow down. During these times, some shops run specials and discounts constantly to try to draw in customers. In addition to this, the market has become flooded with shops and, especially in smaller towns, this can cause issues with tattoo shops trying to underbid each other. This has led to some customers not quite understanding the true cost of the practice and shops are seeing an influx of customers attempting to haggle prices. But there is one important thing to keep in mind… cheap tattoos aren’t good and good tattoos aren’t cheap. So, before you start trying to haggle your way around with a tattoo artist, think about their reasoning behind their price. Research the artist and see their prior work. If it’s phenomenal, go for it. You’re going to wear this on your skin forever—paying a little extra shouldn’t be a hard decision.
Tattoo Artist: Dan Belden