Help! How Much Do I Tip My Tattoo Artist?

Written by: Claudia
Last Updated:

Creative careers and people in hands-on service industries deserve to be rewarded for their patient, hard work. A tattoo artist, who designs, traces, assists you in placement, and then gives you a permanent piece of art to love for the rest of your life, deserves a little bit of extra gratitude at the end of a session. But do people really tip tattoo artists? And how much is standard?

Related: How Do Tattoo Artists Get Paid?

Do People Tip Tattoo Artists?

Darn right, they do - and those who don’t are likely not to get tattooed by the same person twice. Tipping service providers is common practice in the United States, and your tattoo artist is no less worthy.

Lauren Caldwell, a tattoo artist in New Jersey, says, “It is a service, and much like any other service, tipping is encouraged and very important to our industry.” Though accepting tips is usually another cultural issue altogether, you should make the effort to tip your artist who, I assure you, will greatly appreciate it.

Should You Tip?

Straight-up answer? Yes. Your artist has bills to pay and they often put more after-hours work into their field than other creative industries. Consider all that a tattoo artist does for a client, which includes but is not limited to:

  • Drawing and often re-drawing the design
  • Hand-stenciling the image
  • Organizing a consultation with you and discussing placement
  • Spending multiple hours in a session working on you

This doesn’t even consider the cost of materials, and the cost of physical exertion that happens to a tattoo artist’s body over time. You also need to keep in mind that tattoo artists are often self-employed which means they’re paying for things like insurance and equipment out of pocket.

Here are a few other reasons to seriously consider tipping your tattoo artist.

Tattoo Artists Aren’t Making a Killing

If you consider the cost of this permanent masterpiece divided by the number of hours your artist works on you, you’ll realize that, once material cost is also subtracted, tattoo artists really aren’t making that much off of your business. You also need to reflect on the fact that many artists pay for the chairs they rent in a shop, on top of everything else.

Renee Springer, an artist in Missouri, says,“I know people have a perception of what tattoo artists make, because hourly rates are high. What most folks don’t know is that artists in shops are paying 40-50 percent of every tattoo to the shop for commission. They are also buying tubes and needles and they need to pay for health insurance and taxes.”

Tattoo artists also need to pay for their apprenticeship, certifications, and licenses out of pocket before they can even start to make money off tattooing. The younger an artist is, the more likely that they are not making much from their work.

Char Callan, an artist in London, says, “I charge a firm, decent hourly rate, which provides me with the funds to support my family. Anything on top of that is a bonus. It’s hoped for, but never expected.”

You’re Getting a Work of Art for Cheap

Not only are you getting actual art done on your body by an artist who may (or may not) grow with fame over time, you’re also going to have this art for the rest of your life. We don’t often value art as much as it is deserved, but if you consider how inexpensive this permanent piece is, you might lean towards wanting to tip in appreciation.

Instead of being hesitant towards tipping, sometimes it is best to imagine the tip as part of the overall cost. If you look at it through this lens rather than an additional expense, it may be easier to give a nice, fat tip to your artist.

How Much to Tip a Tattoo Artist

Work With What You Have

First thing’s first, it’s important that you tip within your means. We understand that a tattoo is an expensive investment and that many people save up over a long period of time, just to be able to afford the tattoo itself. With that considered, any tip that is within your means is a generous gift to your artist.

In general, the bare minimum that you should consider is a ten percent tip, but averaging closer to 15 is much better received. Here is a helpful scale to give you a better idea on what tipping amounts would be for various tattoo session costs.

Tattoo Cost 10% Tip 15% Tip 20% Tip
$100 $10 $15 $20
$300 $30 $45 $60
$600 $60 $90 $120
$1,000 $100 $150 $200
$1,500 $150 $225 $300
$2,000 $200 $300 $400
$2,500 $250 $375 $500

Stay Within the Range

You may be tempted to tip an extravagant amount if it is within your means, but generally, most people stop at a 25 percent maximum. This shows that you don’t pity your artist while demonstrating that you still value them and their work.

Consider the Work

Honestly, if you don’t like your work, it’s okay not to tip too much, but if your artist puts in time and effort into drawing your design, then it still warrants a tip. You certainly need to be honest about your disappointment with your artist, and this is also why it is essential to invest a lot of time into a quality tattoo artist. Remember: good tattoos aren’t cheap, and cheap tattoos aren’t good. 

When to Hand a Tip Over

Tips are always given to service providers after the service is provided! But for multiple session work, such as an extensive and detailed piece, you could either break up your tip into pieces for each session (equivalent to that day’s work) or give one large tip at the completion of the entire piece.

That is up to you and how you want to fiscally plan your spending, but it’s generally better to show your appreciation after each session to demonstrate to your artist that you value their time and effort. This is especially well received for pieces that will take years to complete.

Springer says, “I think for larger projects it really comes down to preference, but if you wait until the end maybe give a little more generously. Also, don’t be the client that mentions how you will tip at the last session and then you don’t tip.”

What About Giving Gifts?

Even if your tattoo artist is your friend, this work is their livelihood and a monetary tip is significantly more appropriate than a gift or regifted store certificates. You can give a gift in addition to a monestary tip to your tattoo artist, but never to replace the tip.

What if I Can’t Afford to Tip?

While tipping is optional, if you can’t afford another ten bucks on top of your tattoo, you should reconsider your tattoo until you’re in a more financially stable place. Tattoos can wait! Your financial security is vitally more important.

That being said, if you decide to follow through with a tattoo regardless, your artist won’t be verbally aggressive at a lack of tip but you should definitely find additional ways to show your gratitude. This could be through:

  • Positive reviews of the shop
  • Free advertising/testimonials for the artist
  • Recommending them to friends and family
  • Tipping them at a later date as a thank you

Consider that you wouldn’t go to a restaurant if you couldn’t afford to tip, so why go get a tattoo, which is another service industry?

Our Final Thoughts

Like every other service industry, getting a tattoo deserves rewarding your tattoo artist with gratitude. How much you choose to tip depends on your own financial means and your personal preferences, but 15 percent is pretty much an industry standard. A little bit of thanks goes a very long way for these professionals who invest hours into working with you, and who create a piece for you that lasts a lifetime.

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