Tipping Your Tattoo Artist

Tipping Your Tattoo Artist

Some shops are cash only, and math is hard! Here are some tips for tipping.

Tattoodo is your number one destination for everything tattoos — finding a shop, preparing for your first tattoo, learning more about the tattoo community. Our guides are meant as a toolkit to help you be the best client and learn how to work with your tattoo artist to create the tattoo of your dreams. Remember: No matter what you read on the internet, your artist’s advice should be considered the gold standard.


Editor's Note: Our editorial team is based in the US. Most of us have grown up in a tipping economy where a little extra money shows appreciation for a service. We think throwing a little extra monetary love to your artist is a good practice, but if you're unsure, check your shop's policies! 


You’ve got an appointment on the books with your favorite artist, and you’ve put down a deposit. While you count the minutes, hours, and days until your tattoo appointment, here are some ways to make sure you’ve saved up enough money for their hourly rate and you’re tipping your artist appropriately when needed.


1. Your deposit helps an important part of the artistic process.

The truth is, that deposit you put down is just the beginning of what you owe for great art. That deposit ensures you don’t bail on your appointment (Rescheduling is okay with proper notice. Ghosting is NOT), and also pays for the time your artist is going to take to draw out your tattoo. Think about it like this — you’re paying for the artistic labor that precedes the tattooing itself. The act of tattooing is only a piece of the work your artist does, the drawing and planning is the heart of it.


2. After that initial deposit, double check and make sure you know your artist’s hourly rates.

This might seem like a “duh” moment, but not every artist at every shop has those rates posted, and the shop might not have a standardized rate. There are some averages per city, sure, but you don’t want to guess at this. If after your initial consult with your artist you’re still not sure what you’re approximately going to owe, take the time to call the shop and schedule another visit, or get your artist on the phone. No one will begrudge you wanting to know the best ways to pay!

3. Your artist’s costs include more than just supplies.

Diversity from shop to shop is what makes tattooing great — some shops take a percentage, some shops take a flat rate, some shops have their own systems to make sure the doors stay open. Tattooing isn’t like going to Starbucks, you aren’t gonna know exactly what you’re getting every single time. The thing to know is that most times, unless an artist is working out of a private studio (and even then there are other expenses to consider), they aren’t taking home 100% of their hourly rate. That hourly rate is helping them maintain their equipment, buy more needles and ink and other supplies, pay the shop assistants, and keep the tattoo shop in business.


4. Your tip is a key part of showing your artist respect and helping their livelihood.

In the US, it's pretty common practice tip your tattooist. It's not absolutely required, but it's pretty standard. We're a tipping culture, and when a service is being performed – whether it's a haircut, a delivery, or a tattoo – a tip shows that we appreciate the work that was done in a meaningful way.

Remember, that artist probably spent a ton of time looking at references, drawing and redrawing designs, and dedicating a huge amount of thought and energy into your tattoo before setting needle to skin. A tip shows some appreciation for that extra time, and for a job well done. 

How much do you tip? Well, that's up to you, but we generally tip in the 15-20% range. For every $100 you spend, toss another $15 - $20 onto that. It might seem like a lot when you look at the lump sum of your tattoo appointment, but seriously: it’s worth it. An artist has crafted an original piece of permanent art to go onto your body. We think it's a nice gesture to directly hand that artist some extra "thank you" cash. 

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