There are many unspoken laws of etiquette within the tattoo world, and since we’re here to guide you through all of it, we figured we’d hit you up with a reminder for that instant karma goodness: tipping your tattoo artist.
Many people may have questions as to why this is such an important aspect to the experience of getting a new tattoo, and we have plenty of answers!! It’s partly a way to show appreciation for what they do, partly to support their work, and partly to help out with the many costs of being a tattooist.
So, to start with, you may think that the job of being a tattoo artist is pretty glamorous...they get to travel, they get to make art all day (which...is barely “work”, right?), and they often are depicted as some of the coolest people out there. Well, some of this totally true. Tons of tattoo artists are the coolest people we know, for sure, but not because they’re tattooists...it’s usually because they are creative, authentic, and insanely hard working.
Which brings us to our next point: creating art IS work. Being a tattooist is basically like owning your own business, and what’s more is that being a business not only comes with a lot of monetary costs, but it takes a mass amount of dedication to maintain the type of work ethic that promotes a successful business! Not to mention how much time and effort it takes to becoming a really awesome artist....
Also, keep in mind that tattooists have costs like the inks, the needles, the tubes, gloves, paper towels, ink cups, rubber bands, tape, green soap, stencil paper...the list goes on. And although sometimes a shop may take care of the basic costs of things like paper towels, usually an artist will be paying a percentage of what they make towards the upkeep of the shop. In essence, it’s like renting out a small space within the shop so they can have a secure and safe place of business. And yes, they get to travel...but think of the costs that entails. Plane tickets and hotels ain’t cheap.
What it comes down to is: your tip shows your respect for their hard work.
If the background cost of being a tattoo artist doesn’t really sway you to become the big tipper we know you are, then think of it this way: it’s an immediate way to show your appreciation for what they do. Tattooists are part of the service industry, just like baristas, bar tenders, servers manicurists, hairdressers; all of these people work super hard to provide you with a service you want.
And being an artist is hard. Because, although we WANT the tattoo, we don’t exactly need it. It’s a luxury. So sometimes business will be really good for them, and sometimes it will suck. Making sure you tip your artist is like helping to make sure they’ll be set even when times are hard.
Keep in mind, also, that your insanely talented tattoo artist probably went through an apprenticeship...which means they weren’t making shit for years to become the creative genius you now know. Most apprentices do not get paid while working at the shop, and learning their craft. Sometimes they’ll share in the artist tips, much like the shop manager, but it totally depends on the shop.
What it comes down to is: your tip shows your respect for their hard work. And it also keeps the shop, the tattooist, and everyone else involved, healthy and happy and positive that they are valued. Like we said, it’s instant karma...or like...giving your tattoo artist a big hug without the awkward body contact.
As for how much you should tip your tattooist...again, think of it like this: this is part of the service industry. So, a 25% tip is a seriously sweet spot, 20% is the norm, and anything under 15% is basically like saying "Fuck you."
Okay, that might be a bit....harsh....but, look at it this way: you'll have this work of art forever...how much is that worth to you? Don't you want to walk away from your artist feeling like you treated them just as well as they treated you? Don't you want to be recognized and thought of like a high quality client just like they're a high quality artist? This business is a give an take, it's the ultimate in creative collaboration. And if you love tattoo artists as much as we do, we promise that a healthy tip will give smiles all around.