How Much Do Tattoo Artists Get Paid?

Most tattoo artists do not decide on this career because of the potential earnings the career offers. The majority of tattoo artists choose the career because they are artistic, they love body art and they want to create.

Still, tattoo artists can make a very good living pursuing their passions. The amount of earning potential for a tattoo artist is dependent on where the artist practices their trade and the skill the artist has. 

Tattoo Artist Earnings

Tattoo artists are not salaried employees and they do not get paid by the hour. How do tattoo shops determine the amount that the artist will make for the work they are doing?

Most tattoo artists make a percentage of the cost of the tattoo. If you go into a tattoo shop and request a price quote on a tattoo the price will cover the materials needed to do the work and payment for the artist. The price does not include a tip, and many people getting tattoos do offer a tip to their artist for exceptional work.

How Much of The Tattoo Price is The Artist Pay?

The amount of the tattoo price that goes to pay the artist depends on the shop and the artist. Some artists figure out the number of materials it will take to do the work then double that amount so they make 50% of the total for their work.

Some artists only charge 30% or 40% more than the cost of the tattoo materials for the work they do. 

Tattoo Artist Expenses


When you read that the artist may make as much as 50% of the cost of the tattoo then it can sound like these individuals are raking in the money. You must consider the expenses a tattoo artist has before you can determine how much they actually make.


The equipment used to create a tattoo from the tattoo gun, the needles, the ink, the razors, the bandages, and everything else the artist uses are expenses that come out of the amount the artist makes. Some of those expenses are figured for each tattoo and charged to the client, like the ink, the number of needles, and razors, but other expenses are overall expenses and the artist can not divide those up accurately between each client.

Parlor or Shop Space

Where the artist does their work will determine a big part of how much money they make. If an artist works in a shop that belongs to someone else they normally have to pay the shop owner a percentage of their earnings, or a flat rate to use the space.

When an artist works in the shop of another artist they get the benefit of working somewhere that has already established a reputation. That means the artist may get a lot more customers because the reputation of the establishment is already good.

If an artist chooses to have their own shop
The privately operated shop will require the artist to pay:

  • Rent on the building
  • Electric, gas, and water charges
  • Trash pickup charges
  • Sewer charges

Owning your own tattoo shop allows you to be in control of what happens in your shop and be your own boss, but it also means you have to worry about every bill, utility, and all of the paperwork and tax requirements. 

When artists are just starting out they normally do not have enough clientele to afford to rent a building or location of their own. They may choose to work out of their homes, their garage, or some artists even choose to travel to the homes and establishments of their clients to avoid the high cost of building rentals.

Salaries and Yearly Earnings

Being a tattoo artist can be lucrative. The median amount that tattoo artists make yearly is close to $30,000. Artists stand to make a lot more than that if they are highly skilled and have a large client base.

How to Increase Your Earning Potential


If you really want to make a good living at doing tattoos then use the following tips as guidelines.

#1 Practice Makes Perfect

If you really want to become a highly paid and respected tattoo artist then you have to practice your craft until you are superb at it. Practice drawing and stenciling the tattoos onto practice skin and then onto human skin. Unique drawings and creations can earn you a lot more money because not everyone in town can duplicate them. Learn to draw and create your own unique designs.

#2 Use the Best Materials

If you want to create the best tattoos and body art images you have to use the best materials for the job. Do not scrimp and buy cheap needles or cheap ink. The durability and appearance of the tattoo will be dependent on the durability and quality of the products you choose to use.

#3 Learn to Really Listen

Word of mouth is the best form of advertisement for any business. If you treat a customer professionally, and they are really happy with your work they are going to tell their friends and anyone they are talking to about you. Pay close attention: If you make a happy customer they will share the information if you make a customer unhappy they will also share the information about you and they are more likely to tell everyone they know and talk to than the happy customers do.

If you really want to make your customers happy and turn them into repeat customers you must learn to really listen to them. Sometimes a customer knows exactly what they want but more often than not they kind of know what they want and it is going to be up to you to listen to them and make suggestions based on what you hear them say.

Final Thoughts

There are tattoo artists that earn more than $50,000 per year. Those are experienced artists, who have built a solid reputation for quality work and services. Always conduct yourself in a professional manner, do not criticize or gossip about other artists, and treat each customer like you would want to be treated. You can make yourself very successful.

Leave a Comment