tattoo client

Should You Tip Your Tattoo Artist?

Tipping is customary in most places within the United States and most tattoo artists world wide love the extra cheddar after a day of hard work. You, the client who is overwrought with joy and a new piece of art that will last a lifetime may be asking yourself, “should I tip or should I go?”

The answer is, always tip your artist if it fits into your budget, you were happy with the work and you feel compelled to let them feel how grateful you are. We setup a quick and easy tipping calculator located at the bottom of the page to help you figure out what is considered a “good” tip when tipping your tattoo artist.

tattoo money

Here are a few reasons you may not have known that can help influence your decision on how much to tip your tattoo artist:

The whole system is setup like a barber shop

You may not know the in’s and out’s of tattoo business operations but most tattoo artists out there do not make every dollar you pay them. Much like barber shops, booths or chairs can come with a rental fee. In some places this is a flat daily rate, in other places artists are paid a percentage of your total bill.

Let’s say your tattoo cost $300. Well, in most places an artist may get a percentage of that total, somewhere around 40%-70% of the total. On the low end, your artist make $120 out of that $300 and the shop takes the rest. What a racket eh?! This is the most common reason tattoo artists like tips: The system is rigged for the shop an not the artist.

Learn more about the cost of an artist setup by following this link:

Cost of setup

Artists must purchase most, if not all of their supplies.

Tattoo shops do not purchase all the supplies for a tattoo artist. Some supply disposable items, others just gloves and paper towels. Everything else is covered by the artist, including their training and skill.

tipping your artist - they buy all the Art Kit - Wallpaper

Tattooing is very competitive and not all artists are booked 5 years into the future.

Have you see how many shops are in the Portland Oregon area? How about Austin, Texas? Even in the middle of nowhere tattoo shops are springing up and offering their own take on colorful modifications. with the increased saturation of shops globally there are less options for artists to book out long term. Due to this increase in competition, shop owners have been quick to lower artist pay rates, holding the clients as chattel owned wholly by the shop. With lower pay coming into an artists pockets, you can be assured they will find any form of gratuity very welcome.

The work they do for large scale projects far exceeds the time spent on the tattoo session(s)

If you are getting a back piece done, or a full sleeve, the work done before the tattoo can incur multiple hours. This work is something most clients never think about and even more rarely are a part of. I will personally spend tens of hours on a single design, sometimes the hours can reach 100+ if multiple redesigns are ordered by the client. If a tip is tossed onto the final sitting of the tattoo, I will thank that client and express the warm and fuzzy feelings that fill my black heart.

If you get more than more sitting to do the tattoo, choose when to tip (beginning, end or after every session)

If you really enjoy the service and want to tip every sitting, or if you have a fixed budget and don’t know if you will have enough to tip your artist, let them know up front. Most artists will be thankful for the upfront and direct way that you will talk to them. Just please, don’t lord a tattoo over them as if they were a dog begging for a treat. That habit is rude to dogs and definitely rude to a skilled artisan.

If you have a shop owner tattooing you, you can straight ask them what tip rate is good for them (shop big and fancy or small comparison)

Shop owners make more money than the artists they employ when a business is run under the barbershop model. If they are professional they will not be expecting a tip after service. If they do come asking for it… well that is just not kosher.

Gifts are great but cash is king

Love Text-printed Board Leaning on Wall

I have received books, clothing, shot glasses and a bunch of artwork from clients over my career. While I really have enjoyed the gifts I have only utilized 1 gift in 17 years more than once. If you will feel poorly if your nicknack gift isn’t well received, bring cash to brighten the mood in the shop. Or food. Tattoo artists love candy, coffee and tacos.

So that’s it. A few tips for the clients out there on how to tip your artist.

Below is an interactive widget that can help you figure out how much to tip if you are unsure.

Thanks for reading.

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