Ashburn, VA

Average cost for a Tattoo ranges from
$40 - $1500

The average cost for a tattoo is $200. Hiring a tattoo artist to get inked, you will likely spend between $40 and $1500 depending on many factors. The price of a tattoo can vary greatly by region (and even by zip code). View our local tattoo artists or get free estimates from pros near you.

How much do tattoos cost?

Author: Sally Hanan
Millions of people ask Fash for cost estimates every year. We track the estimates they get from local professionals, then we share those prices with you.

Depending on the country you live in (or the country you want your tattoo done in), the cost of your tattoo will depend on a wide range of options and styles. Because of the range of options available and the work being done, asking how much a tattoo costs is almost like asking how much a painting costs.

Expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $1,500 for your tattoo.

The main variables that contribute to the final price include, but are not limited to, the artist, the artwork, and the studio.

Tattoo Pricing Structure

Keeping all the factors mentioned below in mind, artists typically charge in one of a number of ways. For most work commissioned, they will either charge you per piece or per hour, while a small subset will have a per minute rate.

For example, Clay Tattoos in Austin, Texas, has a flat rate of $4/minute. His work covers custom drawings, portraits, and realism. He says he gets lost in his work and says, “I haven't come across anything I can't draw or tattoo.”

The Red Baron Ink studio in New York quotes a shop minimum of $100 for smaller pieces, a flat rate of $250–$500 for palm-size pieces, and hourly rates ranging from $200–$250/hour—which varies by artist.

Floating Lotus Tattoo Studio in Portland has a flat rate of $140 per hour, with 12 years’ experience.

As with almost everything in life, you cannot have a fast, high-quality, and cheap tattoo. You have to choose which of these elements is the most important.

For example, if you want it fast, it is almost definitely not going to be of a high quality. If you want it cheap, it is not likely to be of a high quality. If you want it to be high quality, it will likely neither be cheap nor fast.

This is, of course, a generalization, because many people work at different speeds. As a general rule of thumb, depending on the complexity of the design, a more seasoned tattoo artist with eight to ten or more years of professional experience could be faster than a less experienced artist.

Tattoo Artist Experience

Typically, the more the years of experience your artist has, the higher the price will be. On average, a tattoo artist is viewed as a:

  • Beginner/Apprentice: 1–3 years’ experience
  • Average: 2–5 years’ experience
  • Seasoned/Well known/Popular/Famous: 5+ years’ experience

If the artist is famous because of social media or TV, then you can expect to pay a lot more than the prices detailed below.

Tattoo Type & Size

The tattoo itself is the next big contributor to the final price you pay for your ink. The variables in this category can be broken down as follows:

Size:

Artwork size falls into either small, medium, or large.

  • Small – from a star the size of a dime on your wrist to a pirate ship covering your deltoid
  • Medium – from a full arm sleeve to a koi fish swimming in a waterfall on your side—from under your arm to your thigh
  • Large – from a set of angel wings starting at your shoulders all the way to the base of your back to a complex story that covers your entire upper torso.

As with everything else, time is money, and the longer an artist spends on your artwork, the longer the meter will keep running, unless you established a fixed fee at the start.

Location:

Where you want the tattoo to be on your body can affect the price too. Most locations on your body are pretty straightforward re tattooing, but some areas can pose challenges to make sure it looks as intended, especially if there is a range of motion in that area.

Color:

A single color (usually black) tattoo will typically be cheaper than one with a range of colors, since color tattoos require more detail and blending skills. Another factor is that with a color tattoo, the artist will normally (if not always) start out with an outline in black that will get filled in with color at a later time, so it is almost like getting two tattoos.

Design:

The options range from a custom original piece you and the artist agree on (after your initial consultation) to a design you select from a catalog at the studio, or a picture of something you want them to replicate. Depending on the complexity, custom artwork will typically take longer and generally involve the artist taking time to render the artwork on paper for you to approve before the project begins.

Detail:

Tattoos can range from a traditional depiction of a five-pointed star all the way to an accurate depiction of the universe in the clouds around the "Pillars of Creation" from the Eagle Nebula, with perfect color blends. In this respect, you are looking at both:

  • The costs associated with the artist’s time spent
  • The value of skills from a master in their artistry.

Materials:

The average person on the street won’t normally know the difference, but a high-end studio (and artist) will only conduct the work with the best brands of ink, best safety procedures, and equipment required to deliver the best results; while your eighteen-year-old neighbor could be quite happy to tackle the task with a sewing needle and some fountain pen ink.

Location & Studio

Unless you live in a major metropolitan area, the best studio in your area is likely to cost a lot less than some of the top studios in New York or Los Angeles. Their geographic location has the potential to up their score in relation to their fame and popularity. This doesn’t mean that a studio in a smaller location can’t have incredibly popular and talented artists with a long waitlist, but it’s unusual.

For an idea of the difference, Dark Star Tattoo in Portland, OR, charges $120–$140/hour and is an award-winning studio with 20 years of experience. Gonzo Tattoos in Lynwood, CA, has prices starting at $50 for a small tattoo. He has ten years of experience. Sacred Art LA runs a private studio in CA and charges from $160/hour. He started tattooing in 2000. Daydream Tattoos in Phoenix, AZ, starts pricing at $30. He has ten years’ experience.

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Tips before hiring a tattoo artist

  1. Understand their process:  Generally, your initial consultation for your first tattoo should involve a consultation for the artist to get to know you. From your discussion, the artist will take your concept and create a sketch so you both know you are on the same page based on the resulting visuals. It is critical to get the picture of success out of your head and down in a visual format to accomplish this. Your initial consultation may require a deposit of around $50 (for the time).
  2. Decide on the level of creative freedom you want to give your artist for your artwork: In stark contrast to the decision to go with a stock image from a catalogue, you may want to give a famous or really well-known artist free rein to get creative when it comes to the design component. In that scenario, the artist will still need to get to know you before the buzz of inspiration and stamp of design genius is set loose on your skin.
  3. Research is key: Likely you are either in the free-spirited, adventurous camp or the camp of those who know exactly what they want on their skin for the rest of their lives. However, the more thought (and research) you can put into your decision prior to that initial meeting, the more likely it is that you will walk out a little more colorful and a lot more satisfied.
  4. Decide on the design: Unless you are approaching this with 100 percent certainty, there should be a significant time investment spent on this section.  If you are lacking certainty when you begin to narrow it down, it might make sense to run it past a few trusted friends—maybe those who already have tattoos. If it is words in a foreign alphabet, like Chinese, it would be a really good idea to check with someone who speaks that language to make sure it says what you think it says.
  5. Decide where it is going to go: Consider getting it printed out, cut around the edges, and try placing it in different areas on your body to help make sure you are happy with your decision.
  6. Look for reviews and examples of work done by your chosen artist/studio: Many people would consider shaving their heads as an extreme personal statement, however, your hair can grow back. Considering the permanent nature of the work you want to get done on your body, you want to maintain an extreme distance between you and the distasteful sensation of buyer’s remorse.  Exhaust every avenue in your research, both online and offline, before your final decision is set in stone. Remember to look at the dates for the reviews you are reading. Even if a potential artist has two hundred 5-star reviews, if the majority of them are from three years ago, then more research may be required to see how clients view that artist’s work today.
  7. Decide on your budget: Now that you have some understanding of the elements which can affect the price, you probably have a gut feel for your financial comfort zone. If you are about to get your first tattoo, and this is the first time you are researching the topic, the prices may be higher than you expected. However, a tattoo is probably the only purchase you will ever make that will be with you 24/7 for the rest of your life, and getting it done well is really important.

Tattoo Removal Cost

If you get back from that bachelor party in New Orleans and discover a tattoo you don’t remember getting, or things didn’t work out with “Amy”, then you may want to wipe the slate clean. Small tattoos can be removed relatively easily with laser treatments starting just south of $50, but larger pieces, like a full arm sleeve, would be broken out into multiple treatments.

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