How Much Do Tattoo Artists Make on Average (Salary)

How much do tattoo artists make? A tattoo artist is a person who uses ink to etch images or phrases into the flesh. This is accomplished by piercing the skin with a tiny needle and injecting ink beneath the surface. Tattooing is one of the earliest kinds of art known to man; in ancient times, tattoos were used for more than just adornment; they were also used for religious purposes or as a status symbol.

how much do tattoo artists make

What is a tattoo artist?

A tattoo artist applies a permanent ink design or image to someone's skin using artistic and creative ability. Sterilized needles, equipment, and non-toxic inks are used. Meeting with each customer, drawing prospective designs, and applying the image using a tattoo machine are all part of the job.

What does a tattoo artist do?

A tattoo artist is a trained artist who creates and applies tattoos at the request of a customer. Many walk-in tattoo shops contain hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures from which the client can pick. Some customers choose to bring in their own artwork or have a custom tattoo designed for them, and they will seek out a tattoo artist who can do both (usually at a custom tattoo studio). The tattoo artist will transfer the picture onto the client's skin after the image has been chosen or sketched. The image's location can be tweaked numerous times till the customer is satisfied.

Many infections and illnesses can readily be transmitted through the blood, thus a tattoo artist must take extra precautions to ensure the client's safety by sterilizing all equipment before each visit and discarding tattooing needles after each usage.

To avoid infection and for good healing, the tattooed area must be maintained clean once it has been put to the skin. The client will be instructed on proper aftercare by the tattoo artist.

The following are the responsibilities of a tattoo artist on a daily basis:

  • Tattoo equipment cleaning and sterilization.
  • sanitizing and cleaning work spaces.
  • Coming up with fresh ideas and drawing them out.
  • Keeping current with the most recent tattoo trends.
  • Meeting with clients to talk about their ideas.
  • Scheduling appointments.
  • Clients for tattoos.
  • Client education on proper aftercare.
  • Maintaining knowledge of the most recent health and safety procedures.

how much do tattoo artists make

How much do tattoo artists make? (average salary)

The bulk of tattoo artist salaries presently vary between $39,000 (25th percentile) and $106,500 (75th percentile), with top earners (90th percentile) making $260,000 yearly throughout the United States. The typical salary for a tattoo artist ranges widely (up to $67,500), implying that there can be several chances for development and higher income dependent on skill level, location, and years of experience.

Tattoo artist salary by state

Average tattoo artist salary by state:

  • Alabama: $44,315 per year
  • Alaska: $78,797 per year
  • Arizona: $72,010 per year
  • Arkansas: $72,039 per year
  • California: $48,549 per year
  • Colorado: $40,909 per year
  • Connecticut: $80,647 per year
  • Delaware: $75,859 per year
  • District of Columbia: $90,530 per year
  • Florida: $55,068 per year
  • Georgia: $37,986 per year
  • Hawaii: $76,368 per year
  • Idaho: $70,232 per year
  • Illinois: $59,710 per year
  • Indiana: $73,131 per year
  • Iowa: $73,923 per year
  • Kansas: $72,784 per year
  • Kentucky: $54,398 per year
  • Louisiana: $73,333 per year
  • Maryland: $51,201 per year
  • Massachusetts: $67,368 per year
  • Michigan: $48,663 per year
  • Minnesota: $78,068 per year
  • Mississippi: $69,650 per year
  • Missouri: $57,283 per year
  • Montana: $70,259 per year
  • Nebraska: $73,430 per year
  • Nevada: $67,683 per year
  • New Hampshire: $81,460 per year
  • New Jersey: $89,690 per year
  • New Mexico: $74,437 per year
  • New York: $51,302 per year
  • North Carolina: $44,750 per year
  • North Dakota: $74,956 per year
  • Ohio: $47,382 per year
  • Oklahoma: $44,064 per year
  • Oregon: $78,066 per year
  • Pennsylvania: $64,476 per year
  • Rhode Island: $77,054 per year
  • South Carolina: $27,353 per year
  • South Dakota: $72,255 per year
  • Texas: $58,840 per year
  • Tennessee: $47,880 per year
  • Utah: $73,749 per year
  • Vermont: $82,070 per year
  • Virginia: $56,771 per year
  • Washington: $50,464 per year
  • West Virginia: $70,673 per year
  • Wisconsin: $74,900 per year
  • Wyoming: $73,206 per year

Highest paying cities include San Mateo, California and Boston, Massachusetts. San Mateo, California is the highest-paying city for tattoo artists in the state of California. In San Mateo, a tattooist's yearly income was $119,762 in 2021. This equates to a salary of almost $58 per hour. San Mateo also outperforms the national average, with tattooists making 19.8% (or $19,805) more.

Per week wages

The national average is $1,922 per week.

Per hour wages

The national average is $48 per hour.

Per month wages

The national average is $8,329 per month.

Job outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual income of $64,490 in 2019 for all other artists and associated professionals not classified separately, which includes tattoo artists. From 2019 through 2029, the BLS predicted little or no change in job opportunities for this category of artists and associated professionals.

Common questions

Common questions from prospective tattoo artists:

What employment opportunities are there?

In the beginning, most tattoo artists work for tattoo shops, where they can tattoo clients in a shared area with other artists. Some of the advantages of working at a tattoo shop include:

  • Vetting: Working as an employee or independent contractor in a tattoo shop has the advantage of allowing more experienced artists to assess your work and talents. As a newer artist, this might help you earn customer trust.
  • Opportunity: Working at a tattoo shop gives younger artists the opportunity to show their work to a broad audience, which can help them develop relationships with new clientele.
  • Fewer business responsibilities: Tattoo artists who work for a shop or studio don't have to deal with as many business issues as those who operate for themselves. This will free them up to concentrate on tattooing rather than marketing and budgeting.

Self-employment is an option for tattoo artists with greater expertise. Here are some of the advantages of working as a self-employed artist:

  • Ability to establish your own prices: Self-employed tattoo artists can determine their own tattoo pricing and rates, giving them control over their earnings.
  • Set your own schedule: Self-employed tattoo artists have more control over their schedules, allowing for more flexibility, in addition to the freedom to establish their own prices.

Some artists choose to refuse requests for work with specific colors or patterns since they have the freedom to create their own standards. Independent tattoo artists can create their own tattooing regulations, giving them greater creative flexibility.

Do tattoo artists get health care benefits and vacations?

Some tattoo artists can be covered by health insurance if they work in a shop, but many are self-employed and must purchase their own coverage. Tattoo artists who work as independent contractors at tattoo shops are on a predetermined schedule and have less vacation freedom than self-employed tattoo artists.

How can tattoo artists earn more income?

You can utilize social networking platforms to communicate with a broader audience about your tattoo art. This might assist you in gaining recognition and clients.

  • Increase your prices: As your experience and clientele grow, you can increase your tattoo rates to help you earn more money.
  • Popularity: Increasing your popularity as a tattoo artist is another method to get more money. To improve the visibility of your business, you can ask pleased clients for references and promote on social media.

Artists that can tattoo more clients in a shorter amount of time earn more money. More tattooing experience can lead to more efficiency.

How does a tattoo artist calculate their rates?

Tattoo artists' rates and pricing are influenced by a variety of factors, including the cost of equipment and their overhead costs, such as rent and electricity, if they're self-employed. Tattoo artists that operate in a studio can be required to pay the shop fees as well. The following are the basic elements that influence tattoo pricing:

  • Time: Artists can bill their clients an hourly rate for tattooing.
  • Base: Tattoo artists can charge a basic payment for tattoos as well. Tattoo artists can charge varying fees depending on the size or color of the tattoo.
  • Tips: Tattoo artists are allowed to collect gratuities for their work, which might raise the cost of a tattoo.

A tattoo artist with a $30 hourly rate and a $150 base fee, for example, would charge $210 for a two-hour tattoo session. A client might spend $272.50 for a tattoo if he or she adds a 25% tip. Tattoo artists might raise their fees to reflect their living expenses and experience.

Why is there such a range of income based on tattoo artist?

The reason for this is due to a variety of factors, including the state in where the tattoo artists work, chances for economic or salary growth, and even how much people tip them once a tattoo is finished. Of course, there are factors such as the tattoo studio's quality of work, reputation, location, the cost of owning the studio as well as the tools and equipment, and so on.

On average, those with intermediate abilities make around $30,000 per year, whereas those with more competence can earn up to $40,000. As a result, the artist is regarded experienced after over a decade or more in the tattoo industry, and their name is a representation of their work. These professional tattoo artists typically charge up to $1000 per hour for their services, but be assured that it takes a lot of commitment and hard work to get to the point where you can charge such expensive fees.

What is a tattoo apprenticeship?

Many tattoo artists learn their trade through apprenticeship. And not a formal education, rather informal training. Artists prefer to learn from other fine artists. A tattoo apprenticeship allows a student to learn as much as possible from an experienced tattoo artist. It generally begins with a hands-off experience in which kids are taught about safety, cleanliness, and how to construct a machine. Apprenticeships last around two years on average.

how much do tattoo artists make

How do I start a tattoo business?

Usually, the owner collects up to a 70% commissions for every tattoo completed by independent artists in their shop. Meaning, becoming a shop owner can dramatically increase the annual salary of an artist. Here's how to start a tattoo business:

Learn about the industry and the craft.

Familiarize yourself with the industry and obtain the necessary training. To own a tattoo business, you don't have to be a tattoo artist. You should, however, have a thorough grasp of all elements of the business. Complete an apprenticeship if you are a new tattoo artist to guarantee that you are properly taught.

Complete extensive study on the profession as a non-practicing business owner or team up with an experienced tattooist.

Examine the laws in your area.

To learn more about tattoo business rules in your region, contact your local health, city, state, or county agency. Tattooing and sanitation laws vary greatly across the country, but there are some restrictions, regulations, and limits that apply regardless of where you reside. The AAA Tattoo Directory is a comprehensive overview of state tattooing laws and restrictions. Your local government departments can also refer you to the appropriate agencies for additional information on obtaining any necessary permissions or licenses.

Begin working on a business plan.

Make a business strategy and investigate tattoo software. Tattoo studios, like every other business, require a detailed business strategy. Your business plan is crucial for estimating future predictions and profit, as well as determining how much cash is required to open your tattoo shop. There are several software tools available to assist you in creating a business plan, or you can hire an accountant.

You can also get tattoo-specific software to help you keep track of earnings, losses, clients, artists, inventory, payroll, and other elements of your business.

Find a location.

Choose a place with a lot of foot traffic within the boundaries of where your permits are authorized. You can need to make some renovations or alterations to accommodate your artists and adequately equip the facilities, depending on the sort of facility you pick. Additions such as walls, sinks, plumbing, and electrical outlets can be necessary. If you're renting a space, get formal authorization from the landlord and any state-required permits before starting any renovations.

Make a marketing campaign.

Create a marketing strategy for your tattoo parlor. You must have a comprehensive marketing plan in place ahead to the big opening of the business to ensure a continuous flow of customers. This might involve handing out leaflets, using social media and network marketing, running advertisements on TV and radio, or just spreading the news. Plan to begin your marketing effort at least 30 to 60 days before the tattoo shop opens, or even as soon as the date is decided.

Furnish the studio.

Decorate and furnish your work, reception, and office spaces. Purchase and install the essential furniture for your artists and clients. Work areas will include several reclining chairs – similar to dentist's chairs – tables, lighted tracing tables, supply carts and large sized mirrors.

The reception areas need a counter or desk, chairs, couches shelves to display "Flash" – basic art designs – and display cases if you are offering body jewelry. A desk, chair, and file cabinets are usually required in an office setting.

Purchase supplies and equipment.

Before opening the shop, make sure you are well stocked with all the supplies, materials and equipment needed to properly and efficiently function. Tattooing equipment and supplies typically include an autoclave for sanitizing instruments, tattooing machines, needles, ink paper towels, plastic spray bottles and plastic or latex gloves. A computer, adding machine, telephones, and printers are examples of office equipment.

how much do tattoo artists make

Favorite Resources

Our favorite resources are included below.

Job interview resources

Resume and cover letter resources

Job search resources

free interview question and answer full guide

Interview Question and Answer Guide (PDF)

Get our full interview preparation guide. Complete with common interview questions and example answers. Free. No email required.

Grab the PDF
author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), NCDA Certified Career Counselor (CCC), and general career expert. Patrick has completed the NACE Coaching Certification Program (CCP). And has been published as a career expert on Forbes, Glassdoor, American Express, Reader's Digest, LiveCareer, Zety, Yahoo, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, SHRM.org, Process.st, FairyGodBoss, HRCI.org, St. Edwards University, NC State University, IBTimes.com, Thrive Global, TMCnet.com, Work It Daily, Workology, Career Guide, MyPerfectResume, College Career Life, The HR Digest, WorkWise, Career Cast, Elite Staffing, Women in HR, All About Careers, Upstart HR, The Street, Monster, The Ladders, Introvert Whisperer, and many more. Find him on LinkedIn.

Share

Help us by spreading the word