Photo of disney cartoon lion king scar color design by Jonki of Luna Ink Tattoo studio in Newport South Wales

It can be easy to dismiss the cost of a tattoo as expensive without knowing exactly what goes into the tattoo process. Check out our post on the factors that influence the price of a tattoo and why they can vary so much depending on size, detail, colour and time.

When considering getting a tattoo, an important aspect you need to think about is your budget. Some people are surprised by the price of tattoos, even a small one, but when you consider the process as a whole it is much easier to understand why a tattoo may cost as much as it does. Of course, prices vary from studio to studio and from artist to artist and this won’t be specific about cost but let’s talk a bit about what goes into getting a tattoo.

Once you have contacted an artist with your request, their work begins, the design process is largely unseen so it is often underappreciated. A tattoo artist will take the time to consider your request, examine any reference images you have provided and interpret your idea, there can be multiple consultations if it is a large piece. Tattooists want your design to be perfect so they need to spend plenty of time researching and planning to make sure it is right. Then they will move onto the actual drawing part, this can vary in time from a couple of hours for a simple design to a couple of days for a large, detailed or intricate design. Drawing is integral to the skill of a custom tattoo artist so yes, this is something you are paying for.

Now that the tattoo artist has provided your design, you will be booked in for your appointment. An appointment can be as little as an hour for a small tattoo to a couple of days for something large or detailed. You may be charged by the hour but it is not just the time it takes a tattoo artist to do a tattoo that you are paying for, though that is, of course, part of it. The time that they are spending tattooing you is time that they’re not drawing or tattooing another client, so of course you pay for an artist’s time but there is more to it than that.

Disney's scar lion king watercolor cartoon tattoo

Prices will vary depending on how many different colours are used and the different styles included in the design. Fresh, clean needles are always used and sometimes will have to be changed often if, for example, there is both shading and lines in the tattoo, or the thickness of lines varies. Every new client means new protective equipment is needed, right down to protecting the tattoo chair. Different areas of the body may also change the price depending on how difficult they are to tattoo, some places can take longer and so will be more expensive. These are just some of the hidden costs that go into providing this service.

Some tattoo artists will charge by the hour or sometimes will have a day rate, this is to make pricing simpler because there is no set price for a tattoo unless there is a particular offer provided. Don’t expect an upfront cost when your design hasn’t even been worked on yet. Though hourly rates can give you some idea of how much you can expect to pay and you may even be given a rough price, an artist will need to know what it is going to take to complete your tattoo before quoting you a realistic price.

So much goes into your tattoo than you may realise:

  • Researching and planning
  • Coming up with the design
  • Drawing
  • Consultations
  • Cleaning and prepping the studio
  • Putting on the stencil
  • Preparing the needles and ink
  • The actual tattooing process
  • Cleaning the studio after a tattoo session

What you pay for is not just the tattoo itself. If you have booked in for six hours on the needle then keep in mind that the tattoo artists day is much longer than that because of everything else that is involved in the process. They will have cleaned and prepped for your appointment, they make allowances for breaks that a client may need and they have to take the time to thoroughly clean after a client has gone. If you add this to the time it takes to design and draw your new ink, which could take 10-15 hours (all dependent on the piece). Your six-hour tattoo session is at quite a reasonable price for the 25+ hours work that the tattoo artist has completed.

Next time you consider the cost of a tattoo, take the time to think about the work that an artist is putting in to give you the ink you always wanted. Tattooing is not easy, that is why qualified tattooists exist, you wouldn’t go to them if you didn’t want a professional tattoo and that comes at a price.