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There’s no denying that tattoos are expensive. In fact, bigger and more intricate pieces may cost thousands of dollars. If you’re paying so much already, why do you need to tip your tattoo artist at all?
Well, you may be surprised to learn about tattoo etiquette—a real thing that a lot of customers overlook. Although showering before your tattoo appointment is a pretty obvious example of tattoo etiquette, tipping and how much to tip tattoo artists often get ignored.
After reading this article, you will understand exactly why you should show your appreciation to your tattoo artists in this way and how much tip you should add to your tattoo budget.
Before we get to how much to tip a tattoo artist, let’s first look at why you should tip it at all.
Why You Should Tip Your Tattoo Artist
Tattoo artists work in a service-based industry and people in this industry usually get a tip as a sign of gratitude. You tip your waiter, your taxi driver, your nail technician—why not your tattoo artists? In fact, considering the amount of time and effort that goes into creating a tattoo, one would expect tipping to be the norm.
Artists aren’t paid by the hour; they take home a percentage of the total amount you pay for your tattoo. By tipping your tattoo artist, you’re putting money straight into their pocket and helping them support themselves.
Here’s a quick look at why tipping your tattoo artist is the right thing to do:
- They’re artists. Custom designed tattoos take a lot of time and effort, not to mention creativity!
- It takes hours to come up with a design—hours they could’ve spent tattooing someone else and making money.
- Tattoo artists buy their own supplies.
- Bigger and more complex tattoos may require several sessions.
- They are decorating your body with something permanent and that will last a lifetime.
- Tipping helps them grow in their craft.
- Tipping builds the relationship between you and your artist.
Now that you know some of the reasons why tipping is the way to go, let’s get down to business: How much do tip for a tattoo?
How Much Do You Tip Tattoo Artists?
The good news for tattoo artists is that there is no limit on how big the tip can be. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should tip your tattoo artist above your means—giving your artist what you can is plenty. That being said, giving them a $5 tip for a $600 tattoo may come across as disrespectful and in this case, it may be best to just say thank you and leave it at that.
As you can see, how much to tip your tattoo artist doesn’t have a straightforward answer. Using the example above again, if you’ve built a relationship with your tattoo artist over the years and they know you as someone who tips when they can, they won’t feel insulted when you don’t tip this time around.
One way to work around a tight budget is to ask your tattoo artist if they can give you an estimate of how many sessions the tattoo will take. You can then make an arrangement with them to pay a part of their tip with every visit. Of course, this is assuming that you’re getting a big tattoo that will take more than one session. The bottom line is to talk to your tattoo artist so that they know you’d tip them if you were in the financial position to do so.
Whatever the case may be, the rule of thumb is to never tip less than 15% of the total amount of your tattoo. Of course, this is the absolute minimum and if your tattoo artist designed a custom masterpiece for you, you should aim for between 20-25% of your tattoo. Think of it this way: The more you spend on your tattoo, the bigger your tattoo artist’s tip should be. They’re putting more work and time into the artwork and deserve more.
You can calculate how much to tip your tattoo artist by considering the following:
- Is the design original?
- What size is the tattoo?
- How many sessions did it take to complete the tattoo?
- Was it an easy tattoo or one with a lot of shading/coloring and detail?
- Was the tattoo placed on a complicated part of the body?
Obviously, if you’re unhappy with your tattoo or the overall experience then tipping your tattoo artists will leave you feeling even more annoyed and will make them believe you’re pleased with the job they did. This is probably the only time you should not tip your tattoo artists. Naturally, if you mention to your artist that you’re disappointed with something and they end up fixing it, you should still tip your artist—even if you cut the percentage somewhat.
What About Gifts as Tips?
There is nothing wrong with giving your tattoo artist a gift as a token of appreciation in addition to a cash tip. As they say, “cash is king.” Your tattoo artist will find a cash tip much more valuable than a gift. Furthermore, if you haven’t built a relationship with your tattoo artist yet, you won’t know what gift to get them to begin with.
One thing you should never do is barter with your tattoo artist. Offering to tip them with a service, product, or advice can come across as disrespectful and even offensive if what you’re offering doesn’t match up in value to the cash tip you should be giving.
Not all tattoo artists feel the same about tipping etiquette—some may judge you and feel disrespected when you don’t tip them the expected 15%, while others don’t expect a tip at all. That being said, they’re called artists for a reason and your body is their canvas. You’ll be walking around with their art on you forever. Showing your appreciation is the right thing to do.
Work their tip into your tattoo budget right from the start and you will avoid embarrassment. If you have to wait a month longer before getting your tattoo to give you time to save for their tip, that would be super kind of you. Your tattoo artist will appreciate it more than you can imagine.
Another way to help out your tattoo artist is to give them a shoutout on social media. Snap a photo of your tattoo and let the world know who the artist is and how great an experience you had. This doesn’t replace a cash tip, but it will give them more exposure and help them in other ways.