How Much to Tip a Tattoo Artist: Tattooers Weigh In
Tipping a tattoo artist should be factored into the overall cost of your tattoo. Although giving your artist a tip is not required, it is something that most artists expect and appreciate.
But how much should you tip your tattoo artist? Well, there are differing opinions about what constitutes a good tip and a bad one.
We asked three different tattoo artists to offer opinions about tattoo tipping etiquette. Here’s what they had to say.
Do You Tip Tattoo Artists?
The short answer is yes—you should generally tip a tattoo artist. “It is a service, and much like any other service, tipping is encouraged and very important to our industry,” says Lauren Caldwell, a tattoo artist who works at The Inkuisition in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey.
Many people don’t realize the costs associated with being a tattoo artist, says Renee Springer, who works at Tintoretta Tattoo in Kansas City, Missouri. Even though tattoo costs may seem high, tattoo artists rarely take home all of what you pay them.
“I know people have a perception of what tattoo artists make, because hourly rates are high,” says Springer. “What most folks don’t know is that artists in shops are paying 40-50 percent of every tattoo to the shop for commission. They are also buying tubes and needles and they need to pay for health insurance and taxes.”
Tips, on the other hand, go directly to your artist and they keep 100 percent of the tip money that you give them.
A Differing Perspective on Tattoo Tipping
Not all tattoo artists, however, believe tipping is necessary. Kel Tait, an artist originally from the U.K. who works at Logan Square Tattoo in Chicago, disagrees with the notion that clients should be expected to tip for tattoos.
“As a Brit living in the USA, I very often don’t accept tips, or at least give the client half or more of it back,” she says. “I appreciate it if I’ve thrown in some extra time for free, or maybe as an offering if someone didn’t sit so well, but larger tattoos are expensive. I think it’s extremely unfair that people feel like they should have to hand over extra money.”
Char Callan, an artist who works at Raven’s Head Tattoo in London, also agrees that clients shouldn’t feel like they have to tip. “I charge a firm, decent hourly rate, which provides me the funds to support my family.” she says. “Anything on top of that is a bonus. It’s hoped for, but never expected.”
Tait never wants her clients to feel like they should tip just because it’s considered customary. “Anything over $100, regardless of the final cost of the tattoo, is a lot of money to the majority of people,” she says. “Just because they offer it doesn’t mean they can afford it.”
How Much Do You Tip a Tattoo Artist?
Deciding how much to tip a tattoo artist is really up to you—and not all artists agree on this point. However, the average tattoo tip in the U.S. is at least 15-20 percent.
“A tip is a tip—we appreciate anything,” says Clifton. “But you can always follow the Golden Rule of tipping 20 percent of whatever your tattoo price was if you’re not sure.”
Tattoo Tip Chart
While most clients understand that tipping on a custom tattoo project is generally expected, Springer says that artists who do walk-in tattoos and smaller pieces should also be compensated with a tip at the end of the session.
“If I have a walk in, I appreciate tips because you are doing a lot of creative work on the fly for someone to get something in the moment,” she says. “That’s hard work!”
When Should You Tip a Tattoo Artist?
Tipping a tattoo artist is recommended after the tattoo is complete. This can be as soon as your artist wraps up your tattoo and before you pay, or after you pay at the shop counter.
Most tattoo shops will not accept credit-card tips for tattoos, so make sure to be prepared for your tattoo appointment and have a cash tip on hand. If you want to leave a tip on a credit card, call the studio or shop in advance of your appointment to see if leaving a credit-card tip is possible.
Should You Tip After Every Tattoo Session?
For larger tattoos—such as sleeves or backpieces—that require multiple sessions, you may be wondering whether you should tip a tattoo artist after each session or after the tattoo is fully complete.
The general consensus is that tipping after each tattoo session is appreciated, since large-scale tattoos can take months or even years to complete.
“I wouldn’t go out to eat and say, ‘I’ll be back in a month for dessert and I’ll tip you, then,’” says Caldwell. “Sometimes projects can get delayed due to unexpected life events. If a client would like to wait to do it at the end, and they discuss that with their artist, then that’s understandable.”
Springer explains that she’s a bit more understanding with large-scale projects, and she doesn’t expect to be tipped after every session.
“I think for larger projects it really comes down to preference, but if you wait until the end maybe give a little more generously,” she says. “Also, don’t be the client that mentions how you will tip at the last session and then you don’t tip. That’s rude as fuck, but has happened to me more than once.”
Gifts as Tattoo Tips
Cash is definitely the preferred method of tipping a tattoo artist, but some clients choose to bring their tattoo artists small gifts in place of or in addition to a tattoo tip.
If you are planning to bring your tattoo artist a gift, you should still provide a cash tip in addition to the gift if you’re able.
“I have had clients tip me on top of bringing me small gifts as tokens of appreciation. It is all so very appreciated,” says Caldwell, who adds that she’s received cups of coffee, collectible coins, and a “Friends” Central Perk coffee mug as gifts from her clients.
Clifton agrees that getting gifts from clients is a welcome surprise. “Whenever I receive one, I think it’s the sweetest thing,” she says. “I have clients that always bring me Mountain Dew because they know it’s my favorite. I’ve also had clients bring plants and treats for my dog. This is not expected at all, but it is super cool when it happens.”
Please note: Not all tattoo artists agree on tipping etiquette. International artists or tattoo studios in other countries may have differing customs or expectations around tipping.