Factors Affecting Tattoo Pricing

Getting a tattoo is exciting, but there are so many factors that go into deciding what kind of tattoo you want, like the design, colors, and artist, that we can sometimes forget just how much they cost.

Tattoo prices depend on a lot of different factors, so you’ll want to figure out the cost before going under the needle.

If you’re wondering how much tattoos cost, follow this guide: 

Factors that Affect Tattoo Pricing

You might be surprised to hear the price of some of the tattoos you see, but there are so many factors that go into the pricing. These are the factors that affect tattoo pricing: 

– Design

The more detailed and difficult the design, the more expensive it will be.

Design is one of the main factors that affects pricing because it directly involves the type of ink, amount of time, number of sessions, and expertise of the artist.

Usually the more simplistic the design, the less it will cost because the artist won’t have to draw up as much as if it was an intricate design.

Anime blackwork tattoo


– Colors

The more colors your tattoo uses, the more expensive it will be.

Most people think this is a matter of the cost of materials and inks, but actually it’s the time and effort it takes for the artist to use those colors that increases the price.

The more color in your tattoo, the more work it is for the artist, and the more expensive it will be.

This same pricing applies for gradients and shading. Even if your tattoo is just black and grey ink, creating gradients takes a lot of time and skill. This increases the price as well. 

Bird flower


– Size

Typically, the bigger the tattoo, the longer it will take, and therefore the more expensive it will be.

Bigger tattoos usually involve a lot more details and ink, so it will take the artist much longer to finish.

Bigger doesn’t always mean more expensive, however.

Smaller tattoos can involve a lot of intricate details, sometimes making them more expensive than a large tattoo of a simple image.  

Old school tattoo snake

– Placement

The same way some places on the body hurt more than others to get tattooed, some places on the body just cost more.

These places tend to overlap, and the more sensitive the area, the more expensive it will be.

The artist has to be very careful in these sensitive areas (ribs, wrists, feet, head, neck, hands, etc) because of all the nerves and pain receptors, so it will take them longer. 

Rose tattoo on face

– Tattoo Shop Location

Tattoo studio prices vary from place to place for many reasons such as the artists they employ, popularity, location, overhead costs, and more. Typically a studio located in the heart of a big city will cost more than one in a more rural area. 

Tattoo shop los angeles

– Artist Popularity

The more popular the artist, the more they will charge. If their schedule is always booked up, chances are you’re going to have to pay more. Factors that contribute to an artist’s popularity is their location, social media, TV appearances, or experience tattooing celebrities.

Tattoo artist los angeles

A lot of information, we know.

If you need personalized guidance, you are welcome to contact us, and we will gladly help you with your next tattoo.

How to Price a Tattoo

If tattoo prices are still pretty vague and confusing, we’ll break it down by how to price a tattoo based on artist experience, hourly rate, whole sessions, and ink color. 


Artist Experience

An apprentice or beginner will be typically cheaper than any other artist.

When you decide to pay less and go with an apprentice, you are also accepting the fact that they are less experienced, and might not be able to do every style and design.

Additionally, they might not have as much experience to design custom tattoo, or do a cover up. This isn’t to say you can’t still get a great looking tattoo, but there is more of a risk that it won’t come out like you expected. 

An established artist (5 to 10 years experience) costs more than a beginner would, for obvious reasons.

Tattoo artist los angeles

They have had years of experience and likely tattooed hundreds of people, so you can feel confident that your tattoo will come out great.

They’ll also have plenty of experience with custom tattoos and can work with you to create the perfect design. 

A popular artist that is highly sought after will have an entirely different set of prices for tattoos. The more popular they are, the higher their prices will be.

You are paying for their experience, time, and the chance to be tattooed by someone popular or even famous. 


Hourly Rate

A tattoo artist’s experience directly affects the hourly rate they charge. All their years of experience earns them the right to charge more. 

The minimum charge is always one hour, even if your tattoo only takes 15 minutes.

This accounts for the time it takes the artist to sterilize the equipment and consult with you. 

Remember, bigger cities like New York and Los Angeles will probably cost a lot more per hour simply because they are in popular locations.

These are just estimates, and depending on the complexity of your design, the price could go up or down. 

 Read also: How Long Does it Take to Get a Tattoo?  

By the Session

If your tattoo design is a flash, you might not need to pay by the hour.

A tattoo flash is a design that’s displayed in the shop to give customers ideas for a tattoo, and is usually a simple, smaller tattoo.

Most artists will have tattooed those numerous times, so they will just charge you for the whole session at once. 

Smaller tattoos also might not take multiple sessions, so the artist might choose to charge you for the whole piece instead of by the hour. In this case, the price is based on whether it’s custom designed, picked from a design book, colored or not, and the placement on your body. 


Color Ink vs Black Ink

Colored tattoos usually cost more than tattoos with only black and grey ink.

Colored inks cost more to buy and replace than black, therefore most artists will tack that on to the price of your tattoo. It also takes a lot longer for artists to change and mix colors while tattooing you.

Dotwork blackwork tattoo

For larger pieces, expect colored ink to hike up the price quite a bit because all that time really adds up. 

* One more thing to keep in mind with colored tattoos, some colors tend to fade faster than others. Red, yellow, and green, and other bright colors fade the fastest.

You can help prevent fading by following tattoo aftercare strictly, but sometime in the future you will need a touch up. Keep the cost of touch ups in mind if you’re opting for colored ink. 

As you can see, there are so many variables that affect tattoo pricing. If you want to know a specific budget for your tattoo, let’s have a chat over a cup of coffee in our studio here:

Iron & Ink Los Angeles Tattoo

Cost of Touch Ups

A tattoo touch up is needed when your tattoo doesn’t heal well, and you need to get certain areas redone.

It’s also needed in the long run after colors have faded, leaving your tattoo looking dull. The artist goes back over their design with a new layer of ink to revitalize the tattoo. 

Most artists will refuse to do a touch up or will charge you if you did not follow the aftercare properly–and they can always tell.

If it’s been longer than a year and your tattoo needs a touch up, expect to be charged for it, depending on the size of the tattoo and what needs to be done.

For an extensive touch up, expect to pay about half of what you paid for the tattoo. 

Cost of Cover Ups

Tattoo cover ups are a little trickier than getting a regular tattoo.

While it’s the same amount of ink, it involves a lot more creativity and planning. In order to cover up the existing tattoo, the artist has to create an original design that will work with the shape and color, and look completely different.

Typically, cover ups are a little more costly than their standard rate.

Cover ups and touch ups can be a bit tricky.

Feel free to contact our team, and one of our artists will help you solve all the questions you may have. 

How much does a small tattoo cost?

Small tattoos are always a fan favorite because they have really cool designs and usually don’t take too much time or planning. A small tattoo on average costs about $50 to $80 total, and usually won’t take more than an hour. 

Small tattoo ankle hands


Now that you have an idea of all the work and experience that goes into tattooing, the prices might be a little less confusing.

Tattoo pricing generally follows these rules: the bigger the tattoo, the longer it takes, and the more experienced the artist, the more expensive it will be.

You’re paying for an artist’s creativity, skill, and time, so you can walk away with the tattoo you wanted. 

If you need help with your next tattoo, click the “contact us” button, send us your questions and we will get back to you shortly.

There are no wrong questions! We are happy to help.