Tattoo Artist Pay Per Hour: How Much Is It?

tattoo artist pay

The tattoo industry makes over $1.3 billion a year. The size of the industry has more than doubled in the last ten years. So how much do tattoo artists get paid?

If you are exploring career options, or you’re curious to know how much a tattoo artist gets paid per hour, read this article to find out. 

Price By Tattoo

It’s not uncommon for a tattoo artist to price their work by each piece you’re getting. Smaller tattoos can be a set rate, depending on the size or detail. 

Most artists will have original artwork that they’re selling or you will tell the artist what you’re looking for. Depending on the artist, this can also be a set price or an hourly rate. 

The prices of tattoos change from artist to artist. This depends on their experience, style, and capabilities. 

Knowing how much tattoo artists are paid is more difficult than your average salary job. There are things to consider such as the artist’s expenses for equipment, etc.

For the most part, if the artist is not tattooing someone, they’re technically not being paid. This is usually the case for independent or self-employed tattoo artists. 

If an artist charges $50 for a small tattoo, you can’t work out how much they earn until you know how many tattoos they’re doing a day and how much they’re giving an employer if they have to pay towards the use of equipment. 

Quality Of Tattoos

There’s no doubt that this is a serious contributing factor to how much a tattoo artist will get paid an hour. If you’re deemed an incredible tattoo artist, you’re likely to be more popular and have a constant workflow. 

Starting as a tattoo artist, like many jobs, is challenging and you may find it difficult to earn a lot, to begin with. However, this is proven to change, as some artists can earn up to $300,000 a year. 

If you are great at drawing and learn to be a tattoo artist well, you will have to market yourself and prove to people you’re good at your job to grow your clients. This will take time but be worth it if you’re looking to branch out on your own eventually. 

Where You Work 

Another factor in the rate of pay for a tattoo artist is your location. If you’re planning on becoming a tattoo artist in the US, you can expect a wide range of pay across the country. 

The location of the highest paying city in the tattoo industry (in the US) is San Mateo, California. The average pay here is $119,000 per year. 

It is worth noting that you can make some of these numbers up yourself if you’re looking at starting your tattoo shop a few years into your career. Your pay is essentially up to you if you work alone. 

Starting Your Career 

If you’re looking to start your career in tattooing, or you’re weighing your options, it’s good to know how much you’ll get paid at the start of your career. This depends on which route you take into the industry. 

Growing your customer base is important when you work for someone, as you can build your career to eventually become self-employed.

It takes time to build a portfolio of tattoos, especially as you need to be qualified to practice on people. A lot of artists in the industry start with an apprenticeship in tattooing. It’s not known to pay a lot, but you can gain the experience to further your career. 

It is normal at the start of a tattoo artist’s career to work for someone else and not yet own a studio. This means you will not keep 100% of what you make tattooing and you will give a percentage to your employer. 

Following different paths is a lot more common than it was 10 years ago. The industry has grown so significantly; here are a few ways you can become a tattoo artist now

The Numbers

Now moving to look at the actual numbers, there is still a big pay range in the tattoo industry. In 2021, the average pay was $64,000 per year. 

Taking into consideration your expenses as a tattoo artist, Zip Recruiter shows that the average hourly rate for a tattoo artist in the US is $65. 

This pay range is based on the money going into your pocket, after your expenses such as shop rent or equipment.

Becoming a Tattoo Artist 

Like any career, it’s good to weigh your options including the rate of pay before you jump into a role. You may know exactly what you have to do to succeed in becoming a tattoo artist, or you may have some questions. 

There are different paths to entering the industry. As tattoos are so popular today, it is not uncommon to have multiple ways to start your career. 

It’s worth doing your research beforehand, just to make sure you’re aware of the process to become a tattoo artist. You can find out more information about a career in the tattoo industry.

Tattoo Artist Pay 

There are multiple contributing factors to tattoo artists pay per hour. The tattoo industry is vast and you can make money working alone or employed by a tattoo company/shop.

With the popularity of tattoos not slowing down any time soon, find out how you can become a tattoo artist today.