How Much Do Tattoo Artists Make? A Comprehensive Guide to Tattoo Artist Salaries and Earnings

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Tattoos have been a part of human culture for thousands of years, dating back to ancient civilizations like the Egyptians and Greeks. They were used to symbolize status, religious beliefs, and cultural traditions. Over time, tattoos have become more mainstream, and people now get tattoos for a variety of reasons, from self-expression to commemoration.

As the popularity of tattoos has grown, so too has the tattoo industry. Today, there are thousands of tattoo shops and artists around the world, offering a wide range of tattoo styles and designs. In the following sections, we will delve into the factors that affect tattoo artist salaries and examine the job outlook for aspiring tattoo artists

Factors that Affect Tattoo Artist Salaries

Tattoo artists’ salaries can vary significantly depending on several factors, including:

 Experience and skill level:

Like many professions, the more experienced and skilled the tattoo artist is, the higher their salary is likely to be. An experienced tattoo artist may also be able to charge more per hour or per tattoo.

Geographic location:

The location of a tattoo artist can also impact their salary. In cities with a higher cost of living or where there is a high demand for tattoos, tattoo artists can typically charge more for their services.

Type of establishment:

Tattoo artists can work in a variety of settings, from small independent studios to larger, well-known tattoo shops. Artists who work in more high-end establishments may earn higher salaries due to the clientele they attract.

Reputation and popularity:

Tattoo artists who have established a strong reputation or have a significant social media following may be able to command higher salaries.

Type of tattoos offered:

The type of tattoos that a tattoo artist specializes in can also impact their salary. For example, an artist who specializes in intricate, detailed designs may be able to charge more than an artist who only does simple, straightforward designs.

Salary Range for Tattoo Artists

The salary range for tattoo artists can vary widely based on different factors such as:

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National average salary for tattoo artists:

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for tattoo artists in the United States is around $34,000. However, top-performing tattoo artists can earn more than $60,000 per year, while entry-level tattoo artists may earn closer to minimum wage.

Differences in salaries based on geographic location:

Tattoo artist salaries can vary significantly based on geographic location. For example, tattoo artists in metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco may command higher salaries due to the higher cost of living in those areas.

 Salary differences based on experience and skill level:

Tattoo artists with more experience and skills can generally earn higher salaries. Tattoo artists with a loyal client base or a strong online presence may also be able to charge higher rates for their services.

Other factors that impact salaries:

Other factors that can impact a tattoo artist’s salary include the type of tattoos they specialize in, the type of establishment they work for, and the demand for their services in their local market. Additionally, some tattoo artists may receive bonuses or commissions based on their performance or the number of tattoos they complete.

How Tattoo Artists Get Paid

 Tattoo artists can be paid in various ways, depending on the payment structure that they have agreed upon with their clients or employer. Here are some common payment structures:

Hourly rate:

Many tattoo artists charge an hourly rate for their services. The hourly rate can vary based on the artist’s experience level, geographic location, and the type of establishment they work for. The advantage of an hourly rate is that it ensures that the artist is compensated fairly for their time and effort. However, some clients may feel pressured to rush through their tattoo to avoid higher costs.

Flat rate:

Some tattoo artists charge a flat rate for a specific tattoo design, regardless of how long it takes to complete. The advantage of a flat rate is that clients know upfront how much their tattoo will cost, and the artist is compensated fairly for their skills and experience. However, flat rates can be difficult to determine and can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the tattoo design.


Some tattoo artists work on a commission basis, where they receive a percentage of the total cost of the tattoo. This payment structure can be beneficial for both the artist and the client because it incentivizes the artist to produce high-quality work that the client is happy with. However, it can be challenging for artists to build a loyal client base when their compensation is variable.

What to Consider When Negotiating Payment:

When negotiating payment, tattoo artists should consider several factors, including their skill level, experience, geographic location, and the type of tattoos they specialize in. It’s also essential to discuss payment terms and any bonuses or commissions to which the artist may be entitled. 

Finally, it’s crucial to ensure that both parties agree on the payment structure and that there is a clear understanding of the costs involved in the tattooing process.

Job Outlook for Tattoo Artists

The tattoo industry has been experiencing rapid growth in recent years, which is projected to continue in the future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of tattoo artists is expected to grow by 6 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

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Projected Growth in the Tattoo Industry:

The growth of the tattoo industry is due in part to changing societal attitudes towards tattoos. Tattoos are becoming more mainstream, and people of all ages and backgrounds are getting inked. Additionally, advances in tattooing technology and techniques are making tattoos more accessible and less painful than ever before.

Job Prospects for Aspiring Tattoo Artists:

Aspiring should have good job prospects, especially if they have formal training or apprenticeship experience. Many tattoo shops prefer to hire artists with a solid portfolio of work and a demonstrated ability to work well with clients. Aspiring tattoo artists may need to start out as apprentices or assistants to gain the skills and experience needed to succeed in the industry.

Opportunities for Advancement and Growth:

Tattoo artists can advance their careers by building a loyal client base, developing a unique style or specialty, and networking within the industry. Some tattoo artists go on to open their own tattoo shops or start their own businesses, which can offer even greater opportunities for growth and financial success. Additionally, Can continue to improve their skills and stay

up-to-date on industry trends through continuing education and professional development opportunities.

Successful Tattoo Artists

There are many successful artists in the industry who have built impressive careers and reputations. Here are profiles of a few notable tattoo artists and how they achieved success:

 Kat Von D:

Kat Von D is a well-known tattoo artist and entrepreneur who has appeared on several reality TV shows. She began her career as an apprentice in Los Angeles and eventually opened her own tattoo shop. In addition to tattooing, she has also launched a makeup line and written several books. Kat Von D’s success is due in part to her unique style and willingness to take risks.

Ami James:

Ami James is a tattoo artist and television personality who has appeared on shows like Miami Ink and NY Ink. He started his career in Israel and eventually moved to the United States, where he opened several successful tattoo shops. Ami James is known for his realism tattoos and attention to detail.

Dr. Woo:

Dr. Woo is a celebrity tattoo artist who has worked with clients like Drake, Miley Cyrus, and Cara Delevingne. He began his career as an apprentice in Los Angeles and eventually opened his own shop. Dr. Woo is known for his intricate and delicate designs, which often incorporate elements of nature and geometry.

Advice for Aspiring Tattoo Artists:

 If you’re an aspiring tattoo artist, here are some tips to help you achieve success:

Get formal training or apprenticeship experience:

Many successful tattoo artists have formal training or apprenticeship experience, which can help you develop the skills and techniques needed to create high-quality tattoos.

Build a portfolio of work:

Having a strong portfolio of your work can help you stand out from other aspiring tattoo artists and demonstrate your skills and style.

Network within the industry:

Networking with other tattoo artists and industry professionals can help you learn about new trends and techniques, as well as potential job opportunities.

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Develop a unique style or specialty:

Developing a unique style or specialty can help you differentiate yourself from other tattoo artists and attract a loyal client base.

Be willing to work hard and take risks:

Success in the tattoo industry requires hard work, dedication, and a willingness to take risks and try new things. Be open to new opportunities and challenges, and always strive to improve your skills and grow as an artist.

The Future of the Tattoo Industry

As the tattoo industry continues to grow and evolve, here are some trends, predictions, opportunities, and challenges to keep in mind:

Trends in the Tattoo Industry:

  • More people are getting tattoos than ever before, and tattoos are becoming more accepted in mainstream culture.
  • The popularity of minimalist and small tattoos is increasing, as well as tattoos that incorporate delicate details and shading.
  • Tattoo artists are experimenting with new techniques and styles, such as watercolor tattoos and abstract designs.
  • Sustainability and eco-friendliness are becoming more important in the tattoo industry, with some artists using vegan and cruelty-free ink.

Predictions for the Future of the Industry:

  • The tattoo industry is projected to continue growing in the coming years, with more people getting tattoos and more demand for high-quality artists.
  • Technology may play a larger role in the industry, with advancements in tattoo equipment and the possibility of tattooing with 3D printers.
  • The industry may become more regulated and standardized, with stricter requirements for training and licensing.

Opportunities in the Tattoo Industry:

  • As the industry grows, there will be more opportunities for aspiring tattoo artists to find work and build their careers.
  • The increasing popularity of tattoos presents opportunities for tattoo artists to collaborate with other artists and businesses on projects like merchandise and marketing campaigns.
  • There may be opportunities for tattoo artists to work in related fields, such as fashion and design.

Challenges in the Tattoo Industry:

  • The industry may become more competitive as more people enter the field, making it more difficult for aspiring tattoo artists to find work.
  • The tattoo industry may face increased scrutiny and regulation, which could create challenges for artists and shop owners.
  • The industry may also face challenges related to health and safety, as well as concerns about the environmental impact of tattooing.

Tattooing as a Career

If you’re considering a career as a tattoo artist, here are some pros, cons, and things to consider:

Pros of a Career as a Tattoo Artist:

  • The potential for creative expression and artistic fulfillment.
  • The opportunity to work with a diverse range of clients and create meaningful tattoos for them.
  • The potential for flexible working hours and the ability to work independently or in a team.
  • The potential for high earning potential and job stability, as the tattoo industry continues to grow.

Cons of a Career as a Tattoo Artist:

  • The physical demands of the job, including long hours standing and using repetitive hand motions.
  • The risk of injury or illness from exposure to bloodborne pathogens or other health hazards.
  • The potential for a high level of competition within the industry, making it difficult to find work or build a successful career.
  • The need for ongoing training and skill development, as well as the need to keep up with new trends and techniques in the industry.

However, it’s important to have a realistic understanding of the challenges and risks associated with the job and the potential for success.


 Q1.What is the average salary for a tattoo artist?

The average salary for a tattoo artist is $34,830 per year or $16.75 per hour.

 Q2.Do tattoo artists get paid hourly or by commission?

Tattoo artists can be paid hourly, commission-based, or a combination of both.

 Q3.How much do successful tattoo artists make?

Successful tattoo artists can earn six-figure incomes or more, but earnings can vary widely.

 Q4.Can tattoo artists make a living wage?

Yes, tattoo artists can make a living wage if they are skilled, dedicated, and able to build a strong reputation and client base.


Tattoo artist salaries vary widely depending on experience, skill level, location, type of establishment, and reputation. The national average salary for a tattoo artist is $34,830 per year or $16.75 per hour. Successful tattoo artists can earn significantly more, with some earning six-figure incomes or more. Tattoo artists can be paid hourly, commission-based, or a combination. While tattooing can be rewarding and fulfilling, it requires ongoing skill development, dedication, and business management to build a successful career.

About the author

James is a talented tattoo artist with a passion for creating unique and personalized designs. With a focus on attention to detail and a deep commitment to his craft, he strives to create tattoos that capture his clients' individuality and self-expression.