Image of a tattooed man on a motorcycle. the tattoo in the image says family.

People seek to remove tattoos for multiple reasons, but one common motivation is that they opted for an inexpensive tattoo because that’s what they could afford. Tattoo quality plays the biggest role in many of our clients’ decision to seek tattoo removal, although the subject matter is another contributing factor. 

“Most clients tell us that if they’d had the option to get a better tattoo, they would have. They just didn’t have the means or resources available to do so,” says one of our founders Carmen Brodie. 

It’s always better to wait and save up for the tattoo you really want than to settle for the tattoo you can afford right now. But if you’re seeking to replace an unwanted tattoo with a new one, you’re in good company. We have spent years removing tattoos for cover ups, which is becoming an increasingly popular trend among those who are unsatisfied with their existing body art. 

How much does a tattoo cost? A tattoo’s cost depends on the size, complexity of the design, and demand for the artist who is creating it. Pricing for tattoos can vary widely, but $150 to $450 is a typical range. (Very large tattoos can cost quite a bit more.) Because a tattoo is a long-term investment, look for an artist whose work you will appreciate for years to come. 

After all, you’ll be seeing it on a daily basis and it will be projecting a particular image of you to the rest of the world. For health and safety reasons, too, you don’t want to take the least expensive route when it comes to tattoos. 

Our work in removing tattoos has given us many insights into what they cost, as we frequently work with artists who do cover ups. We’ll answer all of your questions, like “How much is a small tattoo?” and “What does a half sleeve tattoo cost?” 

We will also share some average tattoo costs for different types of tattoos and will look at all the key factors involved, like size, complexity, and the artist’s level of experience, so you can prepare for your next piece of body art.

How Much Does a Tattoo Cost?

The cost of a tattoo varies widely, depending on a number of factors. An individual artist typically won’t give you an exact price until you’ve worked out all the details for your design. However, you can gain a rough estimate of tattoo cost based on the artist’s rates, design size, and complexity. 

Most artists will quote an hourly rate, and if you’ve finalized the design concept, they should be able to give you a good idea of how many hours it will take. Don’t haggle over the price, as this sends the message that you’re diminishing the value of the artist’s work and time. Also bear in mind that going with the most economical option is usually not the wisest choice when it comes to a tattoo.

If you’re getting a tattoo cover up, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of fading or removal of the old tattoo. Removery’s package deals and financing options make tattoo removal costs more budget-friendly.

1. Flat Rate

Some tattoo artists charge a flat rate for specific pre-drawn designs or flash on the wall. How much are tattoos based on pre-existing designs? Typically in the $100 to $200 range, depending on the size and other factors. If you’re looking for a piece of flash, you can often walk into a shop and find out right away what the tattoo costs. The artist usually has a good idea of how long it will take to tattoo that particular design because they’ve done it before, and often they don’t take as long as custom tattoos.

2. Hourly

On average, tattoo artists charge $100 to $250 an hour, although in certain cases, high-profile tattoo artists charge more. Consider how in-demand your prospective artist is, based on factors such as their number of Instagram followers as well as awards given to the studio or artist, which can help determine rates. If they’re tattooing famous clients, you can expect a higher tattoo cost.

3. Half / Full Day Rates

If you’re getting a large tattoo like a full sleeve tattoo cover up or back piece, half- and full-day rates may apply to you. The artist will most likely book a full-sleeve tattoo as a two- to three-day project with a touch-up session after you’ve healed. 

Average Tattoo Cost By Body Placement

The difficulty of tattooing a design onto a particular part of the body also affects the cost. Certain body parts tend to be easier to tattoo because they offer a broader, more even surface. Bonier areas like the feet and ankles can be trickier for the artist. Plus, they’re more sensitive, which means the artist may need to work harder to keep the client comfortable. 

Which body part you want to have tattooed has a surprisingly big impact on price. Here are some of the most common body parts to tattoo, along with their average price ranges and time.

Factors That Impact Tattoo Prices

Size, complexity, body placement, coloring, the artist’s level of experience, location of the tattoo parlor, and the equipment used have the biggest impact on tattoo cost. 

Size

Size plays one of the most important roles in tattoo cost. It will influence whether you pay a flat rate, an hourly rate, or a half- or full-day rate. Larger tattoos are naturally more time-consuming than smaller ones, and they often take more effort to design.

How Much is a Small Tattoo?

A smaller tattoo often costs just $50 to $150, although this depends on other factors like complexity. Getting a simple outline of a star will typically cost less than a watercolor flower, for instance. If you’re planning to get multiple small tattoos, you might be wise to get them all done in a single session, which could save you money if they’re quick and easy to do. 

If you need to fade or remove a small tattoo prior to getting a design that you truly want, small tattoo removal cost can be quite manageable. Removal rates often range from $10 to $25 per square inch for each session, and Removery offers a great package deal for removal.

How Much Does a Sleeve Tattoo Cost?

Half sleeve and full sleeve tattoos can be intricate pieces of art because they are so large. This means a full sleeve design can also be an expensive tattoo.

Hourly rates for sleeves usually exceed an artist’s standard hourly rate for a tattoo because these designs typically include a high level of detail and lots of colors. They tend to range from $1,500 to $6,000, depending on the level of detail and other factors like the artist’s skill level. Plus, the artist is working on a curved rather than flat surface, meaning designs can be trickier to execute. 

The artist must take care to place the tattoo in a way that complements the shape of the arm. People often get a sleeve tattoo done over the course of several sessions rather than all at once, since the full wrist-to-shoulder area is a lot of ground to cover. This is beneficial for several reasons:

  • It’s hard to sit still for too long; the longer you are seated in a tattoo parlor, the more likely you are to accidentally flinch or fidget due to physical discomfort or boredom.
  • Sleeve tattoos are a lot of work for the tattoo artist, and most people perform at their best when they aren’t working for extremely long stretches. They often take more time than even a long workday would allow.

If you need full sleeve tattoo removal prior to getting the sleeve tattoo of your dreams, that will take some time (typically at least a year and a half) and additional expense. Removery offers financing for tattoo removal so no one needs to delay getting started with the process.

Never ask your tattoo artist to rush on a project, especially one as detailed as a sleeve tattoo. Be patient, and you’ll be sure to get the best results possible.

Tattoo Design Complexity

The amount of time the artist must put into actually designing the tattoo will influence the price. A piece of flash may require no time at all, while designing a custom full-back tattoo could take hours. 

Artists commonly bill for one hour of time for the tattoo design, though for very large designs, they sometimes throw in the designing at no additional charge, due to the high commission they’ll be receiving for all the hours of work. 

The complexity of the design will increase the time required to actually tattoo the design as well, so consider the level of detail involved and the precision needed to carry it out. 

Tattoos that incorporate delicate shading will require more time and skill than those with uniform colors and simple black outlines. A realistic tattoo of an animal, a portrait of a loved one, or an intricate geometric design will require more skill and care than a cartoon figure, for instance.

Black and Gray vs. Color Tattoos

Opting for a full color tattoo can increase the complexity of the design, as the artist must consider how to place or blend them for the desired effect. The artist has many more stylistic choices to make while creating a full color tattoo design than one in grayscale.

Tattoo Artist Experience

Your tattoo artist’s experience and level of popularity will strongly affect the price of your tattoo. Unless you’re already set on getting a tattoo from a particular artist, explore the work of multiple tattoo artists in your area to make sure you’re choosing the right one. Don’t just look at the experience itself; also make sure the artist’s style fits your own.

Tattoo Parlor’s Location

The tattoo parlor’s geographic location will influence the price of a tattoo as well. Cities with a higher cost of living like New York will have higher rates for tattoo prices. If you live in a place that attracts a lot of tourists, tattoo prices are likely to be higher.

Professional Equipment

Going to a safe, hygienic parlor that follows the proper protocol will cost more than going to a disreputable, mediocre studio, but you should never sacrifice safety to save money. You’ll want to choose a tattoo parlor with a great reputation and the proper licensure with your state. Ensure it follows best practices like using a new needle from a sealed container for each client and sterilizing equipment that can’t be thrown away.

The amount and type of ink needed can also affect the price. Larger tattoos with many colors will require more materials in terms of ink and needles than smaller black-and-white pieces.

Finding the Right Tattoo Artist for You 

Factors like size, complexity, geographic location, and the artist’s experience can greatly influence the cost of a tattoo. Research prospective tattoo artists carefully, so you’ll find the person whose style best fits your own. It’s much better to spend more time saving up for the right tattoo than to get one from the wrong artist simply because they offer a lower rate!

If you’re considering tattoo removal or fading for a coverup, book a consultation with Removery. Our experienced specialists will answer all of your questions about how removal can give you a blank slate to work with. We’ll walk you through every step of proper tattoo removal aftercare so you can achieve the best possible results from each session. 

NO. 1 Factor That Impacts Tattoo Price: Cover Up vs. New Tattoo

The number one factor that impacts the cost of getting a tattoo is time. Cover up tattoos require more time to design, apply and heal than new work. No matter what artist you chose and what concept you decide to cover your old work with, the time needed to properly saturate and apply the new tattoo is increased. Removery focuses on fading old tattoos to decrease the amount of time necessary to design and saturate a new tattoo cover up. Let us help you with your next tattoo project book a free consultation in one of our locations near you.