How Long Does It Actually Take To Get A Tattoo?

How Long Does It Actually Take To Get A Tattoo?

It should come as no surprise that the answer is – it depends. On a number of factors, such as size, placement, colour, technique, pain tolerance of the person getting a tattoo, and skill of the artist. Of course, how long a tattoo will take also influences how much it will cost, as most studios and artists charge by the hour, after a minimum fee. Scheduling a tattoo is actually a complex procedure, which is why it is almost always better to book a full-day session if you are getting a bigger piece, leaving you and your artist ample room to accommodate things such as design changes and placement tweaks. 

Small, single line equals less time in the chair. By Rosie from the Hagley Road studio

Size does matter

That being said, a general guideline could be that a small, simple, ‘straightforward’ tattoo about the size of half a thumb could take about an hour. Working our way up to a large back piece, it would probably not be done in a day and would require several sittings.

The same is true for a full arm or leg sleeve. You may need as many as five or more full-day sessions (of course taking into account that your artist – and you – will need to take breaks throughout). But remember, it is the quality of the work you are paying for, not the speed of the needle, and artists work at different output capacities.

The same goes for the person getting a tattoo. We all have different pain thresholds, and some areas will be trickier than others. Some may need to take more frequent pauses than others, whereas some may prefer to bite down and get it over and done with. Patience and dedication go a long way when considering larger pieces.

Some people may also decide that they actually prefer to get it done in smaller time increments, coming back to the studio more frequently for half days rather than getting under the needle for a full day. 

By Dorian from Vivid Ink Birmingham

Investing time in the details

As you will be spending a lot of time in each other’s company for such a project, it is important to go with an artist with whom you feel comfortable. Likewise, you want to take a little care to make their work environment and creative experience as enjoyable as possible.

Adding colour will mean that the piece will take longer than if it is done in black and grey. Portrait tattoos that naturally have a lot of minute details and shading will take much longer than an Old School piece with bold lines and primary colours. 

Overall, when planning for a tattoo, even though you may want to get one now now now and preferably yesterday (we totally get it) it is always better to save up for a little longer to have a little more leeway when it comes to both motive and scheduling. You never want a tattoo to feel like it has been rushed, and if you count the money as in time you will actually spend having the tattoo on your skin, it’s not exactly an expensive hourly rate…


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