What Goes Into the Cost of a Tattoo?

It has been said a million times, but we will say it again – good tattoos are not cheap, and cheap tattoos are not good (unless they are done by one of Vivid Ink’s fantastic apprentices, of course). But why exactly are tattoos (relatively) expensive? Let’s break down the different cost points so that you have a greater understanding of what your money is paying for. As if that gorgeous new piece of body art wasn’t enough. 

By Mike from Vivid Ink Sutton

Location costs

You know that thing called rent? Tattoo studios pay it too. Often storefront style property, rents are on the higher end of the market, especially when located on or near a high street. An accessible, airy space in the centre of the city will cost more than a dingy basement in the suburbs. What would you rather be part of your tattoo experience? 

Imagine that you spend three, say four hours in a chair. Look around and see how many chairs there are. Now imagine a high street clothing shop making only that amount of money towards rent, wages and utility per customer and time. 

Equipment, supplies, and cleaning

Sterilisation of reusable equipment, disposable items such as needles, paper towels, and ink, not to mention other upkeep of the studio such as thorough daily cleaning – it all adds up. Tattoo studios need to adhere to incredibly strict standards when it comes to cleaning and hygiene for the safety of the health of everyone involved. Good housekeeping and good shop managers are not, and should not, come cheap. 

By Ruthy from the Wolverhampton studio

Your artist’s wage and insurance

Most tattoo artists do what they do because they are passionate about it. They have, in most cases, gone through years of apprenticeship, learning the hard way and not making much, if any, money. When you put time and effort into any kind of training and education, you would want it to be reflected in your pay, right? Same for them. 

They have also spent years and years honing their craft. The greater level of expertise and mastery, the more you can potentially expect to pay for their services, just as in any industry. 

You are, of course, paying for their time while you are in the chair. However, you are also paying for the time they have taken to put together and custom-make a design for you. Those pieces do not just appear out of thin air, and the skill to make them fit your body is not something learned through a quick Google. 

Your artist also needs to have a tattoo license. In order to be awarded one by the local authorities, they must also have a public liability insurance cover. This makes sense as they are performing an occupation that entails stabbing people repeatedly with needles. Furthermore, it protects both you and your artist. 

By Cata from Vivid Ink Hagley Road

Size vs Time  

You pay per hour or full day sitting. However, not all placements on the body are created equally, and some larger pieces may take longer than others. The same is true when it comes to style. A boldly outlined Old School tattoo may take less time than a Black and Grey portrait with a ton of detail and shading. Likewise, the thickness of lettering will make a huge difference to how much that favourite quote on your forearm will be. If you are on a specific budget, talk to your artist to make sure your motive and placement are optimal for what you have in mind.