(To make things easy for yu we have a tipping calculator located at the bottom of the page to help you figure out what is considered a “good” tip for your your tattoo artist.)

Tipping is customary in most places within the United States. In the world of tattooing, most tattoo artists love the extra “cheddar” after a day of hard work. You, the client who is overwrought with joy and a new piece of art that will last a lifetime may be asking yourself, “should I tip – or – should I go?”

The answer is: always tip your artist if it fits into your budget!

If you were happy with the work and you feel compelled to let them know how you feel, hand over that cash!

Here are a few reasons you may not have known that can help influence your decision on how much to tip your tattoo artist:

The whole system is setup like a barber shop.

You may not know the in’s and out’s of tattoo business operations but most tattoo artists out there do not make every dollar you pay them. Much like barber shops, booths or chairs can come with a rental fee. In some shops this is a flat daily rate, in others, your artist pays the shop owner a percentage of what you pay them.

Let’s say your tattoo cost $300. Well, in most places an artist may get a percentage of that total, somewhere around 40%-70% of the total. On the low end, your artist make $120 out of that $300 and the shop takes the rest. What a racket eh?! This is the most common reason tattoo artists like tips: The system is rigged for the shop an not the artist.

Learn more about how much the setup of a tattoo costs by following this link:

Cost of setup

Artists purchase most, if not all of their supplies.

Tattoo shops do not purchase all the supplies for a tattoo artist. Some supply disposable items, others just gloves and paper towels. Everything else is covered by the artist, including their training and skill.

art supplies
art supplies | Source
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Tattooing is a competitive business and not all artists are booked far into the future.

Have you see how many shops are in the Portland Oregon area? How about Austin, Texas? Even in the middle of nowhere, tattoo shops are springing up and offering their own take on colorful modifications.

With the increased saturation of shops globally there are less options for artists to book out long term. Due to this increase in competition, shop owners have been quick to lower artist pay rates, holding the clients as property of the shop during pay negotiations.

What does this all mean to you? That all tattoo artists will jump for joy when being presented with a tip at the end of a session.

You Don’t Pay For Draw Time.

If you are getting a back piece done, or a full sleeve, the work done before the tattoo can take many hours. This work is something most clients never think about and even more rarely are a part of.

I will personally spend so many hours on each design and sometimes the hours can reach dizzyingly high numbers if redesigns are ordered by the client.

If a tip is tossed onto the table at the end of the day, I will thank that client and express the warm and fuzzy feelings that fill my black heart.

If you get more than one sitting to finish the tattoo, choose when to tip.

If you really enjoy the service and want to tip every sitting, or if you have a fixed budget and don’t know if you will have enough to tip your artist, let them know up front. Most artists will be thankful for the directness.

Just please, don’t lord a tip over them as if they were a dog begging for a treat. That habit is rude to dogs, and rude to skilled artisans.

You May Not Have To Tip A Shop Owner.

Shop owners make more money than the artists they employ – when a business is run under the barbershop model. If they are the high caliber type of person I think they are, they will not be expecting a tip after service.

A rule of thumb is to ask the owner what they expect from you regarding tips. Be straight with them and they will most likely reward you with an honest answer.

Gifts are great but cash is king.

I have received books, clothing, shot glasses and a bunch of artwork from clients over my career. While I really have enjoyed the gifts I have only utilized 1 gift in 17 years more than once. If you will feel poorly if your nicknack gift isn’t well received, bring cash to brighten the mood in the shop.

Or food.

Tattoo artists love candy, coffee and tacos.



So that’s it. A few tips for the clients out there on how to tip your artist.

Below is an interactive widget that can help you figure out how much to tip if you are unsure and also take a second to take our poll about tipping a tattoo artists online!

Thanks for reading.

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