How Much Should You Tip Your Tattoo Artist?

Thinking about getting some new ink? Whether it's your first or fiftieth tattoo, you may find yourself stumbling over the unique etiquette of a tattoo studio. From getting your skin ready for the tattooing process to investigating which tattoo placements will hurt the least, there can be a lot of things to keep in mind before your appointment. But one question that constantly stymies tattoo customers has nothing to do with the actual application of ink: Should you tip your tattoo artist?

"As with all gratuities, tipping is a gesture of appreciation for good service and good product," Pat Sinatra, president of the Alliance of Professional Tattooists, tells U.S. News. "We commonly tip food servers and salon workers, as many of these people often work for minimum wage or commission and percentage cut and rely on tips for their income. This is no different for tattooists."

But isn't tattooing a very different industry? For one thing, many artists set their own rates (per Typing Adventure). So it may seem strange that tattooists then hope for or expect tips on top of their work. But if you want to foster a good working relationship with an artist — and maybe come back to them for more tattoos in the future — here's why and how you should be generous with your tip when the time comes.

Why to tip your tattoo artist

Tattoos can be a significant investment, especially if you're getting a large design like a sleeve or full-sized back piece. So the idea of shelling out more cash on top of the hourly rate may seem excessive. But in many places, tips aren't just welcome — they may be crucial to the artists' financial security.

"I know people have a perception of what tattoo artists make because hourly rates are high," tattooist Renee Springer explains to Female Tattooers. "What most folks don't know is that artists in shops are paying 40-50 percent of every tattoo to the shop for commission. They are also buying tubes and needles and they need to pay for health insurance and taxes." Even tattoo artists with the highest pricing in their area are only bringing home a percentage of their fee. By providing a tip, you're giving money directly to the artist that doesn't get tied up in overhead or commissions.

Of course, tipping is very much a regional norm. If you're getting a tattoo in Europe or Australia, for example, tipping your artist may not be a standard or required practice (per Next Luxury). But in the US, it's a much more common way to show appreciation for the tattooist's hard work and artistry. When in doubt, ask your artist or the shop's receptionist, if they have one.

How much to tip for your next tattoo

Knowing when to tip your tattoo artist may seem murky, but at least knowing how much to tip is fairly straightforward. Generally, tattoo artists should be tipped the same as any other service industry professional in the area. In the U.S., this typically means between 15% and 20% of the total hourly cost (via Ink-Match). So if you went big with a $1000 tattoo, a generous $200 tip should be well received.

"In general, 20% is typical, just like other service industry standards," tattoo artist Lina Shuliar tells Cosmopolitan. "I also want to say, the tip doesn't necessarily have to be about money. There are many ways to show appreciation – I've received so many special and thoughtful gifts from clients after we've built a connection in the 3 to 8 hours (on average) we've spent together."

What about larger pieces that take multiple sessions to complete? Should you tip at each sitting, or wait until the tattoo is finished? "Most people tip a little after each session, and then a bigger tip when the project is done," explains Shuliar. Pro tip: Whenever you choose to show your appreciation and gratitude with a tip, you may want to come prepared with cash on hand, as some tattoo studios don't accept tips on credit cards. Plus, this helps your artist avoid losing money on card service fees.