Do You Have to Tip a Tattoo Artist

Beyond paying the invoice in full, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. But it certainly is common and often expected for clients to tip their tattoo artist. That said, there are absolutely scenarios that may negate this. Further, there are instances where what one should tip will vary. We know this may be an awkward conversation to have with an actual tattoo studio, but we’re all about keeping our valued clients informed while showing support for our industry. Let’s review.

4 Things to Consider When Deciding How Much (or at all) to Tip Your Next Tattooist

Are You Happy With the Work?

It’s like with anything where tipping is common. If you’re happy with the work, tip well. If you’re really happy, tip even more. This isn’t a fleeting meal in a fancy restaurant that garnered a good tip for your server – this is a permanent work of body art we’re talking about. The golden guideline is 20%, but for large bodies of work that cost a lot, tattooists understand that 20% on something that costs a couple thousand dollars can put you out of budget. In that case 15% is acceptable for those who don’t have the financial means. But if you can afford it and you’re happy with the work, show your artist how much you appreciate it.

Remember: Tattoo artists typically get half of what a client pays, while the other half goes to the studio as a cost of business. In some cases it varies further in favor of the studio. So your tattooist isn’t getting rich. Tipping goes a long way towards keeping them engaged in their practice, instead of getting a job as an orthodontist (hey, they love needles). 

Did They Go the Extra Mile?

Great work is one thing, but if they made an effort to connect with you on a personal level that should certainly weigh in on your decision for how much to tip. If within that engagement they made helpful suggestions, even if it was contrary to what you initial thought was best, and they ended up being right about it – that’s also an example of going the extra mile. It’c not uncommon to find clients tipping over 20% or more in such cases.

Did They Meet or Exceed Health and Safety Protocols?

The tipping system in the service industry isn’t just about rewarding good work. It also allows customers/clients a way to provide feedback even if they don’t feel comfortable explicitly stating it. This applies to health and safety measures as much as it does to the quality of work. If you feel as if your tattooist violated or took a lackadaisical attitude to cleaning their station and following health and safety protocols, then let your tipping (or lack thereof) do the talking. If staff asks why you didn’t leave anything extra at reception, you have the opening you need to let it be known. We know that service feedback can be subjective, but when it comes to health and safety in a tattoo parlor in 2022, there is no room for interpretation. Your tattooist either followed protocol or they didn’t. Either you tip, or you do not.

Do They Own the Tattoo Studio?

As alluded to above, a tattooist typically splits the price of a tattoo with the studio that employs them. If a tattoo is $500, they may get $250. Sometimes less. This is why it is encouraged to tip your tattoo artist. However, what about in the rare (but viable) circumstance that it’s the tattoo shop owner that is tattooing you? In this case it’s more acceptable to tip less than 20% or 15%, but do remember that it’s not like they pocket the full amount. More often than not the owner pays it all to operational expenses such as equipment, materials, and wages for reception staff. Ultimately, if they did a great job, connected with you, and exceeded health and safety mandates – tip accordingly.

We Greatly Appreciate You

~ The Tattoo Industry ~