A Tattoo Artist Salary: Can Ink=$ ?

Choosing any career path is always like a gamble, although certain jobs usually come with bigger paychecks than others. Those fat paycheck jobs also usually involve a huge investment in an expensive and lengthy education. Not always, but of course there are a few lucky ones that “get discovered” and become overnight rock stars, or the guy who comes up with a website that he sells for a gazillion dollars.

And then you have artists, those imaginative souls with a gift for creating visual magic. Whether your medium is paint or clay, or needle and ink, transforming your passion for your art into a career that pays, is something that takes a lot of dedication and a commitment to making it work. How much money you can earn as a tattoo artist depends on a lot of different factors, but the one that constant  applies to the success of any tattoo artist, is dedication.

tattoo-artist salary

So, how much money can a tattoo artist make?

Well, are you asking how much can a tattoo artist make, or how much does the average tattoo artist actually earn? Because of course, there is a wide range of possible zeroes on the paycheck of a tattoo artist. If you think you might be good enough one day to equal the skills of some of the legendary celebrity tattooists like Paul Booth, Brandon Bond or Kat Von D, then you can look forward to charging your clients as much as $500 an hour for your skills.

Ink art is a lot like other professions in that the more well-known and established you become in your field, the more you can charge for your services. And with the current popularity of body art and the potential cash flow from the fancy industry, the sky is horizon-less,  infinite as to say for someone with a lot of talent, luck, and some really good connections.

But in the real world, with “Average Joe” clients…

Not every tattoo artist is going to have their own reality TV show, and most tattoo artists will probably never get to ink somebody rich and famous. So although no one is saying you shouldn’t dream big, if you want a more realistic idea of how much money you can make as a tattoo artist, today the average hourly rate charged to a tattoo client is about $150 an hour.

But don’t think that it means you get to take home $150 an hour! Most of the time, a tattoo artist works as an independent sub-contractor in a studio and gets paid a commission rate, usually about thirty to forty percent of whatever the client gets charged. So for a piece that took exactly an hour to ink and the client pays $150, the artist gets $45 to $50 . Still, that’s not chump change, right? However, the problem is that you might only get one client all day long, or you could have them waiting in line back to back.

If you own and operate your own studio, you get to keep the whole $150, right? Except for that ugly word, overhead. You have to pay for your equipment, the space, the ink, gloves, miscellaneous supplies, taxes… Still, you might come out a little bit ahead compared to the subcontractor and clear about 60 percent, so $90 an hour.

What’s the bottom line? Can Ink Equal Dollar Signs?

Yes. Quite simply, you can make a living as a tattoo artist. Beginners usually starve for a while they need to work as unpaid apprentices until they master the craft. After a year or so of training and some good word-of-mouth references to help establish a reputation, new tattoo artists usually end up making between $15,000 and $23,000 per year working in a studio on commission, according to tattooartistsalary.com.

The average salary for an experienced tattoo artist is $19,000 – $28,000, with the most popular and reputable tattoo artists earning as high as $38,000 per year. Of course, earnings can be much higher in metropolitan areas than in rural communities, and talent and skill are the true deciding factors in just how high your salary can climb as a tattoo artist.

There’s a lot of potential out there for a prospective tattoo artist. More and more people are getting tattoos, from professionals to soccer moms to college students- not just bikers and rockers. NBCNews.com says that the tattoo industry is making more than $2 billion dollars annually, so why not see if you can get your share and follow your dream of becoming a tattoo artist?



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