Average Tattoo Artist Salary – How Much Do Tattoo Artists Make

Tattoo artists can make good money because they do everything from infinity symbols on fingers to stunning full-body designs. The average tattoo artist salary is $61,670 per year, or $29.65 per hour, in the United States. In terms of the salary range, an entry-level tattoo artist’s salary is roughly $26,000 a year, while the top 10% makes $144,000. If you like following the crowd, hospitality and retail companies tend to attract the most workers in this field. But if you’re in it for the money, then you’ll want to seek out retail, government, and hospitality companies, as employees in each industry have reported the highest salaries.

Creating a lasting impression is taken to a whole new level when you’re working as a Tattoo Artist. In this body art career, you take the vision of your client and turn it into an artistic expression that will last a lifetime — literally.

Job Description

The job of a tattoo artist is to understand and fulfill clients’ wishes. Some clients know exactly what they want, while others spend hours perusing tattoo flash books. Like counselors and bartenders, tattoo artists must be good listeners, because every tattoo has a story, even if it’s just an impulsive whim on spring break.

Tattoo artists earn reputations for a certain style such as fine line, watercolor, or realism. Their craft consists of multiple inks, differently sized needles, and industrial equipment that must be sterile and used in accordance with health regulations. Simple designs can take less than an hour and can cost less than $100, whereas elaborate tattoos can require multiple sessions, costing thousands of dollars and you are responsible for your own supplies: tattoo ink, machines, needles, all of that stuff. You can write them off as tax deductions at the end of the year, but that only goes so far.

Average Tattoo Artist Salary Chart

Male vs. Female

It took almost 60 years for women to enter the tattoo industry that was started by Maud Wagner – the first female tattoo artist. Women can certainly learn a lot from Vyvyn Lazonga’s experience who suffered a great deal during her apprenticeship under Danny Danzl. Being mistreated by her mentor and seeing her male colleagues get promoted as part of her routine, but she would often have to bear with the crude and snide comments from male customers for her tattoos.

In the past as well as today, women would often enter this profession with the help of a mentor or under the apprenticeship of some male artist. Meanwhile, women who did not have any prior connections would often struggle to gain stability in their profession.

When it comes to tattoos, the discrimination does not end at pay. To this day, women with tattoos are judged more harshly than their male counterparts. According to a recent survey, it was found that approximately 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo on their body, and 36% of these participants are between the ages 18 and 25.

Fortunately, times and people have changed so much so that Kat Von D and Stephanie Tamez come under the list of top 10 highly paid tattoo artist. Even though the individual mindset toward a female tattoo artist is gradually changing, we still have a long way to go before the prejudice is eliminated.

As per Kerry Burke, the average earning of a tattoo artist varies from one location to another. For instance, in some parts of America male and female practitioners are able to earn around $32,000 a year, while in Boston it was reported that tattoo artists can earn about $55,000 a year.

Moreover, the earnings of male and female tattoo artists greatly depend on the season as well. For instance, Valentine’s Day or Halloween are among the top seasons for tattooing as people choose to have their loved ones’ names or emotions etched on them permanently. So according to numerous tattoo artists, busy seasons and their luck influences their annual earnings.


No formal education is required to be a tattoo artist, although some artists do have college degrees in fine art or in other fields. Classes in marketing, accounting and business can be advantageous, if you hope to own your own tattoo shop and enjoy a higher income. Generally, the career path to becoming a tattoo artist starts with an apprenticeship or informal training under an experienced, respected tattoo artist.

If you achieve the status of legendary Kat Von D at High Voltage Tattoo in Los Angeles, you, too, might make up to $500 per hour. Until then, you will likely work as a subcontractor in a tattoo shop earning about $40 to $50 per hour in commission, assuming the client pays the average going rate of $150 per hour. After paying salaries and overhead, the owner of the tattoo studio pockets about $60 per $150 charged to the client.

If you are just starting out, you may want to offer free tattoos until you know what you are doing and when you have a portfolio of your work. While establishing your brand and a name for yourself, you might need to work a second job for a steady income stream.

Is work available in this body art career?

Since many Tattoo Artists learn their trade through apprenticeships, most are able to find employment. What was once thought of as only for Sailors, bikers, and Truckers is becoming more mainstream in society. As the acceptance grows, the demand will as well, increasing the demand for Tattoo Artists.

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