How Much Do Tattoo Artists Make on Average?

So, what does it cost to be a tattoo artist? Deciding to become a tattoo artist is a huge life decision that will need a lot of hard work and devotion, so it’s only reasonable to want to know how much a tattoo artist makes before diving in.

After all, as much as we’d all like to follow our ambitions and turn our hobbies into careers, keeping the lights on and a little food in our bellies comes first for most people!

In a nutshell, becoming a tattoo artist may pay anywhere from $19,000 per year to over $5 million in net worth!

Salary of a Low-End Tattoo Artist

Normally, you won’t stay on the bottom end of this figure for long, but according to, the low end is just under $19,000 a year as of January 2016! This isn’t a large sum of money, by any means. At a 40-hour-a-week job, that equates to $9 per hour.

This end of the wage range is usually designated for first-time tattoo artists who have just completed their apprenticeship and have yet to build up any clientele.

The Average Tattoo Artist Salary

When it comes to the typical tattoo artist compensation, several things come into play, including where you work, your expertise, your degree of experience, your clientele, and how well you get along with others.

According to, the average compensation for a tattoo artist in the United States is $32,000 per year as of March 2016.

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The city where you work has a significant impact on the statistics; for example, the average wage for an artist in Austin, Texas, is $38,000 per year, but it is $54,000 per year in New York City. Working in Los Angeles can pay you $43,000 per year on average. As a result, where you live and work has a significant impact on your financial success as a tattoo artist.

That’s not to imply you’ll always be constrained by these averages.

Salary of a High-End Tattoo Artist

No, living in the middle of the pack is not for everyone. The 20-60-20 rule is an old scientific idea that states that there will be 20% of individuals below average, 60% of average people, and 20% of people above average in every aspect of society.

This is also true in the tattoo industry. According to, if you work in the tattoo industry at the top end of the wage scale, you might earn up to $150,000 per year or even $211,000 per year.

With a little bit of insight and entrepreneurial drive, you can even branch out and open your own business once you’ve established your name. You will profit from the tattoos you are performing and from every tattoo artist in your studio! You may earn three, four, or even eight times more every year as a tattoo business owner!

It’s difficult to desire to work in the tattoo industry without becoming a fan of Miami Ink’s smash reality TV show. Kat Von D also has her program, LA Ink.

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While both have since moved on to other endeavors, they exploited their time as tattoo artists to amass large fortunes. Kat Von D has accumulated a net worth of $5 million, whereas Ami James has 5.1 million in his bank account due to his work as a tattoo artist!

How Does a Tattoo Artist Make Money?

You might be wondering how you make it to one end or the other now that you’ve seen the huge pay disparities between the low and high end of the tattoo artist pay scale.

Making money in the tattoo industry is a combination of factors.

The first is that you must be self-motivated and willing to work hard to get your name and artwork out there.

You can’t just open a business and rely on walk-ins and recommendations to make a living. You must get out there and hand out your business cards with a link to your portfolio at events and festivals, distribute fliers to local companies, or place advertising in the newspaper or on the radio. Do whatever it takes to get your name out there.

You won’t be paid an hourly rate; instead, you’ll be paid commission plus tips. In most cases, the shop where you work receives 40-60% of the tattoo fee, while you retain the remainder plus whatever tips you earn. You may be charged a set cost for a booth rental at other stores, and you retain everything else.

In any case, this ignores the fact that you are responsible for your materials, including tattoo ink, equipment, and needles. You can deduct them from your taxes at the end of the year, but that only gets you so far.

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Aside from the place where you live playing a big effect on your financial success, as previously said, another big factor is how you interact with others. If you have a strong connection with your clients and can create rapport, you will be able to: 1. They will tip you more generously. 2. They will refer you to others. As a result, it’s always a good idea to try to create contacts and networks.

All of this ties into, basically, you’re a salesperson. You need to get out there and sell yourself and your product if you want to rake in the big bucks!

So, what does it cost to be a tattoo artist? That is, after all, entirely up to you!