How Much Do Tattoo Artists Make?


Being a tattoo artist isn’t easy. You need to get a license, build your client base, and make sure you’re able to provide exceptional service before you can get better earnings.

On average, a tattoo artist in the United States can earn approximately $31,495 in a year. Though, some professional and experienced artists may earn more.

If you are thinking about becoming one, you need to know exactly what to expect in terms of pay and earnings. This article explains that and more.

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Factors That Affect A Tattoo Artist’s Pay
     Formal Education
     Practice and Experience
     Type of Employment
     License Requirements and Certifications
Where Do Tattoo Artists Get Paid Better?
Other Tattoo-Related Jobs

Factors That Affect A Tattoo Artist’s Pay

Lets’ be honest:

When you’re starting a career, pay is one of the things you have to consider. You need to earn to pay your bills, improve your skills, and invest in better tools and materials.

For you to be able to ask for higher pay, there are things that you have to work on. Below is a list to help you out.

Formal Education

Philippe Leroyer

Education is not a requirement, but it would certainly be to your advantage if you are educated in an art course. If you are educated, you can expect better pay.

Those who have not undergone formal education may also pursue art classes, informal training, or apprenticeships

The standard training period of a tattoo student is at least three years. During this period, you’ll need to learn what tattooing is as well as the types of tattoo kits and their operation and sterilization.

Practice and Experience

Hawaii Magazine

A tattoo artist can earn more if they have practiced their craft and have enough experiences credited to their name.

To be a skilled and professional tattoo artist, you have to be hardworking and resilient. Take note that some artists took years to establish their names in the industry.

You are working on human flesh, so you cannot afford to make mistakes. As a tattoo artist, you are expected to be highly skilled and knowledgeable about the art of tattooing. You need to keep practicing, learning, and researching what’s new.


Aside from investing in your knowledge and skill set, you would also need to invest in tools and equipment. You can’t practice if you don’t have a tattoo kit to use.

If you are new in the industry and you’re just starting in the field, you don’t have to get the most complicated tools right away.

There are tattoo kits for beginners you can purchase and use to hone your skills. Pick one that comes with the basic tools such as inks, cartridges, needles, and pen machines.


Differences in income by tattoo artists depend on which state they practice, economic competence and wage improvement opportunities. The tip they receive from clients can affect their pay as well.

You may consider moving to states that give a high premium to tattoo artists. Tattoo artists from San Francisco earn the most at $46,276.

Type of Employment

Antoni Shkraba

Beginning tattoo artists usually have to work for someone else as an apprentice. This means they don’t earn the entirety of what is due to them.

Oftentimes, the tattoo shop owner gets 60-70% commission from every tattoo completed while the apprentice gets 30-40%.

In the long run, the budding tattoo artist can grow their client base which could make them decide to go solo. This could result in more opportunities to earn better, establish a stable tattoo business, and further make known their label.

License Requirements and Certifications

The UK and several states in the US, like Florida, require licenses for tattoo artists to operate independently.

To have a license, they are required to complete required hours of training and show their competence in both written and practical exams.

Passion and talent alone are not enough for you to thrive in the competitive tattoo industry. You are required to obtain a license for you to be able to be paid fairly.

Most clients prefer that the tattoo artist that inks them is knowledgeable, highly skilled, and aware of health protocols to prevent the transmission of disease through needles.

Tattooing is a permanent and invasive procedure that requires professional skills.

Where Do Tattoo Artists Get Paid Better?

Lucas Guimaraes

Salary varies depending on the state where tattoo artists work. The states where tattoo artists earn relatively higher are New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. In 2021, California is ranked as the state that pays tattoo artists the highest.


If you want to enter the tattoo industry but not as a tattoo artist, you may consider other tattoo-related jobs.

Such jobs are tattoo piercer, tattoo designer, or tattoo school employee. A tattoo piercer may earn $45,000 annually. On the other hand, a tattoo designer makes $79,118 yearly

If you want to be a tattoo piercer or tattoo designer, your annual salary is relatively lower than being a tattoo artist. In general, these jobs are relatively lower-paying. But, you can still give them a try if you are looking into working in this niche.



What you are earning now may not be enough. But, through constant practice and building a stable client base, you will get where you want to be.

Over time, you may find yourself an extremely popular tattoo artist with clients who schedule appointments just to get inked by you.

Tattoo artists are foreseen to be in demand in the coming years. It is seen that the demand for body art and the rise of tattoo studios will increase eight-fold.

This is great news for many tattoo artists. This can potentially increase their hourly rate as well as their monthly wage.

Keep believing in yourself and your profession will blossom together. You never know, you could be one of the highest-paid tattoo artists with an hourly wage of $1,000 with your own studio and several side businesses to your name.


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