Whenever you go to a restaurant, you most likely tip your waiter for their service at the end of the meal. After a solid haircut that leaves you looking *fire*, you probably put down a ‘lil extra something for your hairdresser. Similarly, when you get a tattoo, you should be showing thanks for your artist in the same way.
How much to tip a tattoo artist is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to getting ink — especially if it's your first. If you talk to any tattoo artist (or anyone who’s used their fair share of freehand ink), a personalized tattoo takes a lot of time, research and thoughtful precision. That care in itself is more than enough to justify a tip—but of course, here are some more things that you should think about when it comes to proper tipping etiquette.
Just like anywhere you would normally tip, the actual practice of tipping isn’t mandatory. It is, however, strongly encouraged. First, make sure to consider where you’re getting your tattoo — for starters, protocol for tipping a tattoo artist in North America is not the same as, say, in Europe.
When it comes to tipping an artist in North America, opinions on how much to give will vary depending on the artist or shop you ask. One safe practice is to tip 20% of the final cost and add or subtract based on your experience; but usually anywhere between 15% and 35% will suffice. Some people also swear by tipping a flat rate every time and that can be OK too — if that number is substantial for the work that’s been done.
Ashley Carlin Driscoll, an artist at Ink and Water in Toronto, says that if you’re happy with your experience, 20% is the industry standard. “And I prefer the client hands me a cash tip themselves, but only so I can show my appreciation,” she says.
Obviously tattoos aren’t cheap, and odds are you’re already shelling out a wad of cash you’ve painstakingly saved for months. But almost all of the time, your tattoo artist isn’t taking home that entire total, especially when they work from a shop. Unfortunately, it is super common for shops to take 50% of what an artist is charging for a tattoo. In some cases, artists can also be charged around $500 just to keep their spot in said shop.
Not to mention, being responsible for a ton of other expenses like their own machines, needles, ink and equipment. For many artists, tips are truly what allow them to keep doing the work they’re doing. “Even if your tattoo seems expensive, we only see half of that. Tips show us that little extra appreciation,” says Driscoll.
Want a hot tip? When you’re saving for a tattoo, make sure you’ve accounted for a tip during that process so you won’t be hit with a hefty surprise after your tattoo is complete, or after each session. If you’ve ever heard the not-so-subtle saying, “If you can’t afford to tip, don’t go out to eat,” the same (unofficially) applies when it comes to tattoos. Sorry, not sorry!
After all, your artist is putting a lot of work into creating a masterpiece that will be on your body FOR. EVER. There are definitely exceptions to the rule, like if your artist doesn’t do a good job or makes your experience unsatisfactory or tattoos a butterfly when you asked for an eagle. But when it IS done right, you’ll want to show your thanks and appreciation in a way that they too will appreciate. And no, we do not mean compliments.
At the end of the day though, tipping or not tipping your tattoo artist is totally up to you. If they did a great job and you are happy with it, we can all agree that your artist deserves some good ol’ fashioned love.
By Ebony-Renee Baker