How to discuss price range with a tattoo artist?
October 17, 2012 7:20 AM   Subscribe

[for my boss] I need advice on tattoo price ranges.

One of my bosses is getting her first tattoo, and as the official "young person" in the office I am the confidant and advisor. She's getting it done in Vegas, not on the strip (in about a month). She's getting essentially a rose with the autism ribbon around it. Tattoo artist is drawing it. This'll be on the back of her shoulder.

She was asked by her artist what her price range is. As I got all of mine drawn by friends, I'm not sure how to go about valuing it. She's willing to spend $400 without too much hassle, and if it's super-fantastic up to $500, but isn't sure if that's way too high for the piece in question or not.

Any advice, both on total-cost-of tattoo and how to discuss ranges properly?
posted by Lemurrhea to Shopping (15 answers total)
How big will it be? The size can be a really big factor in price. When I got my first, it was about 1"x1", and the place I went to charged me their minimum which was $75, but that was almost 10 years ago. The other one that I got at a parlor is fairly simple but larger -- maybe 4"x2" and cost ~ $125.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:23 AM on October 17, 2012

She should just ask him what he thinks for the time spent, the size, amount of shading, etc. If I were her, I would call the guy up and say "I was thinking $400-$500. Is that realistic, because I've never had a tattoo before, so I'm not sure".
posted by greta simone at 7:25 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

And yes, for reference, in NYC, I got a small 1x3 inch outline of my home state in black ink this summer. It would have been $100 (that's the minimum) if it weren't for my friend discount. That's not including tip. Make sure she factors in tip too.
posted by greta simone at 7:29 AM on October 17, 2012

$500 is probably way, way too high. There are high-end tattoo places here in Los Angeles whose hourly rate is $150. A relatively small, simple piece like a rose with a ribbon around it probably isn't going to cost $400-$500 anywhere.
posted by erst at 7:33 AM on October 17, 2012

For my own, I paid $100 an hour, but it was also a highly extensive and detailed tattoo.

I think asking the artist what she has charged in the past is perfectly reasonable. I agree that I wouldn't give the price she can afford to pay right off the bat. A rose with an autism ribbon, assuming small rose, sounds like it shouldn't be that hard/complicated, and possibly under her price. How many colors does she want? How large? Also, consider that some tattoo artists charge more for design as well as execution.
posted by corb at 7:35 AM on October 17, 2012

It's kind of strange that the artist is asking her for a price range; I've always just been quoted a price, never asked what I felt like paying. That being said, I have a large-ish tattoo on my back, in colour, that I think cost me about $500, so I think she's thinking a bit high for a shoulder tattoo, but it's so dependant on size, etc. I think she needs to speak to the artist, give them a sense of how large/detailed she'd like it to be, and ask for a quote.
posted by catch as catch can at 7:35 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's kind of strange that the artist is asking her for a price range; I've always just been quoted a price, never asked what I felt like paying.

Yeah, to be honest I kind of get a bad feeling from that. Like he wants to take her for whatever she's willing to pay.

Do you know how she picked this person? Has she seen his portfolio? Did she shop around before choosing him?
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:41 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

My artist charges long-time clients $150/hr, but new clients $200-225 (black and grey vs color). It seems like the artist might want to know the price range before the design is finalized so that the size/detail/etc matches her expectations.

And always remember... "A good tattoo isn't cheap/a cheap tattoo isn't good."
posted by ferociouskitty at 7:44 AM on October 17, 2012

Response by poster: Do you know how she picked this person? Has she seen his portfolio? Did she shop around before choosing him?

She looked around at various places in Vegas, picked an artist who has a good portfolio and an established presence, was emailing with them; that particular person can't do it due to scheduling conflicts, but that person recommended one of her co-workers. I've looked at the studio's website and that seems fine.

My read on the guy was similar to ferociouskitty, trying to figure out from price what a rough sizing/etc would be.

How big will it be?

I'm terrible talking about sizes. Something slightly bigger than this, I gather (but a bit further down the back rather than up on the top of the shoulder).

And yeah, she's aware of the need to tip.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:13 AM on October 17, 2012

Datapoint: I paid $500 for a big detailed tattoo on my shoulder that took 3 hours. It was $150/hr + a nice tip. In Oakland. I would expect something smaller/simpler to cost closer to $200-300.
posted by gnutron at 9:09 AM on October 17, 2012

Paid $700 for a 7inx5in detailed tattoo that took 3 hours, in Korea where tattoos cost a bit more than US. It's much bigger than that linked photo.
posted by nile_red at 10:12 AM on October 17, 2012

For something that size, I would say $200 max.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:30 AM on October 17, 2012

You tell the artist what you want; how big, level of detail, number of colors, etc. They tell you what it will cost.
posted by bongo_x at 10:58 AM on October 17, 2012

It's not that strange that the artist asked for a price range. I've seen several reliable, well-established tattoo artists ask clients what their price range is, so they don't start planning for an elaborate piece that'll take 8 hours at $150/hour when the client is only willing/able to spend ~$400. Many artists are willing to work with the client's price limitations, which might end up meaning altering the design to something simpler or smaller, but still high-quality. I've got a large back piece that's currently in-progress, and price range was definitely something we discussed during the planning stages. My artist's rate of $150/hr wasn't negotiable, but how many hours to spend on the piece was.

Around the SF Bay Area, rates seem to average around $150-200/hr, more for some of the more in-demand artists. Occasionally artists will just have a set price for a single piece if it's only going to take a single session. I have another tattoo of similar size to what your boss is thinking. It took ~3 hours to complete and I paid $375 (plus tip) for it.
posted by rhiannonstone at 1:13 PM on October 17, 2012

$500 seems way too high for something of this size... if it's only ~3"x3"-4"x4" area (tattoo you linked to looks like its about 3" long to me, but that might be off), you're not getting in a whole lot of complexity anyway.... In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the artist asked her to go a wee bit bigger (or changed the scale of the puzzle pieces on the ribbon vs. the link you provided) so the puzzle bit looks nice and clear.

Nthing $250ish neighborhood seeming more reasonable... and also that it seems weird that he's asking her for a price, not in a scammy way, just in a "never heard of people doing that" way. I do see Ferociouskitty's & Rhiannon's point and that seems to be the case.
posted by jorlyfish at 3:44 PM on October 17, 2012

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