How Much for a Small Tattoo?

We love getting inquiries about new tattoos! Sometimes we get extremely detailed emails, where people know exactly what they want and who they want to work with; other times, a person isn’t sure about the process and needs some direction. We’re happy to guide you no matter where you’re at with your tattoo journey, but for the beginner looking for a starting point we’ve put together some information on one of our most frequently received questions: How much for a small tattoo?

Colorful compass tattoo by Sof PMA at Paper Crane Studio (Sof PMA)

Define a Small Tattoo

Size matters in tattooing. When you ask how much for a small tattoo, every individual at the shop has a different definition of what that means. For some, it’s a tiny squiggle on the top of your finger. For others, it’s a palm-sized piece. One customer might consider a certain piece in their collection a small tattoo while another person might think of the exact same tattoo as huge.

Because size is relative, we can’t readily answer how much a small tattoo will cost. The same goes if you ask us about a medium or large tattoo, since we all have different ideas on those terms.
What we suggest instead is providing a rough estimate of the size. That can be in inches (for example, a 3″ x 5″ tattoo) or in comparison to a common object (for example, the size of an iPhone). This will help us to understand your expectations so we can advise you on what’s doable at that size and what the cost will be.

Spill the Details

In addition to the size you’re thinking of for your small tattoo, the level of detail is a critical factor when we are providing an estimate. If you’re thinking of getting your favorite animal tattooed on you at around 5″ x 5″, that’s a sizable enough space that an artist can work in a significant amount of detail–if that’s what you’re interested in. But perhaps you’re just interested in a basic outline of a bear, which would take much less time than (for example) an illustrative bear. Or maybe you want a geometric tattoo that just happens to be in the shape of a tiger’s head–again, that would be a different tattoo in terms of design, execution, and cost than an Irezumi or American Traditional tiger.

Scorpion flash tattoo by Mikey Vigilante at Paper Crane Studio
Detail and size go hand-in-hand for more reasons than cost: With a small tattoo, some details just aren’t possible to capture in a way that reads well and will age well. We often get requests for flash tattoos to be done at 2″ or 3″, but our artists typically ask clients to consider sizing up to do the design justice as-is. An alternative to sizing up is to simplify, whether it’s for a flash tattoo or a custom piece.

Choose Your Artist for a Small Tattoo

The style of your small tattoo will potentially impact which artist you end up working with, as everyone specializes in different types of tattooing. Blackwork, American Traditional, illustrative, Irezumi, realism–each aesthetic is unique. Many of our artists are versatile and can tackle a number of styles, while others tend to work in only one or two styles.
Size and location can also be a factor when choosing an artist. Some artists are more comfortable than others with truly tiny tattoos. The same is true of placements like fingers or the inner lip, both of which we often get asked about for a small tattoo.
We are always happy to suggest an artist who will be a solid fit for your small tattoo, or you can let us know who you’d like to work with. The choice will be another factor in your estimate, as each artist sets their own hourly rate. These typically vary between $160 and $225 but are subject to change.
Please note out studio minimum is $100 even for the smallest of tattoos. (Again, that’s our studio minimum: An individual artist may have a higher minimum based on their hourly rate.) This covers our materials as well as the time needed for setup, breakdown, and of course tattooing.

Snake and mistletoe tattoo by Joy Shannon in blackwork style(Joy Shannon)

We often get asked if we can do less for a small tattoo, but our rates are not negotiable. The truth is there’s no such thing as a simple tattoo. Small linework tattoos have no margin for error, which means you need an experienced artist with a steady hand. If you want to end up with a tattoo you love, our studio is an excellent choice.

Come See Us

If you provide us with detailed information on size, location, and style and include a picture of where you’d like to get tattooed, we may be able to provide an estimate in person for your small tattoo. But to get the most accurate and expedient answer, we strongly suggest that you come see us at the studio for an in-person consultation.
Why an in-person consultation? This allows us to discuss your ideas one-on-one and work with you on any changes that will improve the final look of your small tattoo. It also allows us to check out the location you’re thinking and cover any concerns on placement such as pain level, distortion, etc. An artist will also have a chance to look at your skin, which can impact the tattooing process.
Some artists see consultations by appointment only while others accept walk-ins if time allows, so send us a message to get started.

Save Your Pennies

The reasons for wanting a small tattoo vary dramatically and are totally personal. While we might recommend sizing up in some cases so as to not lose any detail, we otherwise respect the decision to go small.
While we’ve got you on the blog, though, we’ll ask you this: Are you getting a small tattoo due to a limited budget? We understand that and can absolutely work with your budget–but if you actually want a larger piece, we don’t want you to be unhappy with your small tattoo down the road.
Our artists are happy to do multiple sessions on a tattoo to make it more affordable. This is a very common approach, and some tattoos actually necessitate multiple sessions even if budget isn’t a concern. Just let us know what you’re comfortable spending in total and on each session so that we can come up with a plan that works for you.

Blackwork tattoo by Jackie Siu of Paper Crane Studio

(Jackie Siu)

Whether it’s your first tattoo or you’re new to our studio, whether you want a small tattoo or to start a sleeve, reach out today to get started. We’ll see you soon!