New You, New Tattoo: How Much Will Your Ink Cost?

With January at an end, we hope that you’re making progress on achieving (or revising!) your list of resolutions. Perhaps one of those resolutions was to get a new tattoo—or perhaps with the holiday season over, you’re ready to treat yourself to some new ink, now that you’ve treated everyone else on your list. (Whoops—forgot someone? Stop by the shop and pick up a gift certificate for them!)

If you’re indeed in the market for a new tattoo, our friendly and professional tattoo artists would love to see you in our welcoming studio. You’re welcome to come chat with our artists, check out portfolios, and set up a consultation. You can also email us at to get started.

One of the questions we’re most frequently asked is how much a new tattoo is going to cost. While we’re very happy to provide you with an individual quote for your specific piece, we wanted to offer some general insight to get you started.

It Depends…

…on your artist: At Paper Crane Studio, our artists set their own hourly rates based on experience, ability, and speed. Generally, our rates range from $160-$200 per hour. That means that until we match you with an artist, we’ll wait on giving you a quote.

We pride ourselves on being home to only the best artists, which means you’ll always get a quality tattoo at our studio. With that in mind, we strongly suggest you choose an artist based on their tattooing style, not their hourly rate! You can browse portfolios in person or visit our Instagram @papercranestudio to get familiar with our individual artists’ specialties, strengths, and nuances. (In fact, we’d love if you screenshot a few of your favorite pieces from our Instagram and send them our way when you email us about your next tattoo.) That way, whether you’re interested in something colorful and intricate or extremely minimalist, you’ll pick an artist whose work truly resonates with you.

Tattoo Size Matters 

We love getting your emails, especially when you include pictures or descriptions of the tattoo you’re interested in getting from us. But we can’t always tell from a picture or description just how big you want your new ink to be—and a tattoo that’s two inches across is going to have a very different price tag than a piece you want to span your shoulder blade. Since our artists work hourly, letting us know approximately what you’re thinking will help us give you an idea of your cost.

Our artists are committed to working with the unique flow of each client’s body during the design process, so we’ll advise you honestly on how big or small we feel your tattoo should be in order to properly fit you. And because we want your tattoo to “read” clearly and beautifully, we’ll let you know if any adjustments need to be made in either the size of your piece or the amount of detail.

We have a session minimum of $100, even for the tiniest of tattoos. You might think that sounds like a lot to get a single word tattooed on your wrist, for example—but please remember that “simple” pieces like script are actually some of the most difficult to tattoo, as there is little to no margin for error. The minimum cost covers our materials as well as the time spent designing your piece, prepping for your session, and cleaning up afterwards.

Tattoo Cost = Details, Details, Details

In the same way that size determines the hours spent on your new tattoo, the level of detail that goes into a piece can have a major impact on the cost. If you’re interested in a full-color sleeve in a photorealistic style, such a piece may involve many hours of outlining, layering, shading, and detailing to get it just right. That’s not to say that complicated color pieces are by default going to cost you more than other tattoos: Dotwork, blackwork, linework, and black-and-grey tattoos can all require a significant time investment, depending on the design. Consider some of the finer examples of the popular mandala “underboob” tattoo: Such intricate linework requires a steady hand and a lot of patience.

Whatever the level of detail you’re interested in, a quality tattoo is absolutely worth the cost. Why? Because it’s a permanent piece of wearable art—and when done right, it will reflect the truest version of yourself and provide you with joy for many years to come.

On a Budget? Talk to Your Tattoo Artist!

As one of Southern California’s premier tattoo studios, we do not offer bargain tattoos or haggle over our rates. Tattoos are both a luxury and a legitimate art, and we’re committed to quality over quantity. But we get it if you’re on a budget, and we’re willing to work with you.

During your consultation, you can let your artist know your price threshold. We can break your tattoo into multiple sessions if that’s ultimately more doable for your budget. Typically, we spend two to four hours per session on larger pieces to get plenty of work done without putting you in too much pain. But even on a smaller piece, we can knock out the linework in one session, for example, and handle the color during a later session. Alternatively, we can approach the design in such a way that means less time tattooing in total (whether that means going a little smaller or implementing a different technique).

Available Tattoo Designs

If you want to get a new tattoo but don’t have a set idea, we encourage you to check out our tattooists on Instagram and Facebook! As passionate artists, we are constantly creating new designs that either typify our preferred styles or push our creative boundaries. That means you’ll often find designs online that we’re really interested in tattooing—and you can sometimes (not always) get such a design at a special price.

If you end up picking an available design and getting a special rate, we ask that you respect your artist’s discretion when it comes to customization. You might have a couple of minor adjustments that we’re cool with—but if you end up totally re-designing the offered piece, please keep in mind that the artist’s standard rate will apply. For example: If you claim an available rose design from an artist and try to subtly turn it into a portrait of your favorite aunt, we’re going to notice.

Tattoo Quotes and Consultations

We will ALWAYS discuss the hourly estimate and cost of your tattoo prior to your first session. Sometimes we can provide a quote via email—but for more complex pieces (like a sleeve or a cover-up), we prefer to schedule an in-person consultation to go over the details of your new tattoo and to give you the most accurate quote possible.

Once we get your session scheduled and receive your deposit, we start designing your new tattoo. We absolutely understand if you have adjustments to make or if you change your mind on certain elements: We want you to leave our studio with a piece you’ll love for a lifetime, so we encourage creative collaboration at every step! But remember that the quote you receive applies to the tattoo you originally requested, so major changes can impact the amount of time your artist ultimately spends tattooing you. Additionally, our hourly estimate can change based on any number of factors beyond our control.

If you’re ready to get started on your new tattoo, send us an email! We would love to see what you’re interested in and get you set up with the perfect artist, who can help you take the next step in setting up a consultation, getting a quote, and scheduling your tattoo session.

Stay tuned for our next blog on tattoo etiquette, where we’ll consider such questions as how much to tip your artist and who really owns a tattoo once it’s been inked. See you soon!

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