Tattoo Cost: What to Expect

When it comes to tattoo cost, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. There are a number of factors to consider—and as a result, it is a multi-step process to get an estimate from an artist. To help you help us, we’re breaking down some of the elements that contribute to the cost of your tattoo.

Tattoo cost varies based in part on size. This Ganesh back piece by Mikey Vigilante is a multi-session piece.

Tattoo Cost #1: 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-$225 per hour. Because of this, artists provide quotes directly (rather than the studio).

Although tattoo cost is obviously important to consider, we strongly suggest choosing an artist whose style and vibe you love—even if they are more per hour than you’d initially thought. A tattoo is something you’ll wear for a lifetime, so it is vital to choose an artist whose style matches your vision. With tattoos especially, get what you pay for, especially when it comes to skill level.

We are proud to say that all of our artists are top notch, so it’s easy to match with someone whose style and skill level align with your ideas.  You can browse portfolios on our website or visit our Instagram @papercranestudio to get familiar with our individual artists’ specialties and styles.

Tattoo Cost #2: Size

We love when you email us about your tattoo ideas, especially when you include reference pics. But we can’t always tell from a picture or description how big you want your new piece to be—and we don’t know what a “medium tattoo” means in terms of inches. A tattoo that’s palm-sized is going to have a very different cost than a full back piece. Since our artists work hourly, letting us know what you’re thinking in inches will help us give you an idea of your tattoo cost.

We work with the unique flow of each client’s body during the design process, so we’ll let you know you how big or small we feel your tattoo should be in order to properly fit you. Because we want your tattoo to “read” clearly, we’ll let you know if any adjustments need to be made when it comes to the size of your piece or the amount of detail.

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

Tattoo Cost #3: Level of Detail

In the same way that size determines your tattoo cost, detail is also a big factor. If you’re interested in a full-color sleeve or a complex cover-up, your tattoo cost will reflect  many hours of outlining, layering, shading, and detailing to get it just right. Color, dotwork, blackwork, linework, and black-and-grey tattoos can all require a significant amount of hours, depending on the design.

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.

Tattoo Cost #4: Location

One of the less talked about tattoo cost factors is location: Where do you want your new tattoo to go?

If you’ve attended one of our Friday the 13th events, you’ll know we usually only tattoo arms and legs during flash events. These areas tend to be the easiest to tattoo, so we can move fairly quickly—which keeps the cost down during a regular appointment.

Other areas present unique considerations. For example, neck tattoos are more painful than arm tattoos, which means more tensing or movement from a client. This in turn slows our process down. Even if  you sit like a rock, neck skin is more delicate and requires extreme care (and therefore more time) during the tattoo application. The same is true of wrist skin as well as other areas. For other spots, convexity or concavity can mean a different approach is required than for a flat plane.

Wherever you want your tattoo to go, we can work with you to ensure you get a piece you love.

Tattoo Cost #5: Your Budget

Your budget is a major factor when it comes to tattoo cost. During your consultation, you can let your artist know what you are looking to spend. We can potentially break your tattoo into multiple sessions: Typically, we spend two to four hours per session on larger pieces, which can require

several such sessions. On a smaller piece, we can potentially do the linework in one session, for example, and do the color during a later session. We can alternatively approach the design in such a way that means less time tattooing in total.

Sometimes, depending on the size and complexity, we may suggest saving up if your budget isn’t realistic. 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—even if it means putting a pin in your piece for the time being.

The Ultimate Estimate

We will always discuss the hourly estimate and cost of your tattoo before we start tattooing. We can sometimes provide a quote via email—but for more complex or custom pieces, we prefer to schedule a consultation to go over the details and give you the most accurate quote possible. Even then, please note that our hourly estimate can change based on any number of factors beyond our control.

Message Us!

If you’re ready to get started on your new tattoo, we would love to see what you’re interested in. Please let us know the size and location—and send along any references if you have them!

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