Looking for some new body art? Along with the cost of getting your half sleeve inked, you should also consider giving some extra money for a tip.
“As with all gratuities, tipping is a gesture of appreciation for good service and good product,” says Pat Sinatra, president of the Alliance of Professional Tattooists. “We commonly tip food servers and salon workers, as many of these people often work for minimum wage or commission and percentage cut and rely on tips for their income. This is no different for tattooists.”
Patrick Cornolo, owner of Speakeasy Custom Tattoo in Chicago, agrees: “Tipping is pretty normal in tattooing. If you had a good experience and love your tattoo, tipping is appreciated but not expected.”
[READ: How Much to Tip Valets.]
Cornolo and Sinatra offer some insight on tipping etiquette for tattoo artists:
Should You Tip a Tattoo Artist?
In short, yes, you should always strive to tip your tattoo artist.
“Often, (tattoo artists) are renting a chair or space and give as much as 50% of their earnings to the shop owner,” Sinatra says.
That means if you’re getting a $200 tattoo, your tattoo artist might only get $100 for that work, time and effort spent inking your body art.
Sinatra also recommends tipping all tattoo artists, even if you’re getting your ink done by the owner. “Clients often feel they don’t need to tip the owner, but if the owner is working alongside others in the studio and their work is valued, a tip is greatly appreciated,” Sinatra says.
How Much to Tip a Tattoo Artist?
“Frankly, whatever is affordable to you is welcome,” Sinatra says. “A suggested percentage of 20% to 25% for personal services is an accepted standard, especially in these post-COVID times.”
Cornolo puts the range between 15% to 20%, but says that it really varies. “Some tip less, and some are very generous.”
For instance, you might wonder how much to tip for a $500 tattoo. In this case, tipping anywhere from $75 to $125 would be appropriate. If you’re getting smaller art done or maybe a touch-up for $100, tipping anywhere from $15 to $25 fits the bill.
Some regular or return clients also give gifts to their tattoo artists, such as restaurant gift cards, theater tickets and doughnuts for the shop.
“These are nice gestures to show they appreciate your time and work — and are also appreciated,” Cornolo says.
[Read: The Ultimate Guide to Tipping]
Do You Tip for Tattoos That Take Multiple Sessions?
Sometimes a tattoo takes more than one session to finish.
At Speakeasy Custom Tattoo, Cornolo says the tattoo artists do a lot of large-scale work that takes several sessions to finish.
“Multiple-sitting clients either tip per session or some will wait and tip when the piece is completed,” he says. “This is completely a personal choice on their end.”
Do You Tip Differently for Custom Tattoos?
Custom tattoos are body art that is custom designed by your tattoo artist in collaboration with you, whereas flash or walk-in tattoos are pre-made designs you’ll find in a book or poster at the tattoo shop.
“The tipping practice would be the same regardless of it being a custom tattoo or a walk-in from a flash sheet on the wall,” Cornolo says.
Generally, walk-in tattoos are smaller designs, which cost less, while custom tattoos might be larger and more expensive because of the pre-work, but tipping a percentage based off the total cost applies to both tattoo types.
Do Tattoo Artists Prefer to be Tipped in Cash?
Choosing to tip in cash or with a card is up to a tattoo artist’s discretion, says Sinatra, and she recommends that clients ask their tattooists what they prefer.
In Cornolo’s experience, however, cash tips are best.
But whether your tattoo artist likes cash or card tips, it can be helpful to learn about that preference prior to your appointment since some ink work can be pretty costly, and you’ll want to make sure you have the correct tip amount on hand.
In general, tipping is a nice way to say thank you for a job well done, and it’s also a way to support tattoo artists who rely on tips for part of their income. That said, according to Sinatra, “A tip is never expected. It is always graciously appreciated.”
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