The tattooing business is a wild and diverse world. It runs the gamut from bearded biker types tattooing out of neon-lit corner shops to celebrity tattoo artists profiled in reality shows.
But do we know how much money tattoo artists actually earn?
Whether you're considering a career as a tattoo artist or simply curious about the earning potential in this field, it's important to understand the financial aspect of the profession.
In this article, we'll delve into the salary range of tattoo artists and explore what it takes to become one of the high-earning individuals in the industry.
How Much Does a Beginner or Apprentice Tattoo Artist Make?
If you're hoping to break into the tattoo world and immediately earn a comfortable living, you might need to adjust your expectations. Becoming a tattoo artist is a challenging journey that requires time, dedication, and financial investment.
Typically, tattoo apprenticeships, which mark the beginning of a tattoo artist's career, are unpaid. Apprentice tattoo artists spend one to two years honing their skills, completing their training, obtaining a license, and gaining experience before they can start earning a living independently.
During this phase, apprentices are not only investing their time but also their money. They need to purchase their own tattoo machines and equipment, and often have to pay for their apprenticeships, which can cost several thousand dollars.
First Year on the Job
Once you complete your apprenticeship and obtain your license, you can begin earning a living as a tattoo artist. However, the salary of entry-level tattoo artists can vary widely as they are usually paid based on the amount of work they do rather than earning a fixed wage. On average, beginner tattoo artists in many US states can expect to earn between $15,000 and $23,000 per year.
How Much Does an Experienced/Intermediate Tattoo Artist Make?
As you gain experience and establish yourself in the industry, you can start earning a higher income. According to PayScale, the median annual earnings for an experienced tattoo artist are around $30,000. Some fortunate individuals in this category can earn up to $60,000 per year.
While these figures may not be extravagant, they offer a more comfortable living compared to the salary of a beginner artist.
How Much Does a Highly Experienced Tattoo Artist Make?
Highly experienced tattoo artists, excluding the outliers who tattoo celebrities or are celebrities themselves, can typically earn between $80,000 and $150,000 per year. These figures reflect the income of artists who have honed their craft, developed a strong reputation, and built a solid client base over the years.
Factors Determining a Tattoo Artist's Salary
The salary range mentioned above is not fixed and depends on several factors.
Here are some key elements that influence a tattoo artist's earning potential:
Experience and Skill Level: The quality of your work and the skill level you have attained significantly impact your earning potential. Exceptional artistry and intricate designs can command higher prices and attract more clientele.
Studio Location: The location of your tattoo studio plays a crucial role in determining how much you can earn. Affluence levels and the size of the customer base in your area affect the rates you can charge for your services.
Popularity: A tattoo artist's popularity and reputation are vital for attracting a steady stream of customers. Building a strong following on platforms like Instagram can lead to a high demand for your work and increased income.
Speed of Work: The more tattoos you can complete within a given time, the higher your earning potential. Working efficiently without compromising quality allows you to serve more clients and increase your annual income.
Shop Ownership: Owning a tattoo shop can provide long-term stability and higher earnings. While it involves managing the business aspect in addition to tattooing, shop owners have the potential to earn more than artists working in someone else's shop.
What Do Tattoo Artists Earn Internationally?
In the United Kingdom, the average starting salary for a beginner tattoo artist is around £15,000 to £20,000 per year. In Europe, salaries for beginner tattoo artists can range from €15,000 to €25,000 annually.
In Canada, beginner tattoo artists can earn an average of C$25,000 to C$35,000 per year.
Internationally, salaries for beginners can vary depending on the country and its cost of living. In countries with higher living costs, such as Australia and New Zealand, beginners can expect to earn around AUD/NZD 30,000 to 40,000 per year. In countries with lower living costs, such as India or Thailand, the salaries may be lower, ranging from INR 200,000 to 400,000 or THB 200,000 to 300,000 per year, respectively.
In the United Kingdom, experienced tattoo artists can earn an average salary of £25,000 to £40,000 per year. In Europe, the range for experienced artists is typically €30,000 to €50,000 annually.
In Canada, experienced tattoo artists can earn an average salary of C$40,000 to C$60,000 per year. Internationally, experienced tattoo artists can earn anywhere from AUD/NZD 50,000 to 80,000 in countries like Australia and New Zealand, INR 400,000 to 800,000 in India, or THB 400,000 to 600,000 in Thailand.
Nonetheless, the earning potential for tattoo artists varies based on several factors such as experience, skill level, location, popularity, speed of work, and ownership of a tattoo shop. While beginners and apprentices may start with modest incomes, dedicated and talented artists can progress to higher earnings over time. By continuously improving their skills, building a solid reputation, and adapting to market demands, tattoo artists can create a lucrative career in the industry.
For more information on our TATTOO INK sets, please take a look at our piece on Xtreme Inks: Artist Collections.