The demand for tattoo artists is increasing and so is their pay scale. On an average, a tattoo artist earns about $100 per hour and also a commission percentage, if he is working in a tattoo studio.
The principal determinant of the salary of a tattoo artist is the amount of work he gets in a particular season. According to PayScale, a tattoo artist can expect to make around $33,000 annually. If the artist has a relevant educational background, the salary may vary.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) gives licenses to tattoo artists. The applicants need to complete an Infection Control Course and also pass a test. Approximately 1900 tattoo artists are currently given licenses in New York City. These licenses are valid for two years (Source: DOHMH). The salary may vary depending on the artist's experience.
A majority of the tattoo professionals are self-employed, which is why they earn more income, that generally ranges from $30,000 to $50,000 per year. The average salary of a tattoo artist in California and Florida is $37,000 (Source: Indeed).
Tattoo artists get paid on an hourly basis. According to March 2015 data by PayScale, the national hourly salary for a tattoo artist with an experience of 1 to 4 years is in the range of $9.89 - $126.27 and those with higher experience can earn up to $150. According to CNBC, the top 10 percent of tattoo artists earn about $150 per hour, on an average.
If the artist is new to the field, apprenticeship with tattoo studios can be an added advantage to gain experience. While in training, there is no or very less income. The apprentice will have to assist the professional artists and may get opportunities to rework on the old tattoos. Also, the apprentice has to work on fruits, vegetables, and other non-living objects before he can start using the tattoo gun on customers.
The salary depends largely on the amount of work the artist gets and on the location of the studio.
In some studios, a tattoo artist has to work on body piercings as well. His first duty is to understand the customers' need regarding the kind of tattoo they prefer. He has to show the latest designs and patterns to the clients and discuss with them, the size, color, location, and cost. Then he has to draw a rough sketch of the tattoo on paper and get it approved by the clients. In case of custom-made tattoos, he has to take utmost care with the colors and the design.
Once the design is finalized, the next important step is to decide the location and size of the tattoo. After the position is decided, it is the tattoo designer's job to shave the area where the tattoo is to be made. Before starting the procedure, he has to ensure that all the equipment is sterilized and clean, so as to prevent infections. After the tattoo is inked, he has to inform his clients regarding tattoo care.