A tattoo is an investment, and not just because getting one involves committing to a lifelong piece of body art. Tattoos are also an investment in a more literal, financial sense because a good design and artist will often set you back a decent chunk of money. If you’re preparing to get inked on your bicep; a large, popular area for tattoos where placement can include the inner part of the upper arm from elbow to armpit as well as the front of the upper arm from just above the ditch (where the elbow bends) to the bottom of the shoulder, the price you’ll pay can vary significantly as well. So, how much does a bicep tattoo cost?
The exact cost of a bicep tattoo is difficult to define because it depends on a number of different factors. This is why, when asked to share a rough price range for her bicep pieces, Portland-based tattooer Kala Warman admits that “there are too many variables to even try to estimate.” Still, understanding what those variables are can help you determine the cost of your dream bicep ink in advance of an appointment or consultation.
Bicep tattoo cost factor: How long will your tattoo take to complete?
Generally, the longer your tattoo takes to ink the more expensive it will be, explains Emily Trajkovski, a self-taught handpoke artist from Toronto.
There are a number of factors that add to the amount of time an artist requires to tattoo a design, such as size, style, and complexity. “The amount of detail, fill, and color all prolong the duration of the tattoo,” says Trajkovski. If the bicep tattoo you’re looking to get is particularly large it will cost more than something small. If it’s small but detailed it will cost more than something small and minimal. If it incorporates several colors it will cost more than a design that makes use of only one shade.
If you were to get your bicep tattooed by Trajkovski, she says “a smaller piece that would take under an hour to complete would cost a base rate of $100. Something double the size or larger would be $150 to $250,” or greater. She also notes that relatively small, palm-sized designs usually take one to two hours to complete while larger, hand-sized or bigger designs can take two to four hours, if not longer.
Bicep tattoo cost factor: Are you being charged a minimum?
Charging a minimum fee is one of the ways artists ensure they’re making a decent living wage after covering the hard costs associated with the tattooing process such as inks, needles, cleaning supplies and rent, as well as the time they spend drawing designs in advance of their appointments. While not all tattooers charge minimums, many do, and those minimum amounts vary significantly from artist to artist and shop to shop. Minimums are different from hourly rates in that regardless of the amount of time your tattooer spends inking your design, at the very least you’ll still be charged their minimum price which is typically around $80 to $100.
Warman, for instance, works out of Rosewater Tattoo, a shop with a minimum of $100, meaning even the smallest bicep tattoo from an artist there will cost that amount. But if you were to get a design from the likes of Instagram-famous tattooer JonBoy or an artist at New York’s Bang Bang Tattoo, your minimum price would start a lot higher. The New York Times reported JonBoy’s minimum was $300 in 2016 (it’s probably quite a bit more now) and tattoos at Bang Bang start at $500.
Bicep tattoo cost factor: Who is your artist?
According to Warman, “the biggest variable [when it comes to bicep tattoo cost] is always going to be the tattooer because we all have our own talents and workflows and price ourselves accordingly.” It’s important, she says, to understand that the calibre of your artist contributes to the final cost of your tattoo, especially when finding out how much a bicep tattoo costs.
More experienced artists and those with greater name recognition and caché, like JonBoy and Bang Bang, charge a premium for their designs that are often significantly more than what you’ll pay to get inked by an artist who is newer to tattooing. In contrast, people new to tattooing usually charge far less than the market rate while they build their skills and portfolio. Some apprentices even tattoo for free. “Your tattooer should always go over the cost with you when planning a project,” Warman continues. “If you don’t agree with the rate a tattooer gives [or it’s out of your price range], then they aren’t the tattooer for you.” This isn’t to say that all great tattoos are priced out of reach and many artists, such as Trajkovski, take their clients’ budgets into consideration when pricing their pieces in an effort to make their art more accessible to everyone.
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