“About 90 percent of the tattoos I do are on my clients’ forearms,” says Prairie Koo, owner, director, and resident artist at Ink & Water Tattoo. But the popularity of forearm tattoos isn’t exclusive to Koo’s clientele, however—the location is a heavily sought-after one because it’s large enough to host a wide variety of designs and styles, because pieces there are easily shown off as it is hidden, and, as Koo suggests, it’s not a particularly painful area to get tattooed.
Such large variation in the size and style of designs possible to tattoo on the forearm also leads to variation in pricing, though, begging the question: how much does a forearm tattoo cost in actuality?
“Price changes so much from piece to piece,” admits Koo. “A small forearm tattoo can cost less than 100 dollars depending on its simplicity, but a larger piece can cost anywhere from 500 to a few thousand dollars,” and the price of your design will increase as its size and detailing increase.
According to Brittany Randell, the Toronto-based tattoo artist known for her detailed linework designs and dedication to advocating for greater POC representation in the tattooing community, “a forearm tattoo, like any tattoo, becomes more expensive as you add size and complexity to it—which could mean more linework, shading, or colored details.”
For something hand-sized in Randell’s style, clients will spend around 350 dollars which Koo confirms is relatively normal. “If you’re getting something a few inches wide, it’s standard for it to cost between 250 and 300 dollars but that can increase or decrease based on the individual design’s complexity,” he says. “If you get a tiny, simple heart outline, for example, it could cost as little as 100 dollars, but if you wanted to put color in it it would go up to perhaps 150 dollars. If you wanted an anatomical heart of the same size it could go up to 250 dollars and if you decided to add color to that design it could go up to 280 or 300 dollars.”
Tattoos also become more expensive as they increase in size and complexity because of the amount of time and artistry involved in both designing and inking them. “You can expect to pay more if your tattoo artist spends a long time working on your design,” says Koo, explaining that this is why large, detailed pieces can set a client back thousands of dollars in some cases.
At the very least, a forearm tattoo will cost your artist’s or shop’s minimum, which is usually 100 dollars or greater
Shops and tattooers charge minimums—which you can commonly find listed on the FAQ page of their websites—to ensure they’re making a decent wage and to help cover any fixed costs associated with the tattooing process. While minimum amounts vary from place to place and can increase based on artist experience, the expenses these charges help pay for are generally the same. “Disposable needles, ink, rent, and an artist’s time spent both drawing the design and tattooing, among other things,” says Koo. “Most clients don’t think about the time their tattoo artist spends drawing the design before an appointment, but we always include that in our final price as well.”
It’s for this same reason that Randell often discounts her flash drawings. Because flash pieces are pre-designed—she draws them in advance and clients can claim them—she doesn’t have to charge for the time spent drawing the tattoos, although this comes with a stipulation outlined on her website—no adjustments can be made to flash.
Artist experience typically results in a higher forearm tattoo cost, but some tattooers are committed to making their experience more accessible
The more experienced the tattoo artist, in general, the more costly their tattoos, which is why it’s not surprising that a shop with brand and artist cachet and celebrity clientele, like Bang Bang in New York (which has a 500 dollar studio minimum), charges more than novice tattooers actively looking to build their brands and attract new clients. Similarly, at Ink & Water, where the shop minimum is 100 dollars, this amount can vary slightly from artist to artist depending on their experience (as such, Koo’s work is a bit pricier, starting at 300 dollars), so there’s no guessing game when you’re wondering how much does a forearm tattoo cost.
Still, some experienced tattooers, like Randell, for instance, work hard to make their artistry as accessible as possible.“My minimum is 200 dollars, but I’m usually drawing bigger pieces and I charge a flat rate for each design that goes above my minimum, rather than an hourly rate,” she explains. “I try to make tattoos more affordable for the people I tattoo since I work with a lot of Black folks and other people of color who have traditionally been excluded from this community.”
Not ready to go under the needle? Consider an Inkbox Tattoo, which looks like a permanent tattoo but only lasts for one to two weeks, fading naturally over that period of time. Just a heads up, Inside Out is powered by the folks at Inkbox. It’s all part of our shared mission to empower you to tell your unique story, be it for now or forever.
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