Thinking about getting some ink on your calf? Start saving now. If you’re wondering how much does a calf tattoo cost, know that it can be expensive, and with good reason: tattooing is an art and a skill that artists spend their whole lives perfecting. Just how much are we talking about spending, though? More than anything, the answer to this question from artists across the country is the same as that of Carrie Smith, owner of New Rose Tattoo in Portland, OR: “It really depends on the design of a calf tattoo.”
Price factor: Your tattoo artist
One big factor affecting your tattoo’s price outside of the tattoo itself and its characteristics is where and with whom you choose to get your ink. Trusting a newer artist or shop with your tattoo can save you some money, but can bring with it a bit of uncertainty if you haven’t done your research when it comes to the quality of your artist. However, going to a widely known shop can make the price rise quickly, as you are paying for the experience and reputation that it brings, and, similarly, working with a famous or a experienced and respected artist tends to carry a higher price tag. Case in point: Hannah Aitchison, who appeared on LA Ink, charges an hourly rate of $225 with a minimum of 3 hours time spent.
Price factor: Design size and complexity
Beyond the shop minimum (the base price a shop will charge for a tattoo, no matter how quick it is to execute), which almost all tattoo shops have, the sky’s basically the limit with a calf tattoo. The beauty of choosing the calf area in particular is that it’s a smooth area with a good amount of size, so if you want to get creative with the design, this is one part of your body on which you can easily take advantage of all of that space. Vicky Sun, manager of Assassin Tattoo in Houston, talks about the great potential of the area for a tattooer’s perspective: “Because the the calf is flat and smooth, we can do something bigger and more elaborate. You can pretty much do anything! Maybe some watercolor, I personally have a quote in script. It really depends on personal taste, of course, but since the area is rather broad and flat, we’d recommend a bigger, more detailed piece.” Just keep in mind that the bigger and come complex the design, the higher the price will be!
Price factor: How long your tattoo takes
It may seem a bit obvious, but less time getting tattooed means less of the artist’s hourly you’ll need to pay. A tattoo can take more or less time to complete because of design components (see above), or because of the qualities of the area being inked and if it’s harder or easier to work with. The good news: “Because the skin [on the alf] is so taut, you don’t have to stretch or press as much,” says Sean Jaundice of Voodoo Monkey Tattoo in Cleveland, so calf tattoos are easier and faster for your tattoo artist to execute.
As it’s the combination of elements of your piece that will determine its price, it’s not really possible to get a specific price of a calf tattoo without speaking to your artist about the specific design you want, not to mention that the calf is an area that can vary widely in what you choose have done. That being said, Smith explains that “cost-wise, if it’s something super simple, we have a shop minimum of $100, but if it was something more elaborate and you’re covering the entire back of your leg, maybe including your foot, it would definitely be done in a couple of multi-hour sessions and could cost anywhere from $300 to $600 and more.”
“Our shop minimum is $50, so that would be something very small and simple, but if it’s something large, we would charge by the hour,” says Sun. “It depends on the detail of the design, but that could range from a few hours to 6 or 8 hours, which would add up quickly!”
When it comes to the higher end of the range, Jaundice notes, “I could do something for as much as $700 or 800 for the space I could be using on a calf.”
The bottom line
So, how much does a calf tattoo cost? Truthfully, what you’re planning on getting tattooed onto your leg—whether it’s a tiny black outline of a heart above your Achilles tendon is going to be priced very differently from a large, realistic portrait of a loved one—will be the biggest determining factor when it comes to cost. Remember, though, as the oft-echoed saying in the tattoo industry says, “good tattoos aren’t cheap, and cheap tattoos aren’t good,” so choose your artist and your design judiciously and you’ll end up with a piece that you’ll wear proudly on your calf for the rest of your life.
Related: How Much Does a Calf Tattoo Hurt?