Getting a hand tattoo is a big decision. Though perhaps not the first thing someone notices, our hands often catch the eyes of those around us. We type, gesture, eat, drink, and greet others using our hands, so it’s normal to glance at other people’s hands without a second thought. But, when those hands house something particularly interesting – notable nail art, maybe an injury or a ring we’re into, or a tattoo – we take notice.
In preparation for any tattoo, but perhaps even more so for something as central as a hand piece, several questions might cross your mind. What design do I want? Who is the right artist to tattoo this? Have they tattooed hands before? Do tattoos here hurt more than others? And, how much does a hand tattoo cost?
When it comes to the question of cost, the short answer is simply that it varies. To learn more about why, we chatted with artists who have collectively tattooed dozens of hands, to determine the top factors that can add to the price of a hand tattoo.
Hand tattoo cost factor: detail and style
Some tattoo styles are more involved than others. Where a minimalist black line design might just require one needle and a single shade of ink, a black and grey or full color realism piece will require several different inks and needles. That difference alone will affect the overall cost of a hand tattoo (and any tattoo).
According to Mira Mariah, a Brooklyn-based tattooer with a distinct, primarily black-line style, tattoos generally become more expensive as you add detail or as the style becomes more complex. She notes that this isn’t always the case though, and even more minimal styles can set clients back a decent chunk of money because to tattoo simplified designs well requires a great deal of precision that can only be achieved through time and practice.
Hand tattoo cost factor: size and time
Many artists charge hourly rates when tattooing. Despite the variability between tattooers and studios, the math of hourly rates is simple: the longer it takes to tattoo, the more it costs. And hands, by their complex nature, can take even more time, adding to the price of the design.
“Often, you will spend more time tattooing a hand than other parts of the body. It’s a window piece, meaning it is always exposed and seen, so [it’s best to] take your time on it,” says Bastien Jean, resident artist at Studio Sans Regret in Montreal. “On such a small surface, the type of skin and anatomy under it changes a lot. You have tendons, bones, knuckles, side palm, so it requires adapt[ing] your technique, speed, and depth from one inch to another, one line to another. All those factors can affect the total cost.”
For artists who charge by the hour, size also factors into the amount of time a design takes to complete and, therefore, its ultimate price. But not all artists charge per hour. Many price per piece instead. Another Montreal-based artist who frequently tattoos hands but wanted to remain anonymous so costs were kept between himself and clients explained that most of his hand pieces don’t take more than 30 minutes to finish, but time isn’t as relevant to him as his costs are largely correlated to size. For a partial hand tattoo he charges $120 (his minimum) while a full hand tattoo costs around $200.
Hand tattoo cost factor: artist
The top reason it’s impossible to say just how much a hand tattoo costs is because artist rates are so variable. While our unnamed Montreal tattooer prices most of his hand designs between $120 and $200, Jean says his hand pieces usually fall between the $200 to $400 range. There’s no normal when it comes to tattoo costs. Artists determine their prices based on several unique factors, including experience, style, rent and materials costs, cost of living, etc.
Artists with name recognition and cachet, years of experience, or celebrity clientele typically come at a higher premium. There will be a significant difference in the cost between a hand tattoo from a new tattooer in a small town and an experienced big-time artist like L.A.’s Daniel Winter, Keith “Bang Bang” McCurdy, or JonBoy. “A tattooer might have been tattooing for twenty years and be able to bang your tattoo out in half an hour and it still might cost quite a bit because they put in twenty years of practice to get to that position,” explains Mariah.
Still, many experienced tattooers care about making sure their art form is accessible, so they intentionally keep their costs down. “Tattoos can’t be cheap for many reasons, but they can remain affordable,” says Jean.
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