Tattoo artist salaries vary widely by region. In the United Kingdom, tattoo artists average £19,916 per year. In the United States and Canada, they average between $31,000 and $35,000 USD annually. In Switzerland and Australia, salaries are around $50,000 per year, and in Norway, the average tattoo artist grosses more than NOK250,000 per year. Experience impacts compensation and in most countries experienced artists make at least one and a half times the annual salary of their entry level counterparts. This article will discuss all the aspects that influence tattoo artist salaries in the countries listed above.
Tattoo Artist Salary Influencers
Since tattooing is both an art and a skill, its value is subjective and as such, it is difficult to identify all the nuanced factors that might impact compensation. Generally speaking, the service industry, geographical area serviced, and level of experience of the Artist will all impact final compensation.
Tattoos are personal services so the quality of the experience a tattoo artist provides is as important as the quality of their work. Tattoo artists receive bonuses and tips, which can increase their annual bring home wages. As individual operators, they have the ability to improve their customer’s experience by offering value adds like television, magazines, or video games to entertain clients while they wait. Offering additional services like microblading, spa treatments, temporary tattoos, or even tarot reading are all ways for artists to earn more by appealing to their base clientele.
The tattoo industry is divided into niches and each niche has many specializations. Cosmetic tattooing, popular in the US and UK, costs more than single color tattoos that take the same amount of time in regular parlors. The more intricate and time intensive the tattoo is, the more it costs, and the more the artist earns.
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Tattoo Artist Salary in the US
In the United States, tattoo artists are paid a low salary but have the potential to earn high bonuses and commissions. The median salary for tattoo artists in the United States is about $30,000 but the average commissions are around $150,000 per year. This is because artists who specialize in complex designs are able to charge more. In the United States, ‘tattoo collectors’ spend upwards of $2,000 per year for complex designs.
Tattoo Artist Salary in the UK
The average UK tattoo artist makes around £20,000 per year. In addition to their salaries, experienced artists in the UK earn forty to fifty percent commission on their bookings, with the remainder of the balance going to the shop. Living in or around a major city is important for UK artists, since most won’t travel to the countryside for a tattoo.
Tattoo Artist Salary in Canada
Not only is the tattoo industry difficult to break into in Canada, compensation is typically low while artists build their portfolios and client base. Many entry level tattoo artists are required to complete six-month unpaid apprenticeships before they can even touch their first client. Once an artist has some experience, they will typically earn between C$30,000- C$50,000 ($20,000- 34,000) each year and fifty percent commissions on their sales.
Tattoo Artist Salary in Australia
Tattoo artists earn above average salaries in Australia, but there are hidden costs to becoming a tattoo artist. Like in Canada, apprenticeships are often informal and unpaid, and most artists will not consider an apprentice unless they already have great tattoos themselves. Still, even entry level tattoo artists in Australia average a salary of $35,000 ($22,000) per year, with the potential to earn annual bonuses as well.
Tattoo Artist Salary in Switzerland
Japanese style tattoos are wildly popular in Switzerland so artists that specialize in that style of tattooing thrive there. There are not many tattoo operators in Switzerland so having an existing relationship with a tattoo parlor before moving there seems prudent. Artists average CHF50,000 ($45,000 per year but depending on the level of difficulty of their work could also earn bonuses and tips.
Tattoo Artist Salary in Norway
Norwegians earn some of the highest wages in the world. Not surprisingly, their tattoo artists are better compensated than most of the other countries listed. The average tattoo artist salary of NOK256,000 is equivalent to $40,000 or $34,000. Most of the tattoo parlors in Norway are in or near Oslo, so artists should expect to live and work in the city.
Generally speaking, a beginner tattoo artist is someone one to three years out of their apprenticeship, and a senior tattoo artist is someone who has eight or more years of experience.
The exception to this is Canada, where you are considered a beginner for the first five years.
Beginners in Norway earn around NOK220,000 per year, but seniors can earn upwards of NOK350,000. In Switzerland artists earn less than CHF35,000 until they become senior artists. Then they can expect to earn CHF75,000 or more. Apprentices in the UK only earn £100 per week, but entry level artists earn around £13,000 per year and move up to a salary of nearly £30,000. In the United States, entry level artists earn around $20,000 per year and senior artists earn around $46,000 per year, but since tattooing the United States is a tipping culture, actual earnings could be much higher.
Tattoo artists work long, late hours and often spend time outside of work creating new designs, promoting their work on social media, cleaning their equipment, or learning some form of technology that helps make their work stand out from the pack. Most tattoo parlors are open from afternoon until well after midnight.
Bonus and Benefit Packages
When tattoo artists work as independent contractors, they don’t receive most benefits like medical, dental, or life insurance They also don’t get salaries or paid time off. If the tattoo artist works as an employed operator, their company may be required by law to provide them with employee benefits. In most countries, salaried artists receive an annual bonus and at least some paid time off.
Tattoo artistry is a growing industry, especially among adults under the age of 45. In the United States, one in four millennials has a tattoo, nearly twice the amount of people with tattoos from their parents’s generation. As celebrities continue to become international stars, the tattoo trends they inspire indicates that the popularity of tattoos will continue to grow. Since tattoo artists are mainly individual operators, no single chain has a dominant market share in any of the countries discussed.
Outside of Canada, gaining entry to the tattoo industry is fairly simple. If one has a passion for tattoos and artistic talents, they can apprentice for six months to a year and begin to earn a living wage. After just eight years of experience they are considered a master of their craft. And as the popularity of tattoos grows, the demand for innovative design and expertly niche work will continue to rise. As with all art, the value of a tattoo is subjective, allowing individual artists to set their prices based on value.
Being a tattoo artist can be a financially and emotionally rewarding career for a talented artist with an eye for detail and unique design. The basic tattoo artist salary might not be as high as that of other professional designer and artists. However, tattoo artists can benefits from bonuses, and with experience and dedication, a tattoo artist salary can grow quite quickly.