How much does a sleeve tattoo cost?

So, you’re thinking about getting a tattoo but first you want to do your research and make sure its affordable. There are a few things that can impact the cost of getting a permanent tattoo. It really depends on the tattoo you choose, where on your body it’s going to be, location of the shop and who’s doing it. Let’s break it down to give you a bit more insight into what you can expect to pay. 

What is a sleeve tattoo?

There are four types of sleeve tattoos and they all come with different styles

  • Half sleeve: Starts from the top of the shoulder to the elbow.
  • Full Sleeve: This one starts from the top of the shoulder down to the wrist
  • Hikae sleeve: A Japanese-style sleeve tattoo that covers some of the chest area and flows down to the elbow or the wrist.
  • Quarter sleeve: Begins from the top of the shoulder and goes down midway to the elbow.

To complete a full sleeve tattoo, it can take an average time of 10-15 hours assuming that you’ll heal okay and there are no complications. Always estimate that it can take longer so you are prepared and there aren’t any financial surprises. When you are getting a sleeve tattoo it is usually split into sessions that last between 3-6 hours unless of course you have a high pain tolerance. Make no mistake, if you sit there for a long period of time, it will become rather difficult to cope. If you’re a beginner its best to split your sessions.

What about the costs?

So, we’ve talked about how long it might take for your tattoo to be completed and now taking that into consideration lets look at the costs.

Tattoo artists charge an average of $100 per hour for a full sleeve, that comes out to about $1,500. If the design is complex and has fine details that need to be added, then this cost can easily scale to around $4000 as it may take 30 plus hours to complete. If you’re choosing to get half a sleeve or less, then this cost will reduce drastically. Half a sleeve should cost you less than $2000 for a non-complex design.

Choosing a good tattoo shop

In the tattoo industry reputation is everything. The reason its important is because people are making choices that can impact their lives and if mistakes are made it can have huge consequences. Don’t take shortcuts when choosing a shop. If you’re looking for a cheap shop, then you’re doing it wrong. Don’t take any risks in order to save some money. Read more about how to find a good tattoo shop here.

Working with a popular tattoo artist

If a tattoo artist is popular this usually means that they are sought after and as a result of their popularity you can expect to pay more for their time. This is the same with all things in life. The more popular something or someone is then the more it usually costs to acquire the goods or their services. Look at the list below to see what the top 3 most popular artists are charging for their work.

Scott is known to charge around $2000 per hour and $200 for every extra hour. Scott has worked with Celebrities such as Josh Hartnett and Marc Jacobs.

Scott and Mark Jacobs

Marc Jacobs being tattooed by Scott CampbellPhotography Craig McDean, via WWD

Ami is the second most expensive tattoo artist in the world. This is most likely because he is a regular on the TLC shows “NY INK” and “Miami Ink”. Ami charges $500 per hour.

Ami James

Ami James photo by Mike Nybroe

This guy is very well known for his tribal tattoo designs. Anil will give you a tattoo like no other for around $450 per hour.

Anil at his studio

Credit to

If you choose to get a tattoo from one of the biggest players in the game its vital that you have the extra funds set aside in case, you need extra time. It goes without saying, if an artist is super popular, you’ll need to book months in advance to guarantee you can have your consultation and the book in your sessions.

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