Tattoos have evolved from mere markings on the body to massive pieces of detailed artwork, captivating enthusiasts and art collectors alike.
From celebrity tattoo artists to the use of jewels in tattooing, in this article, we'll take a look at the world's most expensive tattoos - and what causes them to generate such staggering price tags.
Factors that Affect a Tattoo's Price
Understanding what factors drive up a tattoo's cost can shed light on why some tattoos cost tens of thousands of dollars…or more.
1. Skill and Reputation of the Tattoo Artist
The skill, experience, and reputation of a tattoo artist can make a tattoo cost much more than a design you'd get from an average street shop (or even a local custom artist).
Artists who have established themselves as masters in their chosen tattoo style often charge higher rates due to their expertise and demand, with many tattoo artists being booked out years in advance.
Celebrity tattoo artists work almost exclusively with high-profile clientele, which contributes to their premium pricing. Many of these artists are "appointment-only," meaning their books are not open to the general public.
2. Complexity and Size of the Design Complexity
If a tattoo design is super complex, it will require more time and skill to do it right. This is especially true if the design covers a large area on the body. Large-scale projects involve more time, resources, and artistic planning - meaning a higher price tag for the client.
This is why styles that lend themselves to large pieces - like traditional Japanese tattooing - are known for being more expensive. They often require multiple sessions to finish (15+ hours).
3. Location and Accessibility of the Tattoo Studio
The physical location of a tattoo studio can impact the pricing. Popular cities with a thriving tattoo culture will not only attract skilled tattoo artists who charge higher rates, but it'll also raise the operating cost of the tattoo studio, which will reflect in the tattoo's price.
Traveling to Renowned Artists
If a client wants to get tattooed by a specific renowned artist, they might plan a trip to go to that artist. Adding plane tickets, a hotel stay, and other travel expenses can drive up the overall price of an individual's tattoo.
For example, tattoo artist Horitomo is booked out four years in advance, and his clients must travel to his California location. However, he is one of the few artists in the United States who performs the traditional Tabori (hand-tattooing) technique, making it well worth the trip for those who value the experience of this method.
The World's Most Expensive Tattoo
The world's most expensive tattoo isn't a tattoo in the conventional sense. This is because the tattoo was created with 612 Shimansky Ideal Cut .5 carat diamonds instead of ink, bringing the grand total of the tattoo to $924,000.
Most Expensive Tattoo Artists
While no other design comes close to matching the Shimansky tattoo, there are plenty of celebrity tattoo artists who charge a pretty penny for their work.
Celebrity Tattoo Artists
Bang Bang, who has tattooed celebrities including Rihanna, LeBron James, Kylie Jenner, Justin Bieber, and more will be paid tens of thousands of dollars for their work. For reference, the artists who simply work in his NYC shop, Bang Bang Tattoos, charge upwards of $700/hour.
Famous Tattoo Artists
There is a slight deviation from those who tattoo celebrities and artists who have become famous through social media and tattooing television shows themselves. Shows like Ink Master, LA Ink, and more have been known for launching previously unknown artists' careers. Artists like Kat Von D (400+ sitting fee =+ $200+/hr) and Ami James ($500/hr) fall into this category.
Pricey Tattoo Services
Some artists offer unconventional services that impact the price of their work.
Famed artist Joaquin Ganga and his team can charge $100,000/day because they tattoo in a doctor's office and use general anesthesia. Because the client is under anesthesia, they can get tattooed by multiple artists at once without having to take breaks or "push through" the pain. Post Malone is one of Ganga's well-known clients who took him up on this offer.
Tattoos can vary wildly in price. If it's made of jewels, a tattoo can cost nearly a million. If the client is put under anesthesia, getting inked can cost over $100,000 - while merely working with a celebrity artist can put the price tag at well over $10K. Or, if you're looking to get a detailed tattoo that covers most of your body, expect to drop around five grand or more.
And while the world's most expensive tattoos often result in jaw-dropping designs, they are the exception, and not the rule. Luckily, most tattoo artists charge a fairly modest price, allowing tattooing to be accessible to art lovers all over the world to enjoy.