HOW LONG DOES TATTOO TAKE?
It can be hard to determine your ideal budget for a tattoo; how long does a tattoo take?
It depends on a lot of things! First, think really clearly about what you’re looking for. My hope is that you decide what YOU want, and determine your budget after deciding exactly what you want your tattoo to be, instead of letting your budget limit or determine what your tattoo looks like.
Placement plays a huge part in determining how long a tattoo takes. In general, arms and legs are ideal canvases for tattoo art- with even, singular planes to work on. This rule changes when you want your tattoo to wrap around an arm or leg, which requires a lot of readjustments to your sitting position during your tattoo session.
Generally, rib and stomach tattoos take the longest. A simple tattoo that would be on a low price range if placed on a leg could potentially double in price if placed on the ribs or stomach. This is because the skin stretches significantly, and tattooing takes twice as long with more skin to work with. They are also painful places to get tattooed, and may require lots of breaks for your comfort, or cause trembling, which can make it more difficult for me to work smoothly. Other painful, or difficult-to-stretch placements, include necks, hands, feet, under-chin/jaw, and ears.
Big pieces, in general, take longer. Big pieces especially take longer when in wrapping or complex placements, include freehanding, or include a lot of heavy black of line detail. But if you want a very small, fine-line tattoo with a lot of detail, that may take just as long as a large piece with simple linework & minimal details. This is because the ultra fine line tight bugpin needles I use for tiny details must be used with a delicate, careful hand and slower application or they can easily “blow out” (permanently bruise or scar). Just because you want a small piece doesn’t necessarily mean it will cost less than if it were larger! This is a bit confusing, because I can pack a lot more solid, consistent, and visible (well-aging) detail into a larger tattoo. That being said, size is less important than detail…
Desired amount of detail can make a huge difference in how long a tattoo takes: often, my outlining takes half the time, and building texture takes an equal amount of time to finish the tattoo. If you think of it this way, a minimalist linework tattoo takes half the time as a fully-fleshed out and textured tattoo!
I don’t mind making simple linework tattoos, but most people who are interested in my work are usually seeking a more “complete” looking piece with high contrast made using linework inspired by etchings & woodblock prints, as well as texture built via dotwork and pepper-shading. When submitting a proposal, think about what level of detail you are interested in: do you like a lot of texture, or a lot of negative space (skin)? Generally, animals like birds or mammals with a lot of feathers or fur, require high levels of various texture and mark-making. Contrast is important in building differentiation between the shapes in a drawing, especially in a tattoo that will change and fade with age (as tattoos are wont to do— use sunscreen, y’all!)
Generally, I believe that my work looks best with texture and contrast. I am open to working on adding detail to your piece in a second session if you cannot afford it in the first, and also open to checking in with you as we add detail to make sure we don’t push over your pain threshold or budget.
If you want areas of solid black in your tattoo, count on your tattoo taking longer than if that area was pepper-shaded (layers of whipped dots, similar look to pointillism) or more minimalistic. This is especially true of large sections of solid black fill, and even more true of rib or stomach pieces with large sections of black. This is perhaps the most true in cases where you want the tattoo to be predominantly black, with negative space (skin) revealing the tattoo design— ie, tight un-tattooed spaces surrounded by black. (Think like an xray tattoo, for example, a black cat sillhouette with small negative space bones making up the skeleton).
Finally, read my sliding scale payment policy and determine what you think you can afford.
ABOUT SPEED: I do not race through a tattoo. I often take my time building up linework to create tapered, illustrative linework, using fine, tight, bugpin liner needles that blow out if I am racing the clock. This is why I ask for you to tell me your budget before we begin: I try to design or prepare a tattoo that reflects what you are looking for, at a price you have agreed to and would prefer. When you propose your tattoo idea and your ideal budget, you are telling me what you are looking for. re: size, placement, and detail level. Generally, I do not surprise you by exceeding your specified budget at the end of a tattoo. It is my hope that this decreases the anxiety that an hourly rate can often impart, and will prevent clients from tapping out early because of budget-related anxiety.