Tattoo Touch Up Cost

How Much Do Tattoo Touch Ups Cost?

Last Updated on January 30, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Tattoo touch ups are an important part of keeping your body art looking its best. But how much do they cost? In this article, we’ll break down the average prices and factors that influence tattoo touch up costs.

Getting a tattoo is often seen as a lifelong commitment and investment. However, like any long-term relationship, tattoos require maintenance and care for that new love to last.

Fading, blurring, and slight imperfections are normal over time. This is where tattoo touch ups come in. They are mini sessions with your artist to refresh, enhance, and maintain your existing ink.

How Much Do Tattoo Touch Ups Cost?

The cost of tattoo touch ups can range quite a bit, typically starting around $50 to $100 and going up from there. However, more complex and detailed touch up work can cost between $200 to $500 per hour. Rates vary based on the tattoo studio, artist, area, and extent of the work needed.

Certified Tattoo Studios notes that touch-ups typically start at around $50 and can go up from there.

Reddit r/tattooadvice members recommended leaving a $10 to $20 tip for a touch-up, and the cost could range from $40 to $80 for a small touch-up at a new studio.

According to SAKI LEE Tattoo, touch-ups are a separate cost of $200 and are scheduled 6-12 weeks from the time of the initial appointment.

What is a Tattoo Touch Up?

A touch up is when you go back to your tattoo artist after your tattoo has healed to fix any imperfections or make small changes. It allows the artist to go over the lines again, sharpen edges, intensify color, fill in gaps, and correct blowouts or uneven sections.

Touch ups are usually needed due to minor flaws in the initial application and natural fading over time. They make sure your tattoo continues to look crisp and vibrant for years to come.

Factors That Influence Touch Up Costs

Several key factors determine how much a tattoo touch up will cost:

  • Tattoo size – Larger and more complex tattoos take more time and work to touch up. A full sleeve or back piece touch up costs more than a small finger tattoo refresh.
  • Detail level – Highly detailed tattoos with intricate line work and coloring require meticulous touch up work and therefore higher prices. Simpler designs are quicker and cheaper.
  • Color vs. blackwork – Color tattoos usually cost more per hour, as coloring is more labor-intensive. Blackwork may be cheaper for touch ups.
  • Tattoo age – A newer tattoo that just needs a little tune up is faster than refreshing an old, faded tattoo. The older the tattoo, the more work it requires.
  • Tattoo quality – Poorly done tattoos require more corrections and may be harder to fix up. A cleanly applied tattoo is easier to touch up.
  • Artist’s rates – Prices vary between artists. Reputable artists or those in high demand charge more per hour.
  • Number of sessions needed – More complicated touch up jobs may require multiple treatments over several weeks or months.
  • Studio minimums – Some shops have minimum service fees, usually around $50 to $100.

Choosing the Right Tattoo Artist for Touch Ups

Ideally, you should go back to the original artist who did your tattoo for any touch up work. They are familiar with the tattoo and their own technique. However, this isn’t always possible. When selecting a new artist for touch ups, look for the following:

  • An artist skilled in the same style as your tattoo – realism, new school, tribal, etc.
  • A portfolio showing quality repair and touch up work
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Excellent line work abilities
  • An artist open to critiquing another’s work to enhance it
  • Good communication skills and listening
  • Someone professional who puts your needs first

Higher hourly rates often reflect greater experience and technical tattoo skills that translate into better touch up work. However, don’t assume hourly price always means quality work. Look at their portfolio first.

We also have articles on the cost of a tattoo, a henna tattoo, and nose piercing.

The Process of Tattoo Touch Ups

Here is what you can expect during a typical touch up appointment:

  1. Consultation – The artist will assess your tattoo, faded areas, and imperfections that need freshening up. They determine the work required and expected results.
  2. Price discussion – Based on time needed and complexity, the artist will quote you a price for the touch up work. More sessions may be required.
  3. Prep work – The area is cleaned and shaved if needed. Stencils may be applied to guide the touch up.
  4. Touch up tattooing – Using a tattoo machine, the artist may go over faded lines, enhance coloring, and make other corrections over 1-3 hours.
  5. Aftercare instructions – Just like the initial tattoo, proper aftercare is essential for quick healing and longevity of your touch up.
  6. Follow up session(s) – Approximately 4-6 weeks later, you may return for another session to maximize results.

Most touch ups take 1-3 hours depending on size of the tattoo. Budget $100 per hour as an average touch up cost. Sleeves or back pieces may cost $200 to $500 for more extensive amount of work.

Tattoo Care and Longevity

Tattoo retouch before and afterProper tattoo care is key to minimizing fading and the need for frequent touch ups. Here are some tips:

  • Apply tattoo balm 2-3 times a day during healing. Keep it moisturized.
  • Avoid sun exposure and tanning which fades ink. Wear sunscreen on tattoos.
  • Don’t pick scabs or scratch tattoos during healing.
  • Exfoliate and hydrate skin to prevent dryness and itching.
  • Avoid swimming pools, hot tubs, and long baths during healing.
  • Follow your artist’s aftercare sheet closely for at least 2-4 weeks.

With proper care, most tattoos only need a touch up once every 2-5 years if at all. Schedule a checkup with your artist yearly to assess if your tattoos need any tune ups.

Tattoo Touch Up vs. Full Tattoo Cost Comparison

Tattoo touch ups are always cheaper than getting the whole tattoo redone. Since they involve working on small sections of existing ink, they take a fraction of the time compared to full tattoos.

Here is a cost comparison example between touch up and full tattoo costs:

  • Full black and grey upper arm tattoo – $400 to $600
  • Black and grey upper arm tattoo touch up – $100 to $250
  • Full color half sleeve – $600 to $1000
  • Color half sleeve touch up – $150 to $350

As you can see, touch ups offer major cost savings, especially for large pieces. Even smaller tattoos cost half as much or less to touch up versus complete redo.

When to Consider a Touch-Up

Here are common signs it may be time to schedule a touch up:

  • Fading lines and edges – crispness is lost
  • Colors seem washed out or muted
  • Sections are blurry or blowout
  • Missing fine details and highlights
  • Problems fully healing like scarring
  • Imperfections you now notice
  • Changes you want to make – dates, names, minor edits

For the best results, start checkups after year one, even if all looks perfect. Minor imperfections are often only noticed years later when more fading occurs. Touch ups every 2-5 years help tattoos stand the test of time.


While tattoos are meant to last forever, most need occasional maintenance through touch ups in the future. This preserves their vibrancy and keeps your investment looking great.

Tattoo touch ups range from $50 to $500+ based on size, detail, colors and the artist. Larger and more complex designs require more work and cost more per session.

Doing proper aftercare and avoiding sun damage helps tattoos hold up longer between touch ups. If you budget in advance, the expense seems more manageable. Overall, touch up costs are minor compared to getting a whole new tattoo.


Do tattoo artists do touch ups for free?

Most professional tattoo artists do not offer free touch ups. Minor imperfections or blowouts needing a quick 10-15 minute fix may be comped or discounted after the initial appointment.

However, more extensive touch up work will incur standard shop minimums and hourly artist rates. Tattooing supplies, equipment, and the artist’s time cost money, so quality touch up work is rarely free.

Is it worth touching up a tattoo?

For most tattoos, yes periodic touch ups are worth it. They rejuvenate fading or blurry tattoos and correct flaws, essentially giving your tattoo a facelift. Touch ups enhance the legibility, colors, details, and overall quality of the tattoo.

If you value maintaining your body art long-term, occasional minor touch ups every 2-5 years are advised. However, a severely damaged or poorly executed tattoo may require a complete cover up versus touch up.

How often should you get a tattoo touched up?

Industry experts recommend having your tattoos assessed yearly after the first year. This allows you to monitor any fading or blurring that may be occurring early. While some tattoos may hold up to 2-5 years or more before needing a refresh, it’s good to be proactive.

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