“TattooGate” refers to a controversy that erupted on TikTok in May 2023. The incident began when Canadian TikToker Courtney Monteith (@running_mom_of_boys) shared a series of videos detailing her negative experience with a tattoo artist.
Monteith explained that she had wanted a fox half-sleeve tattoo and had reached out to an artist she admired on Instagram. She paid a $1,000 deposit and sent the artist her sketches, upon which the artist presented her with three options for a design fee.
The options ranged from $1,500 (which allowed for one minor design change) to $3,500 (which provided two concept sketches and a final design review), and up to $6,000 (which granted additional sketches, changes, and a canvas of the concept)1.
Monteith selected the first option, believing this fee would be deducted from the final cost of the tattoo. However, when the artist sent her the design concept, Monteith found it bore no resemblance to what she had envisioned. When she communicated this to the artist, she was told that a new design would cost her an additional $2,2602.
In a second video, Monteith shared email exchanges between herself and the artist, revealing the artist’s claim that the “design collab” fee was optional. Monteith asserted that she was not aware of this when she booked the appointment and that the artist did not make this clear on her website. The artist responded by offering another design at a slightly reduced price of $1,695, instead of $2,2603.
In a third video, Monteith shared another email from the artist who argued that without the design fee, Monteith would not have seen the design in advance. Monteith expressed her frustration, saying that at least she would have still had her $1,600. The artist accused Monteith of being “nasty,” but Monteith denied this, stating she had only asked the artist to be more upfront about the design fees. The artist refused to give a refund4.
The controversy inspired a broader discussion on TikTok about tattoo pricing and ethics. Many, including other tattoo artists, came out in support of Monteith5.