Phoenix is filled with highly skilled tattoo artists of all styles and backgrounds. From old-school Sailor Jerry designs to the newest in fine-art tattooing, you can find just about anything you want — if you know where to look.
This weekend’s Body Art Expo, for instance, brings more than 200 tattoo artists to the Arizona State Fairgrounds from Friday, February 10, through Sunday, February 12.
But plenty of artists hold down the Valley’s ink scene year-round.
While we won’t tell you exactly whom you should go to for each tattoo, here are 10 awesome Phoenix tattooers that you’ll definitely want to check out.
Some tattooers create awesome art but suck as people. Some are great people who put out lackluster tattoos. The owner of Phoenix's High Noon Tattoo, 4215 North 16th Street, is an amazing artist who has donated plenty of time and effort to help get the CP Force Foundation (helping kids with lifelong illnesses and disabilities create art) off the ground. He's one of the guys behind the Grand Canyon Tattoo Convention — and Sarratt is among the Valley’s top Star Wars tattooers. So if you need Boba Fett depicted as a bold and bright neotraditional tattoo, Sarratt should be your top choice.
If you’re looking for someone to do bold lines and bright colors, you might want to visit Mesa’s Urban Art Tattoo, 340 West University Drive, and ask for Tony. His neotraditional tattoos are world-class, but he’s also totally capable of busting out some top-notch old-school American traditional pieces if asked. Klett follows the “20-20 rule," meaning you should be able to identify the content of a tattoo from 20 feet away within 20 seconds, and he makes them look great at the same time.
Oh, so you wanted some super-skillful, realistic, black-and-gray tattoos? Josh Duffy’s got you covered. From skulls and demons to the most beautiful lady faces and roses, Duffy can make some seriously insane stuff with just a tattoo machine and some black ink. Before opening up Peoria's Black Castle Art Co., 9009 West Lake Pleasant Parkway, Duffy cut his teeth in SoCal’s competitive tattooing scene.
Aaron “Bubba” Irwin
If you're a casual tattoo fan, Bubba Irwin may be one of the only Phoenix-based tattooers you’d recognize. The owner of Scottsdale's Old Town Ink, 7154 East Second Street, Irwin had a brief stint on Ink Master, but he’d rather be in his shop knocking out everything from black-and-gray portraits to the occasional color realism tattoo. Besides all that, he’s one of the few guys in the Valley who does consistently solid biomechanical tattoos. If you want to make a body part look robotic, he’s one of the few recommended options in the area.
Ever heard some ignorant dude say “women can’t tattoo” or something along those lines? You can rest assured that he sucks, and also that he’s never seen Meg McNiel’s work. While plenty of other people are attempting to make tattooing more complicated than it really needs to be, McNiel keeps busy in her private studio just churning out one impeccable old-school tattoo after another. For Sailor Jerry, Owen Jensen, or other designs that have been around for the better part of a century, there’s no one better.
With all the traditional, neotraditional, and fine-line black-and-gray tattooers in the Valley, there’s a bit of a shortage when it comes to Japanese-style tattoo artists. Filling that gap, Mark Walters does a wide range of Japanese designs, although like most Japanese-style tattooers he focuses primarily on bigger pieces. As one of the most trusted veteran tattooers in Arizona, the owner of Tempe’s Living Canvas Tattoos Inc., 930 South Mill Avenue, books up well in advance, so you’ll want to schedule accordingly.
With a more detailed and unique take on old-school tattoos in both color and colorless traditional styles, Mario G is creating art unlike anyone else in the Valley. From the illustrative to the most classic ship and panther designs, every tattoo that Mario G has a touch of his distinct style. A staple at Tempe’s Lady Luck Tattoo Gallery, 961 East Guadalupe Road (not to be confused with Lady Luck Tattoo in Phoenix), Mario G will be cranking out his signature tattoos for years to come.
William “Boomer” Baker
Do you have a loved one you really want to honor with a detailed portrait — but you’re really worried that the tattooer will mess it up and you’ll have a deformed version of your beloved etched into your skin forever? Well, you can put that worry to rest, as Boomer of Glendale’s Fifth Finger Studio, 6666 West Peoria Avenue, will create a portrait for you that’ll look so good you'll feel like it belongs in a gallery. He also created a lot of the art you’ll see hanging around his studio, so you’ll get a visual of just how good he is.
If there’s one woman tattooer in Phoenix who’s really come into her own recently, it’s probably Nicole McCord of Revival Art Collective, 335 West McDowell Road. Her big beautiful pieces border on fine art, but they can also be dark enough for even the toughest of tattooed people. You may not want to go for her for a tiny wrist tattoo, but that back piece you’ve been saving up for is right up her alley.
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For classic traditional and neotraditional tattoos, Jimmy Gee of Tempe's No Regrets Tattoo Parlor, 1006 West University Drive, is one of the most underrated artists in the Valley. A young tattooer who’s still on the rise, Gee figures to have a bright future ahead of him as one of the most solid ink-slingers in all of Tempe. From scorpions to skulls, reapers to roses, Gee’s got all of your colorful tattooing needs covered.
Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version, which first appeared in January 2016.