From the thickly inked backs of the Yakuza to that specious tribal squiggle your aunt has on her ankle, tattoos are a staple of the human experience. And as body art rapidly sheds its social stigmatization it’s high time to get that cute bird on your hip or sleeve. You won't even have to suffer too much shade from your co-workers or relations.
Luckily for DFW, a cornucopia of styles and shops are available for those ready to go under the needle. From award-winning artists to shops with deep roots embedded in the local community, you’ll likely find the right person for the job with a little window shopping. Whether you’re looking to memorialize the momentous or take control of your outward appearance, these 10 local parlors have your back, front or whatever other empty piece of skin-canvas is due for decoration.
Listed in no particular order, here are a few decent starting points for your journey toward becoming a more complete version of yourself or finally getting Bowser playing a double-neck guitar, behind a field of flames and marijuana leaves, permanently affixed to your shoulder.
Dark Age Tattoo Studio
124 W. Oak St., Denton
The fact that Dark Age’s virtuoso tattoo gunner and owner, Rember Orellana, has a waitlist stretching into 2018 should be the first sign that these guys mean business. Right off of Denton’s historic square, the talented artists at Dark Age have been named the best in 2016 by the Dallas Observer. Their blend of stunning realism and Escher-meets-Giger surrealism makes this shop one of the most dynamic in Denton. Both recent press and customers have been more than enthused to sing the praises of Dark Age even after only two years of operation. This rapidly growing shop is gearing up for a pop-up art show Oct. 25 at 940’s Kitchen and Cocktails if you’re interested in getting a closer look at what makes their style so popular.
Rebel Muse Tattoo
570 S. Edmonds Lane, Suite 101, Lewisville
While some tattoo parlors may settle for simple designs and more classical representations of daggers and “MOM” emblazoned hearts, Rebel Muse strives to give customers a taste of a more “art gallery gala” aesthetic. Opened in 2012 by the formally trained Liz Cook and iconoclastic veteran David Mushaney, Rebel Muse takes an art house approach to American traditional designs while delving deep into their artists' own backgrounds and familiarity with art itself. From Wes Brown’s grotesque realism, Cook’s delicate layers of detail and Mushaney’s own “Trash Polka” style, Rebel Muse will make your arm look fit for a frame.
Elm Street Tattoo (pictured at top)
2811 Elm St.
Best known for their $13 Friday the 13th tats and Elm Street Tattoo’s Music and Tattoo Festival, Elm Street is the quintessential image of Dallas parlors. At his shop in the heart of Deep Ellum, Elm Street owner and Ink Master judge Oliver Peck is a needle wizard when it comes to old school tattoos. Offering some of the best examples of traditional and neo-traditional American styles, as well as Japanese and geometric pieces, Elm Street is the perfect place to dip your toes in the tattoo lifestyle. Their artists live and die for tattoos, making their timeless work a thing of beauty.
4544 Belt Line Road
Featuring a revolving door of tattooing’s best and brightest, Cat Tattoo has established itself as an institution in the nomadic world of artisanal tattooing. Functioning as a training ground for future stars of the industry, including Rember Orellana (the guy who’s currently booked through 2018) as well as a gateway for artists the world over — including Russia’s Roman Ignatenko, who’ll be slinging ink at Cat till Nov. 5 — Cat Tattoo is at the epicenter of DFW tattoos. Focusing solely on custom tats, Cat lets its artists’ own style shine through in every piece. The perfectionist in you will have a field day working with Cat Tattoo’s staff to create the perfect art for any body part you so desire.
Cedar Springs Tattoo
4008 Cedar Springs Road
With generous prices and hours of operation, Cedar Springs Tattoo is probably one of the most customer friendly shops on this list. Offering a cavalcade of traditional and neo-traditional designs as well as custom pieces, Cedar Springs puts a friendly face on the risky business of getting inked up. Vibrant colors and clean lines are the specialty here and their half-price first Friday specials (specifically for American traditional pieces) will help ease your initiation into the world of tattoos. You’ll be in good hands with Cedar Spring’s artists and walk out proudly flaunting the half-naked mermaid dancing on your flexing bicep.
1929 Greenville Ave.
Last Angels is a neighborhood shop with teeth. Their award-winning staff blends styles with ease, like owner Gerald Garcia’s neo-traditional realism or JD Moore’s incorporation of intricate geometric design. And maybe best of all, Last Angels gives customers the comfort of private “individual tattoo offices,” meaning the raven tat you’ve always wanted on your chest won’t be ogled by the peanut gallery during application. And given the level of intricacy and number of styles offered by Last Angels, you’ll want to go bigger and badder in the privacy of this parlor.
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Gold Dust Tattoos & Fine Art
1902 Greenville Ave.
For the slightly skittish, Gold Dust lets customers peruse their collection of fine art, including work by owner and custom tattoo specialist Char McGaughy, before committing to become works of art themselves. Artists such as Roque Mendez will craft stunningly realistic representations of your deepest fantasies in permanent fashion. These homegrown artists will treat you like family while you wait and needle beautiful images that represent a passion that’s far from skin deep.
Death or Glory Tattoo
5623 Bell Ave.
Despite the increasing acceptance of tattoos in modern society, sometimes you still want to feel like a badass. Death or Glory, residing in a converted house on the outskirts of a residential area, is the perfect place to maintain your edge while getting some fresh ink. From tribal to realistic, Death or Glory can do it all, sans the feeling of walking into a mainstream joint. Their gruffness is, however, a fond remembrance of the glory days of tattooing. Death or Glory gives the old school a booster shot by crafting brilliant designs with intense colors, all while maintaining the rebel nature of tattooing itself.
Tiger Moon Tattoo
2051 W. Northwest Highway
Tiger Moon is another great choice if you're looking to ease into your first tattoo, with a comfortable space and a knowledgeable staff who won’t mislead you when it comes to crafting a permanent symbol of expression. Tiger Moon embraces the communal aspects of tattoo culture, they’ll walk you through the process if you're struggling to pick out your first design or if you're looking to turn an unwanted tattoo into a welcome addition to your body’s largest organ.
Randy Adams Tattoo Studio
6467 E. Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth
Randy Adams is an icon of the DFW tattoo scene. Their owner boasts nearly 50 years of experience and has worked with the likes of Pantera members and more. Walking out of this shop with the fresh burn of a new tattoo constitutes becoming a part of history, as this shop has marked some of Texas’ most enduring musicians. Featuring artists who are talented at creating unique and complex designs, this shop will send you out the door with a sense of pride and a piece of history you'll carry for life.