Tattooing has come a long way since the early days of a needle, thread and a vial of Indian ink. Back then, the only Americans showcasing body art were outlaw bikers, inmates and sailors. They were the days when getting a tattoo was a right of passage, and you were just as likely to die from ink poisoning as alcohol poisoning. Only two styles were available: Pike Style (tattoos coming out of Long Beach) and pseudo-Oriental – or “fake Americanized shit,” as it was fondly known.
Today, getting a tattoo is about as common as getting your haircut. Thousands of tattoo artists offer a variety of different styles from American Traditional to Realism. Shops are regulated and clean, and the images being created are so mind-blowingly detailed that it's easy to see why it's considered body art.
So in honor of this year's Elm Street Tattoo Festival, which takes place in November, we've once again scoured North Texas searching for the 13 best body art studios offering customers ink that pushes the art into unexpected new territory. With dozens of good shops offering ink in North Texas, narrowing the list down to 13 was tough, so we reached out to our outlaw friends — metal guitarists, 1 percent bikers and recovering prison addicts — to help us in our quest.
XIII. Saints and Sinners
Number 13 is the tattoo studio that should not be named. Its rules forbid it. “You don't talk about Saints and Sinners” appears twice on the rule sheet. Yet customers can't seem to quit talking about Saints and Sinners: “I gave [the tattoo artist] three words, and his imagination did the rest!” “The ambiance here feels like 'home,'” “I have ALS and am confined to a wheelchair, but they didn't bat an eye.” S&S offers two locations, one in Carrollton and the other in Dallas. It's a place where many people go to have their “ink cherry popped.” The tattoo artists are friendly and known for their artistry and professionalism.
XII. Blink Custom Art & Tattoos
Number 12's motto for customers is simple: “We believe that anything you put on your body should be a work of art.” Blink's tattoo artists specialize in custom designs, cover-ups and integrating new art with existing pieces. Batman and Catwoman, Jack and Lily, a pair of tigers wrestling on your back, whatever your fantasy, they can create your heart's desire as long as you're not in a hurry. Located in Dallas, the shop looks more like a lofty studio than a tattoo shop, but it's the perfect place for ink sculptors to create their art. One thing to keep in mind before you make an appointment, Blink takes its motto seriously: “We reserve the right to refuse to do any lame or generic copy jobs.”
XI. Urban's Tattoo Studio
Located in Arlington, this body art studio is the place to go if you're looking for quality regardless of price. “When it comes to tattoos, you get what you pay for,” the studio posted on its website. “Yes, there are plenty of people tattooing out there that will ink you cheap, and you'll be crying to a real artists to have it covered up.” The studio houses award-winning tattoo artists who specialize in realism, portraits, traditional, lettering and black & white art. It's also the only studio on this list that displays an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau on its website.
X. Tigger's Body Art
A Best of Tattoo list wouldn't be right without Tigger's Body Art making an appearance. Tigger's is a part of Deep Ellum. It's located off Main Street, and is one of the first shops to take tattooing out of the backroom and into the limelight. It also feels like time travel for many tattoo enthusiasts who continue to receive their ink at the oldest running tattoo shop in Dallas. Despite the recent renovations, you can still feel founder Mark Pruiett “Tigger” Lidell's presence in the shop.
IX. Artistic Encounter
This Dallas body art studio offers more than just ink; it's a tattoo cultural experience. Located near Commerce Street, Artistic Encounter is a full custom tattoo/body piercing shop and gallery and arguably one of the best shops in North Texas. “They are absofuckinglutly the best!” wrote one customer in his review. It's all about family for owner Billy Jack Gunter who creates a close bond with his award-winning artists and customers. Gunter strives to provide the highest quality tattooing experience by offering excellent customer care in an atmosphere that oozes talent and creativity.
VIII. J. Hall & Co. Gentleman Tattooers
Gentleman is not a label normally associated with tattoo artists, but the tattooists at J. Hall & Co. strive to offer a higher standard in tattoos at their parlor. Josh Hall and his staff create body art that heals faster and stands the test of time. Located in the historic Cedars neighborhood in Dallas, J. Hall & Co. specialize in large scale traditional tattoos, cover ups and laser tattoo removal. “Bad decisions, drunken mistakes and poor quality tattoos fixed or covered daily.”
VII. Davis Street Tattoo
Davis Street Tattoo specializes in custom work with emphasis in black and gray, Japanese-influenced and American Traditional art styles. The body art studio is located near the Kessler Theater in the historic north Oak Cliff neighborhood. It's an area known for its cultural diversity, which mixes well with the tattoo artists, all of whom strive turn ideas into body art.
VI. Tattoo Ranch
Located in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, Tattoo Ranch offers killer work and a memorable experience. This body art studio is world famous for having a “killer-looking shop” while offering quality body art to satisfy the tattoo itch that many enthusiasts feel whenever the urge strikes. The experienced tattoo artists can tattoo everything from a portrait of Michael Myers to killer-looking 3D skulls erupting from your skin. Customers claim that the studio's prices are reasonable and that the artists are “courteous and professional,” two ideals that rarely go hand-in-hand in the tattoo world, especially when you're dealing with drunks at 1 a.m. on the weekend.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
V. Heart & Soul Tattoo
Award-winning tattooist Zoey Hunter runs this body art studio in Lake Worth and offers custom work with loud color and extreme detail. She's entering her 17th year as a tattooist. She created the original Heart & Soul in California before opening a second location in North Texas. Zoey strives to offer traditional tattoo ethics and a street style shop that's friendly, clean and inviting. Chris Chrome, Bobby Heflin and Jake Hunter round out her crew. Some of her crew take walk-in clients, but Zoey can be scheduled by appointment only.
IV. Legacy Arts Tattoo
This body art studio is an award-winning custom studio with a lineup of experienced tattoo artists who tattoo everything from black and gray photo realism and Nu-Skool to bold full-color illustrations to Neo Traditional. Tattooist Moses Veliz is known as the “Picasso of body art,” but all the studio's artists are experts in their craft. Offering two locations in Dallas, Legacy Arts is the hotspot of cutting edge tattooing.
III. Rebel Muse
Rebel Muse offers body art from one of the best tattooist in North Texas, Liz Cook. She's the kind of tattooist who can make fantasy art by Boris Vallejo jump off the skin. Other artists include David Mushaney, whose geometrical designs would make Nadir Afonso proud; Haylie Erin, whose realistic tattoos are bloody beautiful; and Wes Brown, whose body suit artwork is a visual storybook unfolding on the skin. Tattooists Daniel Brockett (an amazing flame artist), Lucas Eagleton, Ryan Townsend and Hank Kuya are also part of the crew, all of whom offer some of the best ink in Lewisville.
II. Randy Adams Tattoo Studio
Randy Adams has been tattooing since 1970 in Fort Worth, and he's tattooed dozens of metal heads across North Texas, including the members of Pantera. Adams' body art studio feels like a piece of North Texas history, and it's the kind of place where classic rock and classic country go hand-in-hand with slinging ink. Just be sure to arrive early for your body art.
I. Elm Street Tattoo
Elm Street Tattoo is owned and operated by inkslingers who live the lifestyle, not entrepreneurs cashing in on the latest trend. Located off Elm Street in Dallas, owner Oliver Peck is one of the most well known “old school” American style tattoo artists and a master tattooist who's served as a judge on Ink Master, a popular reality show. If you're looking for “Lady Luck” on Friday the 13th, then Elm Street tattoo parlor is the place to go. From walk-ins to custom drawn tattoos, these inkslingers are at the top of their game and proof of this statement will be on display at Elm Street Tattoo's Music and Tattoo Festival in November when hundreds of people will line up to get their Lucky 13 tattoos.