While many flock to the City of Angels for the idyllic weather, world class dining, beaches, and a chance to rub shoulders with Hollywood elite, there is an increasing number of people who visit Los Angeles for what can only be described as “tattoo tourism.”
The California tattoo scene has always been popular and L.A. is home to some of the best tattoo artists in the United States - if not the world - spanning styles that range from the American Traditional tattoo to Japanese, and vivid watercolor depictions to photorealism in black-and-grey.
Should you find yourself looking for an additional reason to venture to Los Angeles relating to tattoo culture, these ten artists have bodies of work that can beautify your personal temple.
Mister Cartoon counts the likes of Kobe Bryant, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Beyoncé, Dr. Dre and Justin Timberlake as satisfied customers who have put their trust in the veteran tattoo artist who works out of his private studio in Downtown Los Angeles. Known primarily of his work in black-and-grey, Cartoon’s specialties include skull work, religious imagery, and “cry now, laugh later” motifs with his expert hand style.
129 E 6th St (at Los Angeles St), Downtown L.A.
Inspired by the Renaissance, Greek, and Baroque eras, artist Jun Cha is reinventing what a tattoo experience entails after opening his Monarc Studios in Downtown L.A. in 2015 – catering not only to tattoo enthusiasts, but also likeminded individuals who enjoy fine art as well. Cha specializes in large-scale, black-and-grey tattoos. Unlike other tattoo parlors, Monarc Studios first requires a preliminary tattoo enquiry - that once approved - allows potential members access to secure projects and learn full details of the studio. The waiting list currently stretches until 2021.
Arts District, Downtown L.A.
He is one of the most famous tattoo artists in the U.S. According to the Los Angeles Times, Shamrock Social Club owner-tattoo artist, Mark Mahoney is so respected that “fellow tattoo artists come in to consult with him on new styles and techniques.” Mahoney, who has tattooed music elite like Sid Vicious, Johnny Thunders, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., got his professional start in 1977 while tattooing at motorcycle clubhouses in Boston. He ventured out to Los Angeles in 1980 and set up shop in the heart of Hollywood, where he established his trademark black-and-grey work, which he achieved through a pioneering single-needle tattoo style.
9026 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood
Dr. Woo earned his tattoo stripes following a three-year apprenticeship underneath Mark Mahoney at Shamrock Social Club in Hollywood. With 1.3 million followers on Instagram, Woo is known for his compass-like arrangement of circles, arrows and dots - colloquially been referred to as “Woo arrows” - whose pencil-fine needlework has attracted celebrity clientele like Drake, Cara Delevingne, Ellie Goulding and Miley Cyrus. In turn, it should come as little surprise that a publication like The Guardian has called him, “the most in-demand tattooist in the world.”
Born and raised in East Los Angeles, Chente Rios is the owner and operator of Under the Gun Tattoo Company in East Hollywood and specializes in black-and-grey portrait tattoos and religious imagery. His profile further increased in 2013 when he tattooed a Native American symbol of the Stratford Cullitons Canadian junior ice hockey team on Justin Bieber’s shoulder.
4323 Melrose Ave, East Hollywood
As the sign that hangs on the wall of Memoir Tattoo suggests, there is a purity to the experience at the shop which promises amongst other things, “no photos, video, smoking, children or crybabies.” Owned and operated by Kim Saigh and Shawn Barber, the former is known for her colorful abstractions that include animals, flowers and American traditional imagery.
7377 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles (entrance in back)
Appointments booked by email only
L.A. Weekly has stated that Christina Ramos is “right there at the top of L.A.’s female tattoo artists.” While some of the artists in this guide limit themselves to a certain specialty, Ramos is a Jill-of-all-Trades - inking in both color and black-and-grey – with subjects ranging from animals to flowers and portrait tattoos.
For nearly 40 years, Bob Roberts has been synonymous with tattoo culture and American traditional tattoo designs in the state of California. Roberts cut his teeth in the Bay Area under Colonel Todd and Bob Shaw at Pike – where he tattooed upwards of 15 people a day - before opening Spotlight Tattoo, a shop on Melrose Avenue, that he has called home since the early 1980s.
5859 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles
Having segued from a single artist shop in Lincoln Heights to a full-fledged operation boasting a Who's Who of the best tattoo artists in West Hollywood, The Warren Tattoo Shop is described by owner Zoey Taylor as “classically beautiful, while minimal and comfortable,” featuring creature comforts like private rooms loaded with Netflix. Stylistically, Taylor is just as comfortable working with photo-realism and portraiture as she is crafting more abstract floral designs.
8776 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood
Currently at Unbreakable Tattoo in Studio City, William Doolittle is a rising star in the Southern California tattoo scene thanks to his unique style of geometric dotwork which includes staple iconography like the “flower of life,” “Metatron’s cube,” and other individual mandalas made up of circles, hexagons and more complex shapes.
11356 Ventura Blvd, Studio City