By Jessica Allen
These days it seems like everyone and their grandma sports ink, so to really stand out from the crowd, you need to make sure your piece is striking and unique. Start here with our recs for the best places to transform your body into a one-of-a-kind canvas. We can’t promise there won’t be pain, but we can just about guarantee you’ll walk out the door of these studios absolutely satisfied.
If you like tattoos, and you like celebrities, and you like celebrities with tattoos, then you’ve heard of Bang Bang. Run by the eponymous owner, aka Keith McCurdy, Bang Bang has tattooed seemingly everyone from LeBron James to Justin Bieber to Rihanna. Indeed, Vogue has called him “the most famous tattoo artist in the world.” With that fame comes both high prices and a super-tight schedule. So decide what you want, book your time, and recite “good things come to those who wait.” Fellow artists at the Lower East Side tattoo shop may (or may not) have more availability, but they do specialize in all kinds of work, from realism to calligraphy to watercolor.
279 Smith St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
The tagline at Brooklyn Tattoo in Boerum Hill gives you a sense of this spot’s sensibility: “not too shabby . . . wit the stabby.” The artists here take tremendous pride in their work, as they are themselves practicing artists (meaning that they make art in other media besides skin). Indeed, the tattoo parlor doubles as an art gallery, and one of the owners ran the Urban Folk Art Gallery, an art collective that focused on “outsider art” (art produced outside of the mainstream). Repeat customers rave about the shop’s friendliness, speed, and affordability.
Eight of Swords
115 Grand St.
Brooklyn, NY 11249
OK, we admit it: as we were researching this list, we totally fell down an Internet rabbit hole, namely Eight of Sword’s Instagram feed. We just couldn’t get enough of the lush Victorian ladies wearing hats, the carefully rendered prop planes, the whole back full of cats (!), the biceps full of sushi (!!), or the skeleton eating a plump plucked heart (!!!). This Williamsburg tattoo shop regularly welcomes artists from around the world to work the chairs and/or display on the walls. Consider booking a consultation so you can get comfortable with your artists and discuss what you’re looking for before the needles come out.
New York Adorned
47 Second Ave.
New York, NY 10003
At New York Adorned, you can get inked and pierced. A spirit of creativity and collaboration permeates this East Village studio, which means the artists on staff will absolutely talk with you to achieve the look you’ve been dreaming about—whether that involves tattoos, studs, rings, or all of the above. Expect patience, cleanliness, and discussion. Everything is customized, so fear not if you have weird ears or awkward triceps, or if you want something tiny and discrete or bold and in your face (or are having trouble deciding!). In many cases, you’ll be taken to a private room, perfect if you’re a little freaked out or afraid.
572 Manhattan Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Three Kings has two locations, so you can get tatted up in Manhattan or Brooklyn. In addition to a rotating slate of guest artists, the artists on staff offer their own unique styles (you can browse their galleries and websites to get a feel for how they handle simplicity, color, line, depth, and shading). Consider booking an appointment, with reference images in hand, or just be spontaneous and walk in. Another point worth mentioning: the Greenpoint studio offers microblading, a semi-permanent tattoo that helps give the appearance of fuller hair (generally used for eyebrows).
121 Essex Street, Second Floor
New York, NY 10002
If the masculine, almost aggressive vibe of many tattoo parlors gives you the creeps, then book some time at White Rabbit. This Lower East Side studio looks more like a spa than a tattoo parlor, and we mean that as a compliment. Think calm, warm, and gentle. The tattoo artists on staff mostly specialize in custom work, from fine black lines to strong graphics and profound shading to delicate watercolor. Also, the ink here is 100 percent vegan, as are the other products (non-vegan ink can contain glycerin, shellac, gelatin, or other animal-based products).