Getting inked is no small commitment, which is why it’s incredibly important to find a tattoo artist that properly understands the style & form of the artwork that you’re looking to have inked on your skin.
Unfortunately, finding that illusive “perfect artist” can be incredibly difficult, particularly when you’re looking for a certain, specific type of ink in a labyrinthine and culturally dense city like London, which is well known for it’s thriving artistic underworld.
Not only does the price and quality of tattoos inevitably vary across the city, but the styles and designs that reputable studios specialise in is incredibly diverse too, and while there are no shortage of fantastic artists, it is incredibly easy miss out on a really special piece just because you don’t know exactly where to look.
Plus, there’s always a risk that you might visit one of the best artists in the city only to find that they won’t even consider your meticulously designed oriental sleeve because they only specialise in black and white tribal work, or prefer to do large-scale portrait pieces instead.
To help you navigate the multitude of different tattoo parlours that dot the capital’s streets, we’ve put together this guide to the best tattoo shops in London, with an insight into the top places to get the style you seek:
Located on hackney Road, Vagabond is another hidden gem in East London that’s well known for traditional tattoos. They’ve made a name for themselves by creating unique designs that, last year, even made their way onto David Dimbleby. Their clientele isn’t just 75 year old TV presenters though, and this clean cut studio is a blank canvas for your individual body art. Working with a graphic designer to create masterpieces that are truly top notch, it’s a high-end tattoo parlour in London. However big or small your vision for the tattoo, they can work with you to master something that will really transform your body.
Cloak and Dagger has made waves on the scene since opening in East London last year in August 2013. With over ten tattoo artists in the relaxed and welcoming studio, it offers a range of styles to suit every taste. However, Al Boy is one of the artists who is renowned for offering quality traditional tattoos with his own, creative twist at Cloak and Dagger. From Native Americans to marine themes, he injects a splash of colour into traditional styles for outstanding results. A great choice for first timers, this parlour can be found just off Brick Lane.
If you find yourself nearer to North London, around Angel and Islington, then Skunx Tattoo is the perfect place to get your ink. This parlour is renowned not only for its quality tattoo designs by its experienced artists, but a professional and friendly service too. Cover up designs are also available here if you have an old tattoo that needs a revamp. Steve Richardson is the traditional specialist here, and is a great choice for any nervous first timers who want to little help and encouragement with making the leap to get inked at last.
With over 32 years experience in the business, George Bone Tattoos doesn’t just specialise in tribal tattoos. However it is one of his renowned areas of expertise, and his striking ability to design really bold and striking patterns make the shop’s owner, George Bone, a very popular choice for anyone wanting a classic tribal tattoo. His gothic studio makes an atmospheric setting for an experienced inker who wants a no-nonsense approach to their next design, although it might be a little intimidating for a first-timer who wants someone to go easy on them.
Originally established in the 90s Into You was the first fully-custom tattoo shop in the capital. The owner Alex Binnie had made some history tribal tattoos that helped to popularise the designs over recent decades. The studio is also home to one of the top Polynesian tattoo artists in the UK; Tomas Tomas. This makes Into You a great choice for anyone that’s looking for a really unique tribal tattoo.
Hammersmith Tattoo London is a reliable spot for black and grey tattoos, and although they boast several accomplished artists, Janis Kinens is one of the best. Having bagged an award for his black and grey inks last year in Portsmouth, he can adapt this technique to a range of styles to bring clients a hybrid custom design that will really reflect your personality and taste. However Ivan Bor is also worth a mention; mainly for his black and grey realism and gothic portfolio that has really helped to establish his reputation over the last few years.
As well as specialising in black and grey designs, Hammersmith Tattoo is a studio that is renowned for good customer service. They even have a discreet spot with private rooms for the audience-shy among us.
Cloak and Dagger gets another mention here thanks to the niche designs of artist Daniel Alex. Although his custom made tattoos can be honed to a range of styles and briefs, one area that he creates particularly impressive works in is black and grey religious tattoos. However his versatile hand also showcases a range of portraits and traditional results if you have something else in mind.
In just over a decade, The Family Business has acquired something of a legendary status in London, having inked some of the biggest names in show business and established itself as a boutique parlour in the city. Although they offer a range of tattoo styles, oriental is one of their specialities and bold designs such as Japanese tigers, Hindu gods and fearsome warriors are available with their creative artistic designers. Dom Holmes has perhaps the most eye-catching portfolio of the team, with intricate henna style tattoos giving her a unique edge in the oriental tattoo niche, as well as more classic oriental designs.
If you want to get your tattoo in the same chair where Kate Moss has hers done, then you’ll need to put your name on the waiting list for Good Times in Shoreditch. Refreshing the image of tattoo parlours by creating an elegant and relaxed environment for your experience, this place is particularly popular with women and is also made up of predominantly female artists which skills across the board. However Miles Monaghan is your man if you want an authentic Japanese tattoo.
Japanese styles can be really striking, and nobody knows that more than the crew down at Flamin’ Eight. This colourful studio in Kentish Town is a fun and laid-back setting to get your tattoo done, so is perfect for first timers. Plus the Japanese specialists Naresh and Terry can go the distance for those sprawling great customs designs that cover your whole back, leg or arm.
A hub for designers that specialise in new school designs, Jolie Rouge is fast establishing itself as one of London's most cutting edge studios. Whether you want a hip hop design, graffiti style or a colourful comic tattoo, they are pioneers in the new school style who are willing to explore the boundaries of your imagination for truly unique results. Plus their North London quirky parlour is pretty cool too if you want a fun environment for your inking.
We’ve already mentioned Skunx Tattoo as a great place to get both new tattoos and cover up designs, but they deserve a special mention here, just because of their passion for new school tattoos. Julia Seizure is an award-winning female tattoo artist with Skunx Tattoo who creates colourful moderns designs to suit both men and women. Her portfolio includes pop art and neo-gothic styles that make the new school genre so broad and rich in variety, and give her such a versatile style for custom tattoos.
If you’re looking for a veteran tattoo artist who has seen it all, then Kharis Amon at Forevermore Tattoo Parlour in Shepherd’s Bush is the one. Having only just made the move from his residency in their Glasgow branch to the London one this summer, he’s a hot addition to the realism scene and an asset to the company. From animals and celebrities to cartoons and Mexican Day of the Dead inspired pieces, his creative style is really cutting edge stuff.
Another reliable place to visit for realistic/portrait tattoos, this boutique parlour in South West London is well-known. This world-renowned tattoo parlour is home to several accomplished artists who specialise in this style, including Edgar Ivanov and animal-tattoo fanatic Marie Terry. They offer walk-in appointments for smaller designs, and can help you to create show-stopping realistic tattoos for your body.
If you’d rather get inked by a woman, then Good Times is a great place to go. Although you’ll probably have a bit of a wait for your appointment, Hannah Keuls is renowned for her on-the-money portraits, and her talent for fine-art inspired pieces. Putting a feminine touch to bright and bold tattoos, she might be a young professional on the scene but she can match the quality of even the most experienced artists in the city.
Diamond Jacks is a world-famous tattoo parlour that has made its mark on countless celebrities over the years. As the longest running parlour on the West End, it has gained a sterling reputation for quality designs and a retro rock star atmosphere. Some of the styles that you can get here include traditional American tattoos, tribal designs, oriental pieces and realistic tattoos. Walk in here with one idea and you could come out with a lifetime of tattoo plans.
Offering a whole range of tattoos from the small introductory designs, to full body tattoos that are a work of art, Frith Street Tattoo Parlour in Soho has won several awards with its accomplished artists. A friendly but professional atmosphere that welcomes experienced tattoo fanatics and newbies alike, it’s a top choice for anyone who wants service with a smile. Although we haven’t really touched upon script and calligraphy tattoos as a speciality, it is also a good choice for anyone seeking script tattoos, and resident artist Stewart is renowned for his works in this field.
Finally, a real relic of London’s ink landscape cannot be overlooked with our insider’s guide to the capital’s parlours: New Wave Tattoo might look like your standard studio from outside, but these doors have been graced by celebrities as big as Liam Gallagher and the Osbornes. Established in 1979, it might not be old by London standards, but in the tattoo industry that’s pretty damn ancient. Credibly offering every style that you could even think of, its roster of artists cover all of the bases and make this Muswell Hill studio in North London a trusted place for tattoo. You name it, they can do it.