NYC's 6 Coolest Tattoo Artists — & The Ink That Proves It!

Photographed by Keiko Lynn.
Visiting New York for the first time? Or just ready to explore your home base deeper than you have in the past five years? No problem, because we put together the ultimate tour guide. Our map to the must-see spots doesn't involve checking out the top of the Empire State building or biking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Instead, ours leads you to destinations offering up the best New York City souvenir you could ever imagine.
New York has nearly as many tattoo artists as art galleries — and for good reason. Not only does it seem to be the city of dreams, but it's also the place you should consider getting your first tattoo. Sure, we're a little biased, but when it comes to new designs, artistic linework, and trends sweeping Instagram, you can trace every bread trail back to the Big Apple.
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But when you’re getting permanently inked, you want to find a tattooist whose aesthetic matches your own. Luckily, we’ve done the dirty work for you and found six of the most amazing, insanely talented tattoo artists in the city — all with their own unique styles and specialties.
Click through to get acquainted with New York's finest before booking your appointment. Or just stare at the out-of-this-world images if you're a little (ink-) gun-shy. That’s totally fine, too.
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Photo: Courtesy of Keith McCurdy.
Keith "Bang Bang" McCurdy
Years of Experience: 10
Find Him At: His new (and improved) Lower East Side shop, or BangBangForever.com

Why did you decide you wanted to become a tattoo artist?
"I always wanted to be tattooed since I was a kid. My older cousin Edward, who is now my manager, had tattoos, and I always thought they were really cool. As soon as I turned 18, I went out and got one. From then on, I just always wanted another. That was my first introduction to being tattooed, and I just fell in love with it."
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Photo: Courtesy of Keith McCurdy.
Where was your first job?
"The first tattoo shop that I worked at was in Wilmington, Delaware — that one is now long gone. In New York City, my first tattoo gig was at a shop on 4th Street and Sixth Avenue when I was 19."

How would you describe your tattoo style?
"I would describe it as well-versed. There's no one thing that I am the best at, but there are a lot of things that I try to be really, really strong at. I try to incorporate that into everything that I do."
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Photo: Courtesy of Keith McCurdy.
Who are some tattoo artists you personally admire?
"Shige from Yellow Blaze Tattoo in Yokohama, Japan — his tattoos are orchestrated just as a master of poetry would create a poem. He creates the best large-scale tattoos I have ever seen."
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Photo: Courtesy of Keith McCurdy.
What would you say to someone who's thinking about getting a tattoo, but doesn't know where to start?
"Everyone who is thinking about a tattoo should gather references and do a lot of research on the artist that you are going to choose to have your work done by. The more homework you do, the more likely you are to find someone that you are on the same page with. That will develop the best tattoo possible.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Becca Genné-Bacon.
Becca Genné-Bacon
Years of Experience: 3
Find Her At: Kings Avenue Tattoo

Why did you decide you wanted to become a tattoo artist?
"I've done art for my entire life and became interested in tattoos and body modification in general as a teenager. I knew I wanted a career in art, but the fine arts/gallery world never appealed to me, nor did graphic design. The more I learned about how much of an art tattooing could be, the more obsessed I became.

"When I was looking at colleges, I met Tom Woodruff at an open house at the School of Visual Arts; he is the chair of the illustration department and a former tattooer. It clicked that this could be what I do, and from there I was pretty driven to make this my life. I studied illustration at SVA for four years, and received a lot of support from teachers there to make the next step of getting an apprenticeship.”
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🙏

A post shared by becca genné-bacon (@beccagennebacon) on

Who are some tattoo artists you personally admire?
"I'm really inspired by and admire all of my co-workers. They've helped me so much on a daily basis since I started, and I have no idea what I'd do without their support. I also met Regino Gonzales of Invisible NYC while I was at SVA, and he was a huge help and inspiration to me way before I started tattooing."
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🎸🎻

A post shared by becca genné-bacon (@beccagennebacon) on

Where was your first job?
"My first job is my current job! I started apprenticing under the owner of my shop, Craig Rodriguez, in June 2011, and I've been here ever since."

How would you describe your tattoo style?
"Bold, bright, and graphic. I do a lot of American traditional-inspired pieces, but I'm working on learning more Japanese, as well."
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🌵 thanks JJ!

A post shared by becca genné-bacon (@beccagennebacon) on

What would you say to someone who's thinking about getting a tattoo, but doesn't know where to start?
“I really think it is all about finding the right artist for you. If you love the work they do, you'll have a much easier time trusting the process.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Lalo Yunda.
Lalo Yunda
Years of Experience: 22
Find Him At: His private studio in Williamsburg

Why did you decide you wanted to become a tattoo artist?
"Punk rock, my love for drawing, and the crazy amount of shitty tattoos that were around."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lalo Yunda.
Where was your first job as a tattoo artist?
"I basically just tattooed all over the world, on the road, for the first six years. The first shop I ever worked at was a bootleg/pirate/MTV shop in Bogota, Colombia."

How would you describe your tattoo style?
"Magic realism."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lalo Yunda.
Who are some tattoo artists you personally admire?
Buena Vista Tattoo Club in Germany, Timur Lysenko in Eastern Europe, Steve Moore in Montreal, Justin Hartman in San Diego, Emily Rose Murray in Australia, and Daniel Acosta Leon in Colombia. [I admire] them for their impeccable technique, but more than anything, because of their artistic statements."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lalo Yunda.
What would you say to someone who's thinking about getting a tattoo, but doesn't know where to start?
"Research and see what is possible, because nowadays the possibilities are wide and amazing. Second, make sure that you get the tattoo you want. By that, I mean get it done by the artist you want, pay whatever you have to pay, and take the time it has to take, because tattoos are the shoes you're going to wear for the rest of your life. No replacements."
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Photographed by Steve Prue.
Megan Massacre
Years of Experience: 10
Find Her At: Megan Massacre Tattoo Studio

Why did you decide you wanted to become a tattoo artist?
"I have been drawing since I was very young. Growing up, I learned everything — painting in different mediums, calligraphy, photography. Basically, anything I could get my hands on. At about the age of 14, I started to see some of my older friends getting tattoos. At the time, tattoos weren't very cool and were looked down upon. But, to me, they were another form of art. I tried going around to tattoo shops asking for an apprenticeship, but none of the tattoo guys wanted a 14-year-old girl working there. I got frustrated, and after a while I just thought it wasn't going to happen for me.

"Fast-forward about four years. I had just graduated high school and was working a miserable job selling furniture to put myself through community college. I really had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life yet. I was just going through the motions of what I thought I was supposed to be doing. One day at work, a co-worker asked if I would give her a ride to a local tattoo studio to try out for a job as a body piercer. While there, she told the tattoo artists I could draw very well, and while I waited for her in the lobby, they asked me to draw them a few pictures.
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"They were impressed with what they saw, and they asked if I had ever done a tattoo before. Of course I said no, but they followed with, 'Would you like to do one now?' I was terrified, but knew this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. They set everything up for me and walked me through my very first tattoo that night, on the shop's poor apprentice.

"He was a good sport about it though, seeing as he was also at the stage of practicing tattooing on people. I tattooed his name, 'Timmy.' You start with the 'Y,' and work backward from there. I started out pretty shaky, but by the 'T,' I got a feel for it. Immediately after, they offered me an apprenticeship. I started tattooing then, and have been in love with it ever since!"
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Photo: Courtesy of Megan Massacre.
Where was your first job?
"It was at a small street shop in Eastern Pennsylvania, where I'm originally from. If you're not familiar with the lingo, a 'street shop' is a tattoo spot that generally does small tattoos that are cheap and lower quality; it's more about the money than the artwork. At the time, shops weren't these well-manicured, professional studios that some are today. It was rougher then. Most shops were involved in some sort of illegal activity or gangs. It took about four years until I finally came upon a shop that was filled with some truly talented artists whom I could learn a lot from. That shop was Deep Six Laboratory in Philadelphia.”

How would you describe your tattoo style?
"There are many different styles of tattooing. Most artists just stick to one thing and get really good at just that, but for me, I wanted to learn multiple styles. I started off doing tattoos that were new-school: Very graphic and cartoon-like with bright colors and bold lines. At the time — maybe 10 years ago — that was the trend. As time progressed, color portraiture became very popular, and I made a point to learn that as well. I've also learned a little traditional, neo-traditional, dot work, black-and-gray, and many more. Today, my style is a mash-up of all of these. In most of my tattoos, there are sections that look like a 3-D photograph or oil painting right next to sections that look like a traditional tattoo."
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Photo: Courtesy of Megan Massacre.
Who are some tattoo artists you personally admire?
"It's really impossible to answer this question with just one person, because there are so many amazing artists out there that inspire me in so many different ways. Off the bat, Paul Acker, who works at Deep Six in Philadelphia, is one of the people who really helped me learn about tattooing as an art form. My friend Teneile Napoli owns Garage Ink Tattoo in Brisbane, Australia; she's an amazing artist and an incredibly strong, badass chick. I did a guest spot at her tattoo studio, which is made up of all amazingly talented female artists, and it was really inspiring to see so many women kicking ass in this massively male-dominated industry. And there's my friend Ami James, the owner of Wooster Street Social Club. He's done so much to bring tattooing from the underground into mainstream culture. He's brought this industry to a place no one thought it could go, and I aspire to be able to do the same."
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Photo: Courtesy of Megan Massacre.
What would you say to someone who's thinking about getting a tattoo, but doesn't know where to start?
"If you think you want to get a tattoo but don't have any idea what to get, then don't get one! It's incredibly important to really think through what you’re going to get, because it will be there forever. Tattoo trends are just like fashion trends, they come and go with every season. While you can always buy a new dress, that '80s arm band or '90s tramp stamp can't be taken off.

"Never follow the trend. Get something timeless and meaningful to you personally, such as a tribute to your family, a commemoration of your favorite pastime or career choice, or even a wonderful memory or period of your life. If it has a great meaning that makes you smile, no matter how many years go by or regardless of how the artwork ages, you will always love it. Or, just get a rad piece of artwork from one of your favorite artists because you appreciate their work."
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Photographed by Bobby Stackleather.
Minka Sicklinger
Years of Experience: 5
Find Her At: MinkaSicklinger.com

Why did you decide you wanted to become a tattoo artist?
"My interest from a very young age in anthropology and rituals throughout the history of mankind in different cultures."
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Photo: Courtesy of Minka Sicklinger.
Where was your first job as a tattoo artist?
"In my bedroom."

How would you describe your tattoo style?
"Custom pieces that use fine lines, a high level of detail, hidden symbols, and only black-and-gray."
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Photo: Courtesy of Minka Sicklinger.
Who are some tattoo artists you personally admire?
"There are too many good tattoo artists for me to single one out!"
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Photo: Courtesy of Minka Sicklinger.
What would you say to someone who's thinking about getting a tattoo, but doesn't know where to start?
"Work out what you want first and foremost, then go and talk to an artist whose work you like and is a similar style to what you are looking for. See if your idea will translate well into a tattoo, and go from there."
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Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie Tamez.
Where was your first job?
"Diamond Club Tattoo in San Francisco, with Bill and Junii Salmon."

How would you describe your tattoo style?
"Eclectic. I draw most of my inspiration from the Chinese and Japanese aesthetic of brush work and Edo period woodblock prints, as well as 19th-century engravings. I try to take those influences and redraw them my own way, which usually ends up falling somewhere between what I hope is a mature elegance or cool essence of the images I'm working on. I really let each piece dictate where I might go with it.

"My goals are to have fun and make images I can be proud of, as well as making sure that my client has a great experience. I want them to walk away with a piece that is more than they ever expected, and I want to feel like I achieved a beautiful, graceful, cool, or tough tattoo for them."
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Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie Tamez.
Stephanie Tamez
Years of Experience: 21
Find Her At: Saved Tattoo

Why did you decide you wanted to become a tattoo artist?
"The level of commitment involved and the ties of tattooing to history and art."
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Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie Tamez.
Who are some tattoo artists you personally admire?
"Filip Leu in Lausanne, Switzerland — everything he does is either incredibly beautiful or incredibly tough and cool. He is truly my tattoo hero. Alex Binnie in London has this great graphic sensibility and his work just reads strong. I love Seth Wood's animals — they are always so fierce and dynamic. Thomas Hooper's ability to compose complex detailed images is astounding. And Chris O'Donnell in New York. His work is so damn perfect."
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Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie Tamez.
Are you more skilled in a certain tattoo area?
"Large pieces."

What would you say to someone who's thinking about getting a tattoo, but doesn't know where to start?
"Do your research! Find a tattoo artist that has the same natural vibe or style that you like."
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