As a creative, it can be difficult to settle on the best tattoo for you – you want something cool that reflects your personality as well as your taste in design (take a look at our post on top designers and their awesome tattoos to see how others decided on their body ink).
For those of you thinking of taking the plunge, we've rounded up some of the best tattoo art from around the world. These are the tattoo artists really pushing the artform to its limits. Or if you're after something more subtle, see our 70 best tattoo designs.
01. Frank Carrilho
Frank Carrilho's 'chaotic blackwork' might sound messy, but it's anything but. Every single line works with the image to create a unique sense of movement, and build up a sense of three dimensionality. The Canadian artist doesn't need even a hint of colour to produce realistic artwork that's full of impact.
02. Mr K
Sanghyuk Ko – or Mr K as he is more often known – is a Korean-born tattoo artist currently based in NYC. His intricate linework is nothing short of bewitching, as he manages to create the same depth and shade as with a soft B pencil. His hypnotic art retains a sketchy, delicate quality without sacrificing detail. It's no wonder they cost a pretty penny!
03. Liz Clements
Brighton-based illustrator Liz Clements creates the most impressive, unique pastel-pretty illustrations of women – and she as handy with a tattoo gun as she is with a pencil and ink. If you're not so sure about going under the gun, you can pick up a print version of one of her gorgeous portraits on her online shop.
04. Johnny Gloom
Paris-based inker Johnny Gloom is a female tattoo artist who was quick to carve her niche in the traditionally male-dominated industry. Her powerful, dark, film-noir styled fetish line drawings prove simplicity is by no means substandard – in fact less can be more. Love, hate, violence and passion are the things that make Gloom tick, as is clear in her dramatic tattoo art.
05. Michael Taguet
French tattooist, Michael Taguet is a master in photorealism. Featured in the print edition of tattoo artist directory L’Annuaire des Tatoueurs Français, it's easy to see why Taguet is so sought after. His detailed colour portraits could be mistaken for photography, but it's come after a long road of hard work and trial and error. Taguet has been tattooing for over eight years, trying out all sorts of different techniques before finding his niche – but it was clearly well worth the wait.
06. Matt Hunt
The co-owner of Modern Body Art in Birmingham since 1999, Matt Hunt has been tattooing full-time for the last 10 years. He enjoys tattooing in a graphic style, creating striking imagery that mixes up elements from nature with abstract geometry and soft watercolour backgrounds.
Floral designs are something of a specialty of G.NO's. This picture-perfect rose tattoo art is a good example of her signature style – although she also dabbles in expressive watercolour tattoos. G.NO is at Tattoo People in Toronto, and her work is so popular you'll be lucky to bag an appointment.
Lewisink fell in love with geometric art whilst studying graphic design. However, even after seven years of study, he never pictured himself as a graphic designer. Learning through computers gave him the opportunity to create more complex patterns and geometric shapes than he could attempt by hand, leading him to transfer this style into tattooing.
The Paris-based artist says his preference is dot work as he is interested in the texture and believes they age best on skin (we'll take his word for it!).
09. Jun Cha
Based in Los Angeles and in such demand he's booked up years in advance, Jun Cha specialises in fine-line black and grey tattoos inspired by classical sculpture and Renaissance art, with the most amazing sense of depth and solidity to them.
He won't take on any old client; and instead operates a members system. Only those who share the values of his studio, understand his process and are committed for the long term will be accepted.
A versatile tattoo artists comfortable with most styles, John Barrett is at his best when he's mixing up photorealism – at which he's an absolute dab hand – with more traditional graphic elements. He's currently a travelling tattoo artist based in Georgia.
11. Giuseppe Orrù
London-based tattoo artist Giuseppe Orrù works under the studio name Black Circle and is a resident artist at Tattoo Heroes. His love of all things cyberpunk is clear from his signature designs, which transform clients' bodies into cyborgs. You'll need some strong nerves to get tattooed by this man though – his work typically features large areas of black. Ouch.
Aleksandras Kuznecovas has a particular talent for horror tattoo art. His Facebook page showcases everything from bleeding eyeballs to zombie nuns. He mostly favours black and white designs, although blood red also makes an appearance, for obvious reasons.
13. Kim Rense
Kim Rense aka Papanatos is a tattoo artist based in The Hague, Netherlands. His designs look almost like traditional book illustrations, but have been given a modern edge thanks to the interesting subject matter. Rense's black and white efforts are often inspired by fairy tales and folklore, and her attention to detail is a delight.
14. Sam Ricketts
Steadily gaining Instagram followers, Sam Ricketts is a Swindon-based artist whose colourful creations have earned him plenty of fans. From full body pieces to smaller, palm-sized executions, his unique style shines through. Ricketts also has an online print store, for those who aren't ready to get inked just yet.
15. Charlie's Ink
Charlie studied art and design at university, but struggled to settle on one medium or style. A family friend mentioned there was an apprenticeship going at a local tattoo studio, and the rest is history. She's currently based at Ten Tonne Purley in south east London, and exploring dotwork tattoos.
"I find that some clients struggle getting the idea in their head put to paper, so I work with them closely to get the best possible result," she says on her website.
When it comes to simplicity, JonBoy is king. Based in New York City, he's tattooed the likes of the Kardashians. Whilst his work mostly consists of blink-and-you'll-miss-them quotes and simple linework, it's easy to see why celebs are flocking to his studio. Take a look at his Instagram page for a whole host of tiny but beautifully rendered tattoos, from constellations to lightning bolts, ghosts and letters (plus some far-from-tacky Chinese symbols).
17. Kenji Alucky
Tattoo artist Kenji Alucky specialises in large-scale geometric designs. He runs his own tattoo studio in Amsterdam called Black Ink Power. Alucky doesn't do things by halves – his intricate, symmetrical designs often covers entire limbs.
18. Hannah Keuls
Hannah Keuls works at Good Times Tattoo in Shoreditch, London. She has a unique, sketchy style that features swooping curves and feathery linework, and much of her tattoo art looks more like it has been painted onto her clients' skin with a brush and ink than with a tattoo gun.
19. Dmitriy Samohin
Hailing from Odessa, Ukraine, Dmitriy Samohin is a master of bold, realistic pieces with incredibly intricate detail and vibrant colour. A self-taught artist, he's been in the business for more than 10 years and his workshops are much sought-after at tattoo conventions.
20. Jean Le Roux
Jean Le Roux has an original illustration style that's generally focused on stylised animals and portraits. He graduated as a graphic designer and followed his passion into illustration, which led to an apprenticeship at a tattoo parlour. As well as tattooing at Black Garden Tattoo in London, he also runs The Tallon – a shop that sells clothing and bags adorned with tattoo-style designs.
Next page: more inspirational examples of tattoo art...