I have two adorable (in my eyes, at least) rats tattooed across my shoulder blades, and I’ve been feeling a certain itch to add something to my menagerie. Maybe, say, a five-inch long alligator with flamingo wings. When you’re budgetarily challenged, though, you tend to put the kind of thought into choosing a tattoo artist as you would into, say, buying a house (ha!) or… maybe picking out a new laptop.
I saved on my rats by going to an apprentice. They came to $80, with tip (about a $100 savings). But that was back in Las Vegas. Now that I’m looking to go under the gun again, I’m on the hunt for someone good, friendly, patient and, most of all, affordable, in Brooklyn.
This could be a multi-year project, so I’m starting now. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find another good tattoo artist in training. They’re just like hairdressers and massage therapists; they need to practice on a lot of people when they’re just starting out. But my big question is who can a Brooklynite turn to for artistry at a fair price?
We did a Facebook poll that turned up a few names. I showed my crude sketch (right) to three of them and asked how much it would cost to redraw it and put it on my arm. Their answers weren’t too drastically different (all of them would require a $40 to $80 deposit for the drawing).
Diego Mannino at Saved Tattoo: between $250 and $350 depending on the final size and complexity of the final design.
Marina Inoue at Fly Rite Studio: about $350.
Jess Versus at Glamour Garage: in the $200 and $250 range.
I also got some money-saving advice in the process:
Do the art yourself
Mannino said one cost-cutting measure is to bring a picture you want copied exactly to a lower-priced artist. “If you bring in your own artwork, you can go almost anywhere. People come here because our artists have a certain style,” Mannino said.
Look for promotions
Shops do occasionally run promotions that can lead to free or cheap tattoos, but, as with finding a good apprentice who’ll give you a discount, it helps to be in touch with your local tattooing scene. This often requires being a loyal customer at a friendly shop, or having friends who are tattoo artists. One thing to watch for is the occasional free-tattoo promotion, but these rarely leave you with the option of choosing a design. The most common deal is something on the order of a free lucky 13 or black cat tattoo to celebrate Friday the 13th.
Who’s the best?
So far, I’ve received strong recommendations from friends to consider Alex McWatt at Three Kings Tattoo and all the artists at Brooklyn Adorned. Then I got a pile of new suggestions from Brokelyn’s Facebook friends: Robert Bonhomme at Brooklyn Tattoo got big ups, along with Dave Wallin of Eight of Swords Tattoo, among others. But the deliberations are far from over. Who’s your favorite and (fairest-priced) Brooklyn tattoo artist?