Los Angeles is a lot of things to a lot of people. The entertainment capital of the entire world is also a place of artists, comedians, writers and, of course, some of the world’s finest tattoo artists. And here are twelve of the very best tattoo artists in LA.
Now, we’re happy to admit up front that there are an awful lot of incredible artists in this city and, as such, there might be a few we’ve overlooked, and you may even be frustrated by that. But, regardless, every one of these twelve artists is an absolute powerhouse of their own style of tattooing, and they all represent the peak of tattoo artistry.
There’s a huge variety of styles here to enjoy – from anime inspired geek art to ornamental mandala tattoos and so much more besides. And on this list of the best tattoo artists in LA, you’ll probably find your new favourite tattoo artist.
The world of tattooing today is in part defined by the surging popularity of geek tattoos: creative tattoo art inspired by everything from Japanese anime to Western cartoons; from video games to comic book heroes (we at Books and Bao have more than a few geek tattoos of our own). And Marc Durrant is one of the world’s leading geek tattoo artists.
What makes Durrant stand out from the bustling crowd of geek tattoo artists? Two things: his uniquely creative and subtly surreal approach to his subject matter, and his beautifully textured and vibrantly colourful art that pops in such a visceral and mesmerising way.
Durrant’s art is simply beautiful. There is depth, weight, and density to his art. It bursts with luminosity and excitement. And whatever area of geekdom you personally cherish can be brought to wonderful life through the deft hand of one of the very best tattoo artists in LA.
Marty Early’s tattoos are so intensely beautiful as to be almost beyond description. They’re pictures that really do paint a thousand words. His tattoos are textured yet clear; they’re bright yet soft. There is so much love and attention poured into every single piece.
The majority of Early’s designs focus on detailed and emotive human and animal faces: wolves, foxes, tigers, and powerful women full of life and vibrancy. He’s easily one of the best neotrad tattoo artists on the planet, and certainly one of the best tattoo artists in LA.
The neotrad style of tattooing is a huge favourite among tattoo lovers the world over, us included, and there are few on par with Marty Early. He is something special, and it’s thanks to his ability to breathe so much life into the features and details of his faces. It is all sheer beauty.
Hannah Monte is a specialist tattoo artist based out of Venice Beach – a very romantic and exciting place to get tattooed. Her specialism being ornamental and mandala tattoos. Every tattoo that Monte does is an original piece made up of thick black lines that wind together to create a kind of ornamental filigree of the skin.
These tattoos are simply hypnotic. Tracing them with your eyes is a joyous experience, and the way that they match and play with the contours of the human body is just the height of artistry. Monte has a true and confident understanding of how the human body looks and moves; her tattoos almost attach themselves and become a part of the human form.
These are delicate but bold pieces of artwork that might not ever be colourful, but are intensely deep and delicate, but also fierce and enthralling. Hannah Monte is one of the best tattoo artists in LA for being fiercely her own kind of artist.
Of all the tattoo artists on this list, Daniel Meyer is arguably the most distinct. His art encourages a kind of obsessive attention from anyone who so much as glances at it. Meyer excels at creating intimately beautiful, often surreal, but hyper realistic black and grey pieces.
His art is flooded with intricate details that make each piece feel convincingly like a photograph, but a photograph of something that couldn’t rightly exist. Browse his Instagram page and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
There is so much soft texturing to Meyer’s art, and yet also a bold depth that makes it pop. It’s dark, sometimes bleak, but also full of life and intensity. Few artists are as uniquely distinct as Daniel Meyer.
There’s something almost unknowable about Derek Sayeg’s tattoos that make me shiver with excitement. They are true old school tattoos from an era that almost died out and has seen a massive revival in recent years. While neotrad has blossomed into its own thing, traditional old school has re-cemented itself in the tattooing world, and no LA tattoo artist does it better than Derek Sayeg.
Sayeg’s tattoos follow this colour palette that makes his art stand out as very much his. Even though old school is a very specific style, you can still tell Sayeg’s art when you see it thanks to his colour palette that puts an emphasis on deep reds and soft oranges and pinks.
If you have a real love for the Sailor Jerry tattoos of old – the eagles, wolves, roses, skulls, gypsy heads, snakes, and daggers that transformed the world of tattooing decades ago – turn to Derek Sayeg, one of the best tattoo artists in LA for old school design.
Whether they’re entirely black and grey or popping with vibrant colour, Gloria Zhang’s tattoos are all softly intricate and beautiful. Thin linework and immense amounts of painstaking detail combine to make some of the most spellbinding tattoos in Los Angeles.
Zhang uses thin lines to avoid bold and garish aesthetics. These tattoos are quiet and sweet, not bold and loud. Zhang’s portraits, most of all, are jaw-dropping works of art that toe the line between being hyper realistic and recognisably stylised. While she does specialise in small, intricately detailed, tattoos, it’s her larger portrait style pieces that are really mind blowing.
And while Zhang does excel at both colour and black-and-grey tattoos, it’s the latter that really shows off her incredible skills, especially when it comes to those thin and detailed lines. Gloria Zhang’s art is mesmerising.
Dillon Forte is another artist who specialises in decorative style tattoos in black and grey. But unlike the already mentioned Hannah Monte, who excels at bold black lines, Forte outshines his contemporaries with his use of shading, which adds so much depth and intensity to his artwork.
With his thick linework and liberal use of deep blacks, intensity is definitely the word that springs to mind when talking about Forte’s work. Even though the majority of his tattoos aren’t of anything concrete, but rather abstract shapes, mandalas, and decorative filigree designs, they still have a deep intensity because of their use of deep blacks and greys that create this sense that you’re becoming entranced.
Decorative tattoos aren’t for everyone. I myself don’t have any, but I do have an obsessive adoration and deep respect for them and their artists. They’re alluring and hypnotising, and Dillon Forte really excels at delivering some of the best, which is what makes him one of the best tattoo artists in LA.
I’ve come across a few tattoo artists around the world of Thomas E’s ilk, Thomas himself included, of course, and each one has immediately become a favourite tattoo artist. If you’re a fan of gothic literature, horror films, and spooky aesthetics in general, artists like Thomas E are not only brilliant but also important.
For fans of the gothic and sublime aesthetics conjured up by nights of reading Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights, finding a tattoo artist who takes that concept and so perfectly conveys it through the canvas of human skin.
Every one of Thomas E’s tattoos is a black and grey gothic piece inspired by sombre aesthetics like skulls, gothic castles, barren trees, graves, and particularly gothic looking dragons. Thomas’ blacks are so deep as to look like the void itself, and his greys add so much dimension and detail as to create an intense and alluring pop. I really love Thomas’ art and, to me, he is unparalleled amongst LA tattoo artists.
It’s quite likely that you’ve never come across a tattoo artist like Lisa Orth. She is in a league very much her own. Orth’s tattoos excel at creating a distinct mood through depictions of landscapes, plants, animals, and skulls. But the mood is all carved out with a very unique use of sparse black lines.
Orth’s tattoos are more or less void of shading and always without colour. Instead, she uses nothing but black lines to create masterpiece after masterpiece that define her as one of the best tattoo artists in LA.
It’s all black, all the time, and these blacks are so strategically and ingeniously used to devise an atmosphere like no other in the world of LA tattooing. They’re flat landscapes; bleak, hypnotic, and almost enigmatic. Orth really is in a world of her own, both in concept and style.
When it comes to tattooing human faces, it’s more important to capture emotion and expression than to go for hyper realism (in this writer’s opinion). And Yvonne Kang is queen of expression. She specialises in neotrad style human faces with phenomenally emotive and expressive details that capture your attention and refuse to let go.
The variety of themes on display here are fantastically imaginative and exciting as well, from Greek warrior women to romantic gypsies to alluring mermaids. These are the most beautiful women ever committed to the human canvas.
Most of Kang’s tattoos are not overly coloured; instead they are primarily black and grey, filled in with just enough soft, pastel colours as to bring them subtly to life, rather than explode in a burst of deep colour. Kang is a smart, observant, imaginative artist unlike any other.
Maria Garza (brightbones)
Maria Garza is a jack of all trades kind of tattoo artist, and a master of all as well. Her tattoos range in style from small and delicate pieces defined by soft linework and intricate detail to larger pieces with bold blacks and deep colours, often depicting hyper realistic imagery.
It’s difficult to give examples when it comes to Garza’s artwork, given what an incredible range she has. Her tattoos range from surrealist imagery to lifelike landscapes, floral arrangements, geek tattoos, and even more besides. She is an LA tattoo artist defined by her range in both style and theme, with nothing really being off limits, though she certainly does excel at her softer black-and-grey tattoos.
Bryce Oprandi is another old school tattoo artist that avoids the trappings of neotrad while still modernising the old school style with a beautiful colour palette that really pops, and new interpretations of classic old school designs like pinup girls, flowers, tigers, and wolves.
There’s a delightful and intense amount of imagination going on in Oprandi’s artwork. It’s captivating in its style but also wholly original in its themes and execution. These are pieces that use the most alluring colours and unusual perspectives to breathe whole new life into an established style of tattooing. This is what really sets him apart and makes him one of the best tattoo artists in LA.
Will predominantly writes about the books of Books and Bao, examining the literature of a place and how the authors have used the art of storytelling to reflect the world and the culture around them.