Once reserved for biker gangs and hipsters, tattoos seem to be gracing the flesh of all kinds of Chicagoans these days (even veteran journalist Carol Marin). Few life decisions are as permanent, so choosing from among Chicago's many tattoo shops can be a daunting task. Look to to these local tattoo parlors for flash art, photorealism, Asian or custom ink you'll be proud to wear for a lifetime.
Best tattoo shops
Ageless Arts, with locations in Little Village and Oak Pak, has been known for its custom ink and body piercings for more than 10 years. Appointments are encouraged, but walk-ins are always welcome. Be sure to check out the shop's website for discounts.
This multi-faceted shop is run by body piercing specialist Charlie Lopez and tattoo artist "Dirty Lou" Avitia. Head here for top-notch black and grey tattoo works, Asian designs, lettering, cover-ups and, of course, body piercings.
When owner Ben Wahh opened Deluxe Tattoo in 1997, he based the location solely on its proximity to his favorite barbecue restaurant (which since closed). Needless to say, he had no idea that years later, his shop would be considered among the best in Chicago, made famous by LA Ink artists Kim Saigh and Hannah Aitchison. The shop's specialities run the gamut, from simple five-minute tats to full sleeves and backpieces, American traditional, Japanese, biomechanical and photo realism.
Inspired by world travel and, most important, his love for a good time, owner and artist Lee Leahy opened Family Tattoo in 2005. Located in Roscoe Village's Antique Row, the shop boasts a family of talented artists, with specialities ranging from traditional and modern Japanese to traditional Americana and intricate portraits.
Pioneer Tattoo is known as more of a specialty shop, being the child of local famed artists Tim Biedron and Harlan Thompson. Consultations in this laid-back, rustic-modern space are conducted by appointment only to ensure a completely customized experience.
Known for its laid-back vibe, vibrant decor and attention to detail, Revolution Tattoo has been a Bucktown favorite for 10 years. A destination for the art-enthused, the studio specializes in pretty much everything under the sun, but its photorealism, portrait and artwork replication work is unparalleled.
A long-standing South Side ink destination, Shred's has been in business for more than 16 years. Known for its bold, bright designs, portraits, and black and grey scales, this shop is also the go-to for the Bulls' Derrick Rose. And if it's good enough for him, well...you know.
This Wicker Park shop is home to an army of talented artists, conjuring up custom work as well as flash designs. In business since 1992, it has built a reputation for quality ink in an ultra-clean environment. Don't let the name fool you—Tatu Tattoo also offers piercing services and an impressive selection of body jewelry. Be sure to check out the shop's website for a $20 discount.
A go-to studio in Old Irving offering custom ink and body piercings in a friendly atmosphere. Ink specialities range from black and grey, new school, old school lettering, cartoon and portrait work.