News flash: Getting inked is a big deal. That’s why it’s crucial to sort through the most reputable tattoo shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn before you find the right fit. You want to lock down an artist who can turn your dream of a thigh-spanning tribute to New York’s best attractions into a reality, so we’ve scanned the situation from Manhattan to Brooklyn—from traditional parlors that traffic in vibrant watercolor art to a spots where you’re most likely to find band members from your favorite metal rock group getting inked. Need some motivation to hop on the tattoo wagon? Let these impressive New York tattoos inspire you.
The best tattoo shops in NYC
If you’re a comic book nerd, you’ll want to hit up Benjamin Haft’s Bushwick shop (he gets a lot of requests for cartoons in odd situations, like doing narcotics). Haft operates a quaint shop, reppin’ green exposed-brick, plenty of tattoo eye-candy on the walls and three incredible artists. Price minimum: $100.
In 1997, when tattooing was legalized in New York after a 36-year ban, friends Michelle Myles and Brad Fink opened their first parlor, on the Lower East Side. The duo has made a name for itself by inking musicians, such as Joan Jett and Boy George. This new locale is just seven blocks south of the original, and features pressed-tin ceilings and Art Deco–tiled floors. Drop in or make an appointment to get yourself stamped. Tats start at $100, with custom designs costing $200 per hour. Vegans will rejoice at the animal-free inks available.
In the summer of 2007, off the coast of Red Hook, a makeshift submarine staged a nonviolent attack on the Queen Mary 2. The sub—constructed by artist Duke Riley—was basically a sphere made entirely of wood and metal, modeled on a Revolutionary War–era submersible. He’s a madman, but one with a vision. Before he was staging daringly anachronistic sea raids, Riley was working at spots like East River Tattoo, which opened in 2000. Today, Riley, Liam Sparkes, Sue Jeiven, Rachel Hauer, Rob Banks and MXM are the people to see for traditional maritime styles. Price minimum: $100.
This Crown Heights shop prides itself on creating original artwork. Most of the artists have been collecting designs and illustrations for years and years, so consider this spot a museum for tattooing. The artists, Josh Egnew and Jeremy Sutton both have decades of experience under their belts and are known to pay particular attention to detail. From Japanese imagery to traditional American designs, these guys are pretty versatile and accommodate weird requests, like M&M’s candy with robot arms. Price minimum: $100.
Jonathan Shaw started inking locals from his apartment nearly 40 years ago (back when tattooing was illegal) and then opened the storefront Fun City in the early ’90s. The legendary figure has retired to South America, but his New York City institution—which has served the likes of Johnny Depp, Jim Jarmusch, Dee Dee Ramone and Sepultura’s Max Cavalera—continues its operations in the East Village. Fun City’s artists can do most anything, from lettering and Japanese to American traditional. Price per hour: $100–$250.
Needle expert John Reardon—a Pratt alum who’s been tattooing since ’96, when he graduated from high school—moved his formerly private practice into the Greenpoint space that used to house Fred Flare. With white tin ceilings, exposed brick and nearly every inch of wall space hung with beautiful, traditional tattoo art, the airy room has a classy feel to it—not surprising, since Reardon, along with Granville Lunn and Angel Castro (the men behind the decor of Nights and Weekends bar in Greenpoint), helped design the space. The artists, all of whom specialize in classic ink, can do just about anything you’d like. Price per hour: $200.
Instagram has made tattooing jump 100 years into the future in only a few years, which is why everyone and their mothers are getting them. So if you’re a nervous first-time inker, note that Invisible Tattoo is full of talent and good vibes, so you’re in good hands. The shop and its five kickass artists have decades of experience, so you’ll receive excellence no matter which chair you sit in. Price minimum: $100.
Nab the tattoo of your dreams at this ink spot, which just so happens to look like your worst nightmare. Skeleton heads and all-things-macabre are creepily displayed around lead tattoo artist Paul Booth’s chair (he’s been inking New Yorkers and metal acts such as Slayer and Pantera for 27 years). Sure, the shop is a bit like a crypt, but Booth notes, “everyone has a dark side,” so give in to the urge and get yourself some badass ink. Price minimum: $100.
Sometimes a traditional Sailor Jerry body stamp just isn’t enough. Adal Ray, the proprietor and sole regular artist at this Bushwick gem, specializes in more abstract, psychedelic pieces. The things you might come up with after getting stoned and reading At the Mountains of Madness cover to cover. He got his start in Chicago and Texas, but has been tattooing in New York for more than 15 years. He’s considered by many to be one of the finest inkers in the city; the current wait time for his services is about six weeks, so if you have an out-there tattoo idea and aren’t sure how to execute it, he’s probably your man. Price per hour: $150–$200.
Red Rocket has been in the game for 17 years, the first ten under the moniker Triple X Tattoo. In addition to its full-timers, Red Rocket brings in tons of new talent for guest appointments. But don’t be put off by the international artists it attracts: Red Rocket is very accessible as far as tat shops go. Price per hour: $200.