The 6 Best Tattoo Shops In Chicago
When it comes to getting ink done in Chicago, our city has many talented options to choose from. No matter what creative creation you dream up to adorn your skin, there are a multitude of talented tattoo artists and shops to help bring your imagination to life.
Tattoo artists and shops can be a territorial thing, many of us with ink swear allegiance once we find the right fit. And it's a business that thrives on referrals. We found some of the best artists and shops around simply by asking friends and even strangers where their outstanding sleeve, chest piece or other work was done.
Today we share the shops, and a few artist suggestions, we trust when we're looking to add to our tattoo collection. If you have a favorite artist or shop to share, show them some love in the comments so we and our readers can check them out.
I don’t always get inked in Chicago (I have a really weird obsession with getting a passport of art from other cities), but when I do I go to Deluxe Tattoo in north Lakeview. The staff portfolio is enough to speak for itself: it was the home of L.A. Ink’s Hannah Aitchison and it's currently led by the insanely talented Ben Wahhh with a roster of regulars including Jason Vaughn and Jason Longtin. Chicago Reader has named them best tattoo shop in their reader poll many times and they were featured on Playboy.com as the place to “flock to” in Chicago. Trust me, if I didn’t live here, it would be my travel stop, too. — Selena Fragassi
Deluxe Tattoo is located at 1459 W. Irving Park.
Insight Studios is bright, clean and welcoming for first-timers and veterans alike. Many of the artists have been working at the shop for years, which allows people (including myself) to form a loyalty that often eases the tattoo process. Plus, Insight often hosts a Tats-for-Cats event where proceeds from tattoos go to the Tree House Humane Society, an organization that works for animal rights and helps place stray cats in loving homes. Located conveniently on Milwaukee Ave. near the Division Blue Line stop, Insight accepts both walk-ins (based on availability) and appointments. — Carrie Laski
Insight Studios is located at 1062 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Brown Brothers Tattoo
With a company slogan “Where Crass Is Class,” brothers Max and Marshall Brown clearly have a sense of humor and keep things fun at their small Humboldt Park shop. This cash only spot excels at custom designs full of intricate lines, bold colors and personality. Both of the brothers are easy to work with and love bringing to life the most creative ideas. One of my good friends went to Max when she had a theme and idea for a half sleeve, and he was able to run with the concept to create a beautifully detailed sleeve with a style so unique she’s asked frequently if it’s a Max Brown piece. It’s no surprise, since both Max and Marshall are skilled artists and painters, so they truly understand the importance of collaboration to create a fine piece of work. Bonus: shop pup Gaia is a total sweetie and there to lend moral support with those tougher spots (as Max calls them, “sweet meat”) during a session. — Lisa White
Brown Brothers Tattoo is located at 904 N. California Ave.
I’m a classy girl. I enjoy fancy cheeses, craft beers and beautiful tattoos that toe the line between body modification and art. Anytime I’m itching for ink, I get myself to Revolution Tattoo, which is a dangerously convenient five minute walk from my apartment. It’s a beautiful shop, ornamented with decorated taxidermy and an illuminated carnival-esque sign outside. Omar Gutierrez is the head tattooer and owner along with his wife Cheri Basak. The couple also owns and runs Sideshow Gallery next door, so if you’re waiting for an appointment you can always browse their assortment of morbid oddities and occult relics. From American Traditional work to photorealistic portraits, all of the artists at Revolution have mastered their craft. I recommend the shop for any piece, but they’re particularly good at heavily-detailed tattoos and those of a darker nature. I only have one tattoo from Revolution right now, a complex labyrinth of crosshatching inked in the likeness of Death playing a violin made of human bones. I’m in the process of gathering funds for my next pieces, but I know when the time comes I will be scheduling my session at Revolution. — Erika Kubick
Revolution Tattoo is located at 2221 N. Western Ave.
This shop in the Old Irving Park neighborhood boasts a talented team that can craft up classic motifs or work with you to dream up something original. One of the artists on staff that caught my eye after admiring his work on a friend is Jacob Hinkle. Hinkle has a knack for bringing pop culture to life, from Twin Peaks to some of our favorite books from childhood, keeping true to the origins while adding in creative, unique flourishes to his art. The shop itself has a cozy, inviting feel to it and they also offer piercing services if you want a little extra body modification besides ink. — Lisa White
Tattoo Candy is located at 3460 N. Pulaski Rd.
Butterfat Studios (closing in October 2016)
Ink on skin can be such a true form of art and that is the main focus at this appointment only studio in Logan Square. Butterfat bills itself as a “creative studio-hive and venue for artistic collaboration,” and the work they are producing isn’t any type of generic, go-to tattoo design. Resident artists Esther Garcia and Stephanie Brown specialize in exquisite designs with a focus on fine art details and natural form. The shop currently doesn’t accept client-proposed work, rather they post project ideas on their website and social media where those interested in collaborating with the artists can inquire and apply. It’s a deeper level of trust and a truly intimate form of collaborative art. They also have frequent guest artists who spend time at the shop, carefully curating a talented roster from across the country. I’ve long been a fan of Garcia’s extraordinary florals and nature motifs as well as her precision in some of the most detailed black and white work I’ve seen. Check out her beautiful work on their website. — Lisa White
Butterfat Studios is located at 3129 W. Logan Blvd.