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Tattoo TV Shows Ranked Worst To Best

Tattoo-themed TV series have been a mainstay of the reality genre since the early aughts. For tattoo artists, enthusiasts, collectors, and even viewers who are simply curious, these series present a wide array of programming that will appeal to any reality TV fan, as well as some who are iffy on the concept. Some tattoo TV shows follow the daily lives of working tattoo artists, including their business dealings, clients, and personal lives. Others feature stiff competition between artists from around the world who want to prove their mettle on an international stage. There are also series where people design tattoos for their loved ones (for better or for worse), and some where artists attempt to fix past tattoo mistakes for clients who want do-overs.

With such a wide range of formats, it seems like there would be an endless number of tattoo TV shows on air. Although this isn't an exhaustive list, these are tattoo TV shows ranked from worst to best, using IMDb ratings as a guide.

16. Just Tattoo of Us

Following the success of "Tattoo Fixers" in the UK, British MTV put together its own version of a tattoo TV show, with a much messier format. "Just Tattoo of Us" aired for five seasons between 2017 and 2020. Hosted by Charlotte Crosby, the show followed pairs of people — couples, family, and friends — who went to the show's tattoo parlor together, then designed each other's tattoos. Tattooist Charl Davies was on all five seasons of the series, with others coming and going throughout its duration.

Obviously, "Just Tattoo of Us" was gimmicky. It was also super chaotic. Pairings couldn't see their tattoo designs until they were already inked, which made for some dramatic (and often distressing) reveals, depending on the relationship. "Just Tattoo of Us" was crass, and sometimes made viewers question what went on off-screen between participants. As a result, "Just Tattoo of Us" has a 3.8/10 star rating on IMDb, with most users giving it just one star.

15. How Far Is Tattoo Far?

MTV's "How Far Is Tattoo Far?" recreated the UK series, "Just Tattoo of Us," for a U.S. audience. Hosted by Nicole "Snooki" LaValle (née Polizzi), Justina Valentine, and Nico Tortorella, the series aired for two seasons between 2018 and 2019. Each episode featured a pair of friends or family members who visited the show's tattoo studio having designed tattoos for each other. They couldn't see their tattoos until after they were inked, which led to some really dramatic moments — especially when LaValle would ask participants to explain the meanings behind their designs.

"How Far Is Tattoo Far?" frequently featured stars from other MTV reality series, including fellow "Jersey Shore" alum Angelina Pivarnick, "The Challenge" alums Cara Maria Sorbello and Paulie Calafiore, and "Teen Mom OG" and "Real World" alumni, among others. The series wasn't as popular as the UK version and lasted for less than half the number of episodes. IMDb users give it an average with 4/10 star rating  The majority of users either rated the series a 10/10 or a 1/10, which suggests viewers either loved it or hated it. 

14. Black Ink Crew

VH1's "Black Ink Crew," sometimes referred to as "Black Ink Crew: New York," premiered in 2013 and currently has eight seasons under its belt. The show follows the eponymous Black-owned and operated tattoo parlor in Harlem and boasts a large cast, including owner David "Caesar" Emanuel and assistant manager Walt Miller. The success of the original title has spawned "Black Ink Crew: Chicago" and "Black Ink Crew: Compton," which take the daily operation reality TV format to new cities, with equally large casts.

"Black Ink Crew" stands out because it focuses on and celebrates tattoo artists of color, who are rarely (if ever) represented on other shows in the reality TV subgenre. Clearly, the series has attracted a large enough audience to continue, likely because people want more Black and POC representation on tattoo TV shows — but "Black Ink Crew" has just a 4.6/10 star rating on IMDb, with a nearly even split between 10- and 1-star ratings. This could indicate review bombing of some kind, since IMDb only offers users the ability to rate shows, rather than explain their feelings about them. 

13. Inked

Former motocross competitor, motorcycle racer, and current off-road truck racer Carey Hart, aka Pink's husband of 15 years, opened a Las Vegas tattoo shop with John Huntington in 2004. A year later, Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company became the focal point of A&E's "Inked," which aired for two seasons between 2005 and 2006. The show followed Hart and his show, similar to the format used by "Miami Ink" and its spin-offs. 

Since Hart and Huntington's business was the heart of the show, "Inked" focused primarily on the inner workings of the hatchling tattoo studio, including employee relationships, client work (which occasionally featured celebrity cameos), and daily operations, which sometimes meant focusing on discussions about creative direction and possibly even closing up shop altogether. Like other shows in the genre, "Inked" would occasionally delve into the artists' personal lives, highlighted by Pink's many appearances across the series. "Inked" didn't really offer anything new to this format, but it focused on a smaller crew than others, which allowed viewers to get attached and invested. Although it only boasts a 4.9/10 star rating on IMDb, the vast majority of user ratings give it 10/10 stars.

12. Tattoo Titans

CMT's "Tattoo Titans" aired for just two seasons between 2013 and 2014, though the show took a different approach to tattoo competitions than its competitors. Hosted by Jayme Foxx and featuring judges Bernadette Macias, a tattoo model, and world-famous tattoo artists Ami James (formerly of "NY Ink") and Bob Tyrell, "Tattoo Titans" was basically the tattoo-themed version of Food Network's "Chopped." In each episode, four tattoo artists would compete against each other in three challenges for a chance to win $10 thousand.

Tonally, "Tattoo Titans" also felt like "Chopped." Contestants shared some of their backgrounds and reasons for going on the show, as well as their preferred tattoo styles and what they hoped to do with the prize money. Challenges included client's choice, artist's choice, and judge's choice, which frequently pushed competitors to work outside their comfort zones. Despite presenting a different format to its competitors that has proven wildly popular in other industries, "Tattoo Titans" only has a 5/10 star rating on IMDb. That said, it has a low number of reviews, which could be because it was on a network that isn't widely available to basic cable users.

11. LA Ink

After four seasons on TLC's "Miami Ink," Kat Von D went on to star in her own spin-off series, "LA Ink," for four seasons between 2007 and 2011. The show follows daily operations and events at High Voltage Tattoo, later renamed American Electric, and it was more dramatic than its predecessor. Celebrities made semi-regular appearances to get tattooed, and Von D would often show up late to high-profile appointments; she also frequently got into disagreements with her artists. When TLC cancelled the series, the network released a basic PR statement, but Von D told People that TLC manipulated footage to capitalize on her break-up with Jesse James.

"LA Ink" has a 5.5/10 star rating on IMDb, based on 2.5 thousand reviews. This proves it had reach, but not a ton of popularity. Since the show ended, Von D has launched a successful makeup brand and become a titan in the beauty industry. However, she has also received criticism for allegedly being anti-Semitic and anti-vaccine. She addressed these criticisms in a video in 2019, though as reported by Remezcla, many people felt Von D's statements were insufficient when compared to her actions.

10. London Ink

Yet another "Miami Ink" spin-off, "London Ink" aired for two seasons starting in 2007. The show aired on Discovery Real Time in the UK and followed parallel and straight lines expert Louis Molloy, the artist who tattoos David and Victoria Beckham, as well as graffiti artist Dan Gold, new-wave, old-school artist Phil Kyle, and Japanese, Tibetan, and Indian-themed specialist Nikole Lowe. 

"London Ink" follows the same format as "Miami Ink" and its other spin-offs, where clients visit the shop seeking specific artists or tattoos, which will be created during the episode. The major difference here is obviously geographical; rather than taking place in a U.S. city, "London Ink" takes the "Miami Ink" format to the UK and features some of the best artists in the business from all over the world. There are just 12 episodes, which means this series didn't last as long as its sister shows, and according to the 5.7/10 star IMDb rating, viewers were all over the map in their feelings about it. Getting an international perspective on tattoo culture made "London Ink" a standout, but it perhaps suffered from its derivative formula.

9. Bondi Ink Tattoo Crew

Australia's "Bondi Ink Tattoo Crew" aired for two seasons between 2015 and 2017, though it's found modest success on international networks, including Fuse in the United States. Similar to other series focused on daily operations at particular tattoo studios, "Bondi Ink Tattoo Crew" documents the inner workings of the titular studio in Australia's world-famous Bondi Beach. The series features multiple artists, all of whom have a different approach to and attitude toward tattooing, which can make for some really chaotic interactions.

"Bondi Ink Tattoo Crew" is obviously inspired by the beach aesthetics of its location and the dynamic, over-the-top personalities of its stars. It's bouncy, in a way, and decidedly brighter than many of its international competitors. Unlike some American tattoo TV shows, which can lean too hard into the drama, this series presents a professional but personable look at a group of people who seem to mostly work well together, even when everything is going wrong. That said, it has mostly middling ratings on IMDb, with an average 5.7/10 stars.

8. Bad Ink

A&E's "Bad Ink" aired for two seasons between 2013 and 2014. The show starred musician and tattoo artist Dirk Vermin, who owned Pussykat Tattoo in Las Vegas, and his friend and bandmate Rob Ruckus, as they sought out bad tattoos and occasionally tried to fix them with cover-ups. Although Ruckus was not a tattoo artist, he had several, and working with Vermin gave him some level of expertise on the subject. 

These half-hour episodes were gimmicky and leaned hard into the idea that Las Vegas is a place where people go to make mistakes. Vermin and Ruckus would encounter tattooed people on the street, ask to see their tattoos, and then offer to fix or cover up the work if it was "bad." They rarely kept their opinions in check and frequently flirted with the women they met; they also made fun of clients on a regular basis. Although "Bad Ink" wasn't unwatchable, it was often awkward, and didn't lend as much empathy as it could have. The show has a 5.7/10 star rating on IMDb, with a nearly even split between 1- and 10-star ratings. Like others on this list, it seems viewers either loved "Bad Ink," or hated it.

7. Best Ink

Oxygen's "Best Ink," hosted by Kimberly Caldwell in Season 1 and by Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz in Seasons 2 and 3, aired between 2012 and 2014. The competition show featured 10 artists competing in weekly challenges to win a $100 thousand prize. In addition to actual tattoo challenges, contestants also had to participate in art challenges that forced many of them to get outside their comfort zones. Joe Capobianco, Sabina Kelley, and Hannah Atchison (formerly of "LA Ink") judged week to week, and "Best Ink" also featured a regular rotation of guest judges as contestants were eliminated one by one.

This show had a very similar format to "Ink Master," but was a little less self-serious and seemed to be aimed at casual reality TV viewers, rather than hardcore tattoo fans. It also had a much brighter aesthetic overall, which made it appealing to those who didn't like the intensity of shows like "Ink Master." Since "Best Ink" aired on Oxygen, it also courted a mostly female audience, which made it stand out from other tattoo TV series airing at the time. "Best Ink" has an average 6.4/10 star rating on IMDb, and the majority of users seem to love it. 

6. Miami Ink

"Miami Ink" followed the daily lives of tattoo artists at 305 Ink, which opened in 2004 in Miami. Co-owned by artists Ami James and Chris Núñez, who later went on to judge "Ink Master," the shop later changed its name to Love Hate Tattoo. Each episode featured customers who would explain a bit of their personal history and why they wanted specific tattoos. The personal lives of the artists also became a focal point, especially as "Miami Ink" began spawning spin-offs in other cities.

"Miami Ink" aired for six seasons between 2005 and 2008, and created the initial wave of interest in daily operations-style reality shows focused on the lives of tattooists and their clients. Spin-offs included "NY Ink," "LA Ink," and "London Ink," some of which featured former "Miami Ink" cast members moving to new cities and either opening or working at new tattoo studios. "Miami Ink" has 2.5 thousand ratings on IMDb, with an average 6.5/10 stars — though the majority of users gave it 10/10. This series was popular because it was so unique at the time, and offered a really in-depth look at what life is like for working artists who tattoo, with just enough drama to keep things interesting.

5. NY Ink

After TLC's "Miami Ink" ended in 2008, series star and tattoo artist Ami James moved to New York City to open his own tattoo studio — which became the focal point of his own spin-off series. "NY Ink" followed the daily operations at James' Wooster St. Social Club, since renamed Five Points Tattoo, for three seasons between 2011 and 2013. James and producers David Roma and Charlie Corwin would talk about the shop's proceedings, and the series followed the same format as its predecessor, where clients — including celebrities — visited the shop seeking its artists' expertise for their next tattoo.

In addition to James, who later became a judge on CMT's "Tattoo Titans," regular artists featured on "NY Ink" included Rodrigo Canteras, Morgwn Pennypacker, Paulo Benevides, Chris Garver, and Guy Waisman. Although the show went off the air in 2013, Five Points Tattoo is still operational, with many of its original crew still working from the studio. "NY Ink" may have repeated the "Miami Ink" formula a little too late for full relevancy, especially since the market became so oversaturated with all of the spin-offs. However, James was a compelling lead figure, which is likely why the series has a 6.6/10 star rating on IMDb, rather than something more dismal.

4. Tattoo Fixers

"Tattoo Fixers" aired on the UK's E4 between 2015 and 2019, and featured a group of tattoo artists attempting to plan and execute high-quality cover-ups for clients who had questionable, regrettable, or even just old tattoos they wanted replaced with something better. According to GQ UK, the series received blowback from UK tattooists because of how poorly it represented the industry as a whole. Some also complained that the quality of the work produced on the series was subpar, and that it effectively misinformed the general public about proper tattooing procedures, including hygiene and original artistry.

Controversy aside, "Tattoo Fixers" was the UK's answers to the US series "Tattoo Nightmares," and it was in some ways less gimmicky and less cringeworthy than its American counterpart. The show was even nominated for a National Television Award in 2017, and aired 71 episodes and three specials across its five seasons. It was compelling because it showed how tattooing can go very, very wrong, as well as how artists can fix even the most disastrous ink. It may not have been popular with UK artists, but it captured the public's interest for a long time, and even has a 6.7/10 star rating on IMDb.

3. Tattoo Nightmares

Spike's "Tattoo Nightmares" aired for three seasons between 2012 and 2015, and it arguably inspired later series like "Tattoo Fixers" and "Bad Ink," which followed similar formats. In "Tattoo Nightmares," clients visited artists Big Gus, Jasmine Rodriguez, and Tommy Helm at a Los Angeles studio created specifically for filming. Each client had a tattoo they desperately wanted covered up with a new piece, and some of the featured tattoos were raunchy enough to be partially censored.

"Tattoo Nightmares" leaned into the shock factor and presented clients whose past mistakes haunted them in permanent ink, including tattoos gotten because of lost bets, tattoos with wild misspellings, and worse. True to the Spike brand, this series is big on dramatizing emotions and framing clients and their tattoos as being so out of pocket that the artists can't believe anyone would ever pay for something so bad. Once the schadenfreude is over, however, viewers get to see the artists really dive into the process of creating and executing a cover-up, allowing "Tattoo Nightmares" to appeal to different types of reality TV viewers. To that end, "Tattoo Nightmares" has an average 6.7/10 star rating on IMDb.

2. Epic Ink

Lasting for just one season on A&E, "Epic Ink" premiered in 2014 and followed the artists at Area 51 Tattoo in Springfield, Oregon. Area 51 Tattoo owner Chris 51 conceived of the idea for the series, which followed a similar format to "Miami Ink" and its spin-offs. However, "Epic Ink" focused specifically on pop culture tattooing, and featured a selection of 51's friends who specialized in hyperrealistic, "geek chic" tattoos. Some artists focused more on comic book-style art, but everyone on the show celebrated nerd culture in all its finery (except for shop manager and receptionist, Caroline Russell, who was a "translator" for the normies watching the show or entering the shop).

The work featured on "Epic Ink" is colorful and dynamic, and the series presents a different style of tattooing than many of its contemporaries. It's fun and has a super unique aesthetic, and likely suffered an early cancellation because of how many similar series came before it. That said, popularity isn't always an indicator of quality, and this series had a loyal fan base. "Epic Ink" has just over 100 ratings on IMDb, but it nets an average 7.3/10 star rating, with the vast majority of viewers giving it a full 10/10 stars.

1. Ink Master

After 13 seasons of high stakes competition between some of the best tattoo artists in the world, "Ink Master" has earned its place as the best tattoo TV show. In addition to host Dave Navarro, who did double duty as a weekly judge, the series also starred Chris Núñez and the since-fired Oliver Peck.

"Ink Master" challenged contestants to try multiple styles of tattooing under various time constraints and in different settings, with human "canvases" who typically came to the table with their own visions and ideas. The series also changed up its format from time to time, without straying too far from its base. This kept viewers coming back and kept tattooists wanting to compete for the prestigious title. 

"Ink Masters" was canceled in September of 2020, but Paramount announced several months later (per Deadline) that they planned to revive the show on Paramount+. Whenever "Ink Master" returns, it will surely introduce viewers to another crop of eager and talented artists who push themselves to the limit every week. Out of 3.3 thousand ratings on IMDb, "Ink Master" has an average rating of 7.4/10 stars. The series has proven quality and deserves its longevity and popularity.