Hello Tattoo Creators, Who Are You?

How Creators Are Redefining What it Means to Tattoo and Get Tattooed

Who are Tattoo Creators?

I’ve been obsessed and committed to the category for years, now it’s taking over tattooing.

A tattooer and her client discussing details of tattoo project in the creator’s studio
Tattoo creator and client — By Cottonbro via Pexel

We’ve lacked words to name the profound change of the last decade. Creator Tattooing has nothing in common with my parents’ views or its bizarre reflection in most media. Even for enthusiasts like me, it’s been hard to define what category of tattooing hooked me six years ago.

Today, Tattoo Creators have gone from emergent to highly in-demand. I researched, met many of them, listened to their fans, and eventually started becoming one myself.

There’s still a lot to figure out. I write so we start creating a shared understanding. Only then can we get closer to a world where mutually rewarding tattooing has become the norm.

Tattoo Creators are taking over the tattooing category

  • Tattoo Creators empower their clients to get tattooed by someone they relate to. They offer mutually rewarding experiences end-to-end and develop unique styles.
  • While born offline, Tattoo Creators grow online. But they’re neither influencers nor digital entrepreneurs.
  • Tattooing isn’t a monolithic culture; Creators each bring their own values. They turn competition into mutually beneficial support.
  • There aren’t nearly enough Tattoo Creators. But entry and growth are still hard. Only now do we realize growing imbalances and informal behaviors.

How Creators are redefining tattooing for good

Tattooer collaborating and smiling
Tattooer collaborating and smiling
By Cottonbro via Pexel

1. Tattoo Creators empower their clients to get tattooed by someone they relate to

Tattoo creators have a specific combination of personality, values, professional and personal backgrounds that make them unique, beyond their style.

They may come from design, illustration, or simply they draw as a hobby. Newcomers to tattooing needn’t relate to conventional tattoo culture to delight their local clients.

The more tattoo creators emerge, the likelier we find one who we truly connect with.

2. Tattoo Creators develop unique styles

Tattoo creators develop their unique styles and the design load is mostly on them — whether they offer flashes or projects.

In the flash model, in particular, clients needn’t give any design input apart from placement and size. A creator will drop pre-designed motifs through their Instagram stories or posts. Then their client will choose the one they love most.

But creators may also work on projects, which are tattoos that incorporate their client’s input. They will then interpret the ideas in their own style.

3. Tattoo Creators offer mutually rewarding experiences end-to-end

As a client, I want to get tattooed by a creator so that I keep defining myself, make my own choices, or connect meaningfully. But really, who knows? By getting creator tattoos, I progress on important goals that have me do it again and again throughout my life.

Tattoo creators design defining moments from booking to aftercare. They connect with their clients, make them known, and do their utmost to foster a moment of truth. They know the value they create goes way beyond the tattoo itself.

4. While born offline, Tattoo Creators grow online

Typically, their online incarnation is through prints and branded merchandise. Tattoo creators have as many revenue diversification options as other visual creators.

Meanwhile, in the offline world, tattoo creators can either set up a personalized studio or keep on traveling and meeting their local fans. Generating sustainable revenue in the tangible world eases the pressure to win the Internet superstar game.

The very nature of their work makes it scarce and all the more desirable. Just like live musicians, they tour. Conversely, fans may come a long way to get tattooed by them.

Now non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will enable clients to buy the exclusive right to a creator tattoo design. I’m a big believer in use cases beyond the category’s established superstars.

5. But Tattoo Creators are neither influencers nor digital entrepreneurs

It requires more than the adaptation of the general digital creator playbook for the new category to sustainably endure in the long run.

Communication and distribution once were small parts of a tattooer’s work, they’ve become essential, if not table stakes.

Meanwhile, time spent tattooing and meeting the offline world standards hasn’t decreased.

6. Tattooing isn’t a monolithic culture; Creators each bring their own values

They infuse their own values, personalities, and worldviews into their work.

Creators keep pushing the creativity frontier as soon as they hone their skills. They may revisit classical tattooing motifs too, but usually not without a pinch of irony.

Tattoo creators pay allegiance to what technic mastery allows them to create; not to technic mastery for itself.

7. Tattoo Creators turn competition into mutually beneficial support

Some established tattooers may believe newcomers are stealing clients from them. There is some zero-sum thinking to this notion.

Newcomers most likely appeal to people that would never have gotten a tattoo from offline-first tattooers. In fact, as they come from diverse backgrounds, creators’ personalities and styles have new clients relate to their work and to tattooing in general.

The total number of tattooing clients keeps growing, mainly driven by the growing number of creators one may end up relating to.

8. There aren’t nearly enough Tattoo Creators

Depending on whether they’re full or part-time, tattoo creators tend to tattoo between two and four clients a day.

When browsing Instagram, we get fooled into thinking there’s an explosion in tattoo creators. Well, that doesn’t say much about how available the creators are. Most often than not, it’s hard to get a booking.

9. But for many Creators, entry and growth are still hard

Tutorials and access to tattoo supply enabled pioneer creators with diverse creative backgrounds to step into tattooing. Tattooing has grown more diverse and inclusive every day since.

However, mentorship from a traditional apprenticeship remains hard to get, and outcomes feel uncertain. For many creators, informal solo practical training is the only route. Newcomers face practical and ethical issues, besides longer feedback cycles.

Today, tattoo creators in their early days may replace mentor-feedback with peer feedback, or even solely client feedback. The situation ends up suboptimal for everyone.

10. Only now do we realize growing imbalances and informal behaviors

  • High transaction costs: as a client, finding an artist and ensuring mutual availability takes somewhere between two weeks and several months, with risks of dropping out in the middle of the process for both parties.
  • Congestion: difficult inbound management for creators and month-long waiting lines for clients due to too much demand
  • Participants’ incentives: in a context of high-demand and difficult access to practical education, creators tattoo at home in their early days

Given the number of tattoos done every day, it’s a problem for all of us that creators aren’t armed to get started with the right material conditions and people to get support from.

Up, and to the right

Wanna connect with fellow passionate tattoo creators?

👉📩 Say Hi! pauline@flashh.co

psst: Keep exploring creator tattooing

Twitter | Substack | Medium | (my tattoo project) @paghuo

👋Hey, I’m Pauline. I’m here to help tattoo creators thrive. Previously, I worked with tech investors @Heartcore (she/her)