Where to Get a Tattoo

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Conservative tattoo parlor?

Nov 2013

I'm considering getting a tattoo and have no idea where to go. I'm hoping for a place that's not going to freak me out (anyplace too grungy and full of people with giant tribal things hanging from their noses.) Is there such a thing as a kind of conservative tattoo parlor? And also do these places have temporary tattoos so you can try out where exactly you want it without committing and then wishing you had put it somewhere else? Hoping there are some Berkeley hipster moms out there who can advise me. Anon

I went to Sacred Rose Tattoo on Solano Avenue in Albany. There are several tattoo artists who work there. They are all excellent. The place is clean, organized and friendly. You can drop in (if it's not a big tattoo) or make an appt. Good luck, June

I have several tattoos, and I definitely like some more than others! I recently had a piece done by Shannon Archuleta (www.shannonarchuleta.com) - she works in a studio in the Mission (SF). Shannon is lovely, humble, fun, and a brilliant artist as well! I would HIGHLY recommend her. She can have a long waiting list, but it's definitely worth waiting to see a great artist.

I've never heard of a tattoo parlor doing temporary tattoos to figure out if you like it first! But I can definitely recommend thinking about the design for a long time - hang it on a wall where you'll see it every day. Make sure that it's really something you want! Depending on the body part, you may even be able to 'sketch' the design on yourself and see it on your body.

Also, before the needle touches the skin, the artist will place the design on your body and sometimes even sketch around it to make it fit better. You will then have the opportunity to look at it to confirm everything before you go ahead. T

I love Jesse Tuesday, at Tuesday Tattoo in SF's Sunset neighborhood. He did a large back piece on me 5 years ago, and it was a fantastic experience. None of that, 'I'm doing you a favor by allowing you to be tattooed by me' attitude that some artists can get, no blasting death metal, zero pretention - just a great artist who is dedicated to giving you something you'll love for the rest of your life. He can book out well over a year, but as another responder noted, it's well worth the wait to have high quality work done. If you've ever watched the show 'Tattoo Nightmares,' you know what I'm talking about. Good luck! Cara

In search of tattoo artist

Feb 2012

Hi, I am in the market for a tattoo artist. I typically look at peoples tattoos i like and ask where they got them done, and look up that artists other work. But, for some reason i keep not liking the work the artists have posted online, and it makes me think i shouldn't go to someones whom i don't like they're online stuff, even if i liked something i saw in person. Currently, i am looking for some to do a day of the dead mask on my arm, and some cherry blossoms on my leg. ( could be different people) I like a subtle look, not so many harsh lines for the flowers, and something with sharper lines for the mask. Any one come to mind? thanks!

I love Jesse Tuesday at Tuesday Tattoo, in SF's Sunset neighborhood. He did a full back piece on me several years ago, and the experience was great. Totally unpretentious, no attitude, amazing work, and made me feel completely at home during our sessions. He is sometimes booked out over a year in advance, but it was well worth the wait for me.

I've also heard and seen good things from the artists at Temple Tattoo in Oakland (Jesse was with them before opening his own shop). Best of luck! C

Check out www.divingswallow.com I'm getting a botanical with cedre next week and feel that her work is truly art! cassie

Great tattoo artist for dainty, subtle work

Dec 2008

I'm looking for a great tattoo artist in the North Oakland area. I don't mind paying a lot, but I just want to be confident that the artist can do dainty, subtle work. Any ideas? maya

I can highly recommend the work of Leslie Mah. My husband, sister and I are all decorated by her beautiful work. Please see her website. http://www.lesliemahtattoo.com/tatumi/home.htm - Lisa

Depends on if you're looking for ''dainty subtle'' line work, shading and/or color... Check out Marie Wadman at divingswallow.com. Or Amy Justen at sacredrosetattoo.com. Also, search on-line and look at portfolios of artists' work to get a sense of their capabilities and style. Have fun! *Anon.*

You want to check out Sonju Rattler @ Tattoo 13 on Telegraph at 51st, just across the street from Dona Tomas restaurant. He's an amazing artist with years of experience & really gentle. He did these beautiful flying mallards on my wife's leg. She'd been dreaming of them for years & they are more than she hoped for. Has also done a number of other folks I know, all for good. anon

I would recommend Temple Tattoo. They do great work and have done several of my tattoos. I used to be a henna artist and so design my own and they can be very intricate and large. Freddy Corbin, the owner, has always been nothing but patient, precise and very skilled. They are on 17th St. in downtown Oakland at Franklin. Good luck. Ida

All of the ladies at Sacred Rose tattoo on University Avenue are absolutely FABULOUS. I highly, highly recommend Amy; you can check out her artwork at http://www.sacredrosetattoo.com/artists/amy. Browse the other artists as well, I think you'll love their work. Also, if you're at all interested in going into San Francisco, Rox at Braindrops tattoo on Hayes is also wonderful. Katie

Jean at Sacred Rose Tattoo in Berkeley is great - check out her website: www.flika.com She is really nice and not intimidating at all - she talks with you about your ideas and makes the whole process really comfortable. Sacred Rose is on University Ave in Berkeley. Sue

I highly recommend Sonju (pronounced Sonnyou) Rattler to do highly detailed and delicate tattoo work. He works out of Tattoo 13 on Telegraph in the Temescal district. It's between 49th and 51st, opposite Dona Tomas etc. He is a great artist, light-handed and quick and a really cool guy. Tell him I sent you! Melanie

For vibrant, detailed flora, you want Marie Wadman, now at Diving Swallow (divingswallow.com). Friendly and easy to work with, she's an amazing artist, shading several large orchids on my back in record time. I still get big compliments -- the colors (blue/purple/green/orange/gold) are still bright -- five years later. She also does black and grey work, as well as fauna. Anna

Just moved here, need a tattoo artist

Oct 2008

Hi, I need a recommendation for a tattoo artist. I had one on the east coast but have not found one since moving. I would like a place that is clean and where they would not look at me sideways because I'm a mom in my late 30's!! Thanks! not too old for a tattoo

I highly recommend Diving Swallow in Oakland (on 14th between Alice & Harrison). The artist who did my tattoo (my 40th birthday present to myself) isn't there any more, but there are still four talented artists, all women. Marie is your age or maybe a bit older with two kids, so I wouldn't be concerned about someone ''looking at you sideways.'' Their website is http://www.divingswallow.com/. Each artist has a gallery of work samples online, so you can see if their style fits with what you are looking for. Carrie

I got my most recent tattoo at Temple Tattoo on 17th Street in the Uptown area of Oakland. I am in my late 30's and felt completely comfortable in the place. It's clean and very friendly. It was a great experience. I think the artist that did my piece has left for Santa Cruz, but there are other artists to choose from. When I get my next tattoo, I'll definitely go back to Temple. tina

Karen Roze or Amy Justen www.sacredrosetattoo.com, on University Ave. Berkeley. Both have been tattooing for many years and Karen is a mom in her 30s. *mom in my 40s*

Safe, clean studio for my first tattoo

April 2008

Can anyone recommend a safe, clean tattoo studio where I can get my first tattoo sometime this year? (I tried a couple of places previously recommended and the wait lists are long or the studios are closed!) I am new to that tattoo world and would prefer a female artist. getting inked

Anne Williams at Black & Blue tattoo in the Mission in SF is fantastic. She's done my 3 (2 fairly large) tattoos and 7 on my wife. If you want to see pics of her work, you can look on the Black & Blue site or email me directly. She's super patient, very laid back and a Mommy! -Jaime

I just got my first tattoo for my 45th birthday and I went to Amy Justus at Sacred Rose Tattoo on University Ave. in Berkeley, based on the recommendation of a friend who also got her first tattoo with Amy. Amy's artwork is beautiful (she studied fine arts), and she was great in my initial consultation including size, placement, etc. She is super friendly and reassuring, and answered my many questions. She also does her work in a private room which felt less assemblyline-ish. There was about a 3 month wait, but she was worth it! ---Love my tattoo by Amy

Lin at AlphaOmega is great -- she has done tattoos for me and my brothers, and we are all very pleased with her work. Fairfield's kind of a drive, but I think it's worth it. http://kissmytattoo.com/

After many years, I still highly recommend Karen or Amy at Sacred Rose on University Ave. in Berkeley. And I've recently discovered Diving Swallow in Oakland! Visit several shops, look at portfolios, be patient and go larger than you planned. Tattooed Mama

Please recommend a great tattoo artist

Sept 2007

I am seeking a tattoo artist that is very professional, patient, clean and flawless. This will be my first tattoo and I am quite nervous. Any recommendations would be helpful. Thanks. Ais

My husband has gotten tattoos from four different tattooists and highly recommends Dan Simonson at Industrial Tattoo on Dwight (x Telegraph). He's the owner and takes great pride in his work. He takes such great pride in his work that he won't let people pick generic designs and offers his artistic services at no cost. Be sure to check him out before settling on an artist. Jua

I am also a repeat customer of Sacred Rose Tattoo, on University Ave. in Berkeley. Clean high-ceilinged studio w/art gallery and wonderful experienced artists. Have fun, remember to breathe! Tracy

It really depends on what you want to have tattooed. If you find someone who says they can do anything, it may be true, however, it may not be a good tattoo. Do your research.You must check out Seventh Son Tattoo in S.F. (www.seventhsontattoo.com). Jason Kundell is not only an incredible artist (he's done a beautiful full sleeve on me, so far-my back is next), he's also extremely honest and knowledgeable. If he feels your design just won't look right in tattoo form, he'll try to work with your concept or steer you in a better direction. Also, if your idea is not his fortay (he does incredible Japanese and ''old School''), he will refer you to someone who will do a great job at what you're looking for. You can also google him. He's a new daddy, so if your a parent of a new one, you'll also have fun sharing stories.At least give him a call, you won't be disappointed (he books up a few months in advance, so patience is a good thing). Good Luck! an ecstatic Kundell client

Looking for a clean reputable tattooist

Sept 2007

I am looking for a recommendation for somewhere in the East Bay where I can get a small tattoo! I am a first-timer and want to make sure I find a place that is CLEAN, reputable and gentle (if that's possible when getting a tattoo)! Kristin

check out divingswallow.com ~s

I got my first tattoo @ 35 so I didn't really want to be surrounded by more modified than thou, 20 year olds blasting crappy music in a puddle full of ink. I wanted a clean, pleasant environment so that I could be really be present for the experience. I was lucky enough to find Chuck Eldridge at Tattoo Archive on San Pablo. www.tattooarchive.com He's a nice guy, very knowledgeable about tattoos, and a great artist. My second tattoo was by Pat Fish - I recommend her highly as well (but she's in Santa Barbara) http://www.luckyfish.com. inky

Seeking local tattoo shop

March 2007

Can anyone recommend a tattoo shop in the East Bay area? I am looking for a shop that is safe, clean, and one that has a friendly and artistic staff. anonymous

Diving Swallow in Oakland (14th St. at Alice; www.divingswallow.com) came highly recommended on Yelp.com. I haven't gotten to the inking yet, but worked out a design with Roxx and have been really pleased with the process. Getting my first

I have gotten wonderful work at Temple Tattoo in Oakland, from Jason McAfee. Friends have gotten amazing work from Derek and Jesse at the same shop. www.templeoakland.com -- Also, I am planning to get a tattoo someday from Marie Wadman at Diving Swallow tattoo in Oakland. www.divingswallow.com -- The only drawback is that she has a long waitlist, six or more months -- but I guess that shows how popular her art is. I think you best bet would be to check out each shop, look through the artists' books, and go with your gut. Happy tattooing! Paz

Sacred Rose (www.sacredrosetattoo.com) just relocated their (2nd) shop to University Avenue. Sterile, safe, easy to work with. Repeat SR Customer

Special Tattoo Artist for ''Tattoo virgin''

April 2006

I would love recommendations for a Tattoo artist in either Berkeley area or SF. My first preference would be for a female artist, but I could be open to a male artist who has what I would call female energy, or softness to him. As a ''Tattoo virgin'' this feels like a big initiation for me and I am hoping to make it an enjoyable experience in all ways. I know finding someone who is a good match for me will help ease my worry. I appreciate your suggestions.
Almost 40 and wanting a Special Tattoo

I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend C.W. Eldridge at Tattoo Archive on San Pablo in Berkeley. His Web site tells all about him (www.tattooarchive.com). I got my first (and only, so far...) tattoo from him last summer when I turned 40, my gift to myself. He is warm, kind, gentle, knowledgeable, and very, very good at what he does. He has been doing tattoos for many years. He operates his own studio, he's the only one there, and there is absolutely no ''attitude'' or anything like that about him. I would never go anywhere else. I think there are a couple other reviews for him on the BPN Web site. Feel free to email me if you have other questions. My tattoo is on my back, just below my shoulder blade, about a 3-inch butterfly with some blades of grass. It's really beautiful! It took about an hour and cost $100. I spent almost another hour with him the week before looking at and refining my design, all time he didn't charge me for. He has books full of designs to choose from and can help you design something based on what he has or completely from scratch. He can literally do anything. Have fun, and congratulations!! Laura

When my 60 year old Mom visited San Francisco, I took her to Jerrys (in SF) to get her ''special'' tattoo. She wanted a little red heart on the top of her foot (ouch). The people at Jerrys are awesome and were totally patient with her (it really did hurt in that spot). I've had 3 done there and my husband has had 5 there. All have been GREAT experiences. DiAnn

My partner loves Anne at Black & Blue Tattoo in San Francisco. Anne is a caring, funny and talented woman who will make you feel at home. All the tattooists are women at Black & Blue and I think you would feel nurtured in the experience. Also, Anne is 43 so you should feel at home (age wise). What a great thing to do to celebrate your 40th!
415-626-0770 381 Guerrero Street (at 16th) San Francisco, CA 94103
Have fun! Tattoo Lover

Jason Storey at Picture Machine in SF, way out Geary. Jason has done two of my tattoos and he is the greatest. Not only is he extremely talented but he has no attitude, is really kind, and will put you at ease. The fact is that like with many specialty shops there can be some impatience with beginners at tattoo shops. Jason is not like that. I have an NYC friend who plans trips around being inked by Jason b/c the skills are so worth it. Trust me, having one bad tattoo myself (from someone in LA)you want to be careful! Elizabeth

I have two tattoos from Sacred Rose in San Francisco. Check them out at their website www.sacredrosetattoo.com/home.html. A woman, Karen Roze, owns the store and does tattoos. She is very nice. I love my tattoos...they are beautiful! Rachel

I highly reccomend Jason at FTW on Telegraph, one block north of Alcatraz. He's extremely talented, and super rad. Liza

I can enthusiastically recommend C.W. Eldridge at Tattoo Archives in Berkeley - 2804 San Pablo Ave., 548-5895. I was also a tattoo virgin, wanted something to commemorate my 50th birthday, and did a lot of research before deciding on him. C.W. is very gentle, takes lots of time to find out exactly what you want, and has a VERY CLEAN workplace. He's easy-going, and really interesting to talk to as well. You'll have to call for an appointment; you'll probably get a voicemail, and he'll return your call.

I took a female friend along, because I was a little leery about the male tattoo artist thing, and also for moral support, but everything turned out great. There was minimal discomfort, and he was quick and professional.

I'm working on my next design, and I'll definitely go back to C.W. mordecai

Getting a large tattoo and easing the discomfort!

Nov 2005

I have a tattoo appointment next week at Temple in Oakland. This isn't my first tattoo -- but it will definitley be my biggest. I have three tattoos currently and each one was relatively small (2''X3'') and black only. However, this time I'm getting a fairly large (the majority of my upper back) multi-colored tattoo and am getting nervous about the pain/discomfort. Does anyone have experience getting large tattoos and any options for making it go a little easier? Any advice on how to ease the pain and make the whole time less intimidating (because I've accepted I'm not really hip or cool and tattoo artists make me insecure)? Thanks!!!

I usually only sit for 2 hours at a time, max. Sucking on hard candy (lollipops so you don't choke!!) helps, and I found the upper back/shoulder area to be the least painful actually, except near the neck nerves)... Also, I have been tattooed by both male and female artists whom I've researched and met prior to the work, and felt equally comfortable with, though I suppose the women have been more supportive of the pain-factor. Remember, your endorphines should kick in shortly and the needling won't hurt as much through a longer process. Good luck, enjoy!! Got Ink

first off, don't worry so much. you said you already have tatoos, it won't be much different getting this one. i think the upper back is a good spot, you'll be laying on your stomach, which'll make it easier to relax. in my experience (i have 9) color isn't any more painful than black work, it all depends how thick the lines are and how much filling in solid is being done. you might want to do something relaxing before you go in for your appointment, and avoid coffee, since it'll be a longer process than your smaller tats.

do you know if your artist plans to do it all in one go? i was surprised to find with my largest, most colorful tattoo that he did the black outline one day then scheduled me to come back in 2 weeks for the color. so you may not be in the chair as long as you think. hope this helps good luck

ELA-Max (also known as LMX-4) is a topical anesthetic cream that is available over the counter. It would probably be great for getting a tattoo. We use it on our small daughter prior to (all too frequent) medical procedures.

New tattoos while nursing?

July 2005

Should I wait until I have completely weaned my son to get a new tattoo? I've heard absolutely conflicting info from both the 'yes' and 'no' stand points. Does anyone have solid info on risks involved??? Natalie

It is my understanding (from my own tattoo artist) that it's not a good idea to get tattoo'd while pregnant or breast feeding. Although many tattoo artists are very sanitary and do wonderful work, there is ALWAYS a risk of infection, adverse reaction to ink, and well, things like Hep C or HIV (in the worst possible cases). I don't want to freak anyone out about tattoos, as I'm well tatt'd myself, but the truth is that tattoo's are an invasive procedure, they are stressful, and here is -- no matter how remotely -- the chance of the above mentioned problems, and well, it just makes common sense that you'd wait. Heather

Clean, reputable, non-intimidating place for a tattoo?

August 2002

Do they even call them tattoo parlors anymore? Anyway, my husband and I have decided to take the plunge and each get a tattoo. I have one hole in each ear and he has no peircings--we are presently pretty conservative so this is new to us. Has anyone gotten a tattoo done at a clean, reputable and non-intimidating place recently' How much do they cost' (We are thinking max 2''x2'') Please help!

Please visit Chuck Eldridge at Tattoo Archives on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley. Chuck is a wonderfully friendly and down to earth artist - absolutely NO attitude. His shop is filled with great vintage ''flash'' (tattoo artwork), photographs, books - anything to do with the art of tattooing. He is patient and will do a closed (will close the shop) session if your work is in a sensitive place or time consuming. Not many artists are willing to close shop so he is a real treasure in this respect. He has been tattooing for many years and is well respected in the field. What you won't get is a busy shop with blasting music and lots of attitude. Call him up and make an appointment to drop by and chat - you won't regret it! (yes, he has worked on me - and will again soon!) susan

one of the best tattoo shops in the bay area is located in oakland/lake merritt area. it is called temple tattoo and is on 17th st/ franklin 510-451-6423. the people that work there are very friendly, informative and with many years of experience. they were just voted best in the bay. as far as price goes...could range anywhere from $70 and up. all the artisits have portfolios available for you to look at. good luck!! shawnatay

Diversity in Walnut Creek (address, phone, email & web site are listed below) is clean and not too intimidating for first-timers. My husband and I are very pleased with the work at Diversity.
1419 N. Broadway Walnut Creek, CA 94596 925.939.7901 email AT diversitytattoo.com http://www.diversitytattoo.com/index2.ivnu

Hi. I have gotten two tattoos at Tattoo Archive on San Pablo in Berkeley. The first I got ten years ago and was very intimidated by the whole idea of going into a tattoo parlor but I found the tattoist at this shop professional and easy to deal with. His shop is clean. He uses new needles, fresh dyes, etc...He has been in the business for a very long time. I went back ten years later to get another and also had a very good experience. Cost depends. My latest tattoo which is an arm band cost about $200. I would be glad to talk to you more about this if you like. By the way I am a professional woman just so you know the kind of person who went to this shop. Amanda

You should go around to several shops/studios (''parlors'') and look at the artists' portfolios. Also check out this link under ''essentials'', a very informative site: http://tattoo.about.com/mbody.htm

I found Fred Corbin's place in Oakland a bit too much of a scene but he and his artists are do really nice work. Primal Urge and Pacific Tattoo, both in S.F. have private rooms and are quieter. Have fun! T. Joe

Most tattooers call their workplace a shop or studio nowadays, parlor is a bit dated. But anyway, there are lots of great shops in the area. It's best to pick an artist you like based on the style of work they do, which you can see in their portfolios or by asking people with tattoos that you are impressed with who the artist was. A shop in the East Bay where you can't go wrong is Temple Tattoo in downtown Oakland on 17th St. Check out Scott, Jason, Chris, Jesse and Freddie. In the S.F., go to Tattoo City in North Beach and see Jef or Tim. As for price, most shops have a minimum of $50, so you'd be starting there. Remember that you get what you pay for, so the really good artists aren't cheap. But you'll be wearing it for the rest of your life, so why not get the best. I don't know what to say about the non-intimidating part except keep in mind that people who are heavily tattooed appear to be intimidating even when they're not. The shops I recommended are both very friendly. Best of luck! brookead

I would like to add a recommendation for a tattoo shop. I have had some tattoos done by Karen Rose at Sacred Rose Tattoo on Guerrero Street in SF. She does really excellent work, and of course the shop is clean and professional. Karen is wonderful at color, and my tattoos are beautiful and have 'weathered' perfectly (the color stays bright, etc.) I don't know if you have a very specific design in mind, but Karen is great at developing the ideas I've had and making them better than I could have imagined. A good artist can tell you what will translate well as a tattoo and what won't. The number at the shop is (415)552-5778. My sister just got her first tattoo there and was thrilled, and many of my friends have worked with Karen as well, all with gorgeous results. As for cost, Karen can tell you more about that, but she is very reasonable and with tattoos, like so many things, you get what you pay for. Better to see a skilled professional than to end up with a permanent bargain that you regret. Please feel free to email me with more questions, and good luck. This may not be your only tattoo: it can be addictive! kmmills