Best Tattoo Artists in Michigan: Maestros You Can Work With

best tattoo artists in Michigan
Looking for a tattoo in the Midwest? Check out our selection of the best tattoo artists in Michigan. Everything from realism to watercolor in one gallery!

If you are looking for places in America that have preserved the rich tattooing history and still have a flourishing ink industry—the Wolverine State is on the list. From the bustling streets of Detroit to the tranquil lakeside towns of the Upper Peninsula, Michigan offers an eclectic mix of skilled and visionary tattoo artists. We made a collection of 7 best tattoo artists in Michigan: they are versatile creators of different styles, ambassadors of creativity, and, above all else—cool people!

We will start with a brief excursion into the tattoo history of Michigan to see the legends of the past before moving to their spiritual successors. This article collects more than 40 stunning works, from Josiah Johnson’s striking, colorful, large realistic pieces to smaller neo-traditional tattoos and floral designs by Latricia Horstman. When the tattooing scene offers such a variety of stylistic options, it can be hard to choose, especially if you are a newcomer to ink body art. We hope this selection of the best tattoo artists in Michigan will not only inspire you but also help you find your ink match!

Tattoos in Michigan: From 1920s to 2020s

You can’t summarize the centuries of Michigan tattoo history in a couple of paragraphs, but if you had to try—you would probably have to focus on the life story of Percy Waters, an iconic tattoo artist from Detroit.

A photo of Egbertus Jan "Dutch" Berghege with an iconic “Tattooed by Percy Waters…” caption
From Derin Bray’s collection
A photo of Egbertus Jan “Dutch” Berghege with an iconic “Tattooed by Percy Waters…” caption
From Derin Bray’s collection

Born in 1888, Percy Waters began his career as a tattoo artist in the 1920s, a period when tattooing was still emerging as an art form. Back then, tattooing was often viewed as a part of a countercultural movement, and the most frequent clients of tattoo businesses were soldiers and sailors. Waters was a person who reshaped the American traditional tattoo style by developing ‘flash’ designs that later became classic.

A sheet of flash tattoo designs by Percy Waters
A sheet of flash tattoo designs by Percy Waters

The world owes Percy Waters not only for his impressive tattoo skills but for his innovation too. He designed and patented several types of tattoo machines, including a two-coil electromagnetic system—a concept that will remain in use to this day!

A tattoo machine designed by Percy Waters
A tattoo machine designed by Percy Waters

It wasn’t until the 1990s that tattoos became widely accepted as an art form. Its acceptance rose steadily from the 1960s and 70s, when iconic rock artists, like the Rolling Stones, sparked the public’s interest in ink art. And when it finally happened, Detroit and Ann Arbor became the one of the most popular tattoo places not only in Michigan but in America as well. It was and still is a place that gathers thousands of enthusiasts at tattoo conventions.

In 1997, the New York Times[1] wrote, “Men with shaved heads wearing leather jackets mingled with mothers and fathers pushing baby carriages. Blue-collar and white-collar, bodies pierced or not, all were drawn together by their interest in tattoos.” Excitement mixed with caution can be felt in this two-and-a-half decade-old newspaper when the author, Robyn Meredith, describes an astonishingly popular ink art conference set up by the Detroit Institute of Arts.

But today, tattooing is no longer a niche activity. So, let’s now find out the personalities who carry on with the vivid legacy of Michigan tattoo artists of the past century.

The Best Tattoo Artists in Michigan

Josiah Johnson—the Maestro of Colorful Realism

We open our collection with one of the most impressive realist artists in the American tattoo scene. Josiah Johnson is one of the most renowned and talented artists out there. He has countless tattoo convention awards and more than 13 years of experience behind his back. He is also a founder of the Watchtower Tattoo Company, located in Utica, Michigan.

Whatever subject Josiah chooses, whether a photorealistic Tesla portrait performed in a warm color scheme or a space-themed baby Yoda tattoo, it is rendered with painstaking dedication to create the most subtle hues and textures. The result is always a stunning fusion of art and reality, earthly and cosmic vibes, that translate into a tattoo that feels like a separate, living world.

Josiah Johnson—the Maestro of Colorful Realism

David Gray—Tiniest Details With Black and Grey Ink

If David Gray decides to add color to his works—that will be the most efficient color use possible. Most of his tattoos (but not all) are extraordinarily detailed realistic pieces with topics ranging from rose petals to portraits and old-school cars. Actually, the last one holds a special meaning for David as his artistic journey started with artwork for exhibition cars.

In the collection below, you can see how masterfully he adds bits of color to a large black and grey tattoo to achieve stark contrasts. Another aspect of a realist tattoo an artist has to perfect is the light and shadow interplay—and it is something David has perfected over the years of practice. So, if you are looking for a serious, concise, yet striking tattoo in Michigan—David Gray is a person to get in touch with.

David Gray—Tiniest Details With Black and Grey Ink

Brenton Mathena—a Chameleon of the Tattoo World

Brenton says that his favorite styles are neo-traditional and illustrative. But if you scroll through the gallery of his works, you’ll see that he is also fluent in many other styles, including watercolor, geometrical, or black and grey. Such tattoo versatility is especially impressive if you consider that Brenton is a rather young artist—he has only been inking for 5 years! He is an extremely talented creator who’s deeply passionate about his craft, so his place in the list of the top tattoo artists in Michigan is well-deserved.

If you feel like combining several styles in one piece and want to work with an artist who absolutely loves colored ink, you can reach out to Brenton to settle all the details!

Brenton Mathena—a Chameleon of the Tattoo World

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See how there are no solid borders at the bottom of the doggo tattoo? This technique is characteristic of watercolor tattoos and if you want to know—check out our collection of 50+ watercolor tattoo ideas!

Evan Brendtke—Sacred Meanings and Tattoo Surrealism

You’ll meet several members of “My Little Needle,” one of the best tattoo places in Michigan, in this article—Evan Brendtke is one of them. His specialties are smaller-sized tattoos with symbolic meanings and, sometimes, surreal elements. Evan’s style comes close to neo-traditional art but puts more emphasis on ornaments and geometric patterns. Fans of tribal and surreal themes will be excited to see clean, concise, and meaningful designs in Evan’s collection.

The colleagues describe Evan as an artist with a winning personality, which is perfect because you can easily get into a creative tandem with a nice person in the art studio, and it will make the whole process of tattooing more memorable and enjoyable.

Evan Brendtke—Sacred Meanings and Tattoo Surrealism

Rob Hunter—Sacred Meanings and Tattoo Surrealism

Rob was introduced to the art of tattooing by his brother Alex. After a period of apprenticeship, he started his ink career journey and became a member of the “Box5 Tattoo & Fine Art” alongside Brenton Mathena. Since then, Rob has been perfecting his technique and trying different tattoo styles. He shows his class when working with shadows for black and grey pieces, but you still can see the influences of traditional art style. The masterful use of the red and blue colors in small and medium-sized tattoos is one of the trademarks of his craft.

As you can see, Rob doesn’t shy away from complicated tattoo subjects, vivid color palettes, and even modern trends like watercolor. So, if you have a cool idea for your tattoo—Rob Hunter’s tattoo cabinet might be one of the best tattoo places in Michigan.

Rob Hunter—Polished Realism and Traditional

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Traditional tattoo style remained popular for more than a century thanks to its deep cultural significance. You can find the inspiration in this collection of traditional designs, while Rob Hunter might be a person to translate this inspiration into ink.

Jessica Beth—a Master of the Dotwork

When you look through the tattoo gallery of Jessica Beth, the first thought you have is, “Hmm, these look very different from the rest!” Indeed, Jessica is the kind of artist whose style you can easily recognize. Her outstanding dotwork skill gives her tattoos that unique, vintage appearance. Jessica’s work is a testament to the power of subtlety, where every line and dot is meticulously placed to create a tapestry of delicate beauty.

That being said, she doesn’t confine herself to one tattoo style. Instead, she experiments with colors, sizes, themes, and placements. She is still a young artist, as she has been in the industry for only 5 years, but her talent has already secured her a place in the list of the best tattoo artists in Michigan.

Jessica Beth—a Master of the Dotwork

Latricia Horstman—the Tattoo Witchcraft Perfected

It won’t be an exaggeration to say that Latricia Horstman is a magician of the body ink. She is a versatile virtuoso who seamlessly navigates between the diverse realms of illustrative, neo-traditional, and floral print tattoo styles. Latricia is comfortable performing tattoos of various sizes with fine lines and vivid color schemes. In the collection below, you can find her incredible illustrative women’s portraits and other cool designs with their alluring gamma and neo-traditional influences.

Latricia Horstman—the Tattoo Witchcraft Perfected

Latricia is also a founder of the oldest tattoo art studio “My Little Needle Tattoos” in Plymouth, Michigan. Tattooing has been her full-time occupation for almost two decades, and she most certainly deserves a place in the best tattoo artist in Michigan list.

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Latricia Horstman usually stays in the realm of illustrative tattoos. “But this looks like a realistic piece, doesn’t it?” Well, if you want to know more about tattoo styles and grasp the subtle differences between them, check out our extensive coverage of 14 established tattoo styles!

Summary

We are happy to conclude that the legends of Michigan’s tattoo past have skillful spiritual successors. Today’s tattoo scene of the Great Lake State has a lot to offer, from the extraordinary realistic works of Josiah Johnson to the intricate surrealism of Even Brendtke and the colorful illustrative style of Latricia Horstman. The best tattoo artists in Michigan are all passionate and versatile masters who make dreams become reality.

We hope you enjoyed our historical excursion and found some inspiring pieces among more than 40 best works of the top tattoo artists in Michigan. Thanks for being with us!

FAQ

? Who Is the Best Tattoo Artist in Michigan?

In this article, we have collected the 7 best tattoo artists in Michigan, whose expertise is acknowledged not only in the state but also nationwide. You can find stunning works by Josiah Johnson, Brenton Mathena, Latricia Horstman, and others in respectful sections.

?‍? Who Is the Best Realism Tattoo Artist in Michigan?

All the artists in our selection are versatile masters, but when it comes to detailed and intricate realistic tattoos, Josiah Johnson and David Gray are the most experienced tattoo artists in Michigan whose works look as living.

? How Much Does a Tattoo Cost in Michigan?

The resulting cost of a tattoo depends on several factors: the complexity of the piece, the artist’s location, experience, cost of materials, etc. InkMatch has come up with a helpful tool to estimate your tattoo price.

? From What Age Can I Get a Tattoo in Michigan?

Unlike many other states, Michigan doesn’t have a bottom age limit for a tattoo as long as written legal permission from the caregivers is provided. However, if you are under 16, it will be hard to find a studio willing to make a tattoo despite the parents’ consent.

References

[1] Meredith, R. (1997). Tattoo art gains color and appeal, despite risk. The New York Times, p.52. https://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/17/us/tattoo-art-gains-color-and-appeal-despite-risk.html 

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