What Does It Take to Win in a Tattoo Contest [by Monchi]

interview with Monchi
Get an inside look at tattoo conventions with Monchi, a celebrated tattoo artist. In our conversation, we talked about why he loves competing and how he wins.

Lyte Tuttle and Dave Yurkew are credited as organizers of the world’s first tattoo convention, held in Houston in 1979. The idea immediately got traction, and eventually, we witnessed the birth of hundreds of ink art events, prestigious for artists and incredibly exciting for tattoo enthusiasts. To see what tattoo conventions are from a tattoo artist’s perspective, we reached out to an award-winning artist, Ramon Poleo, better known as Monchi.

Monchi has participated in more than a dozen tattoo conventions and had notable success. In an exclusive interview with InkMatch, he shared insights on why he loves competition, the biggest challenges, and advice for aspiring colleagues. So, if you have never been to a tattoo convention but want to go or look for expert advice as an artist—stay tuned!

Want to see more exclusive content featuring renowned tattoo artists? Check out the interview section on InkMatch! There, you can find diverse perspectives, helpful advice, and inspiring success stories of dozens of tattoo professionals from around the globe.

Meet the Artist—Ramon “Monchi” Poleo

Ramon Poleo is the creator behind MonchiArt studio and Monchi Shop

Ramon Poleo is the creator behind MonchiArt studio and Monchi Shop

In 2015, Ramon Poleo decided to pursue his childhood passion for art and design as a tattoo professional. His growth as an artist was remarkably fast. If you follow the timeline of Monchi’s career, you’ll see how his technique was getting more and more intricate, his designs more and more creative every year. The trademark of Monchi’s style is a black and grey tattoo with distinct fine lines and geometric elements.

Monchi’s signature black and grey tattoo style

Would you like to see a diverse collection of tattoos in different styles, from old-school to surrealism? If yes, we welcome you to visit our article about the 14 most popular tattoo styles.

His rare talent earned him a lot of success—in his studio and tattoo conventions. The latter owns a special place in Monchi’s heart. His first competition was in Bogota, Columbia, where he emerged as a winner in the freestyle section. Since then, he participated in more than a dozen conventions in the US, Columbia, Chile, Panama, and Venezuela, where he won multiple awards. Currently, Monchi is stationed in Miami, Florida, where he continues refining his craft.

Why Monchi Loves Tattoo Conventions?

A tattoo convention or festival is usually a live tattooing event accompanied by workshops, tattoo contests, merchandise sales, and many other cool feats. Such festivals are like Disneyland for tattoo enthusiasts. It is an immersive experience, a combination of an art expo, a competition, and a community event. However, each artist who decides to participate in a tattoo convention also sets some personal goals.

“Part of that is ego—as an artist, I want to show that I am ahead of the field. But also, each convention is an opportunity to get better. I can see other artists doing amazing things and feel that every month I can improve just like them.”

—Monchi, about what inspired him to join the tattoo competition

With that said, the end result is not the only thing that mattersthe process and the feel of the competition are also very important. As Monchi explains it, tattooing at a convention is not the same as work you do in the studio.

“Tattooing at a convention is a lot of fun, even though it is more stressful than working in a studio, but that’s part of the competition. Artists are certainly out of their comfort zone during the contest.”


Monchi during the tattooing process

Monchi during the tattooing process

For those who simply love competing or need a little push to concentrate their efforts, a tattoo convention is a great chance to bring out their best and achieve creative breakthroughs. Yet, it comes with some unique challenges that should not be underestimated.

Challenges Tattoo Artists Face at Tattoo Conventions

In the interview, Monchi mentioned 3 types of challenges tattoo artists should be prepared for:

⌚ Time constraints

Unlike a typical tattoo session where an artist can choose a schedule that is comfortable for themselves and the client, the contest time is limited. As Monchi explains, participants might only get 5–6 hours of work for each of the 3 days of a convention—not too many hours in total, especially for a big piece.

“Sometimes, the contest starts at 5 PM or 7 PM every day. And even if we work until 11 PM, we don’t have too much time to get the project done.”


🥲 Client’s pain tolerance

The time limit doesn’t only put pressure on the artist but on the client, too. A person who is getting a tattoo must have notable pain tolerance as they might need to experience pain for more than 15 hours in 3 days (and those days are usually Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).

“It is important to find a client who can handle those 3 days of tattooing in a row. I had situations when a client tapped out, and I couldn’t show the project.”


✒️ Outstanding performance

Of course, an average tattoo is not going to beat the competition in a prestigious convention. It takes a lot of skill and creativity to get ahead of the field. We asked Monchi what an artist should do to perform well at a convention and compiled a success recipe based on his advice.

“An award-winning tattoo needs to be very neat. If the lines are not clean or the shading is not soft enough, the judge will definitely notice it.” 


Monchi’s award from the 2021 Houston Tattoo Arts Convention

Monchi’s award from the 2021 Houston Tattoo Arts Convention

Recipe for an Award-Winning Tattoo From Monchi

  • 1. Trust your style

Developing a signature style and competing in the sections that allow you to show off your skillset is crucial. For Monchi, the preferred categories are black and grey, realism, illustrative, geometric, or freestyle. For example, working with color requires a specific technique, so if you have not dedicated enough time to thoroughly study and practice it, it is best to stick to your guns.

Geometric tattoos are very trendy these days. If you’d like to get one, but still haven’t chosen a design, our geometric style collection can suggest some cool ideas!

Monchi is fluent in classic realism, illustrative, and geometric styles

  • 2. Create unique designs

One point Monchi consistently highlighted during our conversation is the importance of unique artwork. Never duplicating the existing designs is one of his core principles. Unique tattoos create a sense of exclusivity and personal connection for a client, and they also have a better shot in a tattoo competition.

“Some artists just use references from Pinterest and put them on the skin, and I don’t think that’s a good idea. For me, the most important thing is that every tattoo is unique and special.”


As you can see, original designs are Monchi’s strong suit

  • 3. Have a realistic plan

Because of the time limit, an artist should select a design that can be realistically completed within a given time frame. It would be very upsetting to not be able to finish a tattoo before the deadline, or even worse, ruin the piece by rushing too much. The good news is that you can win a contest even with a small or a medium-sized project.

“Your tattoo doesn’t necessarily need to be a full back or leg piece. If you use your time right and do a good job with a small or medium-sized tattoo, you will have a solid chance to win.”


Answering Questions You’ve Had About Tattoo Conventions

If it is your first time going to a tattoo convention, you probably have quite a few questions in mind. In this bonus section, we’ll answer some of the most common ones. 

  • 1. Can I get a walk-in tattoo at a convention?

In many cases, yes! Many artists offer both bookings and walk-in slots for convention attendees. It might be a good idea to arrive early and check with the artists you’re interested in to see if they have any openings.

Quick, walk-in tattoos are often called flash tattoos. Check out the article with 50 awesome ideas for flash tattoos to choose the best design for you.
  • 2. Who judges tattoo contests?

Tattoo contests are usually judged by fellow tattoo artists. Monchi has also been a part of the jury, so he knows what the experts look for in an award-winning work.

“It is hard to describe, but when I have all the pieces of art, I see the winner almost immediately.”


Monchi’s back piece in progress, performed during the Allstars Tattoo Convention

Monchi’s back piece in progress, performed during the Allstars Tattoo Convention
  • 3. How can I find nearby tattoo conventions?

You can find the largest tattoo conventions on WorldTattooEvents. This site publishes announcements for many prestigious events in the US and internationally.

  • 4. How can I get an award-winning tattoo?

To become a part of the award-winning project, you need to contact the artist whose style you like and settle all details beforehand. In this case, your commitment is crucial, so you need to make sure that you will be able to make it through all the days of the convention. You should have good pain tolerance, no adverse reactions to the ink, and be open to new creative ideas. 


During our conversation with Ramon “Monchi” Poleo, we talked about tattoo conventions and what they mean for tattoo professionals. Monchi has participated in multiple contests, so we asked him why he loves competing, what challenges he faced on the way to success, and how he created award-winning tattoos. On top of that, we answered common questions you could have about tattoo conventions.

Thank you for reading this article! We hope you enjoyed it and found the inspiration to visit a tattoo convention yourself.


👍 Is It Worth Going to a Tattoo Convention?

Yes, tattoo conventions are great social events, even if you don’t want to get tattooed there. You can enjoy live tattooing sessions, workshops, or masterclasses.

🤔 Can You Get a Tattoo at a Convention?

Usually, some artists will offer walk-in slots, so you will likely have a chance to get tattooed even without a booking.

🏅 What Does It Take to Win a Tattoo Contest?

According to Monchi, an award-winning tattoo should be very polished, have clean lines and soft shading, and must have a unique design.

😮‍💨 How To Become a Client at a Tattoo Contest?

If you want to get an award-winning tattoo, you need to be ready to commit to long and, perhaps, painful tattooing sessions, and be open to creative designs.


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