June 4, 2021
June 4, 2021

5 Designer Takeaways from Ink Master

Typically, you don’t expect to gain much from watching reality tv shows, however, there is one reality tv show that has convinced me otherwise. Recently, I watched Ink Master to get in the mind of a tattoo artist for a client’s project and surprisingly, it was educational, inspiring, and full of motivated artists you can learn a lot from.


Even though Ink Master isa tattoo artist competition full of unique challenges and comparing tattoos on the “human canvases”, there are several takeaways that apply to other types of creatives.


1.    Know the Basics

With any medium, you need to understand the fundamentals. If you learn anything from Ink Master, it’s that a good tattoo needs to have a clean outline, solid color, detail, dimension, texture, and contrast, no matter the style. As long as you know the fundamentals, you can apply the techniques to any style and should get a strong outcome.

Check out an example of this in Season 2, Episode 3.


2.    Artistic Ability is Key

Knowing the basics can only get you so far. There are two big pieces that make a great artist. We’ve already covered the first one, which is knowing the basics. The second piece is your artistic ability. In many Ink Master episodes, artists use external image references to create the tattoo. While creating art from those references often produces cool results, your imagination is what will really make you rise above the pack. It’s hard for other people to replicate that, so original compositions from scratch is usually the best way to go.

Check out an example of this in Season 2, Episode 7.


3.    Need to be Versatile

Sure, everyone probably has a style they feel more comfortable creating in. On the show, some artists had a background in watercolor tattoos while others were trained in new school techniques, and various other styles. To improve your skills, though, you need to be pushed out of your comfort zone. When challenged in this, at first some of the tattoo artists resisted claiming, “That’s not really my thing” or “That’s just not what I do, I do portraits”. This didn’t fly. A judge, Chris Núñez summed this up to finalist, Steve Tefft in season 2,“What the **** is anybody here for if they come to compete and only do one style of tattooing?” If your goal is to be a tattoo master or graphic design master, etc., you need to be the master of ALL styles. It takes hard work and dedication to be the best at something, but if you put in the time and effort, you can be a master of your industry.

Check out an example of this in Season 2, Episode 9.


4.    Criticism is Necessary

Knowing from personal experience; after spending time and energy on a project and giving it your all, it can be hard to hear criticism about your work. As hard as it is to hear it though, it’s essential to becoming a better artist/designer. Even if you don’t win a competition, the criticism you receive after each project will only help you leave a better artist. Keep your head held up high and just know that it’s for your own good.

Check out an example of this in Season 1, Episode 4.


5.    Client Management

Given the time constraints and style of tattoo necessary, a client’s initial idea is not always ideal for the challenge. An artist needs to work with a client to ensure that a tattoo concept fits both the demands of the actual challenge and the original desired vision. For example, a client might have a cool idea for a large and intricate piece, but the challenge does not allow enough time to execute that tattoo. In this case, the artist could try to talk the client into a similar concept on a smaller canvas like their arm. This happens across industries when client may be unclear on exactly what they want, and part of an artist’s or designer’s job is to educate them and design an appropriate piece they will love.

Check out an example of this in Season 2, Episode 7.


Are there any takeaways I missed? What other shows have you seen or maybe want to see that have lessons that apply to multiple professions/industries/etc.?  

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