Header images courtesy of @freedomtattoohk, @mkamtattoo, @cristo_tattoo_ehah, and (via Instagram)
If art is about expressing one’s inner self, then what better canvas than the body itself? Hong Kong’s underground tattoo scene has slowly gained more traction over the years, particularly on the skin of millennials and members of Gen Z. From the inking days of Jimmy Ho, the godfather of Hong Kong tattoos, the tattooing industry has expanded from gangs to an extensive and mixed clientele list of students, office ladies, and soccer dads.
And whilst there is still plenty of reservation around the professionalism of having a full sleeve or even a tiny souvenir piece, the work of Hong Kong’s tattoo artists and studios to champion the cause of tattoos and the removal of stigma around ink is slowly paying off. We’ve compiled a list of some of Hong Kong’s best tattoo studios for you, whether you’re looking for your first or tenth piece! If you can dream it, someone on this list can probably make it a reality.
First established in 2010, Blackout Tattoo reflects founder Rob Kelly’s belief that tattoos are born out of a partnership between tattoo artists and clients, with each piece being original and one-off concepts. In contrast with the bustling and messy streets of Sheung Wan where the studio is located, Kelly’s self-proclaimed germaphobe tendencies mean the equipment and platforms of the studio are kept to the highest standard of sanitation and cleanliness.
Also looking outside the borders of Hong Kong, Blackout regularly invites international collaborators and artists to develop and showcase their skills (pre- and post-Covid). Blackout has become a hub of innovative tattoo concepts and helped shift old assumptions into a form of self-expression and aesthetics. On a more personal level, Kelly believes that passion for one’s job will naturally draw people in. Given their extensive clientele list, there’s no doubt that Kelly and his superstar team—consisting of Marjung Lama and Steph Lee—are in love with their craft.
Blackout Tattoo, 502 Hing Tai Commercial Building, 114 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan
The Dragons Lair Tattoo was founded by Jonny D, a former apprentice of Jimmy Ho, the godfather and legend of the Hong Kong tattoo industry. Having spent a handful of years under Ho’s tutelage, he then trained in traditional Chinese and old-school tattooing before traversing the globe to attend seminars by top artists to train in a wide variety of styles.
Now with his own studio and working alongside Evita Lopez, he pushes creativity and imagination at the intersection of orthodox and unconventional styling. The Dragons Lair Tattoo operates on the belief that tattooing is more than just art, and also an extension of each person. Thus, artists and clients work intimately to figure out the best way to design a unique piece that strongly reflects their beliefs and values.
The Dragons Lair Tattoo, 5/F, 83 Wellington Street, Central
With a star-studded clientele list like David Beckham and Lebron James, Freedom Tattoo HK will give you the celebrity treatment you want and deserve. Whether it’s your first or gazillionth ink, Gabe Shum and his multi-talented team of tattoo artists and apprentices will help you figure out the best interpretation of your dream tat. To ease concerns on sanitation, Freedom Tattoo HK imports the highest quality of ink from North America and Europe, and mainly uses disposal needles.
Shum is also the original founder of the Hong Kong China International Tattoo Convention, playing a massive role in pushing the boundaries and limits of tattoo artistry. So when you get a tattoo from Freedom Tattoo, you know your ink is coming from the core of tattoo innovation and collaboration. Check out the roster of portfolios: Gabe Shum, Jun, Akai, Jaan, Yingo, Jacky, Kwon, Sing Kit, Bibi, and 21.
Freedom Tattoo HK, Room B3A, 10/F, Luen Ming Hing Factory Building, 36 Mok Cheong Street, To Kwa Wan
The first words that come to mind when you scroll through any of the online portfolios for Hello Tattoo artists are “cute” and “dainty.” And Hello Tattoo is just that—a quick glance at their studio reveals a cosy space filled with light and a few Insta-worthy corners. Cheery pastel colours are coupled with whimsical décor (a pink Christmas tree? Yes, please!) to give off the taste of having macaroons and some very sweet pink lemonade.
With their neon signs that adorn their office walls and website banner, there’s no denying that Hello Tattoo is targeting the growing market of younger millennials. Unlike their older counterparts who favour big sleeves with the dramatic flair of dragons and tigers, this upcoming group is not trying to make a statement about their status or beliefs but rather, simply looking for Korean-style aesthetic pieces that reflect the small things that bring them happiness: pets, desserts, anime—you name it, they got it. Check out the portfolios of Hello Tattoo’s artists (Polam, Cara, Ian, Rosey, and Ying) to see what beautiful and delicate things they dream up.
Hello Tattoo, Unit S, 11/F, Block 2, Kwun Tong Industrial Centre, 460–470 Kwun Tong Road, Kwun Tong
At first glance, you may miss the entrance to Mofo Tattoo, situated at basement level. But after ducking down a flight of stairs, you will be greeted with a Midwest-salon-meets-barbershop vibe. Under the soft ambient lights from their neon signage, patrons and tattoo artists can chat and work comfortably. The careworn, homey vibe of the studio reflects the near-decade the studio has been killing it in the Hong Kong inking scene, firmly establishing their work in terms of quality and originality.
Mofo Tattoo houses a plethora of quirky and funky artists with very distinctive interpretations across all major tattooing styles, so you will be guaranteed to never find a similar-looking tattoo elsewhere. Whether you are looking for a dog sandwiched in a croissant, Yoda in a pink dressing gown, or an astronaut-turned-scribble, Mofo tattoo artists are ready to “flesh out” your ideas. Check out the respective portfolios of Lily Cash Chan, Karl Hung, Jimma, Vincent, Tapz, and Cristo for a better idea of their styles!
Mofo Tattoo, Unit 2B, Cleveland Mansion, 5–7 Cleveland Street, Causeway Bay
Hong Kong is often known for its type-A business opportunities, rigid architecture, and corporate energy. But on the flip side of that is a city of abounding energy, constant change, and innovation. No one understands that better than Ross Turpin, who left his career in advertising because he was “more into the punk rock scene” and sought the creative freedom and expression that tattooing seemed to hold. Along with fellow tattooers Rich Phipson and Cathy, Turpin takes inspiration from the city and its people, from the food, nature, the smaller islands, and draws from Hong Kong’s intertwining history with the US military.
Star Crossed Tattoo artists pull from their own sources of inspiration, from art, photography, random toys and tools, to create original and thoughtful pieces for their clients. Not only can their skillset cater to the whims and desires of all their clients, but they have also gone the extra way by offering vegan ink for clients who request it.
Star Crossed Tattoo, 1/F, 1 Sun Street, Wan Chai | (+852) 3427 3820
Gone are the days of trawling on Instagram and Pinterest for tattoo inspirations or feeling too embarrassed to share the personal meaning behind your tattoo idea with your artist. Tennin Tattoo, founded by Mike Kam, is currently a one-man, by-appointment-only studio, with the goal of creating pieces that will be loved forever.
After training for a handful of years at Star Crossed Tattoo, the high quality of his work and relationships with clients allowed Kam to establish his own tattoo studio in Causeway Bay. His work is imbued with themes of Japanese motifs and features an array of funky mythical creatures and legends. The finesse and delicacy he has with his detailing work translate into his creative process with clients to craft the perfect piece together.
Tennin Tattoo, 20/F, United Building, 447–449 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay | (+852) 5544 1836