Get Inked in the Gritty City: Your Guide to Tacoma Tattoo Parlors

The creative minds at Paradox Tattoo are second, most clients say, to none.


By Mariah Beckman

The creative minds at Paradox Tattoo are second, most clients say, to none.
The creative minds at Paradox Tattoo are second, most clients say, to none. Photo courtesy of Paradox Tattoo.

It was famous oyster pirate, hobo and renowned author Jack London who once said, “Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past.” Boston-born author and brooding poet Sylvia Plath wrote, “Wear your heart on your skin in this life.” And it was New Jersey urban bard of note Driicky Graham who heralded the merits, in 2012, of displaying one’s snapbacks and tattoos with pride. Who can argue with such sage wisdoms?

According to 2015 statistics, more than 45 million people have at least one tattoo. There are so many reasons that the tatted cite to brand themselves with vibrant hues and meaningful text. Many invest in ink to honor a loved one or to celebrate a personal triumph. Some want to cover up literal scars; others get a tattoo simply for the sake of style.

Whatever reasons people consider a tattoo, there are a few useful things to know.

  • Visit a few shops before you select the artist that’s right for you.
  • Flip through the binders of work that each artist has collected to get a feel for his work before you commit to a draft.
  • Be patient with the process of screening shops, patient with your design creation and patient with your artist and his or her schedule.
  • Pinterest is amazing. It is not, however, a free tattoo template service. Use Pin-spirations responsibly.

If you’ve been giving some thought to inking it up in the South Sound, there are a handful of amazing shops right here in your backyard.

House of Tattoo 

Located right on Tacoma’s central 6th Avenue (between Oakes and Anderson) House of Tattoo has been operating in the Gritty City since 1996. The shop is easy to get to and located betwixt some really great restaurants and venues. Because of its fantastic central location, House of Tattoo can get pretty busy. As such, it’s always a good idea to call ahead before stopping by. Appointments are booked an average of a month out, and if you follow this inking institution on its Facebook page, you’ll not only be inspired, but you’ll also be in the know when the venue hosts a promotion. (Hint: Be sure to check out the site annually around their birthday. The shop turns 20 on May 30, 2016, and historically has celebrated with express PNW-inspired tattoos ranging from $40 – 60 in price.) The shop’s five artists — Josh, Katie, Brett, Jeff and Mike (who has an impressive portfolio of trash polka pieces) — are comfortable with everything from lettering to watercolor work.

What to know: One of the most respected shops in the area, House of Tattoo has been voted Best of Tacoma for almost 20 years running. Better yet, artists across the Sound have a high opinion of the shop, too. Every artist we spoke to said they respect every creative mind at this venerable institution.

House of Tattoo
6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98406
Monday through Saturday: noon to 9:00 p.m.
Sunday: noon to 6:00 p.m.


paradox flowers bees
In order to best bring your vision to life, visit a few different tattoo parlors before making an appointment. Photo courtesy of Paradox Tattoo.

Flaming Dragon Tattoo Company

Flaming Dragon Tattoo has been operating in Tacoma for nearly 20 years. The original location, which opened in 1998 in downtown Tacoma (24th Avenue and Pacific), was so successful that they chose to expand (6th Avenue between Madison and Proctor) in 2005. The shops are outfitted beautifully to express the colorful neighborhoods and the creativity that lies behind their parlor doors. The cooperative offers six artists on staff: Scott (who is also the owner and has an amazing body of work that dates back to 1991), Jason, Darin, David, Sara and Brad. Each artist is unique, but many are comfortable working with many styles and showcase wonderfully diverse portfolios on site and online.

What to know: Either location offers walk-in appointments. Customers are served on a first-come basis, although it’s always a good idea to visit a shop and develop a rapport with the artists first.

Flaming Dragon Tattoo
3912 6th Ave.
Tacoma, WA 98406

Tuesday through Saturday: noon to 9:00 p.m.


3514 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma, WA 98418

Tuesday through Saturday: noon to 9:00 p.m.


paradox alice in wonderland
From super-real to surreal, local tattoo artists help their clients’ visions come to life. Photo courtesy of Paradox Tattoo.

Tsunami Tattoo

Tsunami Tattoo is just five minutes from I-5 and the Tacoma Mall (38th Street between Cedar and Lawrence Street). The shop, owned by Tim McCarthy, has been in operation for about 10 years. Five artists (Tim, Miko, Jayme, Nate, Andrew and Jake the Piercer) at this shop offer their own unique portfolios and nuances to the shop’s collective body of work, which means there’s a little bit of something for everyone. Open seven days a week, Tsunami takes walk-ins, but appointments are strongly preferred.

What to know: This shop takes cash only. Jake (the piercer) is not on-site Sunday, and, for those who have a gender preference, Tsunami’s lady-artist Jayme is available for walk-ins and by appointment.

Tsunami Tattoo
3514 Pacific Ave.
Tacoma, WA 98418

Monday through Saturday: noon to 8:00 p.m.
Sunday 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.


American Ritual Tattoo and Wunderkammer Curiosity Shoppe

There is no shop quite like Justin Winters’ American Ritual Tattoo in Freighthouse Square (on 25th between D and G Street). A combination tattoo parlor and curiosity shoppe, Jason runs the cooperative alongside his wife, Mishelle. Wet specimens, upcycled sculptures and statement pieces under glass set the whimsical tone for the original work at this studio. Evocative location aside, Justin’s work is recommended for its originality. New school art, sacred geometry and illustrative colorwork are the foundation of American Ritual’s portfolio, although this artist’s work demonstrates that he is comfortable working with a variety of genres.

What to know: While this parlor’s user reviews are nearly flawless, it is worthwhile to note that Justin delights in creating original designs. He is happy to reproduce quotes or lettering, but would greatly prefer not to infringe on the rights of other artists by reproducing tattoos or designs discovered online.

American Ritual Tattoo and Wunderkammer Curiosity Shoppe
2501 East D St. Suite 42
Tacoma, WA 98421

Wednesday through Sunday: noon to 6:00 p.m.


seventh veil tattoo
At Seventh Veil, Matt Cowell merges old-world charm with modern tattooing techniques. Photo courtesy of Seventh Veil Tattoo.

Arcadia Tattoo

Once you walk in to see the life-sized Han Solo frozen in carbonate, you know that Arcadia Tattoo is nerd-friendly. This gentrified shop is a Tacoma-transplant, having moved from their location near Joint Lewis-McChord, is on the outskirts of Tacoma (on Pacific between 51st and 52nd). Three artists (Pete, Eric and Joe) bring their award-winning talents to the shop and offer incredible Japanese-style artwork, colorwork and — of course — comic book reliefs. Arcadia offers some unique artwork for sale in their studio, too, for those who still aren’t ready to become a living canvas but appreciate the tattoo-style aesthetic.

What to know: You can pay the deposit for your tattoo online using a Visa or Mastercard, Paypal, or the power of positive thinking. A minimum deposit of $40 is slightly less than the unofficial, regional standard of around $60.

Arcadia Tattoo
5121 Pacific Hwy E
Fife, WA 98424

Tuesday through Saturday: noon to 8:00 p.m.


Brass Monkey Tattoo Company

Brass Monkey is another Tacoma transplant, having moved from Lakewood to Tacoma, and couldn’t be any happier with its new locale on 6th Avenue between Junett and Pine Street. “We love our 6th Ave. shop,” says Chris Costa, “and we love the people in this area. This community is so awesome.” The shop is so hospitable that they never miss an opportunity to offer charity work, gift certificates and vouchers to schools and non-profits in the area. Brass Monkey also moonlights designs at the custom skate shop nearby, so if their work looks familiar, it might be from a grind rail near you. The parlor sees quite a bit of foot traffic from walk-ins, where there are two artists and a piercer (Scott, Josh and Chris).

What to know: The shop’s most distinctive quality may well be how approachable and neighborly the experience at Brass Monkey is. However, they are also open slightly later than some shops in the area, closing as late as 11:00 p.m.

Brass Monkey
2914 6th Ave Suite B
Tacoma, WA 98406
Monday through Sunday: noon to 10:30 p.m./11:00 p.m.


paradox tattoos
Whitney, Chentelle, Damien and Sean at Paradox Tattoo create the sort of tattoos that people have to share. Photo courtesy of Paradox Tattoo.

Seventh Veil Tattoo

For years, Matt Cowell exercised his creativity at Tacoma’s popular House of Tattoo, but this summer the talented tattoo artist is going rogue at his downtown Tacoma tattoo parlor, Seventh Veil Tattoo. Located at 762 Broadway, Seventh Veil Tattoo is nestled along Tacoma’s historic antique row. Matt says his intention is to create a space where he can “provide clientele with an upscale, relaxing environment in which to inspire, and be inspired.” At Seventh Veil, Matt merges old-world charm with modern tattooing techniques. Seventh Veil Tattoo will open later this summer.

What to know: Matt Cowell brings years of experience to Tacoma’s newest tattoo parlor, Seventh Veil Tattoo. Follow his forthcoming shop of Facebook for news about his opening day and special events.

Seventh Veil Tattoo
762 Broadway St.
Tacoma, WA


Paradox Tattoo

Whitney, Chentelle, Damien and Sean at Paradox Tattoo create the sort of tattoos that people have to share. The creative minds at this sophisticated space are second, most clients say, to none. Artwork adorns the walls that speaks to the education and experience that the talented artists at this Bonney Lake parlor possess.

What to know: The artists at Paradox have a waitlist that reflects the quality of their portfolios. This is not a shop that can frequently accommodate walk-ins. However, those who can afford to book their session out are encouraged to stop by and learn more about drafting their idea with the talent at Paradox.

Paradox Tattoo
19102 State Route 410 E.
Bonney Lake, WA 98391


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