Getting Tattooed in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is probably the most interesting city I’ve ever been to. It’s by far the most multicultural, and it’s full of rich and interesting history.

Hong Kong also has a fantastic art scene with artists from around the world finding their style and inspiration in and among Hong Kong’s towering skyscrapers and narrow, winding streets filled with irreplaceable noodle shops, the all-important umbrella repair store, and a thriving tattoo scene.

Arguably some of the best artists in the world reside in Hong Kong, at some of the best and most interesting tattoo shops I have been to yet. This past month I received three different tattoos from two different artists at two different shops in Hong Kong.

Star Crossed tattoo

If you’re getting a tattoo in Hong Kong there’s a good chance you don’t live there and are either just passing through or visiting for a short time. I currently live in mainland China and though it’s only a short train ride into Hong Kong, it is a hassle, and it’s not called the world’s most expensive city for nothing. These two factors combined mean I have only spent around a total of eight days or so in the city, even though I’m so close.

If you are a visitor to the city like myself, then you’ll want to find your artist and get ahold of them well before your visit. I mainly use Instagram to find artists I want to go to, and a quick search on the old gram of “hktattoo” will yield seemingly endless results.

The Company tattoo

Alternatively you can google tattoo artists or shops in Hong Kong and you’ll have similar results. There are a number of artists and shops that will appear first in your searches such as Star Crossed, The Company, Freedom Tattoo, MoFo Tattoo, and Blackout, to name a few. For my own tattoos I chose Star Crossed and The Company.

If you prefer to find your shop one of the old school ways you can also wander through the streets and find ones to walk into, but there’s no guarantee artists will be available as Hong Kong is a bustling place. If you want to find yours by walking then your best bet is taking the metro into Kowloon or Central and starting from there.

The Company tattoo

Once you find your shop and artist send them an Instagram message or email if they prefer and find out if you need a consultation or if you can start talking designs and prices straight away. If you are coming from outside of Hong Kong there is a good chance you’ll have to pay your deposit through PayPal, and this is common practice. I did so for my tattoo on Japan and Hong Kong, both.

Tattoo day has come finally and you’re excited, and possibly nervous if it’s your first tattoo. If you are getting your first tattoo and it’s in Hong Kong I have a few tips for you. 1. If you are like myself and not used to blistering heat then you’re going to want to drink a fair amount of water before your tattoo, and bring a cold drink with you as even with AC some places in Hong Kong can be pretty hot. 2. Sanitation in parts of Asia, including Hong Kong, are a little different compared to Western cities, so you’ll want to make sure the shop has hygienic practices, and afterwards you’ll want to do a good job washing your tattoo with soap and hot water. 3. This one is again to do with the heat. If you’re a sweater then you’ll really want to make sure you clean your tattoo twice a day to make sure it’s not getting caked in sweat while it’s trying to heal.

Myself and Cathy from Star Crossed

At Star Crossed Tattoo I was tattooed by their resident apprentice and local Hong Konger, Cathy (as of July 2019). Cathy tattoos in an American traditional style with an HK twist. I got some script and a good luck piece from Sailor Jerry’s Hong Kong flash that Cathy updated a bit and made her own. If you’re going to get a Chinese character tattoo, make sure you can read it, or get it from an artist who fluently reads and writes the language (that goes for getting a tattoo in any language you don’t actually speak). And this goes both ways, I have also seen people in China with English words tattooed on them that make absolutely no sense. Don’t be that person. The script I got reads jiāyóu, which literally means “add oil”, but is used to say “you got this” or, “keep fighting”. Cathy’s work is often inspired by punk music, and she has many punk rock pin-up ladies you can choose from to get tattooed on you. She mixes old school motifs with a bit of a Neo-traditional colour scheme. Meaning my Sailor Jerry piece has some popping blue and green in there in addition to the black, red, and yellow. Cathy is extremely friendly and Star Crossed has an open and inviting atmosphere. I highly recommend checking it out.

A Sailor Jerry re work done by Cathy
Chinese characters from Cathy

The next shop I visited was The Company. I was tattooed by black work artist James Lau, another Hong Konger, born and raised. James tattoos in a heavy black work style, using thick, bold lines and dark shading to create stunning original pieces. James is known for tattooing finger and palm pieces that really last. James is also a very friendly guy, joking and inviting as soon as the door of the shop opens. The Company has a similar open-floor plan to Star Crossed, so the whole place is very free and open feeling. The Company is also a must visit shop in Hong Kong.

James and the finished product on me!
Heavy black work piece on the back of my neck done by James

Winnipeg Artist 12: Joel Mijker

Joel is an artist working out of Rebel Waltz Tattoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Classic cry baby.
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Big panther and a snake locked in battle.
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Deconstructed anchor and a bit of a seascape/sunset.
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Fingers crossed.
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Swallows and a heart for mom.
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Spooky demon.

Joel does classic American traditional tattoos. He has plenty of flash to choose from, or you can bring an idea to him.

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Good luck horseshoe. This design used to usually be done with the horseshoe facing upright, to keep the luck in. But now people seem to get it upside down more and more, seeming to be a sign of making your own luck.
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Nice vacation in a bottle with this one.
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Geisha with a beautiful kimono and umbrella.
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Blackwork stomach with geometric flowers and peony. Lots of lines!
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Black rose and Bert Grimm crying heart.
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Mean looking spider and crying eye.

Joel does both colour pieces as well as blackwork.

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Blackwork peony in more of a Japanese style.
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Twisty dragon, an American take on a Japanese design.
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Geometric vase and wrap around snake.
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Traditional Aboriginal lady head.
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Fortune teller lady head and Bert Grimm tiger head.

You can search him up on Instagram and see when he is doing walk-ins, or contact him and set up an appointment.

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Sleazy Mickey.
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Blackwork snake.
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Tough boxer and rose in blackwork style.
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Butterfly for a gap filler.
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Crowned Jesus blackwork piece.

Joel sticks to the classics, and does it well. He has crisp bold lines and solid shading, all within a readable trad piece.  He is a must visit artist if you’re in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg Artist 9: Dave Lao

Dave Lao is a black and grey artist working out of his private studio, Lone Wolf Studios in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Dark religious piece.
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Realistic Greek god/monster back piece.
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Crazy surf tattoo with shark.
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Centaur and flowers.
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Game of Thrones’ Daenerys.

Dave works in realism and sketch work styles. Much of his work is portraiture, such as characters from shows and movies, and lots of animals.

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Roman statue styled piece.
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Eyeball with a space theme.
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Beautiful elephant back piece.
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Angry polar bear.
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Virgin Mary portrait.

Dave has an impeccable attention to detail; with every line counting.

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Terrifying grim reaper.
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Greek/Roman surreal piece.
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Greek god Atlas.
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Portrait/ sketch work style lion.
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Surreal woman portrait and nature themed piece.

Most of his portfolio is made up of somewhat larger pieces, but he will also do smaller tattoos which are just as impressive.

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Nautical themed hand.
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Canadian army memorial piece.
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Realistic king piece.
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Small photo realistic swiss army knife.
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Gas mask and chopper.

Dave is a must see artist for black and grey work in Winnipeg.

Artist of the Month: Nissaco

Nissaco is a tattoo artist based in Shinsaibashi Osaka at an unnamed private studio that goes by the name room_23_26 on Instagram.

Nissaco 1
Smaller scale pieces. Healed waves and fresh geometrical shell design.

Nissaco does mainly large scale pieces such as full sleeves, back pieces, and even body suits. His style is black geometrical work and it is extremely detailed.

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Big and painful back of the leg going right over the knee ditch with some popping red in the mandala and linework designs.
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Full back piece right over the butt and legs leading into a great sleeve on the left arm. Some great use of negative space in the back.
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Fantastic sleeve with bird skull and eye mixed with geometrical designs.

His work is hard sought after with visitors going to see him from all around the world. Along with having clients from around the world, he also travels, going to various tattoo conventions. Most recent he will be at the 13th London Tattoo convention in September 2017.

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Filler neck/throat piece that fits great with the adjacent neck pieces.
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Matching geometric sleeves.
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Full back and legs with a lot of heavy blackwork for filler.
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Full front is a tender area going right onto the nipples, with brilliant line work and heavy blacks.
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Brilliant full torso, sleeve, and two leg sleeves with geometric designs and a hidden face.
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Half body suit full of heavy blacks in large scale geometrics.
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Fantastic intricate healed geometric design.

Along with being geometrical in design, Nissaco’s work also often features classic Japanese elements such as dragons, waves, flowers, snakes, koi fish, and hannya masks. These pieces are almost entirely black, but occasionally feature a small amount of red to make them really pop.

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Full front, sleeve, and half leg sleeve. Featuring a brilliant Japanese dragon, and flowers such as chrysanthemums and cherry blossoms.
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Great geometric koi fish with some colour thrown in.
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Heavy blacks and lots of negative space with this angry hannya.
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Another hannya coming off of a sleeve and onto the back.

Nissaco is a must see artist in Osaka, Japan, but book well in advance as his books fill up fast!

Artist of the Month: Carlos Torres

Carlos Torres is a hyper realistic black and grey artist from San Pedro CA. He is almost entirely self taught with 18 years of experience behind him. He is a tattoo artist and a painter who specializes in realism and surrealism.

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Angel riding horses in a full back piece.

His work is incredibly detailed and realistic. He creates brilliant original pieces. He has been to numerous tattoo conventions around the world and won the first place black and grey in London. His work has the feeling of a painting come to life, thanks to his experience with oil paintings.

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Chest piece with skeleton, sword swallower, and fire breather.

Carlos has even done head and face tattoos, which can be daunting as it is extremely visible and will be one of the first things people see when looking at his clients.

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Surrealist face.
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Full face with a Mayan style.
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Full leg sleeve of warriors.
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Another brilliant (not quite finished) back piece.
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Lady head and tiger.
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Huge horse with surrealist design within.
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Huge motorcycle on the belly.
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Mayan temple style rib piece.
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Surrealist puppet master.
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Healed full torso piece with Victorian woman, ship, skulls, angels, and surrealist filler.

Which is your favorite piece by Carlos?