Japanese Style Tattoo Artists
Whether you’re a fan of Japanese tattoo designs or not, we must admit that this tattoo style represents a great challenge for every tattoo artist.
The Japanese culture offers a huge variety of tattoo designs making them one of the most sought-after tattoo styles in the world.
Analyzing the rich composition of the Japanese tattoo designs, the use of contrasting colors, the precise line work, and the body placement, we’ve come up with a compelling guide about the best Japanese tattoo artists to follow on Instagram.
One of the most common issues with large-scale Japanese tattoos is the incoherence of the entire design, as a consequence of crowding multiple elements into one piece.
Therefore, when selecting the best Japanese style tattoo artists to follow on Instagram, we took into consideration the readability of the composition, the way the design interacts with the human body anatomy, and the clean outlines.
Studying the work of more than 200 Japanese-style tattoo artists, we hope that this article will help you choose wisely the artist of your next Japanese tattoo.
SHIGE – Japan
After traveling and receiving a bodysuit from Swiss master tattoo artist Filip Leu, Shige was transformed into a master himself.
He is now considered one of the most important Japanese tattoo artists out there, popular for his large cohesive body images, stretching from the back of the neck to the calves.
These large images are animated, colorful, and quite mesmerizing.
They create a bodysuit that is cohesive and unimaginably beautiful.
Henning Jørgensen – Denmark
Winner of three worldwide “Tattooist of the Year” awards, Henning Jorgensen’s style is alert and in your face (in a good way).
He shows figures surrounded by their own hair, fire, or flowers, which makes them look like they are jumping off the skin.
It’s not just the composition that helps make them pop: the color saturation in his tattoos is what really makes them earn those rewards.
He does not only small tattoos with one figure but also large bodysuits that have so much going on in the means of subject matter and color yet their composition allows for everything to come together.
Horitomo – California, US
Horitomo loves cats and is masterful at tattooing them.
He even does a cat eating a koi fish!
This interesting display of Japanese material is done with black ink and orange and grey accents.
The cat is often patterned with Japenese-style flowers and sweeping lines.
Sometimes the cats also are dressed as samurai dressed in brilliant patterns.
Horitomo does not only do cats. He also tattoos mice and samurai.
One thing in common with all these tattoos is the intricate patterns that they possess.
Greg Gletron – Portland, US
Greg knows how to transform the body into an artwork.
His Japanese style tattoo subject matter includes samurai, tigers, demons, lotus flowers, lightning, and wind.
He uses elements of nature to not only accent animals, people, and mythological demons, but they also become a huge part of the scene.
These scenes often make use of black and grey and colorful ink combined.
This combination technique helps the compositions by allowing certain elements to stand out while others are supplementary.
Johan Svahn – Sweden
Johan Svahn is an artist known for his large pieces, especially full bodywork.
He creates masterpieces with dragons, monsters, and skull tattoos.
He also has tattooed many sleeves for his clients that are colorful and multi-layered.
Symbols and decorations seemingly combine with each other creating full-bodied images that are truly works of art.
Vu Ngoc Tan – Vietnam
Vu Kgoc Tan is known for his rich imagery, often making simply black ink show his talent with interesting shading and intricate designs.
He uses a lot of spacing to create faces and symbols that stand out.
This interesting use of skin as part of his palette can create a sleeve, for example, that uses lines and outward shading to create an image that almost looks like it’s a coloring book page.
You wouldn’t want to color these images in, though, because the empty space is what makes Vu Kgoc Tan’s style so special.
Emanuele Sircana – Italy
Emanuele Sircana is known for both his cover-ups and his concise tattoos that are neat and intricate.
He would be worth the trip to Italy, that’s for sure.
He often tattoos medium-sized works that are so organized and intellectual that one wants to stare at each one for a while in wonder of his work.
Ryan Ussher – Australia
Ryan Ussher took bits and pieces of style influence from all of the cities he’s worked in from around the world, providing him with a focus now on the Japanese style.
He’s famous for his large works such as sleeves and large leg pieces.
His work is highly animated, seeming almost to move, and tells a story through imagery.
Claudia De Sabe – United Kingdom
Claudia De Sabe likes to do tattoos of women’s faces as her main tattoo implement.
These faces are highly feminine and decorated with the women holding knives in their mouths or with interesting flowers that are unusual and the opposite of delicate.
She also does Japanese tattoos with koi, dragons, and other popular symbols, specializing in black and grey.
Hori Kashi – Japan
Hori Kashi uses vibrant colors to create brilliant tattoos– but there’s something interesting about his technique.
Beforehand, he often paints his tattoo designs rather than sketching them, and, he does not only use a tattoo machine but also employs traditional Tebori tools.
His work uses thick black lines which are colored in with either solid or shaded color depending on what the subject matter requires (often with these Tebori tools).
The background of his work does not often interfere with the subject matter, which has a full effect on the viewer rather than any minor details behind it.
Chris Garver – US
Chris Garver’s Japanese-style tattoos are a mixed bag.
They can be quite traditional, but can also follow a newer Japanese style.
As for size, he tattoos medium works all the way up to large tattoos.
What makes his work so fascinating is the humorous tone he takes with the subject matter.
For example, he once tattooed a large chest piece of a samurai riding a ridiculous Japanese creature, wind rushing behind him, with one hand wielding his sword and the other tugging at his beard.
This, and many other unique scenes, makes Garver’s tattoo portfolio different than the rest.
Tang Ping – China
Tang Ping is known for his sleeves as well as his bodysuits, which are psychedelic and brightly colored with every color over the rainbow.
He uses imagery such as skulls, monsters, Hindu Gods, feathers, and stuffed animals.
Layers of imagery seem to be flowing as if they are on a river together.
So many symbols are combined that it seems impossible that they could look that good together!
That’s because of his color palette and nack for forming amazing compositions that are complex yet draw the eye around the tattoo in a way that is uplifting to the mood and absolutely intriguing.
Dan Grimm typically does small to medium-sized tattoos in as he put it “Oriental” work and he also specializes in black and grey work.
In any of his work, he can make one image such as a dragon be so detailed in different elements (eyebrows, the pattern on its face, hair design, etc.) that each element could be a tattoo in itself.
His shading is impeccable.
Often, his figures and their backgrounds look like storybook characters that were drawn in a notebook and came to life.
KIKU – New York Citiy, US
Kiku shows figures that are animated in ways that are unusual: he shows a geisha eating with a yokai, a mythical creature with a snake coiled around his head showing his fangs, and many more strange creatures that are imagined and become alive on Kiku’s clients’ skin.
Kiku uses a lot of blank space inside the monsters’ bodies which creates dimension without having to use a black and grey combination.
Kiku’s style is intriguing– at times contradictory– but highly detail and well-finished.
HORITSUKI – Japan
Horitsuki says what he likes most about Japanese tattoos is their effect.
That we can understand, considering his tattoos have quite an effect in the world of Japanese tattoos.
His style comes from the simplicity of traditional Japanese tattooing, which he displays on his own body, using dragons, lotus flowers, samurais, and more.
He blends these figures together along with a lot of waves clouds, scales, and other shapes, which often form a kind of unexpected symmetry.
This is one of the few Japanese-style artists that almost exclusively uses black and grey ink.
Hori Jo has skillfully mastered the black and grey medium, using all available variations of grey-scale color and additionally using the client’s skin as a color itself.
The artist creates sleeves, back pieces, and bodysuits that are comprised of one big fantastic display of overlapping patterns and imagery.
In many of the artist’s tattoos, there is no background.
The foreground, background, and middle ground all morph together with interloping snake tattoos, waves, scales, and koi fish tattoos.
Makoto Horimatsu – Japan
Makoto Horimatsu’s tattoos look like a wonderful sketch, in the way that they are shaded so finely and have a choppy look to them.
This is not meant to take away from how detailed and unique they are– these tattoos are often of figures that could only be imagined by a true artist.
And Horimatsu is one of them.
His creations take the Japanese style to a new level of progress in subject matter and composition.
Katsu – Netherlands
Although Katsu prefers color, she also does black and grey beautifully.
But she’s right- her color work is incredible and so saturated in the skin that it appears to shine.
Her color shading includes black and grey sometimes which is used mainly for the shading, while other times she uses only color and white to create a magnificent face or shape.
She does not always use traditional Japanese-style imagery: Katsu often creates her own tales.
Garth B. Neale – Australia
After traveling all over the world, Garth chose Japanese Style tattoos as his main focus.
He’s made a bunny into a geisha and a dragon into a snake.
His style uses clean lines and a lot of white and grey shading mixed with colorful imagery.
His lotus flowers look like they were made digitally because of their accurate color shading and their seemingly life-like movement.
Neale is a champion in Japanese tattooing and is certainly known for his contemporary dark edge.
Fran Massino – Baltimore, US
Fran Massino does not do the typical style of Japanese tattoos.
His style lies more in the area of the next level of Japanese tattooing where adaption of new subject matter and composition has formed.
For example, he has a geisha on someone’s sleeve that is being seized on by a large spider, its legs emerging from its web.
He also does a three-eyed creature surrounded by Japanese flower tattoos.
However, it is important to mention that he does also do the traditional Japanese tattoo style, but in most cases, he creates new and fascinating ways of experiencing the style.
Stu Pagdin – Australia
Stu Pagdin uses a lot of reds, yellows, and oranges, mixed in with heavy black.
He tattoos everything from heads to hands to large chest pieces.
His choice of colors creates a new and fresh spin on the Japanese style.
His use of black only makes the surrounding colors pop all the more– he understands the use of light and dark.
This is a unique trait seeing that he is practically combining everything one needs to know about black and grey with color shading.
Alex Rusty – Australia
Alex Rusty is known for his large tattoo works which almost always incorporate at least some color.
Other than the most forward subject matter, many of the elements of his tattoos are so tied into the composition and the background that they only appear in moments of the scene.
Also, figures such as yokai may have tiger legs, or samurai may have raw faces with a sword between their teeth.
This kind of imagery frequents Rusty’s work.
He is not afraid to add strong emotions to his tattoos.
Hori Yo – Taiwan
Hori Yo’s specialty is more specific than just Japanese tattoos: his style specializes in black line work the speaks for itself among its black and color-shaded surroundings.
Sometimes, he does full large works with just simple black lines without any shading.
The way he does it is intricate lines flowing together into flower tattoos, koi fish tattoos, and geishas, for a start.
His other tattoos are colorful and artistic, never leaving a doubt that they won’t be striking with character.
Caio Piñeiro – United Kingdom
Caio Piñeiro often uses orange lines colored in with bits of yellow shading.
This interesting combination creates tattoos unlike any others– they are an anomaly that is strikingly beautiful.
His other tattoos are more traditional Japanese tattoos but they have the same M.O.: they almost all use black with only orange!
He includes lotus flowers, koi fish, and samurai, all with a traditional composition.
Alix Ge – France
Alix Ge is known for large faces, each with their mouths open and fangs or teeth glaring.
These faces include Japanese skull tattoos, tigers, samurai, dragons, gorillas, pumas, and the list goes on and on.
These ferocious faces are even scarier when there is a story involved.
One such story is illustrated in a tattoo of Alix Ge’s where a Japanese yokai is holding a helpless woman.
This back piece is one of many of Ge’s phenomenal masterpieces.
Horitaka – Japan
Horitaka’s style is unique in so he can do both whole pieces with just think lines and also large pieces with black, grey, and color– and sometimes the two combined!
To start with his linework, he uses mostly black but sometimes adds colored lines to add interest.
His work borders on lopsided and uneven yet its quirkiness looks like it belongs in an art gallery.
As for his colored work, he uses black to make the figures and symbols stand out.
And when the two micro styles are combined, the solid tattoo stands among a sea of lines that creates an outstanding mixture of light and heavy, thin and thick, simple and complex.
Calle Corson – Sweden
Calle Corson, from Sweden, has a modern take on the Japanese traditional style.
He’s known for using soft lines, so delicate you barely even know they are there.
That is, that’s the case in his powerfully designed colorful images– he does just line work, too.
The tattoos he does with just linework show figures with grey shading surrounded by traditional Japanese shaping.
Overall, his tattoos are in a modern Japanese style and are soft and easy on the eyes rather than bold and conspicuous.
Brian Kaneko – California, US
Brian Kaneko understands how a Japanese tattoo is supposed to fit on someone, for example, a sleeve should match the person’s body’s curves to fit perfectly.
Also, Kaneko understands the placement of figures on the body, such as how a koi fish is supposed to swim up the body not down.
His lines are tight and perfectly done.
As for color, he uses a lot of blacks to create backgrounds and uses light and colorful figures mixed with white to make those figures stand out.
His tattoos are bold and mesmerizing to look at.
Roly – Argentina
Roly likes to do large Japanese dragon tattoos with serpent qualities that travel from the neck to the lower black or around someone’s limb.
Roly does black-lined imagery as well as boldly colored images of koi, snakes, samurai, and tiger tattoos.
The most important thing to remember about Roly’s work is that it provokes movement and animates the characters.
Bonel – Spain
Bonel’s work is muted and soft in its nature, blended with chiaroscuro often and without strong sharpness to its lines.
Not only are his lines muted, but they use a limited palette of dark colors with a lot of greys to create a calm and sophisticated tattoo.
As for the subject matter, the tattoos include a lot of lotus flowers as the main theme as well as being in the background of many figures.
In fact, they use many different kinds of flowers in Japanese tattoos.
Tom Tom – New Zealand
He is known for large pieces, including bodysuits, and seems to specialize in sleeves (especially matching sleeves).
His use of color is all over the map: he uses all colors, a mix of color and greys, and black and grey.
What is similar across the board is his ability to make each composition flow with imagery joining together in a way that is pleasing to the eye.
Hugo HAB – Argentina
Hugo uses thick lines to generate his images which are colored in between the lines with color or greys.
His work can stretch from being simplistic to highly complex, no doubt depending on what the client desires.
He includes a lot of traditional Japanese subject matter, however, he seems to like tattooing mythical creatures since these stand out among his work.
Out of all these artists who specialize in the Japanese style of tattooing, we can see that although many artists stick with the traditional, most artists are transforming the Japanese style into a whole new art form.
There are countless examples of artists bending the rules with the subject matter, trying new compositions, line work, or even colors to reinvent it.
There’s no doubt we are entering a new time for this style’s, for lack of better a word, style.
Put in a different way, we are witnessing the evolution of Japanese traditional tattoo art to a new style that is altogether humorous, creative, and bold.
- Rose Tattoos
- Lion Tattoos
- What Does A Lotus Tattoo Mean
- What Does A Chrysanthemum Tattoo Mean
- What Does A Butterfly Tattoo Mean?
- What Does A Dragon Tattoo Mean?
- What Does An Octopus Tattoo Mean?
- Flower Tattoo Artists
- Best Tattoo Ideas
- American Traditional Tattoo Artists
- Watercolor Tattoos
- Animal Tattoo Artists