7 Black Tattoo Artists You Should Know | Painful Pleasures Community

7 Black Tattoo Artists You Should Know

Meet 7 Black tattoo artists, each with unique perspectives on the industry. Learn all about their trials, triumphs, and unique styles.
by Danny Tress Last Updated: February 22, 2023

As tattoo culture continues to evolve and gain momentum, Black tattoo artists around the world are leaving their stamp on the industry. This historically male- and white-dominated industry is now a much more accepting and inviting world, host to a diverse variety of talented artists.

It’s important to celebrate this diversity — after all, artists of all skin colors, backgrounds, and identities bring new and exciting ideas to the table. But it’s also important to note that Black tattoo artists still face unique challenges in the studio, at conventions, and in the industry at large.

We reached out to seven top Black tattoo artists to learn all about their experiences and perspectives. Meet all of them below, and learn about their styles, trials, triumphs, and how they handle being an artist in today’s climate.

Headshot and collage of tattoos by Chavonna Rhodes

You may have caught her on Ink Master season 9… or maybe you’ve stumbled on her work while scrolling through Instagram. Either way, Chavonna Rhodes makes a “bang” wherever she goes. Going by the name Bang, this talented artist owns the private studio Bang, Inc located in Atlanta, Georgia. Her style is diverse, encompassing realism, pop culture, jewel tattoos, and more. But Bang doesn’t only tattoo — she also microblades, runs a candle business, and is a commanding army officer, just to name a few of her other talents and pursuits. Bang has encountered both positive and rough moments in all her careers; but being a female tattooer has presented its own unique challenges. 

“Some of the issues that I did run into were with the clients. A lot of male clients had never been tattooed by a female artist before, let alone a Black female. So, not that I struggled with that, but I had to correct people time after time. Like, ‘Hey, um, I’m in this male-dominated industry, but I can do this shit too.’

I have only worked at one tattoo shop from the beginning of my career. Once I went solo and went to a private studio, I was pretty good on my own. But as of recently, I went back to another shop where it was just not a good experience for me. There was a lot of sexual harassment going on. There was a lot of disrespect. There was a lot of people playing with my money […] Nobody should ever have to go through that.”

Despite these challenges, Bang points out that her experience in the tattoo industry has been largely positive and full of “good times.” She apprenticed for four years and worked in a predominantly Black tattoo shop under the mentorship of Tyrone Red Cooley. The clash of this positive experience with her future struggles, she asserts, has led to her growth as an artist and professional. Another contributor to her growth as a tattoo artist of color? A life-changing documentary. 

“I don’t know if you all have seen the film Color Outside the Lines by Artemus Jenkins. That was like the film for me […] which showcased a lot of Black tattoo artists coming up in the industry and putting a stamp on it. You know what I’m saying? Like, that did everything for me.”

Bang calls Atlanta, Georgia “the mecca for Black tattoo artists,” so she’s experienced the inclusion and diversity that artists don’t always see at country-wide events and conventions. 

“I’ve had some experiences where I’ve done tattoo conventions and Black people were segregated. We’re in fucking 2022, 2023, and we’re still being segregated. There’s conventions where Black people are in one row, Ink Master people are in another row, and you got the white tattoo artists in another row. We don’t need stuff like that. We need to diversify the tattoo community, and that shit should have started years ago.”

To generate more inclusivity and diversity, Bang asserts the need for more platforms for Black talent and voices beyond social media: tattoo colleges, workshops, conferences, and other events are all platforms she’d like to see thrive as the industry grows. 

“I use my [own] platform to express myself, to bring awareness to the community, and talk about some of the issues and triumphs that I have in my life when it comes to tattooing.”

Bang continues to use her platform to showcase her work, inspire her peers, and progress her career.  

“I do that shit every day. I do it on social media, I do it on the streets. I promote myself. I promote my business. I love to talk about where I come from when it comes to the tattoo world.”

Follow Bang on Instagram @bang.ink. 

Headshot and collage of tattoos by artist Rodney Savage

Tattoo artist Rodney Savage is a master of all styles and subjects from portraiture to pop culture. His portfolio includes an eclectic variety, featuring classic tattoo imagery like florals to iconic characters like Baymax from Big Hero 6. You can book an appointment with him at Tattoo Studio 237, a Black-owned and operated tattoo shop in Westville, New Jersey. Being such a diverse artist, Rodney takes pride in tattooing with a broad color palette. 

“I like proving people wrong about color ‘not lasting on dark clients.’ Listen, you can get color, my guy. Don’t ever have anybody say, ‘Oh, you can’t get color.’ They’re not experienced enough. It’s very, very surprising once [people] go [to] my station and they see an abundance of colors. I have a lot of [ink] colors from a lot of brands, and I do a whole bunch of colorful anime [and other colorful] pieces. You give me an idea, [and] I can basically do whatever I want.

Also, I’ve done a whole bunch of A Pound of Flesh [practice skins], which is a top-notch product. Basically, being able to show off my creative talent as a Black artist.”

An artist with over thirteen years of experience under his belt, recognition for his talents was a hard-earned feat. To this day, Rodney points out that clients and other artists are sometimes still surprised when they see his work and don’t immediately credit him. He further indicates that this is a common plight for many tattoo artists of color. 

“A whole bunch of Black artists that y’all featuring right now [have] waited for some time to do this. It took 13 years for me to finally get notoriety […]

There’s a whole bunch of Black tattoo artists that want to see other Black tattoo artists thrive in a white-dominant industry, and we all can come together as one to show y’all our God-given talent.”

For Rodney, credibility and notoriety are important… but neither of those are possible without honing your artistic abilities to tattoo a wide variety of skin types. He professes that one hindrance to success and notoriety is when artists avoid tattooing certain skin tones. 

“Nobody ever wanted to tattoo the Black client because they felt like certain stuff ain’t going to blend well. I’m like, ‘No, you just have to plan it a certain way.’ That’s almost like any Black artist that only tattooed Black people. They don’t really know what to do on a white person from time to time. Because everything that we did on Black people, hits different. If you are good artistically, you’re able to make anything pop on anybody […] I just feel like everything needs to be a little bit more inclusive and looked at artistically.”

One way Rodney suggests you can become a more well-rounded artist? Learning from others. And with conventions, workshops, and social media as networking opportunities, there are so many chances to learn and grow from other professional tattooers. 

“Talk to other artists. When you’re at conventions talk to other artists, you learn so much from other artists. You pick up so much, so many gems […] Go into a tattoo shop. Don’t go in there with your nose up high looking down on people feeling like you’re the shit… don’t do that. Learn to accept. Learn to take knowledge [and] learn to talk.”

But above all, Rodney points out, there’s one value that’s crucial for any tattooer, no matter your background. 

“Put in the work as a Black artist, put in the work. It pays off. You are not going to be great being by yourself. Get out there and be great. Show people why you’re great. Because I know I’m great.”

Follow Rodney Savage on Instagram @nothumantats 

Headshot and collage of tattoos by Debbi Snax

Traditional artist with more than a little spice, Debbi Snax is a free spirit with bold style and a massive body of work. She works at her private studio Snax Ink Studios in Atlanta, Georgia… and she’s more than just a tattooer. Her Instagram showcases some of her other artistic endeavors, including her eye-catching wall murals for businesses and social causes splashed across the city of Atlanta. Her community and background are important to Debbi, informing a lot of her work and infusing her tattoos with the “seasoning” of her south-urban roots. 

“I come from a city that bleeds Black excellence, so I’ve never felt excluded in my industry and in my community. I believe the progress that Black and brown artists have made is that we’ve been able to debunk the false narratives that have been put onto us in our skin and our bodies.”

Debbi also works to make clients feel like they aren’t excluded in the industry. Her portfolio includes art that clients may not be able to find in less diverse tattoo shops. 

“I express my pride by creating works of art that include my people and include motifs that they can understand so that they know that I am here for them. […] Whether it is inconvenient for you or not, I express my pride every single day because I love being Black.”

And Debbi has plenty more to be proud of. An award-winning tattooer and artist in general, Debbi has been hired by such Fortune 500 businesses as Nike and African Pride. But even with all her accolades and talents, Debbi points out that there’s inequality in the tattoo industry when it comes to recognition. 

“I would like [other artists] to value us more and see that we [Black and brown tattooers] are on the same level as them. I would like the industry to stop the segregation. Black industry, white industry… whatever. We’re all tattooers. […] I would like us to unify more, because I feel we can all learn from each other. But even if they won’t, I would like them to acknowledge our work, because we are just as good if not better. […] I think that we’re all people and we’re all artists, and we all have to work hard to get to the next level.”

For Debbi, “the next level” goes beyond personal accolades, as the industry continues to evolve, hopefully toward a place where artists of all backgrounds and colors can unify. But despite the progress to be made, Debbi radiates confidence. A passionate artist with a strong community, Debbi has always felt like a part of the industry she contributes to, and always empowered to express her pride. Nevertheless, Debbi recognizes that on a larger scale, there’s still work to be done, so other artists of color can feel just as empowered, too. 

“I come from a city that bleeds Black excellence, so I’ve never felt excluded in my industry and in my community. But if you’re meaning like worldwide and what the standard is, then I believe the progress that Black and brown artists have made is that we’ve been able to debunk the false narratives that have been put onto us in our skin and our bodies.”

Follow Debbi on Instagram @snaxink 

Headshot and collage of tattoos by Domo Julliano

If you’re an anime lover, you might have come across the energetic work of tattoo artist Domo Julliano on Instagram. Domo Julliano has been tattooing for over a decade, and now you can book an appointment with him at the Black-owned tattoo shop 1Up Ink Tattoo Studio in Los Angeles, California — it’s a haven for anyone seeking a pop-culture or anime tattoo from a talented artist. But in the humble beginnings of his career, Domo had to count on persistence to establish himself at any shop. 

“I went to many of different shops trying to get an apprenticeship. Just the whole nine. It was a lot. We’re talking [back in the year] 2010 […]

Tattooing was just so different back then, you know what I’m saying? But that’s something I would consider a plus. You know, like it’s cool to have someone to kind of piggyback on and you can walk in the steps that they’ve made. That is a blessing. And I really do applaud people who stumble upon that opportunity. That just wasn’t the opportunity that the universe gave me, honestly.”

In the early parts of his career, Domo also found himself going to conventions where he was the only Black artist in sight. He notes that this has changed, and he sees a lot more artists of color at conventions nowadays; but there’s always growth to be made, both personally and for the industry.  

“I’m chasing perfection, but I never want to get there because I never want to get to a point where I’m not growing […] I want to always, always, always be chasing something, you know? If you don’t have a purpose, you don’t have anything you’re working towards, you might as well go ahead and wrap it up because your life is over. You should always want to grow. You should always want to stand for something, find out something, [or] learn something.”

In the spirit of standing for something, Domo Julliano has made overarching goals and ideals for himself beyond tattoo artistry. He runs food drives and toy drives at his shop… as well as raffles where everyone wins something. For Domo, it’s giving back to his community and clientele that gives his career even more depth and purpose. 

“It makes me feel good, man. Honestly, if your life isn’t geared around trying to help someone else or trying to help someone else’s life, [then] what is your life worth? You know what I’m saying? It makes no sense for us to get paid as much as we do and do as much as we love if we’re not going to give it back.”

Domo Julliano also wants to give back when it comes to his ideals. Beyond food drives and toy drives for his community and generous raffles for his clients, Domo also aspires to serve as a resource and unifying force for other artists as well.

“What I would like to be is the bridge. If I can bridge the gap between the ones who give out tattoo seminars, who are people of color, and the ones who give out seminars, who are not people of color […] instead of us all going to a tattoo commission, how about we go to a tattoo seminar where it’s the people of color that we glorify in the industry and the people who are not of color that we glorify in the industry all coming together?”

Follow Domo Julliano on Instagram @domojullianotattoo 

Headshot and collage of tattoos by Kandace Layne

Ornamental designs meet henna and tribal influences in the work of spiritual tattoo artist Kandace Layne. She owns a private tattoo studio called Magic Mirror in Marietta, Georgia. It’s a place where clients can hold a mirror up to their inner self and explore self-expressive designs that flow with their bodies. But prior to owning Magic Mirror, where Kandace thrives and lets her style grow freely, she was faced with challenges that come from working at other tattoo shops. Kandace loved her experiences at all the studios she’s worked for, but each experience presented new lessons and opportunities. 

“Of course, there are unique things that I’ve dealt with, like people saying racial slurs to me at work and not really being able to express how much things bother me or are inappropriate to avoid getting fired.

So, [in the past], it’s been a lot of me just sucking it up and pretending that things are okay that aren’t really okay with me. Part of the benefit of me working privately is just […] not really having to worry about any racism from other people that I work with.”

Despite such obstacles, Kandace has always maintained a positive attitude throughout her career. She professes her time as a tattooer has been a happy one, especially now that she can work privately. Along with the autonomy that comes with owning a private studio, Kandace is also better able to foster a more diverse environment and support other artists of color. From this new vantage point, she reflects on her past struggles to shape the more positive future she’d like to see. 

“I do design a lot of my work — or no, all of my work — [to be able to work] on Black or melanated people’s skin. It’s really important to me that Black people are visible in our industry… and not just tattooers, but people that get tattooed.

I [also] try to be present at Black tattoo meetup types of things or tattoo conferences for Black people. Supporting my Black friends that tattoo [and] supporting upcoming [artists] or Black people that want to tattoo […] trying to help them find their way. […] I also think that it would be nice for shops to not just have one Black person because it feels like tokenism and that may not be the intention. But it’s really hard to be the only Black person somewhere. I cannot stress that enough.”

Speaking about the industry at large, Kandace notes that plenty of progress in terms of inclusivity. However, she observes that acceptance and unity are still important values that need to be considered, and certainly still need to be addressed.  

“I just wish that there was some type of protocol in place as far as dealing with inappropriate behavior towards Black people. In these spaces, I have always been scared, or not scared, but cautious of speaking up about things that are said to me that are inappropriate. Because I didn’t want my workplace to become an even more toxic or like, hostile environment.”

In keeping with her values of peace and authenticity, Kandace not only offers her services as a tattoo artist; she also offers spiritual readings to her clientele, so people can learn more about themselves, overcome their own hurdles, and prosper. Learning about ourselves, Kandace asserts, is key to personal, professional, and artistic growth. 

“[I would like to see] people regulating themselves more [and] being more open to learning […] not just more about tattooing, but the people around them, the people of the world, and all of the people of the world that contributed to the styles that we all enjoy now.”

Follow Kandace Layne on Instagram @kandacelayne 

Headshot and collage of tattoos by Kevin Wilkins

If you’re in the DMV and in the market for some new, eye-catching ink, Kevin Wilkins might be your guy. Tackling almost any style from neotraditional to realism, Kevin Wilkins owns Fort Washington Tattoo Studio in Fort Washington, Maryland — a place where both the vibes and the tattoos are of the highest quality. For Kevin, tattooing is all about creating a life-changing experience for his clients. 

“My experience as a Black tattoo artist in the industry has been life-changing, hands down, you know what I’m saying? […] Prior to my incarceration, when I was locked up, you know, I used to draw a lot in there.

I got out [in] what, 2014–2015? I haven’t looked back. Once that event happened, I lost a friend, man. I took tattooing full-on, a hundred percent. [I was] nonstop every day working, trying to get better […] [It’s been life-changing] just being able to tattoo my community and have clients come back and happy with their tattoos and […] changing their lives as well. It’s a great feeling, man.”

An optimist at heart, Kevin has only positive things to say about his experience in the industry. He strives not to lend the negatives any attention or credence, focusing only on his work and creating an unforgettable experience for his clients. But even surrounding himself with positive vibes, Kevin’s eyes are open to aspects of the industry that could improve. For one thing, he’d like to work more with other artists, creating an atmosphere of collaboration rather than competition. And for another thing, he notes some strides that still need to be made in terms of equality. 

“I would like to see more equal access and opportunity and resources for [Black artists] in the industry. You know what I mean? That’d be great. You feel me?

So, what I would personally change about the tattoo industry in relation to diversity, inclusivity, acceptance, and education? Pretty much what the homie Richard Parker said, also known as “Made Rich.” Dope artist, man.

He’s trying to implement change by joining other artists that [are] involved with this thing called the Black Tattoo Experience, which is a collective of artists creating opportunities and a space for minorities […] I like where they’re going with that, you feel me?”

Collectiveness and community are important to Kevin, who values creating a high-quality experience for all his clients. Giving clients a memorable experience and body art that they love encourages that sense of community. It also proves Kevin’s skill as a tattoo artist, giving him the respect and credibility he deserves. 

“I want my community to back me, you know? As a person of color in the industry, I just want to be taken serious, you know what I mean? I don’t wanna be taken lightly because of the color of my skin. Don’t judge me by the color of my skin. I can do what the next man can do.”

Follow Kevin on Instagram at @inkmeupkevo 

Headshot and collage of tattoos by Love Duncan

With a degree in painting, fine art defines Love Duncan’s unique style. Love is the owner of Art Is My Love, a private tattoo studio in Alexandria, Virginia, an establishment that prides itself on offering luxury tattoo services for all. Looking at Love’s portfolio, you’ll find works of realism, detailed florals, and even abstract and pop culture pieces with fine art influences. It’s clear that art truly is Love’s love, and her shop is a beacon for clients of color seeking intricate or highly detailed work. 

“I really appreciate dynamic, highly detailed artistic concepts, and I find that we don’t see that too often in our community. So, I’m really honored when I get to apply that highly detailed work on melanated skin.”

In addition to offering beautiful work that people of color might struggle to find at other tattoo shops, Love prioritizes an overall high-quality and non-discriminatory experience for clients of all appearances and backgrounds.

“Artists are free to discriminate based on race or gender identity or any other qualitative factors. When choosing clients or offering apprenticeships or even jobs, I’ve had firsthand experiences with these challenges of professional artists discriminating against me because of my stretch marks or even my dark skin. I’m not the first Black woman to tattoo, but as an intersectional artist, I’m devoted to bringing quality high-end tattoo experiences to those who seek it out regardless of their gender presentation, body size, body type, or the color of their skin.”

In keeping with her inclusive values, Love has created a haven for people with keloid-prone skin scars, stretch marks, trans-identified bodies, and more. She wants clients to feel safe when they come in for a tattoo – a process which involves the intimacy of disrobing and experiencing pain in sensitive areas. Her goal, she professes, is not only to be inclusive, but also to make clients feel as comfortable as possible in their own skin. Call it a mission in kindness and self-love. But Love’s concerns go beyond the personal and expand into the industry at large as well. She not only wants clients to thrive in their confidence, but artists to thrive in their careers as well. 

“I would love to see certain changes when it comes to professionalism, especially in the Black community. Some of our apprenticeship programs are very unorganized and unprofessional, leaving artists having to make certain lifestyle changes and additions to their income sources because they’re not able to provide full-time for their families just tattooing. I would love to see syllabi created in strict programs emphasized so that an artist can go from [an] amateur to [a] mature, full-time professional, lucrative, successful tattoo artist.”

Follow Love on Instagram at @artizmylov 


We encourage you to check out all these artists and other Black tattooers around the world. Distinctive styles, unique perspectives, and unifying creatively are what this industry is all about. We also encourage artists and clients everywhere to stay curious and continue to educate themselves. Talk to other people in the industry, network at conventions or on social media, and recognize there is always progress to be made.

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