Mel Noir

Best/ Worst Tattoo Magazines?

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Hey guys,

Following on a little from Patrick's thread (here), I've been doing some thinking myself about writing full time for tattoo magazines. I've finally left university and now I can manage it properly instead of going in blind with no time for it, haha.

Anyway, when it comes to approaching some more editors I'm at a bit of a loss. I know about the magazines near me (in the UK), but I've been thinking about speaking to some editors from other countries- since I don't live in those other countries, I don't really have that much knowledge about them other than the few I can get in the newsagents.

Do you guys have any really good (or bad) experiences with magazines outside of the UK? I'd really love to hear about them before diving right in there. I've been approached and let down by way too many editors now to just jump straight in, haha.

Oh, if it helps, magazine-wise I'm already mainly writing for Tattooist Art, though I've done odd bits and pieces in a few places.

Anything's appreciated! Thanks in advance :)

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Like bigjoe said, Tattoo Life/Energy are good magazines. Tattoowier seems ok, although I can't vouch for the writing quality, as I can only read English.

The only magazine from the UK worth looking at is Total Tattoo. Sally, Perry and the gang are a rarity in tattoo magazines (along with Mikki Vialetto's Tattoo Life crew) because they can (mostly) tell what a good tattoo looks like. But most of all, they actually like tattoos and get tattoos by some great tattooers. If your favourite tattooers write articles and send photos to a magazine, it's probably worth taking a look.

My rules of thumb for a magazine being shit are:

Poor quality control, including spelling.

Photos of shitty tattoos.

Interviews with shitty tattooers.

Repeated articles about 'women in tattooing' or 'women with tattoos'.

Mis-spelling tattooers names, especially well-known people like Filip Leu, Ed Hardy, Freddy Corbin etc.

If more than 10-20% of the content is colour realistic tattoos.

If more than 50% of the content is any one style/school of tattooing.

If there is an abundance of fetish-style photography.

Interviews with freaky people with shitty facial tattoos.

An editorial lean toward controversy, smut or celebrity.

Re-prints or articles with content just cribbed from the internet.

There are many more things that I personally dislike, but I think that these things are too common in tattoo magazines.

I'm guessing that none of this will help you decide which magazines you want to work with, just my 2p.

But as your question was more toward which magazines to avoid outside of the uk, we (Frith Street) had a bad experience with Skin & Ink, but i think they have a different editor these days and they did have a cool article about Chicago Tattoo Co a couple of months ago.

Tattoo Savage used to fulfil almost all of my crappy criteria above but I haven't looked at it for years.

International Tattoo Art has gone through periods of being cool and being crappy but I don't know what it's like now.

You probably know this already, but very few tattoo magazines have full-time writers. They mostly use freelance contributors. I'm friends with a few magazine contributors and most of them are photographers/writers, rather than specialise in just one. This works out cheaper for magazines. The best ones conduct interviews face-to-face and visit shops and conventions. Some tattooers and shops are hesitant to allow strangers to interview them so it would help if you are likeable in person and seem to care about tattooing.

Expect it to be very different from blogging or writing for an online magazine as you will be creating content rather than commenting on existing content.

Good luck.

This was supposed to be a quick post, but it almost turned into a rant. Hopefully there is something useful here.

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Stewart, you fucking rock. Thanks for such a detailed reply, I really appreciate it a lot! :)

I couldn't agree more with you about Total Tattoo, and I have one or two ideas for them which I think I'll work out a draft for to see if Sally likes it. I've spoken to her a few times and she seems really lovely, and the magazine rocks. In all honesty, I think Total Tattoo is one of the only UK magazines I'd like to write for, because they have no beef with anyone. Unfortunately there are one or two other magazines I can't say the same for and it's not all something I really want anything to do with- I just want to write!

I think you and I are really on the same page as far as quality goes- I was actually nodding my head as I read that, haha. I get pretty tired of reading about the "wacky" photoshopped tattoos on whatever smutty model is on the cover, or what's the "new big thing" and stuff like that. I agree they're too common- hey, if you ever stop tattooing for any weird reason, you should become an editor- you sound better than a lot already ;) Contrary to what you said, it does actually help me, so thanks! I like knowing what tattooers like in magazines- it's your industry we're writing about, after all. If you guys think we're getting it wrong, then we're definitely getting it wrong.

I'll admit I've heard a few things about Skin and Ink as well, so I don't think I really want to approach their editor. I downloaded one of their magazines from their iPod app too, there were a hell of a lot of boobs in there, haha. It won't hurt to see what Tattoo Savage and International Tattoo Art are like now, but thanks for the heads up about them- I'm now not expecting much, so if they're good now at least it'll be a nice surprise, haha!

Thanks for the tips you stuck in at the end, too, they're always appreciated :) I think one of the main reasons why I've been looking into a range of magazines is because, like you said, writing is a freelance job, mostly. I don't want to go jumping from one magazine to another without really knowing at least a little about them. I know some other writers who keep hearing the whole "cheque's in the mail" stuff, or putting loads of work into something which ends up being edited to look shit, so it's something you want to avoid if you can. Thankfully, tattoo artists have been pretty cool with me so far on the interview front, so hopefully that means I'm likeable, haha :) I think I'm starting to see just how different it is to blogging, though- I'm currently on my second day of doing a feature for a magazine about the Swastika symbol- I'm so used to writing things in no time for the internet!

Anyway, thank you very much for that reply, Stuart- like I said, it's much appreciated! I think this reply will look a little like an essay, but I didn't want to reply to everything you said in just a paragraph and look rude, haha. Thanks again! :)

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Valerie, you're right- I am pretty embarrassed right now. Stewart, I apologise! And in a thread I made about writing? Not exactly looking too professional right now, am I? Sorry about that, Stewart!

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have you heard of urban ink and rebel ink? yeay they fit all of Stewarts points above that make a magazine shit! ive bought it a few times and propbably wont buy it ever again. not worth my money. im definately going to look into some of the other magazines you guys were talking about above!

BTW i thought your little apology above was very cute and it made me giggle! :) (i am not a stranger to embarrasement either!!! lol)

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Funny i was at a bookstore yesterday and found myself standing in the magazine section. I was amazed at the selection of Tattoo Magazines, Urban Ink, Skin and Ink, Girls with Ink, Prison Ink and so forth.

My initial reaction wasn't really amazement, as I stated earlier, more like disdain or disgust or annoyance.

I did quickly browse through all of them. I didn't like any of them for one reason or another. But honestly, photo quality fell low on my list of what I found irritating.

Some of the things I disliked---- If i wanted to look at pouty girls and buff boys with mediocre tattoos i'd watch Jersey Shore or taxicab confessions. I don't want to hear about the spiritual journey that lead you to your getting your tattoo on a reality show, having to read about it is even worse.

Really EVERYTHING that Stewart said and more!

I do agree Tattoo Life is better than the rest ( No U S artists though, correct? ) And, I really Like Tattoo Artist Magazine

I am sort of ranting.

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Tattoo Life and Tattoo Energy feature many US artists.

Most recently Dan Wysuph, Chris Magnotti, Chad Koeplinger, Adam Barton.

I think some tattooers from the USA write for it too. Chad and Taki have written for it. Pre MySpace, it was the only place I'd get to see tattoos from Scott Sylvia, Jeff Rassier, Tim Lehi, Jef Whitehead, Grime, Chris O'Donnell, Mike Rubendall, Filip Leu etc.

I didn't mention Tattoo Artist Magazine because thats kind of by tattooers, for tattooers. So the direction of the content is slightly different. But some issues have been amazing and there's always something worth reading in there.

I think it's important that we've kept the discussion to print magazines. I've yet to read an online mag that was worth a shit. If I'm clicking links I'd rather do it from the blogs of people I admire and look up to. The links from the blogs of Thomas Hooper, Daniel Albrigo, The Blackheart guys individual blogs and a few others take you to some pretty fantastic places.

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Mel, for coming right out of school it's pretty impressive you're doing so much writing straight out of the gate. KEEP IT UP!

Now to the serious bit.. To be honest, I've only really flirted with the life of a freelancer, making what now seems to be a half-hearted attempt at it after I got laid off in 2009. But bills came up pretty quick, so I had to scramble to find work that would pay and pay me with some sort of frequency.. Whether it was odd building jobs, or tattoo shop, or whatever. It usually meant the only time for writing I had was nights and weekends, which worked out ok, but the whole concept of getting paid for your work seemed like a foreign concept to all these people, most of whom were on a salary.

I've had to harass some magazines for the better part of a year on invoices though it seems pretty evenly split between those that cut checks on time vs. late. (I tried the whole "Net 30" thing but apparently that doesn't fly in the magazine publishing world.) For me, I figured out that I don't make up that small percentage that's got that hustler mentality (as in the drive, not the magazine) and can turn freelancing into something new and unique, and turn that into more of a career. In my experience it was impossible to pay the rent by doing freelance tattoo writing alone. So you may need to prepare yourself for working that day job a little longer than you might have hoped.

But it sounds like now for you is the perfect time to make a run at it! Sorry, didn't mean to put out this burst of negativity, but I found it really tough. Sounds like you've already got some good relationships going, so keep em up and keep working! I'll PM you here in a second..

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My only advice is just to keep working your ass off and be critical of the people you get involved with. Seems like you have a good head on your shoulders, but there are a bunch of people in it for the wrong reasons. Some are obvious, some not so obvious. You seem to be doing great though and your blog is killing it! Keep it up!

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Hey guys I'm back- hopefully I won't leave anyone out in this reply, let me know if I've been rude (I'm a sucker for politeness, haha).

Alanna, I've seen Urban Ink on one of those rubbish iPod apps too- I didn't realise it was a real magazine. This actually disappoints me! And there are more of those? That kind of sucks. Glad you saw the funny side of my embarrassment though- I can really put my foot in it at times!

Hustler sounds pretty bad, as does all of these other Ink magazines- who is it who keeps buying these magazines? I don't understand it sometimes. I think Deb hit the nail on the head- pouty girls and Jersey Shore boys! Picture quality is another thing which can really irritate me- I think it can be understandable once in a while (I know myself from doing a convention with no photographer available and having to take pictures myself- hopefully they turned out okay!), but when it's constant, you sort of wonder where your money's going when you buy it, do you guys think? Honestly, even if those magazines were good, I wouldn't fit in- I'm just a quiet girl from Newcastle who likes writing and tattoos, I don't care about all that suicide girls crap they put in some magazines.

I can also see why Stewart didn't mention Tattoo Artist Magazine- I know it's a great magazine, but I feel like I'd have no right doing anything for them since I don't tattoo. I've only ever written for one trade only magazine before, and it was on Japanese art so I just managed to get away with it!

Patrick, your advice really rocks, thank you for that :) I'm already starting to see what you mean about how hard it can be, though what you said about this being a good time was right- since I've only just left university, I'm still living at home, so it'll be a lot easier right now. My best friend is also freelancing in film, so we probably have a fair way to go until we move out, too, haha. A part time job is something I've been really thinking about- it should be easier to get one soon, now that all the students are moving home! Thank you for the kind words and advice, I'll take all of it on board. You're a real gem, mate! I'll have a read of your PM now, too.

Thanks everyone, it's always appreciated.

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Oh, and by the way- it's really awesome to be talking to people who are really impartial and don't really know me too well yet about this. Half of the time when I talk to people I know I sort of get smoke blown up my arse and people telling me, "you rock of course you can do X, Y and Z!". My friends always mean well, but it's really kind of refreshing to hear some solid advice from you guys, so thank you very much. :)

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Bound by Ink is okay. The first issue was probably the best. The ones that followed were a little on the bland side. The featured artist interviews have been pretty dope, but the lifestyle section of that magazine has been a MISS with me.

Inked hasn’t really done anything to me. It doesn’t motivate me to draw or anything. Thumbs down.

Skin-N-Ink was making a pretty cool come back, but then the last 2 issues have been poo. Then again, every other month is a hit and miss with this magazine.

Urban Ink is just garbage, they'll put any celebrity who has tattoos as the main article and its not even about tattoos half the time.

Rebel Ink is the same company, so the above statement applies to this magazine.

Lowrider Arte has recently added more tattoo artist to its ONLY article in the magazine. The quality of artwork in the magazine is horrible though. I wouldn't want an article of myself in a magazine that has drawings submitted by a 4 year old. (That's what actually happens).

A magazine I recommend, that has nothing to do with tattoos, but is an excellent tattoo reference is Teen Angel Magazine. But... You have to go online (ebay) and buy the old, I mean... old versions. Back when the locked up Vatos were submitting for Pen pal requests. The prison art back in those days was the SHIT! If you buy the current Teen Angel magazines, it's pretty much like buying a Lowrider Arte magazine.

Tattoo and Tattoo Flash are definitely the most consistent. Some issues are good, some issues are just plain crap. The Flash section is Shit! Not "The Shit" but plain "Shit!"

Savage and the other mags Tattoo puts out are just plain obnoxious.

To my taste Tattoo Life, Tattoo Energy and Total Tattoo are the go-to magazines. Most of the articles are usually well written and have great content. They cover all the worthy conventions and the tattoo pictures are by far the clean and crispiest!

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Those Urban Ink mags are a disgrace. They basically are telling black people to get shitty tattoos from sucker tattooers. It's just full of stars, crosses and background shading. What a piece of shit! Magazines are supposed to educate people on what's good, and suppress bad work from seeing the light of day. If they are showing horrible work, then they are only helping scummy tattooers continue to ply their trade.

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Hey NavyDavy, thanks for that, it's much appreciated! Really feel like I'm getting a good grasp of what more of the international magazines are about. I'm actually sort of surprised that there aren't many great magazines in America, with it being such a huge place. What a shame, eh? Thanks though, Total Tattoo is now a definite, and I must email Sally this week to see what her thoughts are.

I agree with you about those Urban Ink magazines though, Mr. Frog. Really horrible magazine, that sounds like. The worst thing is the fact that people will read that, and then trust it because it's in print.

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I agree that Total Tattoo is hands-down the best UK-based magazine. From what else we get here thumbs up also forTattoo Energy and Tattoo Life. I check Bound By Ink to see if there are any good interviews, but that's about it. Inked I am turned off by.

I seem to recall Skin Deep used to be a lot better ... But now even the way the photographs are arranged and tattooists' names placed annoys me ... The whole thing feels awkwardly laid-out.

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Thanks Rory! Yeah, I agree about Skin Deep- a friend of mine told me about an editorial in there from a couple of months ago where the editor was comparing tattooing to an episode of Dr Who, as well. He said it was pretty terrible, haha. I wonder if they sacked the guy who used to do the design or something.

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Just a quick note about this month's Skin Deep .... Their 200th issue I believe.

The editorial refers to the re-design the mag appears to have gone through. I'd be curious to hear your opinion of it, Mel. In terms of layout the magazine does seem significantly easier to navigate and read, although they are still employing a weird way of tagging different tattoo pictures (some articles had the tattooist's name written down the side perpendicular to the tattoo, others had it above or below on a bar). Seemed to me though that the magazine might be being pitched towards a slightly different part of the market now though.... There was a multi-page 'beginners guide to getting a tattoo' feature and I got the vibe overall that they were aiming more at newcomers / first-time buyers in terms of the tone of other articles. It reminded me a little of a "Which Car?" magazine in parts.

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Hey Rory,

I haven't seen the new issue of Skin Deep, so I can't really comment too much on it, though I have to agree about their demographic. That isn't the first time they've had the guides to getting tattooed, and I've felt the overall feel of the magazine has aimed towards newcomers for a long time. I mean, there's nothing really wrong with that, of course. The tone of that tends to slightly irritate me, since that means it has to be written in a way I feel some people can't really take seriously, so I don't really read it. If there's some great artists in it I may borrow a copy from a friend, but I don't very often. I think everything you say about the picture tags would easily be resolved if they just had one (or two at the most) general rule about where it is, then you'd be able to find and read them really easily, I think.

Funnily enough, Stuart Mears, who owns the magazine, also owns 100% Biker. My dad feels exactly the same way about that magazine, haha.

There's a lot of controversy around this magazine, though, so I've been trying not to give a penny to it until I understand it. I hear about how Stuart Mears is a very bad man pretty much every day from some English tattooers, haha.

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Skin Deep is published by Jazz Publishing, the same people who publish Tattoo Master and put out various books and conventions. They are a huge bag of unethical dicks that makes TLC seem like amateurs. The good Mr. Alex Guest walked out with his whole Editorial Staff from Tattoo Master when he realized who/what he was working for. See: Editors of Tattoo Master & Skin Deep resign : TattooSnob.com

They've got their hands in a lot of pots and, aside from banning a multitude of tattooers from their own conventions ––*half of which never come to fruition because the conventions never existed! -- they still collect the money, censor publications and get away with most of it. There was a recap someone wrote online I'll try to find today.

Do not trust or support anything Jazz Publishing puts out.

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Oh, so we're okay to talk about him on here then? I'll stop holding back in my replies, haha. I can never really be sure, half of my mates already have "solicitor's letters" from him!

Pat's dead right, the guy's constantly trying to push this magazine and the convention to make tattooing look like a fucking McDonald's chain. A mate of mine was supposed to work Tattoo Jam last year, then called me to say he got there to find out he'd been banned- they still took his money, though! He's also taken from charities, I hear, which is the lowest thing anyone can do.

Are you thinking about this recap, mate? http://www.stuartmears.com

Also, don't subscribe to Skin Deep- one of the publications he owned went bust, and it took people ages to get their money back. Don't let it happen to you!

Ah, I feel better knowing I don't have to hold back about the guy here. :)

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