Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
The plan of attack when deciding who will do your tattoos in 2015? Stalking artists on Instagram, of course. But even if you have no intention of getting inked any time soon, the platform is a hotbed of brilliant tattoo artists that all make for the kind of Instagram feeds you can get lost in for hours. We've picked the New York-based ones we especially like to get caught up in for the #BTS glimpses they give us into each artist's style, clientele, and life outside the parlor.
Best for That Globetrotting Celebrity-Tattooer Life: Megan Massacre
A bonafide reality TV star (NY Ink; America's Worst Tattoos) and co-founder of Grit N Glory's tattoo shop and clothing line, Megan Massacre portrays a mix of her world travels and tattoo convention rounds, her photo shoots modeling the store's rocker-girl tees and dresses, and her crazy-colorful, vivid artwork on her personal account.
Best for Tongue-in-Cheek Line Drawings: Louis Brengard
Black Square's Louis Brengard does black line drawings so simple that they're just perfect. They're a little dark but with a good sense of humor, they're quirky, they're cool — follow him to catch the next Joan Didion-esque cartoon portrait he does and get to know his sweet little flower bouquets.
Best for Tattoo-Pop Culture Crossover: Scott Campbell
Sure, the real highlight of Scott Campbell's feed are his mesmerizing tattoos — wondrously detailed works of art in high-definition black — but the sought-after inker's talent has taken him into worlds beyond tattoos. Catch shots of him working with loyal client Marc Jacobs, poignant throwbacks of him and Dash Snow, and adoring grams of his wife, Lake Bell.
Best for Classics, Colors, and Causes: Ashley Love
Ashley Love inks at Roseblood and Greenpoint Tattoo Company, and her Instagram is proof that she's a master of the classics. She applies an old-school approach to pin-ups, hearts and daggers, wording, and more, all with a richly-hued finish. Especially cool are peeks at causes that Love is all about, like her "No Means No" tattoo and her work with P.ink, which provides artful tats to cover mastectomy survivors' scars.
Best for Tattoos You Can't Believe are Tattoos (and Also Puppies): Dan Bones
Step 1: Become totally captivated by scenes that don't seem like they should be able to be tattooed onto a human. Step 2: Realize that they have been, by Dan Bones. Step 3: Go get one from him at East Side Ink. Bones's feed highlights skulls morphing into creepy castles, human hearts growing flowers, and a portrait of the Golden Girls. Every now and then, you'll also catch glimpses of things like Coney Island visits and his pet dogs.
Best for Impossibly Pretty Black-and-White Tattoos: Anka Lavriv
From wildflower bouquets and corsets to mountainous landscapes and rat skulls, Gristle Tattoo artist Anka Lavriv's pieces range from ultra-femme to twisted, but are executed with a balance of whimsy and painstaking intricacy. Her work looks like it jumped off the pages of a centuries-old fairytale book, and yet feel modern in its tone — Plus the range of things you never thought you'd see tattooed makes this feed strong inspiration fodder.
Best for Twisted Tattoos, Artwork, and Wanderlust: Val Yoma
In addition to everything from flowers and mandalas to cartoons and animals, Moon Sheen tattooer Val Yoma's feed reveals a flair for the stormy and nightmarish. Nooses, skulls, and that rabbit from Donnie Darko are all too real when inked by Yoma. But shots of his travels and adventures keep things light, as do 'grams of his incredible, non-tattoo artwork.
Best for Nature-Centric Ink: Rachel Hauer
East River Tattoo's Rachel Hauer is so boss at inking insects that she's had all-insect flash specials. Scrolling through her Instagram is enough to give you the creepy-crawlies, but in a very good way — her tattoos are incredibly lifelike. There are also the cute ones like sweet lambs and baby birds, nature-tastic ones like fish and turtles, and majestic ones like wolves and deer.
Best for That Old-School Tattoo Life: Brad Fink
Brad Fink is one of the most respected masters in the game and tattoos out of Daredevil Tattoo, a LES institution with a mini tattoo history museum. Therefore, Fink's feed is a mix of his stunning traditional work, his life meeting other artists and touring conventions, and pieces of earlier and mid-century tattoo culture. He even sells memorabilia, so you'll find shots of treasures like freak-show posters.
Best for Ink and Adventure: Becca Roach
Becca Roach, aka Bad News Becca, tattoos out of NYC and Hawaii, so that right there should clue you into how envy-inducing her Instagram is. The talented artist who has worked on the likes of Lady Gaga documents not only her traditional tats but also her faraway explorations, hiking, partying with friends, and incredible surfing shots.
Best for Quirky, Colorful, Animalistic Tattoos: Marina Heintze
One of the many reasons Marina Heintze's MEATTT, Inc. stands out is its bold, colorful tattoos that are a little cartoonish, a little cute, and a little edgy. You can stay even more up-to-date on the spot's offerings with Heintze's personal page, where funny little tats like animal butts mingle with shop goings-on and Heintze's adorable dog.
Best for Dreamy and Exotic Tattoos and Lifestyle: Minka Sicklinger
East Side Ink artist Minka Sicklinger is regarded as being one of the best tattooers in NYC and beyond, and she applies that skill to intricate ink inspired by far-flung locales using styles like Chinese and Japanese. In addition to eclectic tattoos and artwork, Sicklinger's feed takes you on a tour through incredible sights around the world.