The lowdown on getting inked in London

A closer look at the tattoo parlours around Richmond Row

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Tattoo examples

You’ve spent years designing the perfect tattoo, an image capturing the very essence of your being. Or maybe you just really want a pink fairy on your ass for the rest of your life. Either way, if you’re getting inked, it’s important to pick a good tattoo parlour.

As with any decision with permanent consequences, you should conduct some research first. Investigate tattoo shops’ licensing and health records. Find out the shop’s turnover rate so, if you require multiple sessions, you know the same artist will finish what they started.

Before you get “I Love Tom” tattooed on your goodies, check out this overview of London’s tattoo shops:

344 Richmond St.
With its red and black gothic interior, Hardcore is a little scary. The tattoo booths are made of garish chain-link fencing and its sign reads “Welcome To Hell.”

Hardcore’s atmosphere leaves something to be desired. It’s chaotic, and if someone’s going to stick needles into your skin, you may prefer a place with an orderly, sanitary vibe.

Of course, the shop’s dark and twisted feel could be right up your alley and a grungy aura doesn’t necessarily equal grungy needles.

Plus, Hardcore can deliver numerous styles. Its “flash” " tattoo-speak for samples of what it can tattoo " includes lots of fairies, pandas and teddy bears as well as dark, gothic tats.

Pricing: $50 minimum, $70 to $100 per hour for multiple sessions
Strangest Tattoo: bar codes on the back of the neck à la The Matrix

Blue Dragon
273 Wellington St.
Blue Dragon’s appropriately blue-toned walls, gorgeous murals and stained glass provide a nice backdrop for a tattooing session. Its customer service is some of the best and the shop includes two separate offices where you can speak with staff.

Its artists’ portfolios, however, aren’t readily available. If you want to see the artists’ previous works, you’ll have to ask.

The shop has its health and business licenses featured prominently and the tattooing room is private, so, unless you’re an exhibitionist, you’ll like Blue Dragon.

After 20 years in the business, this tattoo parlour is still considered London’s most popular, so it must do something right.

Pricing: Variable; $50 minimum, $100-plus per hour
Strangest tattoo: strips of bacon

Lucky Devil
397 Clarence St.
When you walk into Lucky Devil, you’ll be greeted immediately by the shop’s owner. Can’t get better customer service than that.

Portfolios are readily available, so deciding on an artist is easy.

Lucky Devil does lots of dark, Frank Miller-esque tattoos " designs right at home on a graphic novel’s pages and that look pretty wicked on skin. While the shop’s atmosphere is nothing special " it’s decorated with a couple plain couches and bright orange walls " the waiting room’s large window gives you a perfect view of Solid Gold, so you can watch strippers reporting for duty. It’s better than television.

Pricing: $50 minimum by the piece per session; $80-100 per hour
Strangest Tattoo: “I Have A Tattoo”

Hanger 18
417 Richmond St.
Hanger 18 arguably has the best artistic reputation in town. The staff are there for the art, not the money. They rely entirely on word of mouth for business " they don’t advertise " and they’ve been successful for 10 years.

The staff can be pretty intimidating at first. Give them a chance and you’ll see they’re just passionate about their work.

Hanger 18’s portfolios are very accessible. It also offers services beyond basic tattooing and piercing, including branding, scarring, repairing piercings gone wrong and laser removal. So if Tom screws half your graduating class, you can always fix your tattooed mistake.

Pricing: $50 minimum; most pricing is customized
Strangest tattoo: They believe no tattoo is strange. Seriously.

Perfect Image
691 Richmond St.
Perfect Image is part of a tattoo chain, meaning you’ll have to look beyond its funky hardwood decor to discover if its staff has skill.

The tattoo booths are made of clear glass, so while you’re getting inked, you’ll be on display.

Perfect Image does have some perks. It has high-tech tattoo design programs and does a great job covering up old tattoos. A lot of its designs are really beautiful " some even resembling paintings. Since it also offers a one-year guarantee for all tattoos, except those done on hands, feet and face, you can be assured your tat will get fixed if it fades.

Pricing: $80 minimum; approx. $100 per hour
Strangest tattoo: the owl from the old-school Tootsie Pop commercials.

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