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The 37 Best Tattoo Books(Tattoo Flash Books, Artist Books, How to Tattoo, and More)

by  Kin Liu- Last updated on July 25, 2019
Best Tattoo Books

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Are you eager to learn more about tattooing?

Then take a look at this list of the best tattoo books that will inspire you.

We found tattoo artist-recommended flash books filled with stunning tattoo designs and vintage tattoo stencils.

There are also autobiographies of top artists and books about the history of tattooing.

Plus, you can educate yourself about cultural tattoos around the world.

Any of these top tattoo books will look right at home in your studio, too.

Let’s dive right into the reviews now.

Contents

1. Tattoo Prodigies : A Collection of the Best Tattoos by the World’s Best Tattoo Artists by Mike DeVries

When you see it, Tattoo Prodigies is clearly a coffee table book. It’s big, it’s thick, and it’s printed in full color.

Inside, you’ll find galleries of the most impressive work by the world’s best artists. It also includes interviews of the tattoo artists themselves.

2. The Great Book of Tattoo by Spider Webb

Curious about vintage tattoos? Then grab this book with more than 500 vintage photographs from the 1800s through the 1980s. You’ll see military, religious, tribal, and parlor tattoo designs.

The author has his own tattoo parlor in New York, and his work has been on display around the world.

3. Vintage Tattoos: The Book of Old-School Body Art by Carol Clerk

Inked Magazine praised this book for its coverage of patriotic and nautical tattoos and superstitions. Playboy said this is a book you’ll find yourself opening again and again.

It features over 250 pages of anecdotes and distinctive Body art done by artist like Sailor Jerry Collins, Pinky Yun, and Ed Hardy.

4. Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo, 3rd Edition

Are you aware that tattooed women in America outnumber men with tattoos? Did you know that Winston Churchill’s mother had a tattoo on her wrist?

Learn more about the fascinating history of women with tattoos from the time it was forbidden to wear ink to modern cancer survivors and trendsetters. The book contains photos and full-color images from around the world and the past to the present.

5. The Tattoo History Source Book

This book is interesting for both tattoo artists and people who enjoy history and tattoos. It collects historical texts from anthropologists, criminologists, doctors, and artists.

Stretching from ancient Greece to the invention of the tattooing machine, it covers tribal art and more.

6. The World Atlas of Tattoo

Explore body art from around the world in The World Atlas of Tattoo. It covers traditions and history as well as modern tattoo artists.

7. New York City Tattoo: The Oral History of an Urban Art

Although tattooing is acceptable and fashionable these days, that wasn’t always the case. Cultural historian Michael McCabe won the trust of the small community of artists in New York City before body art was banned in 1961. Find out what he learned as he interviewed them.

8. High Voltage Tattoo

Jump forward to modern times and see the world of tattooing through the eyes of Kat Von D. As you know, she was the star of the TV series LA Ink.

The unique appearance of the book itself hints at the exclusive perspective within it. Not only does it provide images of the tools of the trade, but it also features Kat’s work and pieces by other famous artists.

9. Bang Bang: My Life in Ink

Celebrity artist Bang Bang has worked on Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, and many other celebrities. This book is his story of how he started as a self-taught artist in his mom’s kitchen to where he is today.

Get ready to enjoy celebrity photos and an insider perspective of what it’s like to be an artist to the stars.

10. Wear Your Dreams: My Life in Tattoos

“Don” Ed Hardy, the Godfather of American Tattoos, tells his life story in this book. It’s a fascinating read to see how he began tattooing neighborhood kids when he was only 10, and moved on to transform the tattooing industry.

You’ll discover what it was like for him to ink Yakuza, open his first shop, and work with Sailor Jerry.

11. Permanence: Tattoo Portraits by Kip Fulbeck

Instead of seeing it from the artist point of view, take a look at the client’s experience. Artist, professor, and filmmaker Kip Fulbeck interviews everyone from Hells Angels to celebrities and regular folks to find out the stories behind their tattoos.

12. Forever More: The New Tattoo

Dig deep into the tattoo underground to see the latest in contemporary tattoo culture.

13. Tattoo Sourcebook

The Tattoo Sourcebook contains almost 2000 designs created by artists around the world. If you need inspiration, this is the perfect place to look.

The book was compiled by the team at TattooFinder, one of the top sites in the world.

Use this book to get the most out of your practice time. Grab transfer paper and copy all sorts of symbols to ink on practice skin.

14. Mitch O’Connell Tattoos Volume Two: 251 Designs, Bigger and Better!

Artist Mitch O’Connell has released multiple books containing hundreds of tattoo designs. He’s an excellent resource for both you and your clients.

His distinctive style is “Lowbrow.” It harkens back to the pop art days of pinup girls and hot rods.

15. Tattoo Johnny: 3,000 Tattoo Designs

Another of the best tattoo books for beginners is this one from Tattoo Johnny. It organizes the best designs from the website, including everything from religious images to flowers and fairies.

16. Custom Tattoo 101: Over 1000 Stencils and Ideas for Customizing Your Own Unique Tattoo

TattooFinder is also behind this book of stencils for novice artists and people who want to create their own tattoo design. It includes 50 popular categories and more than 1000 ideas to get you started. 

Related Reading: How To Make a Tattoo Stencil at Home?

17. Classic Flash in 5 Bold Colors

Are you anxious to break in those new tattoo inks? Then crack open this book full of classic flash designs done in red, yellow, green, black, and brown. The author is a professional tattoo artist who reworked famous tattoos by well-known artists.

18. Sailor Jerry’s Tattoo Stencils

Speaking of famous tattoo artists, here’s a book collecting the work of Sailor Jerry Collins. It covers his career from the 1940s to the 1970s.

It includes images of black and white hand-cut stencils so that you can work on your own line drawings.

19. Vintage Tattoo Flash: 100 Years of Traditional Tattoos from the Collection of Jonathan Shaw

Jonathan Shaw’s life is far from boring, and so is his book. It’s his personal collection of more than 300 pieces of flash featuring retro art. The majority are designs popular from the 1900s to the 1960s.

20. Scab Vendor: Confessions of a Tattoo Artist

Find out why Jonathan Shaw’s life seems stranger than fiction when you read his autobiography.

21. Dark Ink Tattoo Book by Cassie Alexander

Flip through this inspirational collection of original designs, and you’ll be eager to break out the black ink and get started.

22. Ink – The Art of Tattoo: Contemporary Designs and Stories Told by Tattoo Experts

Read interviews with master tattoo artists from around the world. View visionary body art on almost every page.

23. Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo

Have you seen the site TeachMeToTattoo.com? This book was created to accompany the website and help hopeful artists turn into professional tattooers.

It’s excellent for apprentices who need to know how to build a tattoo machine, configure it, work with ink, and keep everything sterile and safe.

24. Reinventing the Tattoo, 2nd Edition

Guy Aitchinson has finally released the second edition of this tattoo education book. It includes a DVD that illustrates material discussed inside.

Some of the topics covered are sanitation, the machine, the power supply, needles, pigment, stencils, the process, and aftercare as well as shop etiquette.

The author has 20 years in the tattoo profession.

25. The Complete Art of Tattooing

If you can look past the fact that the author published independently on CreateSpace, and that the book could benefit from a little editing, you can reap rich insight from it.

The author, Erick Alayon, began the  art of tattooing professionally in 1988. Besides the basics of how to tattoo, he explains additional topics like frame geometry and photography.

26. Drawing & Designing Tattoo Art: Creating Masterful Tattoo Art from Start to Finish by Flip Buchanan

Flip Buchanan has more than three decades of experience as a tattoo artist. Let him teach you how to conceptualize stunning body art from start to finish. He discusses placement, color choice, and flow, as well as the meaning of popular symbols.

There’s also a gallery of pieces done by tattoo artists with diverse styles.

27. Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volume I

Explore the world of Russian criminal tattoos with this first volume in the series. It has a collection of more than 3000 tattoos documented by a prison employee.

Warning, this is not a book for children. It contains graphic content.

28. The POLYNESIAN TATTOO Handbook: Practical guide to creating meaningful Polynesian tattoos

Learn about the meaning behind Polynesian tattoos. Also, find out how to apply them with traditional methods.

The book includes a dictionary to help you find the symbols you need.

29. Japanese Tattoos: History * Culture * Design

Irezumi, or Japanese tattoos, are often requested in tattoo studios around the world. Use this book to ink accurate kanji symbols.

But that’s not all. Discover the history and meanings of Japanese tattooing from hand-poked tebori to modern anime designs.

30. Painted Bodies: African Body Painting, Tattoos, and Scarification

Explore this influential book about African body art to understand the history of tattoos and piercings. It covers cultures like the Maasai and Hamar with over 250 photographs.

31. Hand Poked No Electricity: Stick and Poke Tattoo Culture

The first tattoos were stick and poke. The tradition continues today. Check out this book about the history and culture of working intricate designs into the skin without tattoo machines. Read our guide to know more Stick and Poke Tattoos here.

32. Rethink the Ink: Your Guide to Surviving Laser Tattoo Removal by Victor Beyer

If you’re considering removing a tattoo, get this book first, it will help you understand the process.

33. Celtic Body Art Tattoos

Explore the intricate world of Celtic body art with this book of intricate designs. This body art has 12 blue and black ink images of mythical figures and geometric patterns.

Keep in mind this is a book of temporary tattoos made to apply to the skin with water. Even so, it’s ideal for tracing and making stencils.

34. Tattoo Coloring Book: An Adult Coloring Book

It’s relaxing to doodle and color. Let this coloring book give you new ideas or use it as a place to unwind and perfect your coloring technique.

35. Drawing Dimension – Shading Techniques: A Shading Guide for Teachers and Students (How to Draw Cool Stuff)

Use the tips in this book to improve your shading. Although whatever the book conatins it’s focused on are done with pencil and paper, it covers all the basics like crosshatching, stippling, contrast, and focal points.

36. The Big Book of Realistic Drawing Secrets: Easy Techniques for drawing people, animals, flowers and nature

Brush up on your realistic drawing skills. You’ll perfect a sense of depth, review how to deal with challenging textures and inject personality into expressions.

37. Tell Me a Tattoo Story

We couldn’t resist this charming children’s book, this book contains where the father tells his young child about the stories behind each of his tattoos.

A Note about Sending Books to Incarcerated Artists

If you’d like to send someone a tattoo book in prison, check with their rules first. Unfortunately, many Body art books and magazines are banned.

Conclusion

We hope we helped you find books to encourage you as an artist today. Tattooing is more than a job; it’s a lifestyle with an endless range of possibilities.

What books about tattooing are you reading these days? Let us know in the comments below.

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