From Sailor Jerry protegé Ed Hardy who attended the San Francisco Art Institute to the legendary Lyle Tuttle whose shop completes this list of the Bay Area's best tattoo parlors, San Francisco is a historic town for tattoos. First the domain of sailors and bohemians — and the area has been home to many — tattoos entered the mainstream perhaps thanks to Tuttle and the fateful tattooing of local musician Janis Joplin. She became known for showing off Tuttle's work onstage in a resonant display of female and sexual liberation. In fact, Tuttle frequently credits "women's liberation" for the success of tattoos in our era. Other rockers helped too, and shows held by famous promoter Bill Graham were also showcases for stars and their Tuttle artwork. Today, his North Beach museum contains a plaque with the saying that tattoos are "as ancient as time, as modern as tomorrow." They do tend to stick around, don't they, and these days you can see them on just about every inch of the Bay Area.

Diving Swallow Tattoo
She's almost impossible to book, but Marie Brennan's realistic, painterly flora and fauna tattoos are so popular that her fans are willing to wait. Right now, Oakland-based Brennan is completely booked through 2015. For those lucky enough to score an appointment, don't request an Aztec sun tramp stamp. Says Brennan, "I don't actually tattoo anything that doesn't resonate deeply aesthetically." — Beth Spotswood
264 14th Street Oakland between Harrison and Alice Streets

Karen Roze Tattoo
Sacred Rose Tattoo Sacred Rose's San Francisco shop was so popular and her rent so expensive, owner Karen Roze chose to close it and open two spaces in the East Bay instead. Now, Sacred Rose inks up discerning tattooed people in both Berkeley and Albany, with a warm friendly staff and experienced line-up of artists. Will Karen do a tacky tramp stamp? Sure! "I like to think I'm unlimited. Every tattoo is important."— Beth Spotswood 1728 University Avenue Berkeley and 1503 Solano Avenue Albany

Photos of two of tattoos done by Scott Sylvia. Photos: Black Heart Tattoo

Black Heart Tattoo
Black Heart was founded by Tim Lehi, Jeff Rassier and Scott Sylvia over a decade ago, and it swiftly gained a reputation as a place to get both traditional and innovative work. Everyone there is great, but Scott Sylvia is my guy — my entire back is covered in his work, and he's the man my husband and I went to when we got our tenth-anniversary tattoos. (I'm not the only San Franciscan who refuses any needle besides Sylvia's: he's the only artist well-inked local sex/tech writer Violet Blue uses, for example.) Sylvia is happy to work with you on a design, and can make a vague idea you might have about a tattoo into something sublime. His touch is gentle enough that I made it through four, three-hour full-back sessions without losing my mind. He's just as good with newbies, getting my tattoo-virgin (and, between us, kind of a baby about pain) husband through his first sans freakouts. I cannot recommend him, and Black Heart, highly enough. — Eve Batey
177 Valencia Street, between Duboce Avenue and McCoppin Street

The Lampblack Tattoo team via Facebook

Lampblack Tattoo
Having just celebrated its one year anniversary, Mission Street's Lampblack Tattoo is a small, unassuming shop with plenty of attitude. Owner Iggy Vans has been a professional tattoo artist for 20 years before opening his own shop, and he remains a full-time Mission District character, often playing with his band, Dick Wolf, at Bender's Bar and Grill. Artists like Tonya Vyeda (who, full disclosure, has tattooed me) are not only thoughtful artists but a hell of a lot of fun to be around. Lampblack, named for the traditional pigment, is a great addition to the neighborhood. — Caleb Pershan
2063 Mission Street between 16th and 17th Streets

A tattoo by Jesse Tuesday via Tuesday Tattoo

Tuesday Tattoo
This Outer Sunset tattoo destination is beloved thanks to artists Jesse Tuesday, Hannah Wednesday, and Candi Kinyōbi ("Friday" in Japanese). You can see all of their work on their Tumblr. It's a non-intimidating, downright inspiring place to get inked, and it's renowned in no small part for Jesse's time, care, and ability to articulate his vision to customers. He's an alum of well-known parlors in Hollywood and the Bay like Jill Jordan's Red Devil Studios, Pote Seylor's Body Electric, Eddy Deutsche's 222 tattoo, and Freddy Corbin's Temple Tattoo in Oakland. —Caleb Pershan
4025 Judah Street between 45th and 46th Avenues

Mid-Century art tattoo. #tattoo #midcentury #shannonarchuleta #graphic #fabulousmustache

A photo posted by Shannon Archuleta (@sarchuleta) on

Shannon Archuleta Tattoo
Shannon Archuleta works out of a private studio space in the Mission and has several rules for her clients. Don't come drunk, eat a good meal, don't wear perfume, and don't bring an entourage. Clearly, Archuleta doesn't do bachelorette party matching ankle daisies, and instead, takes permanent body alteration pretty seriously. This is not to say Shannon isn't really, really friendly. Happy client Blair Craig tells us, "Not only is she a artistic perfectionist, Shannon is so much fun to hang out with you almost forget she is causing you pain." — Beth Spotswood
3150 18th Street Ste. 270 (at Treat Avenue)

Lyle Tuttle tattooing in 1960 via

Lyle Tuttle Tattoo & Museum/Blue Bird Tattoo
At 83-years-old, San Francisco legend Lyle Tuttle doesn't tattoo much more than his signature these days, but his newly reopened shop and museum holds a special place in San Francisco history and it's a great place to get a traditional tattoo. Madeline Bluebird and Jon will tat you up while Lyle chats you up, and boy does he have stories. He's tattooed on every continent, been on the cover of Rolling Stone, and inked celebrities like Joan Baez, the Allman Brothers, and Cher. — Caleb Pershan
841 Columbus Avenue between Lombard and Greenwich Streets

Jason Stein Tattoo
Jason Stein of Cyclops Tattoo

Cyclops Tattoo
Smack dab in the heart of the Valencia Corridor, Cyclops Tattoo might look like your average tattoo parlor, but the talent inside is anything but basic. Jason Stein has been an artist since 1996 and has an impressive array of classy specialties. Says Jason, "My style references elements of Art Nouveau, traditional American and Japanese tattooing, scientific botanical and wildlife illustration, and classical fine art painting." Will Jason do your dumb tramp stamp? Maybe. "It's all about context." — Beth Spotswood
513 Valencia Street # 2 between 16th and 17th Streets

Black & Blue Tattoo via Facebook

Black & Blue Tattoo
Black and Blue holds a place of its own in this town. A female-owned, gender-inclusive tattoo studio established in 1995, the shop earns rave reviews for its kindness and artistry. Brücius, one of ten plus artists that works there, is particularly sought-after, with folks flying from all over to become his canvas. The shop is a fragrance-free zone, so please don't wear cologne or perfume when you make your visit. — Caleb Pershan
381 Guerrero Street between 15th and 16th Streets

Karen Roze of Sacred Rose Tattoo