Best Tattoo Documentaries

Tattoo documentaries let you get an inside look at the stories of individual artists or learn more about a certain tattoo style

As an aspiring tattoo artist, it’s important to learn everything you can about tattoo history, techniques, trends, and prominent artists. While shows like LA Ink and Ink Master are great looks into the world of tattooing, there are plenty of other interesting documentaries out there. 

In this article, we’ll give our recommendations for the best tattoo documentaries about various aspects of the industry:

  • The Last Kalinga Tattoo Artist, Whang Od
  • Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry: The Life of Norman K. Collins
  • Ed Hardy: The Godfather of Modern Tattooing
  • The Sacred Tattoos of Thailand
  • Tattoo Nation

The Last Kalinga Tattoo Artist, Whang Od

Directed by Phillip Abresch in 2016, this documentary covers Whang Od Oggay, an elderly tattoo artist in Kalinga, a village in the Phillippines that is very hard to reach. Whang Od is described as the oldest and last tattoo artist in Kalinga who has been tattooing warriors for her whole life. 

Whang-Od uses a rice stalk to stamp the pattern into the body, and while her tattoos were traditionally done to honor those who protected their village, she now practices her tattoos for tourists. 

This tattoo documentary follows two men who go to be tattooed by Whang Od and learn about her tradition. The documentary is 26 minutes long and can be found on YouTube.

Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry: The Life of Norman K. Collins

This tattoo documentary looks at the history of tattoos in America and focuses on the famous tattoo personality Sailor Jerry. It was written and directed by Erich Weiss and features interviews with artists influenced by Sailor Jerry including Don Ed Hardy, Michael Malone, Zeke Owen, Lyle Tuttle, Philadelphia Eddie Funk, Bob Roberts and Joe Boyle. 

This documentary will explore Sailor Jerry’s story, tattoo art, worldview, connection to Japan, and his impact on society.

Ed Hardy: The Godfather of Modern Tattooing

This film is directed by Christpher Grosso and follows San Francisco tattoo artist Ed Hardy. 

Hardy was influenced by Sailor Jerry and used his love of Japanese tattooing to bring the world’s most historic tattooing styles into a new wave of modern tattoo design.

The Sacred Tattoos of Thailand

The Sacred Tattoos of Thailand, produced by Kit Chung, dives into Sak Yant, a traditional Buddhist tattoo thought to give mystical powers to the person being tattooed. The tattoos are done in the traditional stick-and-poke style and are very important to Thai Buddhist culture. 

This documentary teaches about the art of Sak Yant including who gives the tattoos, who receives them, and how you must behave to inherit the powers of the tattoo. Footage of the traditional ceremony can be seen in the film.

Tattoo Nation

Tattoo Nation follows tattoo pioneers Charlie Cartwright, Jack Rudy, and Freddy Negrete, and looks at how they helped tattoos gain mainstream popularity. 

The film tells the story of how Cartwright and Rudy opened a tattoo parlor in East Los Angeles in 1975 and hired Freddy Negrete, who revolutionized tattooing in the Chicano community. 

This documentary is narrated by Corey Miller from LA Ink and includes interviews with tattooed celebrities like Danny Trejo and Travis Barker.

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

Understanding tattoo history is an important step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

However, finding the straightforward information you need to progress is difficult. And with so much out there online, it’s hard to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.

This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to start tattooing full time faster…

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

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Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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