10 Top Tattoo Studios in Cape Town

A selection of parlours making a mark on the Mother City body art scene

Anyone’s who’s gone under the needle before – bar the odd drunkard who simply can’t remember their motive – will most likely agree that the reasons for getting tattooed usually run more than skin-deep. Tattoos are about creative expression, about individuality or belonging, about ritual or rebellion or immortalising memories. Which is why it’s so important that when you do decide to scratch the body ink surface, you pick the right studio to perform the procedure.

Fortunately, Cape Town, being the innovative city it is, is home to a host of internationally acclaimed artists and parlours, all practiced at catering to the whims and wants of the ink crowd, at handling requests for customised work or catalogue sketches, and at fielding even the most outlandish design queries. So, to help you source the right place for the job, what follows is a listing of a few of these top Mother City tattoo studios. 

Sins Of Style
This city centre studio’s focus is on custom tattoos, and all requested designs are drawn up on the day so that clients have full control over the creative process. The team comprises three experienced artists, all with their own style; Lee Herbert’s expertise, for example, lies in black and grey illustrative and realism, whereas Tyler B. Murphy, the company’s founder, favours large-scale Asian traditional design. In addition to standard approaches, the parlour also specialises in a unique manual ‘hand poked’ technique that deliberately leaves the line work looking rough and irregular. Regular patrons of such a style include Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser of local rap-rave band Die Antwoord.
22 Hope Street | Gardens | Cape Town 
Note: Sins of Style values face-to-face interaction and hence does not give out a contact number; they encourage clients to pop in to set up appointments.

Metal Machine Tattoo and Piercing Studio
Cape Town’s first professional tattoo studio Metal Machine opened in 1993 under tattoo master Derek Baker and has since garnered a number of coveted awards, including first place in the black and grey large images category at the African Ink Fest International Tattoo Convention. With such a history of success, the parlour’s quality and creativity knows no bounds – the team at this studio will design everything from small, discreet symbols to elaborate, fitted, full-body etchings.  And word on the street is that their diversity is matched by their skill. So firm is the artists’ confidence in their trade that, when requested, they draw freehand sketches straight onto the body.
45/49 Shortmarket Street | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 423 0688

Wildfire Tattoos
Opened in 1994 by tattoo gurus Simon and Manuela, the Wildfire team claims over 20 years experience in the industry, and the brand’s popularity is rooted in a seamless blend of fine artistic expression and business savvy. Now based at two locations in Cape Town to cater to both the city centre crowd and those out Century City way, the studios together boast a passionate team of eight talented artists, all seasoned in a range of styles, from whimsical designs to tribal patterns and typography.
Shop 480 |Canal Walk | Century City |Cape Town |+27 (0)21 551 5722; 192 Long Street |City Centre |Cape Town|+27 (0)21 424 0877

Skinscape Tattoo
Founded in 2003 by Morag Pringle, Skinscape started as a small one woman operation, and has since earned a reputation as a city centre hotspot for ink addicts in search of custom designs. The intimate studio in Gardens (recently relocated from Sea Point) not only promises quality work, but also offers clients a unique chance to interact with this inspiring artist in a relaxed environment. Having previously worked as a sculptor and having always been an avid illustrator, Morag is tuned into the design element of tattoo artistry and is especially gifted at creating pieces that flow seamlessly with the body’s anatomy.
13 Glynville Terrace | Gardens | Cape Town | +27 (0)84 7060 608

Urban Ink Tattoo and Piercing Studio
Former owner Ryan Bell started this studio during a time when black and grey designs reigned supreme. Inspired by a fellow colleague, he introduced colour into the parlour’s portfolio – and the rest is history. Now under new ownership, Urban Ink is committed to continuing his fine tradition, with four in-house tattooists – occasionally supplemented by guest artists from all over the world – offering anything from off-the-wall catalogue designs to unique, custom-made images. With an ongoing commitment to innovation, the studio has claimed a number of prestigious prizes, including awards won at the Ink and Iron tattoo and biking show and the Cool Ink Johannesburg convention.
4 Sandown Road | Table View | Cape Town| +27 (0)74 145 6426

Steel Chameleon (formerly Dragon Tattoos)
Founder and head artist Marius Bosman opened this parlour in 1995, and, as the name suggests, the spot’s tattooists frequently change their style to accommodate the requests of clients, from tattoo virgins to the virtually covered. Home to a wide range of artists specialising in various tattoo types, from line work to portraits to white ink designs, the studio prides itself on its ability to provide customers with a discreet, welcoming, hygienic environment in which to get inked.
Shop 9 | CapeGate Lifestyle Centre | Okavango Road | Brackenfell| +27 (0)21 981 1588
Note: Steel Chameleon is relocating at the end of July so keep an eye on their Facebook page for the new address.

Davidson Ink
Formerly launched as Hoodoo Tattoo, Davidson Ink boasts two resident artists and has also played host to a number of experienced guest tattooists from around the world. Based in Observatory, the parlour offers a broad variety of tattoo styles, most of which are drawn straight onto the skin. With an emphasis on exceptional quality, the Davidson Ink team also makes use of an assortment of top ink brands that vary according to the nature of the work.
297 Lower Main Road | Observatory | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 486 9003

Mantra
Artist Samantha Millar’s Long Street spot has been making waves on Cape Town’s tattoo scene for some time now. A mix of black and grey artistry and dot work, her designs are influenced by her extensive travel abroad. With free one-on-one consultations and the offer of customised artwork, the studio’s ultimate goal is to guarantee a positive, memorable experience for clients, and, as Samantha works independently, the pricing structure is especially competitive.
210 Long Street | Cape Town |+27 (0)82 528 0566

Cape Electric Tattoo Parlour
A 2011 addition to the city centre body art scene, Cape Electric aims to make their mark on the local tattoo world by ensuring a comfortable, positive and private – the work area is separate from the entrance section – experience for customers. With three in-house artists on board, all with their own preferred style, the parlour is well-prepared to cater to a range of tastes and requests, and specialises in both flash (generic, ready-made designs) and customised tattooing. What’s more, these creative craftsmen are always fine-tuning their trade by experimenting with various artistic mediums outside of their normal work hours. Impulsive types will be glad to know that they welcome walk-ins in addition to pre-arranged appointments and are readily available for free consultations to provide for quote and query needs.
11 Buitensingel Street |Gardens | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 423 7646

Fine Lines Tattoo Studio
Opened in 2009, this Blouberg-based parlour’s key philosophy is to create a space for customers that’s homely, laidback, warm and welcoming, and that can take some of the edge off the sometimes painful tattooing process. While they pride themselves on their ability to accommodate a broad range of style requests, the three head artists, Aidin, Leigh and Chris, are most skilled at realism, abstract and old-school designs, respectively. Across types, their line work, as the studio’s name suggests, is crisp and clean, and hygiene and safety are always a priority. Although they do work on a walk-in system, bookings are preferred, particularly on weekends when they’re at their busiest.
4 Harvan Centre |Marine Circle | Blouberg | +27 (0) 21 556 8908

TattooMania
Founded by experienced tattooist Marshall Idrees, TattooMania studio – based in both Kenilworth and Kuilsrivier – is wholly dedicated to one thing: creating high-quality pieces of body art. The three resident artists’ areas of expertise include bold colour works and intricate portraits, but they’re practiced in all forms of tattooing, and will also gladly sit with clients and work out unique, personally-tailored pieces. As committed to sanitation as they are to design, the team follows a strict sterilisation procedure and only makes use of the purest pigments. What’s more, they’re also highly affordable; if a customer brings in a written cost quotation from another parlour, they’ll adjust their prices to make sure they beat it.
Shop B&A | Access Park Shopping Centre | 81 Chichester Road | Kenilworth | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 671 6920; A1 Access City | Van Riebeeck Road |Kuilsrivier | +27 (0)21 903 7010

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Not so keen on skin etchings? How about sketchings on the Mother City’s streets and architecture? Read more about Cape Town’s urban art.

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