The Best (Only?) Tattoo Shop and Artist Directory


My name is Doug. I’m a tattoo collector and enthusiast. A couple years ago my regular artist moved away and I’m left to find someone new. 


If you have a regular tattoo artist, have had your hair cut by the same person for years, or took your car to the same mechanic, you understand why this could be upsetting.

So now I’m left to research and find a new artist, someone I trust enough to permanently change my appearance. Google finds dozens of “Top 10 tattoo artists in Chicago” articles, but they are always based on one person’s opinion, or driven by some outside force to promote a certain shop. Instagram is ok, but you have to know where to start, who to look for and then follow from there, and it’s still limiting and with no reviews other than follower counts and likes, which aren’t that trustworthy.

So, being in the Chicago area, and being a seasoned web developer by day, I decided to compile an online list of Chicagoland based artists and quickly realized I needed to make it public. Others are looking for ways to find local artists, why not build a directory? Then why not include artists and shops, listing Masters to Apprentices, established shops to new locations? Then let artists and shops claim their listings and make them their own with photos, socials, contact info, availability, etc… all for free. Sure, I’m offering listing upgrades like being Featured or allowing for more photos with add-ons and pricing tiers, but this is really about building a directory that users can trust because it’s driven by the community.

Current Site - 

There is a great starter set of functionality and plans for future features:

  • Users can browse and search artists snd shops by location, styles, and more.
  • There is a forum for people to post topics and ask questions.
  • Users can review the artists with star ratings and positive (or negative) comments.
  • Artists and shops can claim their listings for free and make them their own, with optional paid upgrades to stand out.

Some future plans

  • I envision artists being able to post calls for clients if they have a spot open up, sending notifications to potential clients on a wait list.
  • Similarly, clients being able to post requests, looking for a certain kind of tattoo and artists being able to offer their services
  • Booking management for artists or shops

Down the road I see artists helping artists, too...

  • Shops could post job/station openings
  • New artists could look for apprenticeships
  • Artists could refer clients to other artists
  • And more

Where to start? 

It started with the above Instagram account, following Chicago area artists and shops. I quickly gained a few followers and got some positive feedback on the concept, and decided to spin up the website.

I chose Chicago since I’m from here. But I’m building the site with expansion in mind. Adding other metro based regions will be easy, allowing people to feel like it’s their community of artists, and not just some national phone book of names. Same with rural or regional site, they will just be another region-based collection. Each region will have the same functionality and goal, but with their own style, logo, and design, along with a unique personality from the forums since it'll be more local topics and opinions.

What's the money for?

Some of the funds will go towards the following:

  • Hosting costs for at least a year or more depending on the need to scale for traffic
  • Costs associated with building out the site (it’s Wordpress for now, utilizing a number of paid plugins)
  • Costs of building this business from my home (things like a virtual mailing address and phone number to protect my family's privacy)
  • Trademarks for site name(s), etc
  • Contracted help for design and data entry work

The remaining would then go to marketing (this would be the majority of the usage):

  • Billboards
  • Online ads
  • Promotional materials such as flyers, business cards, shirts, and other swag for both artists and users
  • Snail mail campaigns to recruit shops and artists to claim and enhance their listings
  • Email/social media campaigns

If you’re still reading, I hope you are as excited about the possibilities this idea presents to help the disconnected community of tattoo artist and clients. I truly think it'll become a huge community not only in Chicago, but across the country and eventually the world.

Thank you for hanging out. I look forward to doing this again sometime.



Doug Johnson
Bolingbrook, IL

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