There’s no denying it– from the ‘jailhouse’ look of east LA to ancient, island based tribal, and from intricately designed geometric pattern tattoos to the dark and macabre, it’s easy to see that black and grey tattoo styles dominate a huge cross-section of fans and collectors in our modern tattoo culture.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, (and make a play on the title of a much anticipate erotically-themed film:), for REAL Tattoo-Lovers everywhere, TAM wanted to pay tribute to some of the world’s greatest Black & Grey tattoo artists!

Black and gray tattoos

Though the styles of black & grey tattooing today vary widely…the entire realm of modern black and grey tattooing all have at their core the simple foundation of ink and water. In many ways this “shady” explosion of B&G’s immense popularity owes it’s modern origins to but a handful of dedicated and skilled artists of recent years, all of whom devoted themselves entirely to the task of pushing the boundaries of their personal artistic expression, and, (ultimately), to what we now know is possible to portray on human skin… using only black ink and the many shades of grey.

black and grey tattoo sleeve


It’s my honor and pleasure to introduce younger tattoo artists, collectors and new-ish tattoo fans in general to some of the MODERN MASTERS of black & grey tattooing.


Though tattooing goes back centuries in human history, from Ötzi the Iceman to the Maori island tribes to skulls and portraits, we’re going to start with the trendsetters of modern techniques-


1) Jack Rudy –  A living legend, Jack Rudy is world famous for single-needle, “Fineline” tattooing and the most impressive lettering in the tattoo world! His work has been so influential that he is considered one of the godfathers of the refined Chicano tattoo style. Board member of the APT (Alliance of Professional Tattooers), spokesman for various clothing and aftercare brands, and guest judge on TV’s Ink Master, Jack is the MAN!

Freddy Negrete tattoo

2) Freddy Negrete – Freddy and Jack both worked for Good Time Charlie’s Tattoo Land and virtually created the fineline style! Freddy has one amazing life story, from his introduction to tattoos at an early age, to time spent in prison working his craft in secret, to landing a job after at Tattoo Land with Jack “the King” Rudy! C/S !!

black and grey tattoo by Paul Booth

3) Paul Booth – The undisputed master of the macabre! When Paul Booth burst upon the scene in the early 90s, tattooing changed FOREVER…the nerve struck in Paul’s breakthrough article struck a resonance unlike anything before or since, and propelled dark tattooing into the stratosphere, influencing legions of new artists and an entire generation! He’s also a super guy! Here’s a video teaser for Paul-

black and grey tattoo by Leo Zuletta

4) Leo Zuletta  -Leo changed tattooing! In the late 80s and early 90s, what is commonly known today as “Tribal” tattoo art slowly began to emerge in the punk rock culture of the bay area, and Leo, nudged on by Ed Hardy himself, was at the helm. His work would come to have a huge impact on both the tattoo and marketing worlds…in the 90s & since Leo’s groundbreaking tribal art decorated everything from cars to clothing, and his work is still pushing the boundaries today!


5) Thomas Hooper -The most modern black & grey style to explode in recent years has its roots in sacred geometry, and the avant-garde work of Thomas Hooper never ceases to amaze! Formerly of the UK, Thomas gained international notoriety and a huge following not just of fans but of other tattoo artists, as well. When he’s not working the convention circuit he can be found at Rock Of Ages Tattoo in Austin, Texas! One of the best people on the planet, he is!


6) Robert Pho -Robert’s work is timeless, and his versatility is astounding. Rags to riches? More like state pen to the King of Las Vegas black and grey tattooing! His work is mind-blowing and his story inspiring!

This is just an introduction to some of the world’s BEST black and grey tattoo artists. There are as many great artists out there as there are shades of grey! Follow and like the artists, and comment below with YOUR favorite B&G tattooers!

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