I Eat Your Tattoo: A Beginner’s Guide to Horror Ink

I Eat Your Tattoo: A Beginner’s Guide to Horror Ink

Unlike your khakis, the contents of your wallet or your car, you absolutely 100% are your tattoos. You love your tattoos or envy the tattoos of others.  Let’s face it, life gets in the way of inking ourselves. They aren’t exactly cheap by any stretch of the imagination, and unless you know a friend with a tattoo gun and a steady hand with a credible portfolio to his name you may as well keep searching the internet for flash art.  We’ve all been there. It’s the electric bill or the half sleeve. It’s the brakes on your car or that smiley face tramp stamp ala the Howling.

Before I got my first horror tattoo (my only horror tattoo to be honest) I felt somewhat incomplete. Let me stress that getting horror ink does not give you more street cred, make the film you made any scarier or the band your in any more Deathrock (maybe slightly more Deathrock).  Horror ink is not for everyone, but if you want to get it you shouldn’t let any stigma or such more hold you back. It’s your body and you’ll ink it if you want to.  Getting a horror tattoo, for some, is the realization in the physical manifestation of our individuality. I suppose you could call it a “freak flag”.  The horror tattoo whether it be from film poster art, iconic horror monster/killer or non movie specific fictional art is as varied as the people who get them. The reasons you’ll folks get ’em are as varied as the art they’ll put on their body.  Some people where horror T-shirts. Some hang posters all over their bedroom walls. Others put bump stickers on the back of their car.  Some… they get horror inked.

For those of you who haven’t ventured under the gun before, you have questions to be sure.

Does it hurt? THERE WILL BE BLOOD! After all this is the Blood Sprayer. In all seriousness the level of pain depends where you get ’em. Some spots are more sensitive than others and the “sensivitive” spots are subject to change by individual. My lower back tattoo of Johann Vasquez’s Happy Noodle Boy tickled as if it were some feather laced sex game. This is supposed to be a fairly sensitive spot so I was more than surprised at my reaction. The artist had to tell me stop laughing on more than one occasion. My Grindhouse piece on my upper arm was six hours of intense discomfort, but only the actual marquee lettering truly hurt.  I was ready to jump up from the chair a few times which surprised even me. To keep from fainting just keep repeating to yourself it’s only a needle piercing your flesh thousands upon thousands of times embedding ink under your skin. That should do it.  Oh, there most likely will be some bleeding. Totally normal. Think of it as a rite of passage.

How much will it cost? Unless you have a friend in the business it’s safe to say that you get what you pay for. Skimping due to financial issues will always leaving you dissatisfied. Wait till your ready and get your horror tattoo done properly. It truly depends on the size, color and labor intensity as to how much you’ll be paying, but a good rule of thumb seems to be $100 an hour plus tip. Make sure to ask around your locale before plunking all your cash down in front of an artist who’s work is completely foreign to you. Of course the usual cleanliness issues apply. Fresh needles, clean shop equals happy customer. Remember that horror tattoos can vary in price based on intricacy and size. If you’re getting a small skull tattooed on your ankle you might be paying $50 to $60 without color; some shops have minimums to consider. If you’re looking to get a portrait of your favorite Universal Monster or Sam Raimi action hero except this to be both labor intensive and expensive. Portrait work is something that comes at a cost and can be worth every penny if done by the right artist. Oh and hey, tip your artists well. Don’t skimp if they’ve done a good job. If you don’t know the rules on tipping use Google to find out what’s normal in your area as it can vary.

How do I pick my horror tattoo? That’s a matter of taste. You most likely have a favorite movie, but maybe that favorite movie doesn’t have tattoo friendly poster or cover art. Maybe the iconic imagery from your favorite or inspirational movie is a bit on the “edgy” side. As a youth (laugh now) I used to dream of having the Cannibal Corpse “Tomb of the Mutilated” cover art tattooed on my forearm [pictured]. I didn’t get it due to financial reasons, and I both regret and thank the world for not getting it every day. If your place of employ has a strict tattoo policy be careful what and where you get it or consider finding a new line of work. I’m not entirely certain most places will hire a guy with a zombie being eaten out by another zombie on his arm. That doesn’t change the fact that it would look great and cause a ruckus. Whatever your taste or employment status, remember that these things are permanent; that’s half the reason we love them so much, but you will have to live with them (or be undead with them). It’s important to remember that the fidelity of the image you put on your body should be fairly high and if the piece your looking to get has quite a bit of detail you’re going to need to make it BIG to get the clarity you may desire. That includes lettering, facial expressions or any tiny details you may love.  For example, that Planet Terror portion of my tattoo isn’t overly detailed when it comes to Cherry Darling’s face or machine gun leg. You can definitely make out what its supposed to be, but unless I wanted the poster to be a full back piece I had to limit how much detail I wanted. Artists skill will vary, but needles, skin and ink do have their own limitations.  Can’t decide what you want to get? Google it!  Just play with ideas until you find the one that wants to be on your skin as much as you want it on your skin. You have time to decide. Impulse tattooing can be fun, but it may leave you unsatisfied later.

What about branding? What about it!? I have not gone down this cow path yet, but it’s probably, like tattoos, not for everyone. The rule of thumb seems to be simple is better. I have considered getting the Eibon symbol from the Beyond as a brand, but after finding out that it is illegal in my home state and I don’t want to go to a place I don’t trust I’ll most likely be tattooing it sooner or later. Branding requires just as much attention to cleanliness as tattooing if not more so. Same rules of finding a tattoo artist.

We’ve compiled some skin art from some of our readers, contributors, founder and some members of various Facebook horror groups. We’ve included a little bit about them when necessary. If you are not included in this list below we hope you will be soon. Save your pennies or figure out what piece of horror history you want to put on your body and do it. Just make sure you love what you get and display it proudly whenever possible. One final thing before we get to the artwork. Dream big and save your pennies. Don’t go without the full back piece dedicated to Vincent Price just because its too costly and don’t think that you can’t take the pain.  Know your limitations but try to push your boundaries and most of all have fun. Oh and they’re addictive, so you might want to start planning your second one before you get your first.


“Franklin, I like [ink].  Please change the subject!” 

Wes Allen – Bubba

From our fearless leader on his bad ass ink:

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and more specifically, Leatherface are the epitome of what the horror genre means to me.  My heart, body, and mind were so deeply affected by that film and character that my film obsession/life was never to be the same.  This specific tattoo is the beginning to what will (eventually) be a half-sleeve dedicated entirely to the film I love.  It seemed only fitting that the first piece (and in my opinion, the most important) would be a portrait of Bubba himself…only because a tattoo on my heart wasn’t possible.”


 “Woe be unto him who opens one of the seven gateways to Hell, because through that gateway,[tattoos] will invade the world. ” –

Jude Felton – 

House By the Cemetery

They Beyond

Elite Hunting  – Hostel

Jude Felton, contributor to the Blood Sprayer and master of the LAIR OF FILTH has quite a few horror tattoos. We’ve included some of the movie influenced pieces. I like to think of Mr. Felton as collecting pieces of find are on his body. He’s got two Fulcis and a Roth. When he passes off this mortal coil they’ll remove his skin and frame them.


“Helen, have you… you know, talk to her, about the way [tattoos] are? Years ago. Years?”

 Ted Brown – Critters

Ted Brown is one of the founders of The Liberal Dead and is a contributor to the Blood Sprayer. His artwork of the Crite from the movie poster for Critters particularly hits home for me. It was an after school film of mine when other kids were playing outside. Amazing work and love the stitches below the little bugger.

” Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and [Tattoo].

James Terror – Grindhouse (Planet Terror and Death Proof)

James Terror aka “Dr.” Jimmy Terror, contributor to the Blood Sprayer with a fake doctorate over at Dr. Terror’s Blog of Horrors recently got his first horror tattoo of the double feature movie posters from the film GRINDHOUSE. “The film embodies everything I love in a horror film especially the faux trailers and the filmmakers that helped to make it possible.” Jimmy hopes to have a full back piece completed of a “web” of horror movie posters from several areas over the next few years.


 “Terrifying [Tattoo] Ravages Mankind!”

 Steve Mezo – Creature from the Black Lagoon

Co-Owner and Writer for D’Ment’D Cinema, Steve (who’s Facebook profile picture sports him with a bottle o’ Viper ala Street Trash)  has a quite a few non horror tattoos and shares the story of his first horror ink.

“I decided it was time to have a favorite monster done, but the question was who? I mean I have equal love for the Classics as well of the currents. But I thought it would be fair to make it my first. And since my legs already have a sea theme he would fit right in.

He now has a happy home that starts above my inner right ankle and ends just below my knee. And is neighbors across from Deep Sea Diver G.I. Joe. Which still fits because in Revenge of The Creature he fights a Deep Sea Diver.”


“The End – The End of The American,
The End – The End of The American,
The End – The End of The American Witch”

Derek DeRewal  of the PA/NJ Horror Club

Several Variations Explained

“I’ll try to keep it short. I got this one because I wanted a horror theme. But not a Jason or a monster. I also wanted a pinup girl. The witch is from Rob Zombies “American Witch” design. The owl face is taken from the Devildriver CD “Pray for Villians”. I’m a fan of both bands, so that worked. ”

“I liked the witch/pinup design. So I got it altered to go on my forearm. I wanted something Michael Myers. But not Myers himself. So I took the pumpkin from Jeff Zornows Halloween 5 shirt. Its the pumpkin form the opening credits and the Thorn symbol was added to it. The other jack-o-lantern was taken from the “Trick R Treat” DVD cover. I really liked that movie and I wanted another pumpkin to even it out.”

” This Red Riding Hood Werewolf is on the backside of my arm. Opposite the Witch tattoo. Its an idea taken from Anna Paquins charecatr in “Trick R Treat”.
If you live in the PA/NJ area, love horror and wanna talk about it or attend meeting go check out the group on Facebook PA/NJ Horror Club . Much thanks to Rob Dimension for making this club a breeding ground for the ideas that will haunt you so hard you’re children will be terrified of them.

“That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange [tattoos] even death may die.”

Jason Riggs -Halloween Horror Movie Madness: The Hack and Slash Edition contender


“This is my scratch artist friends work on the Necronomicon… the story goes the cover was made from the face of a man and his twin sons. I just loved the design so I said ink me.”

 “In his [tattoo] at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”

Jerry Janda Jr. – of the PA/NJ Horror Club


 “My Cthulhu design comes from a coffee-table book of Lovecraftian art, put out by Fantasy Flight Games.”

Last but not least, here are a few links to some sites on the inter-web that have some examples of excellent horror tattoos. You don’t have to go to a big name artist to get an amazing tattoo. Just some nice galleries to wet your pallet… hopefully with ink and not blood.  Ink  responsibly.

A collected gallery of horror tattoos at Every Tattoo – Horror Pages
Unbelievable horror tattoos by Artist Dan Henk
Some truly vibrant work over atTattoo Photo Galleries – Horror Page

Also check out the artist from our captioned photo HERE

Written by Jimmy Terror  who can be found at Dr. Terror’s Blog of Horrors

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Dr. Jimmy Terror, more commonly known as James P. Harris, has been “writing your eyes” shut since 2010 with his horror themed blog Dr. Terror’s Blog of Horrors (whose name is a play on words derived from the Amicus film, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors). In the early 2000’s he fronted the band The Vaudeville Vampires, a short-lived Horrorabilly band which saw the creation of a catalog of horror related songs before disbanding (with only one, six song demo ever being produced and distributed). He has had only one on screen appearance to date in the horror/suspense short, Ocean Parkway, as maniacal, gloved killer with a hair fetish. Having done some un-credited, behind the scenes work in some low budget genre pictures, he is currently working on his first foray into screenwriting with a demonic, retro gore entry that pays homage to Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento as well as other Italian masters of the genre.

7 Responses to “I Eat Your Tattoo: A Beginner’s Guide to Horror Ink”

  1. I love horror ink! I myself have a couple myself. I also have an arm sleeve dedicated to dark woman of cinema and television. Bravo on this post!

  2. magnificent put up, very informative. I ponder why the other specialists of this sector don’t understand this. You should proceed your writing. I’m sure, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!

  3. Im liking a lot of what I’ve seen great post and awsome tatts. I was wanting to get a sleeve done showing my love of scary movies. But while on one hand really wanting to get it done I’m worried that people would think it was to weird or morbid and I’d be ridiculed for my choice of ink. Any words of advice?

    • It really depends on your workplace. If you work an environment where people will be easily offended by a gory piece of ink than you might want to stay away from that. If you can’t have visible tattoos, are you comfortable wearing long sleeves? Half sleeves work in that situation although make sure that your shirt length and tattoo length correspond. My arm piece extends out just a little too far and I’ve received comments from the execs (I tell them to shove it… right?). If you have a story associated with your ink or if it references classic monsters or sci fi, you’ll usually get a more positive response than telling people that you got a zombie tattoo on your arm because your waiting for the zombie apocalypse. It’s your skin, but you want to stay employed and you don’t want to scare off your grandma (or maybe you do). Remember, I almost got a tattoo of a woman being given oral pleasure by a zombie on my forearm… think that goes over well by the water cooler? I’d like to say yes.

  4. DUDE. You have a Happy Noodle Boy tat??? You win my respect. (Though it’s Jhonen, not Johann…. Not to be anal or anything)

    I kinda want Ellis’s tattoo from L4D2, or maybe the GeneCo logo from Repo!The Genetic Opera.

    My only problem is the pain…. So, I think I’ll stick to the bootlegged sharpie versions, since I’ve gotten pretty freaking talented with that over the 17 years I’ve been on the eart…..

    Pretty Red Lips August 12, 2012 at 1:34 AM
  5. I can’t believe I spelled his namr wrong. I never even thought to check it (it’s been years since I wrote his name). As for the pain…. it’s nothing. It’s nowhere near as bad as you think. Get something small. Try it out.

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