Thursday, October 6, 2016 is a user-content driven marketplace where tattoo patrons connect with tattoo designers to have a unique tattoo design created, but you probably figured that out based on the name. The way it works is that a patron creates a "Tattoo Contest", pledging at least $20 (but the amounts go up into the hundreds), and gives designers 10-16 days to create a design based on their concept. Along the way, they offer feedback to the designers who can tweak their designs to meet the vision of the patron. At the end of the contest, the patron picks a design (maybe), and the winning designer is paid for the work.

 Now, I know several of my tattoo friends are looking at all that and saying to themselves, "Why would I do that? I don't get paid for my effort unless I win, and I have better things to do with my time." Ah, but my friends, as one who has worked in several tattoo studios, I know that is not the case for most tattooers. I have found it often surprising how little we do with our down-time. Cleaning, equipment maintenance, and drawing for our next client... That tends to be the extent of what many average tattooers do. It is shocking when I think of all the ways a tattooer can be making money as an artist that are not taken advantage of, especially when I can point to the industry leaders who have built their reputations based on what the do in and out of their tattoo stations.

 But, this is not about the money.

 Seriously, this is not about the money.

 First, the positive view.

 I draw a lot. Not as much as I should, in my opinion, but a lot. I tend to draw pinup art. It is my niche. I think we, as artists, all develop a niche, a thing we are good at. That can be problematic, especially if your niche isn't in vogue at the moment, and your clients cannot see the technical skill and style beyond the subject matter.

 And, we all know that most cannot. provides you are regularly updated list of tattoo concepts that allow you to broaden your scope and refine your style (or, for many new tattooers, begin to discover and define a style). The financial incentive is merely icing on the cake. If you don't win a contest, you still walk away with the following:

 -an addition to your design portfolio.

 -honing of your skill-set.

 -examples of your style be applied to varied subject matter.

 -art which can be applied to other venues (merchandising).

 -an increased public awareness of your name and skills.

 Plus, it gives you something to do with your downtime. Activity attracts activity. 

 And now, the negative view.

 When going through the existing contests, I counted a total of 70+ contests with no winner selected. The rules state that if a patron does not select a design, they cannot legally use any of the submissions.  How many of you have seen that stop a customer from coming in and asking for a tattoo they saw online, or stop less reputable tattooers from copying another person's work? Of those 70+ contests, nearly 900 entries were submitted. That is a lot of effort to have someone just back-out of the process, probably with a tattoo design in hand. 

 This is why it cannot be about the money.

 Most of your competition on the site are clearly not tattooers, that or they are mostly the lowest common denominator among tattooers. Many of the entries are clearly photoshopped copies of designs found on-line. While your initial thinking might be that this would give a solid tattoo designer a huge advantage, most of the winners have been selected from what are low-quality designs. 

 So, then what do I propose as the best way to use the site? Assuming that the contests are being created by actual patrons (and not internally by the site administrators), then it can perhaps be used as a gauge for what are popular tattoo requests. If you post your work to the site through contests, assume that you are giving your work away, but then again this is the assumption every tattooer should make whenever they post their designs online. If you don't post, the site at least provides a source of concepts that you may not have come up with yourself. might be worth checking out, if one's expectations are really low and you are looking for a little creative shot-in-the-arm.

 Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  He loves answering questions about tattoos.  Shoot him an email at