The Pros & Cons of Tattoo Conventions

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Thinking about attending your first tattoo convention? Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of your convention experience, and a few warnings to consider before you go.

Tattoo Convention Booths by Larry Brogan Issue 12 Photo 2

The very best tattoo conventions in my experience, (for fans and pros alike), are those hosted by actual tattooers. I’ve been involved in tattooing for 25 years now, and I remember back in my early days the sheer excitement of attending one of the perhaps three or four tattoo conventions being held per year. My first convention experience was magical. (*Read about here-) 

Good tattoo conventions are special; they encourage community, advance the craft, and they are focused on the fans, the art AND the artists, not the money. In the beginning, conventions were exclusively put on by artists, not corporations and not event professionals. Today, more numerous than ever, conventions seem designed for the green more than for the ink, and definitely more than the actual art or craft of tattooing. So many of them are getting known for gouging the artists working the show as well as the thousands of attendees, at every opportunity, charging outrageous amounts for tickets, food, beverages and the like, while they rake it in, hand-over-fist, capitalizing on tattooing’s meteoric rise in popularity. Tattooing doesn’t matter to these people, it’s just an opportunity to make money. And it’s no wonder, tattoo conventions have become a multi-million dollar industry over the last several years, with more than 400 tattoo conventions being held annually, worldwide!


That’s an average of more than 7 tattoo events happening per week (!!), somewhere around the globe. That’s staggering. There aren’t  comic-book conventions happening every weekend, or clothing or tech conventions either, for that matter. And how many are still being hosted by actual practitioners of tattooing? From what I can see, as little as 15% of them. WOW. Do yourself a favor and search out conventions hosted by tattooers. I won’t preach on it, but I did want to mention these facts, if only to invite everyone to PLEASE support tattooer-run events, projects and media. They are the lifeblood of this ‘industry’ and many are being squeezed out of the current tattoo movement by corporations and other non-tattooers with large aspirations and even larger wallets. Support tattooing, not just the image associated with it.

Having said all that, nevertheless, there are a myriad of reasons to attend tattoo conventions, whether you are an artist OR a fan, and especially if it is your first.

-For starters, you have the opportunity to meet and hang out with thousands of other people, in your own area, interested in tattoos! The tattoo culture itself is amazing and full of open-minded people, pretty much just like you. Get out and actually meet people. It might be nice.

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Tattoo Artist since 1990 and creator/publisher of Tattoo Artist Magazine since 2003

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One thought on “The Pros & Cons of Tattoo Conventions

  1. Thank you for sharing that article, I’ll be attending my first Tattoo convention in Tulsa, Ok in April 24-26 downtown at the Hyatt Regency hotel, I think it’s gonna rock, and I’m going to see if i can get a piece done there. Cheers.

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