Ink Master Season 12: Taking Aim at Portrait Tattoos on Episode 14

Please note: This post contains spoilers about Ink Master Season 12 episode 14.

We’re at the moment in the current season of Ink Master where shit starts to feel real. We’re down to the final five remaining tattoo artists who are tattooing tooth and nail for the three coveted spots in the final.

The crowd in the house has thinned out, the drama and bickering between contestants is less intense, and the artists are laser-focused on the end goal. 

On this week’s episode, the artists were tested on precision with two technically challenging asks from the judges. Who hit the mark and who was sent packing?

Let’s get into the weekly Ink Master recap. 

Flash Challenge: Ready. Aim. Paintball. 

When most people think about precision artwork, they likely think about a hunched-over person painstakingly applying every little detail to a canvas in order to make a pristine masterpiece.

But this is not a fine arts seminar—it’s Ink Master, which means precision is tested by firing paintball guns at a giant, black wall measuring 8 by 20 feet. 

The artists were asked to use a total of seven paintball colors to create a work of art that shows precision and legibility—despite the difficult medium. 

Laura and Dani didn’t waste any time getting started. Being one person down, they knew that they had to work extra hard to finish their flash piece on time. They decided to do a nature-inspired lady face with flowers in her flowing hair. 

Paintball flash challenge art by the women’s team.

The men, on the other hand, were slow to get started. They had difficulty deciding between doing a dragon or chameleon design. Jason struggled with drawing a chameleon, so they finally went with their original plan of doing a fire-breathing dragon. 

Paintball art by the men’s team.

The pick paid off for the men, who won the flash challenge. While the judges were complimentary of the design that the women pulled together, they ultimately picked the men’s piece because it was extremely legible and featured some nice color blends—a tricky thing to do using only paintballs. 

This gave the three guys the opportunity to choose skull picks during the elimination tattoo—a big advantage this late in the game. 

Elimination Tattoo: Traditional, Illustrative Portraits

Portrait day happens at some point during every season of Ink Master, but this week, the judges decided to throw the contestants a curveball. Instead of asking them to tattoo realistic portraits of a canvas’ friend or family member, the artists were challenged with producing a “traditional, illustrative” portrait tattoo. 

This style definitely threw the remaining contestants for a loop. Most often, portrait tattoos are done in a realistic style, based off of a photograph. Realistic portrait tattoos don’t have the bold lines, strong color saturation, and embellished look of traditional tattoos. 

Despite the men having the opportunity to choose their canvases, Pon wound up with a design he didn’t want to do. What he hoped would be a traditional pin-up rendition of the canvas’ grandmother was made difficult due to canvas’ requests and inability to compromise on what she wanted. Pon couldn’t rely on his traditional techniques and design additions to bring the tattoo to life. 

Creepy Jason was the one tattoo artist who really seemed to hit the challenge’s ask. He created an illustrative look based on the photograph and surrounded the portrait with a rope frame and fishing lure to give it his own spin. But the end result fell flat for the judges, who criticized Jason for missing the mark on the face and the hair. 

In contrast, Jake really rose to the challenge in this tattoo. He picked the most detailed photograph and created a black and grey illustrative tattoo that really hit the challenge. The judges loved his work and gave him top remarks for stepping up. 

Laura and Dani took different approaches to their portrait tattoos. Laura, who is used to tattooing realism portraits, was given her first negative critique of the season. The judges said she didn’t capture the likeness of her canvas’ daughter and she made some strange decisions in the finished tattoo. 

Dani, on the other hand, gave it her all on this challenge. The men threw her a memorial tattoo of a man’s friend who died in battle. Because Dani’s boyfriend is in the military, she worked extra hard to give her canvas a tattoo that would do his friend justice. The end result was a really beautiful tribute to a fallen soldier, and Dani took home tattoo of the day. 

While the whole “jury of peers” thing seems a little anticlimactic given how few artists remain, Laura and Dani deliberated on who they should send to the bottom. Although the episode began with Creepy Jason and Laura telling each other that they have the other’s backs until the end, the women ultimately decided to send Creepy Jason to face the judges.

In addition to Creepy Jason, Pon and Laura were both in the bottom and up for elimination. While the judges found flaws in both Jason’s and Laura’s designs and applications, they couldn’t get past how Pon illustrated the face on his pin-up-like portrait. They ultimately decided to send Pon home. 

Pon was sent home on episode 14 of Ink Master Season 12.

“I think it was the perfect storm. I fell victim to just not standing up for myself. I should have been more outspoken about what tattoo I wanted,” Pon said in his exit interview. “It was just the downfall of me trying to please everyone, and it just didn’t work out.”

With the teams once again even—with two men and two women—next week’s episode becomes a big deal as it’s the last one to stand between the artists and the finale. Can Laura and Dani continue to support each other and both wind up in the finale? 

Come back next week to find out!

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