Ink Master Season 12: A Marathon Sprint to the Finale on Episode 15

It’s decision day in the world of Ink Master. This week determines which artists move on to compete in the Season 12 finale. 

What started as a Battle of the Sexes between 18 tattoo artists, evenly split into teams of men and women, has narrowed down to just four remaining contestants: 

Dani Ryan – An underdog with limited tattoo experience who has proven she can hold her own against formidable opponents through the use of creativity and technical skills. 

Laura Marie – A total badass who received very few negative critiques from the judges throughout the season. She’s been applauded for her originality and precision. 

Creepy Jason – A frontrunner throughout the competition, whose wild ideas, colorful designs, and consistent execution propelled him to this point. 

Jake Ross – An artist who struggled early in the competition, but learned to adapt with each critique and show off his skills in the later episodes of the season. 

In this week’s episode, the tattooers were given one more run through the gauntlet with some maddening challenges that tested their merit and heart. Which three performed under pressure and will have the opportunity to show their stuff at the Ink Master Season 12 finale? 

Let’s dive into this week’s recap.

A Timed, Tattoo Marathon to Start Things Off

Doing multiple tattoos in one day is not a far-out ask when it comes to Ink Master. Season after season, the contestants are tasked with completing multiple tattoos or tag-teaming more than one tattoo on a canvas.

But this week, the artists were given a challenge with a serious time crunch. They needed to complete four different tattoos—with a time limit of just 90 minutes per tattoo. 

Creepy Jason’s design for the 90-minute tattoo marathon.

Each artist had the opportunity to draw a design and pick the style that the other artists had to tattoo. Dani opted to create a key-shaped, lady-face design and challenged her opponents to tattoo it in black and grey. Jake went with a neo-traditional dragon claw. Creepy Jason pushed the limit with a skull-bottle hybrid design, and Laura asked the other tattoo artists to try their hands at a color, illustrative, mohawk-skull design. 

Needless to say, once the clock started, chaos ensued. Because of the tight time limit, all of the artists felt the pressure and no one was able to punch in the tattoos with technical precision. 

Dani received positive remarks from the judges for the tattoo of her own key design and Jason’s bottle design but was on the bottom for Laura’s skull and Jake’s dragon claw. Creepy Jason excelled at Laura’s design—even receiving better remarks than she did. 

Laura and Jake also had their ups and downs, with judges criticizing some of their rushed techniques and sloppy application while also praising some of their decisions. 

At the end of the four-tattoo marathon, the judges revealed that no artist clenched their spot in the finale based on the work. It was too even across the board to make any real predictions. But the rankings of these “marathon” tattoos did come into play during this week’s final tattoo battle. 

Elimination Tattoo: Beating Each Other at Their Best

For their last tattoos before the finale, the judges decided that—in order to advance—the artists had to tattoo against their competitors at their best. Oliver Peck, Dave Navvaro, and Chris Nunez cohesively picked each artist’s best tattoo throughout Season 12. The artists had to tattoo a design head-to-head against each “best-ranking” tattoo. 

The best ranking tattoos for each artist are as follows:

  • Creepy Jason – His infamous broccoli wizard.
  • Laura Marie – Her alien dude holding the Milky Way galaxy.
  • Jake Ross – His traditional plague doctor tattoo.
  • Dani Ryan – Her illustrative, black-and-grey witchy woman.

This is where the pecking order comes into play. Laura received the highest ranks for the “marathon” tattoos, so she had first dibs on a design. She decided to pick Jake’s plague doctor because it was a style and subject matter she felt the judges hadn’t seen from her. Creepy Jason was next up, and unsurprisingly picked Laura’s alien design. Dani was next, but since she couldn’t tattoo her own design, she wound up having to go against Creepy Jason’s broccoli wizard. And Jake was given Dani’s witch to replicate.

The artists were given the freedom to interpret the designs however they saw fit and were not expected to do a tattoo that replicated the original. 

Everyone really put their own spins on the designs. Instead of doing a broccoli wizard, Dani opted to go for a bold, New-School pepper guy. Laura embellished on the plague-doctor motif and added in more detail and texture to the piece. Creepy Jason went far out and made his alien guy eat a galaxy pizza. Jake decided to go for a piece that contrasted Dani’s original and tattooed an old, evil witch. 

The judges admitted that choosing between the four tattoos was a difficult task. None had blatant flaws and each had its own creativity and style. 

The first person to earn that coveted spot in the final and win tattoo of the day was Dani—who seemed legitimately shocked when her name was announced. It was an emotional, exciting moment to see the first finale pick be such a young, determined female artist. 

Dani is someone we’ve been rooting for all season because of her “roll-with-it” attitude, her humility, and her sound, technical decisions. She kept herself away from most of the drama between contestants and put her head down and focused. It will be exciting to follow her career. 

The second finale spot was awarded to Laura. This decision wasn’t a shocker—it just felt right. Despite somewhat rocky relationships with some of the other women in the house, Laura’s tattoos were always on point. We had her pegged for the finale from the beginning. 

With two women selected for the finale, the judging came down to Creepy Jason and Jake. While both their tattoos were well done, the judges awarded the final spot to Jason for his endless creativity. Again, this wasn’t surprising—and if there had to be a guy from the men’s team in the finale, we’re happy it’s Jason. 

That means that, despite being so close to the end, Jake Ross was sent home. 

Jake Ross leaves Ink Master.
Jake Ross packs up his station during Ink Master Season 12.

“I had my ups and downs through this competition,” Jake said in his exit interview. “But I feel like I turned around and proved something to myself and everybody else here. I might not have made the top three, but I’m not stuck in my ways and I still remember the shit my dad taught me. It’s going to make me a better artist and I couldn’t be happier.” 

Prepping for the Ink Master Season 12 Finale

So, that’s that, folks. Dani Ryan, Laura Marie, and Creepy Jason are the Season 12 finalists and they will all be responsible for tattooing a master canvas leading up to the finale in Las Vegas. 

Ink Master Season 12 finalists celebrate
Laura, Jason, and Dani celebrate making it to the top 3.

But they’re not just free to go home and tattoo whatever they want. At the end of this week’s episode, the judges gathered the finalists together for one last debrief on their final challenge. 

The judges revealed that, for their master canvases, the artists would have to tattoo full, backpiece designs. Each artist has complete control over the subject matter for their tattoos. The catch? The style is up to their competition. 

Dani and Laura conspired to pick Jason’s tattoo style and opted to give him black-and-grey realism. They knew that taking away bold, bright colors from Jason would suck some of the fun out of his final piece. 

Laura and Jason plotted to come up with a style to stump Dani. Being one of the least experienced tattooers in the competition, Dani has previously admitted to not having a defined style and hasn’t tattooed as many styles as some of the other competitors. Laura, knowing Dani’s weaknesses, threw out the idea of giving Dani the difficult task of doing a biomechanical design, and Jason had no objections. Upon hearing the assignment, Dani seemed a tad shaken, but up for the challenge. 

Dani and Jason knew it would be difficult to pick a style that would lead to Laura’s downfall. So, they opted for something with a lot of rules—a traditional, Japanese color tattoo. 

Heading into the Ink Master finale like…

Each artist has 35 hours to complete their master canvas designs, with work starting in their respective hometowns. 

With two women in the finale, we may be on our way to seeing the second female winner in Ink Master history. After 12 seasons, we think it’s about damn time. But ultimately, the work will speak for itself. 

Tune in to see how everything shakes out next week. 

Did you miss one of the episodes? Check out each weekly recap from Season 12 right here.

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