Ink Master Season 12: Head-to-Head Battles Take Over Episode 7

Please note: This post contains spoilers about Ink Master Season 12, episode 7.

We have to admit—this season of Ink Master keeps us guessing. Will there be coaches or not? Will the artists have to face absurd flash challenges or be forced to tattoo right out of the gate? Is tonight the night that Ash actually kills Cam? Will Chris Nuñez EVER smile? 

The questions are what keep us up at night, people. 

On this week’s episode of Ink Master, the action started immediately with an elimination tattoo where each artist was pitted against another competitor in a dizzying challenge that combined gamesmanship and straight-up tattoo skills.

What was at stake? Immunity and the ability to stay safe from the chopping block for another week. Let’s get into the recap.

Beginning With Head-to-Head Battles

This week, the episode format reverted to no teams and no coaches as every artist faced off against each other to stay in the competition. Things started right away with an elimination tattoo, where two artists had to tattoo the same style and subject, testing technical application. 

During judging, the panel reviewed the tattoos side-by-side to determine a winner of the challenge. The winner received immunity and could not be eliminated. The loser was put into the bottom group and given the opportunity to tattoo one more time to redeem themselves. 

To determine the matchups, each artist picked a skull. The bottom of the skull revealed whether the artist could determine their challenger OR the style and subject of the tattoo. 

When it came to roles, those picking their opponents were Creepy Jason, Fon, Tito, Ash, Pon, and Dani. Those picking the style and subject were Alexis, Janelle, Jake, Cam, Holli, and Laura.

The choosing portion of the evening came with a few surprises. For instance, Ash chose to challenge Cam directly—a bold move (and one we seriously respect). The other shocker was when Tito—instead of picking a challenger from the women’s team—decided to go up against Jake. 

And we have to say that if anyone got gypped in this whole thing—it was definitely Dani.

The face you make when you are forced to tattoo against Laura.

Unfortunately, she was assigned the last of the picking order and didn’t really get to choose her opponent or the style and subject matter. Instead, she got stuck tattooing against Laura, who no one wanted to go up against. 

The head-to-head challenges broke down as follows:

  • Jason vs. Alexis – Black and grey realistic French bulldog portraits.
  • Fon vs. Janelle – Full-color realistic Boston Terrier with traditional roses.
  • Tito vs. Jake – Black and grey realistic wolf heads.
  • Ash vs. Cam – Black and grey dotwork mandala with a photo-realistic rose.
  • Pon vs. Holli – Neo traditional female bust holding a flaming anatomical heart.
  • Dani vs. Laura – New school, full-color alien holding the Milky Way galaxy. (YIKES)

The canvases were randomly assigned, and once the artists had their marching orders they started working. The only one who really had a difficult time during the tattoo challenge was Pon, who was stuck with a canvas who kept moving and groaning. 

The results of the head-to-head challenges were as follows:

  • Alexis beat Creepy Jason, finally redeeming herself from some tough critiques.
  • Fon inched out Janelle, who delivered what the judges called the “best tattoo she’s done so far.”
  • Jake won against Tito, due to some anatomical challenges in Tito’s tattoo.
  • Cam won against Ash even though Ash put out a really nice tattoo—especially her dotwork mandala.
  • Holli won against Pon. The judges liked Holli’s illustration and clean application.
  • Laura defeated Dani. This one was close, but the judges ultimately awarded Laura the win.

The six losing contestants were told that they would be competing in another tattoo challenge the following day in an effort to stay in the competition for another week.

The catch? The winning group was given the opportunity to select the style and subject matter.

Final Elimination Tattoo: Hobbling Through Hannya Mask Tattoos

The winners of the first tattoo challenge deliberated and smartly decided to test the artists with traditional Japanese Hannya-mask tattoos. Since they know a Japanese challenge is likely coming in the future, the winning group figured they could use the judges’ critiques to get ahead of the game when the time comes. See? Smart. 

Not surprisingly, not one of the finished Hannya-mask tattoos were good enough for Japanese master Chris Nunez.  

Dani, Janelle, and Jason impressed the judges with their clean application and solid illustrations. Although no one hit the “traditional” mark, the judges gave this group points for overall technical abilities and solid tattoos. 

Ash, Tito, and Pon struggled, but it was Ash and Tito who wound up together at the bottom. The judges criticized Tito for how he drew the hair and his shaky lines. Ash was on the chopping block due to her choice of grey as the color for her mask. 

Tito Zambrano leaves Ink Master
Tito Zambrano was eliminated this week on Ink Master.

Although the decision wasn’t unanimous, the judges sent Tito packing, keeping Ash in the competition for another week. 

“I did my best for what was thrown at me,” Tito said. “I know my kids will be super proud of me. I’m not leaving sad. I wanted to be the next Ink Master, and I feel in my heart, I am.”

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