7 Best Female Tattoo Artists in Chicago

Tattooing has a rich history in Chicago. In the 1930s, men from the Navy flocked to the windy city to get tattooed at one of the many arcade shops located on State Street. Chicago also played a pivotal role in the careers of legendary tattoo artists including Norman Collins of Sailor Jerry and Cliff Raven, whose Chicago Tattoo & Piercing Company remains the oldest operating tattoo shop in the state of Illinois.

But female tattoo artists in Chicago have been making names for themselves by blending tradition with modern-art sensibilities and plenty of style.

We’ve rounded up a list of the best female tattoo artists in Chicago so that you know exactly who to book with when you hit up Chi-Town.

Stephanie Brown – FeralCatBox on Instagram

Stephanie Brown is a female tattoo artist and painter in Chicago who mostly tattoos clients at Black Oak, located in Logan Square. Brown graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is known for her realistic, natural-history inspired work that looks like it belongs somewhere in a museum or a specimen cabinet.

Brown’s books are usually closed, and she does not accept client-requested work. Instead, she proposes projects that she is interested in tattooing and accepts inquiries about those projects, which she posts on her website. The best way to be notified about Brown’s new projects is via her email list, though you can also follow her on Instagram for information about special flash days and booking updates.

Esther Garcia – Butterstinker on Instagram

Like Stephanie Brown, Esther Garcia does not tattoo designs based on clients submitting ideas. She only tattoos her own concepts and designs and prefers to tattoo large-scale, multi-session pieces. Garcia was the owner of Butterfat Studios, an all-female tattoo shop located in Logan Square, which closed due to escalating rents in 2016. Garcia now tattoos primarily out of Black Oak, along with other female artists Stephanie Brown, Tine DeFiore, and Cloey Zikmund.

Garcia’s style also follows a natural bent, with deep, rich blackwork mixed with illustrative color. Her work includes detailed floral works, along with a variety of artistic lady faces and animals. In addition to tattooing, Garcia offers consultation services and leads tattoo workshops to help educate both clients and artists.

The best way to get updates about Garcia’s new projects and guest spots at other tattoo shops in the U.S. is to sign up for her mailing list.

Cloey Zikmund – Inkbrambles on Instagram

If you’re noticing a pattern here, it’s because Black Oak really does have some of the best female tattoo artists in Chicago working at the studio. Cloey Zikmund is a tattooer who specializes in black, fine linework tattoos. The subject matter of her pieces generally include florals and leafy plant-based designs. She also does beautiful renditions of animals—especially cats and birds.

Zikmund does not have a waitlist for tattoos. All of her open booking periods are released on Instagram, and potential clients will be asked to fill out a submission form to request an appointment.

Jennifer Trok – Jennifertroktattoos on Instagram

If you’re looking for a playful take on traditional tattoos, Jennifer Trok is the female tattoo artist in Chicago that you want to see. Trok tattoos out of Deluxe Tattoo in the Lakeview neighborhood of the city. Her colorful, illustrative tattoos range from flowers and pets to Matryoshka dolls and teacups.

Trok updates her Instagram with all booking information and tries to book 2-3 months of appointments each time she opens her books. A minimum deposit of $100 is required to book an appointment with her. Trok regularly travels to conventions and participates in guest spots at other tattoo shops in different cities, so make sure to follow along with her social media accounts if you can’t book with her in Chicago.

Carolyn Elaine – Carolyn_Elaine_Tattoo on Instagram

Carolyn Elaine is the resident lady tattooer at Mayday Tattoo Co.! located on Grand Ave. in West Town. She was a contestant on Ink Master Season 8, where she represented Team Nunez in the first few episodes. She specializes in neo traditional animal tattoos and is versatile enough to handle styles ranging from black and grey to realism.

To book a tattoo appointment with Carolyn Elaine, email her at MissCarolynElaine@gmail.com with your idea, placement, and reference photos.

Julia Campione – Juliacampione on Instagram

If you’re searching for bold, traditional work in Chicago, Julia Campione should be on your list. Campione is a Detroit-native who moved to Chicago in 2010 and tattooed out of Speakeasy Tattoo in Wicker Park before opening her own studio Good Omen Tattoo in 2019.

Her dark, solid linework and punched-in color techniques result in beautifully crisp, long-lasting tattoos. Campione updates her booking policies on Instagram and prospective clients can email her at campione32@gmail.com to inquire about setting up an appointment.

Michelle Wanhala – Mwanhala on Instagram

Michelle Wanhala is a flash master who tattoos at Pioneer Tattoo, located on North Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Wanhala has been tattooing for about six years and focuses on mixing up cute and creepy tattoos for her clients.

Wanhala’s style is colorful, highly illustrative and lots of fun. Her tattoos are inspired by cartoons, growing up in the 90s, and kitsch. Wanhala is one of the few female tattoo artists in Chicago who welcomes DMs on Instagram as a way to book appointments. Clients that want to book with Wanhala are required to pay a $50 deposit to reserve the spot.

Editor’s note: All images are owned and copyright of the artists.

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