Few things are better in life than getting a free tattoo, but one of those things is getting a free tattoo while you’re on TV. You’re potentially saving hundreds or thousands of dollars on ink while getting your fifteen minutes of fame and a life experience that few others will have the pleasure of receiving. Where better to get that experience than on Ink Master? Sure, being labeled a "human canvas" could be a dehumanizing hit to your ego, but you’ll get to be on the "American Idol of tattooing." What could go wrong? Well, plenty.
There have been hundreds of primo tattoos to come out of Ink Master, but the experience isn’t always what that human canvasses expect. There are only a few minutes between meeting your tattoo artist and the needle hitting your skin, and the canvas doesn’t get to pick which artist brands their skin forever. The challenges from tattoo to tattoo as well. When you’re walking in hoping for American classic only to walk out with a Japanese-style piece, it may come as a bit of a shock. But good ink is good ink and, honestly, it could be so much worse.
Face it, you might get a crappy tattoo
The majority of human canvasses come off the show with a tattoo worth paying for. But while the ink might be free, it’s still a gamble. Since you don’t get to shop portfolios for an artist who fits your style, you’re stuck with a stranger that may or may not send you home with a black blob that vaguely resembles a penguin. There have been several pieces up on the screen with sketchy linework or fingers like that the claws of a creature from your worst nightmares. And, guess what? It’s there forever unless you want to spend your own money to have it fixed.
In season 5 of the show, we saw Tim Lees give someone a hula girl whose face looked like it’d been stepped on. Kyle Dunbar in season 3 tattooed a portrait of a canvas’s mother that turned out looking like some sort of scaled zombie monster. There are bad tattoos from every season and you never know if that’s what you’ll go home with until it’s permanently etched on your body.
You might have an equally bad experience
Problems arise for a canvas mostly because of the structure of the show. Canvasses go in blind to the quality of work in their artist’s portfolio as well as their personality. On top of that, you might not want the tattoo you’re getting in the first place. With your artist trying to win the competition, even if they’re doing great work, the premise of the piece you’re getting might not be what you were expecting. During the 2013 finale, for example, one canvas walked out because he didn’t want a Native American woman inked to his back for the rest of his life.
Sometimes, the canvas and the artist don’t get along. There have been numerous arguments throughout the show and they happen every season. So, you walk in expecting this awesome life experience and find yourself yelling back and forth at the guy holding the needle.
Let’s be honest, tattoos aren’t all gumdrops and rainbows. They hurt. There have been multiple occasions where canvasses have thrown up or tapped out of the tattoo entirely because it hurt too much. One canvas in the first season had to walk out mid-tattoo because she made the mistake of coming in sunburnt and couldn’t handle the needle. But even with the pain and the gamble, it’s still a free tattoo and your face on the screen. Maybe it’s worth it … just think before you ink.