Ink Master

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Ink Master
GenreReality television
Presented by
Narrated by
  • Matt Knight
  • Rick Robles
Theme music composerVanacore Music, Inc
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons15
No. of episodes199
Executive producers
  • Steven Weinstock
  • Glenda Hersh
  • Andrea Richter
Production locationJersey City, NJ
  • Brett Knott
  • Ariel Boles
  • Tony Nigro
  • Matthew Bartus
  • Kevin Moore
  • Sean Gill
  • Mark Hervey
  • David S. Tung
  • Alanna Yudin
  • Jon LeClaire
  • Jim Gaynor
Camera setupMultiple-camera
Running time40–83 minutes
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseJanuary 17, 2012 (2012-01-17) –

Ink Master is an American reality competition television series that originally aired on Paramount Network (formerly called Spike), now airing on the Paramount+ Streaming service and 24/7 on the Pluto app which has a channel dedicated entirely to the show. The first season originally premiered on January 17, 2012. The show is hosted by Dave Navarro who joins Chris Nunez and Oliver Peck to make up a panel of judges that decides which contestants get to continue in the competition and which go home, ultimately deciding the winner at the end. Judge Oliver Peck was fired due to his controversial post on MySpace in which he wore a blackface. Each season features tattoo artists who compete in various challenges assessing their tattooing and related artistic skills. They are judged by renowned tattoo artists and enthusiasts, with one or more contestants eliminated each episode. The last contestant standing each season receives a $100,000 prize, the title of Ink Master, and a feature in Inked Magazine. The series is produced by Original Media, which also produced the reality show Miami Ink.

Four spin-off shows, titled Ink Shrinks,[1] Ink Master: Redemption, Ink Master: Angels and Ink Master: Grudge Match,[2][3] have also been released.[4] The series has also released a number of special standalone episodes themed around upcoming events or holidays, such as Halloween.[5]

The tenth season (titled as Ink Master: Return of the Masters) premiered on January 9, 2018, and aired its first two episodes on Spike before the network rebranded as the Paramount Network. On April 24, 2018, it was announced that Paramount Network had renewed the series for an eleventh season.[6] The twelfth season, titled Ink Master: Battle of the Sexes, premiered on June 11, 2019. On November 12, 2019, it was announced that the thirteenth season titled Ink Master: Turf War would premiere on January 7, 2020.[7]

On September 22, 2020, Paramount Network cancelled the series, as part of the network's then-planned shift to movies.[8] On December 1, 2020, the first two seasons were made available to stream on Netflix in the United States.[9] They were later removed on December 1, 2021, and replaced with seasons three and four.[10][11] On February 24, 2021, it was announced that the series would be revived by Paramount+.[12] On August 5, 2022, it was announced that the revival would premiere on September 7, 2022.[13] A fifteenth season premiered on November 1, 2023.[14]

Show format[edit]

Basic format[edit]

All episodes aside from the finales have the following format, with some minor variations to the application of the format:

First, a Flash Challenge will be evaluated based on how well an artist met the week's skill. Some Flash Challenges involve tattooing, but typically, flash challenges do not incorporate the act of tattooing; but instead will require a non-related artistic skill (i.e., painting, haircutting, etching, burning, etc.) The winner of the flash challenge wins the right to select their human canvas in the elimination challenge and, as of season two, pair up the other contestants with their human canvases.

After the Flash Challenge comes the Elimination Challenge, a further test of the week's skill on a human canvas, typically incorporating a prominent style of tattooing. Once the contestants are paired up with their canvases, they are given the day to consult with their assignment. Each contestant is given four to six hours to tattoo their design the next day. Once completed, the contestants meet as a group with the judges and are critiqued one by one. The contestants then are dismissed, with four later being called back. The four typically represent a week's top two and bottom two, though this breakdown can change. At the end of each episode, a winner generally is declared, and one contestant is eliminated.

Special format[edit]

The final challenge was a marathon tattooing of up to 18 hours for the finale of season one. The season two finale did not share this format. Instead, it consisted of the three finalists meeting with their respective canvases for four six-hour sessions to create a final piece. This final piece did not require a specific tattoo genre or location for the artist to tattoo. Instead, the artists could choose those aspects for themselves, and the only restriction they faced was a time limit. The season three finale followed a similar format to the season two finale. However, the artists were allowed five seven-hour sessions for a cumulative 35-hour master canvas tattoo.


Musician Dave Navarro and tattoo artists Chris Núñez and Oliver Peck served as the show's primary judges, with Navarro also serving as a host for the show.[15] Navarro and Núñez appeared in every episode, while Peck was absent on two episodes of season nine when he was recovering from a heart attack.[16] Some episodes incorporate a fourth guest judge, usually a well-known tattoo artist who has knowledge or reputation in the style of tattoo (such as New School, Traditional (old school), Japanese, Portrait, Black and Gray, etc.) chosen for the week's elimination challenge.

Season two judging was taken to a new level with audience voting participation through the series' official website and via Facebook voting, with the audience vote affecting the final ruling by the judges. Sebastian Murphy was eliminated from consideration by the judges in the season finale because he was the contestant whose work in the elimination challenges received the fewest votes by the audience. Season three introduced the human canvas jury. The human canvases review each other's tattoos and nominate the artist who did the worst piece for elimination. Season four introduced the elimination challenge winner's selection, where the challenge winner picks an artist for elimination.

In January 2020, Oliver Peck was forced out of his spot as Ink Master Judge following a controversy involving his reemerged blackface photo from his MySpace page.[17] There was no word of a replacement before the series was initially canceled.

On August 5, 2022, new judges were announced for the revival series, including season 8 winner, Ryan Ashley Malarkey, tattoo artists Nikko Hurtado and Ami James.[13] Hurtado had previously been a guest judge in the series, while James had appeared in Miami Ink, alongside Nuñez. Joel Madden was announced as the new host for the upcoming season, with Navarro returning as "Master Of Chaos", adding twists and game-changing bombs to each episode.

Three time champion, DJ Tambe, joins the judging panel for its fifteenth season, replacing James. Navarro did not return for the season, marking it the first season he is absent from.

Series overview[edit]

Season Contestants First aired Last aired Winner(s) Runner(s)-up Third place
1 10 January 17, 2012 March 6, 2012 Shane O'Neill Tommy Helm James Vaughn
2 16 October 9, 2012 December 18, 2012 Steve Tefft Sarah Miller Sebastian Murphy
3 16 July 16, 2013 October 8, 2013 Joey Hamilton Jime Litwalk Katherine "Tatu Baby" Flores
4 17 February 25, 2014 May 20, 2014 Scott Marshall Walter "Sausage" Frank Matti Hixson
5 18 September 2, 2014 December 16, 2014 Jason Clay Dunn James "Cleen Rock One" Steinke Erik Siuda
6 18 June 23, 2015 October 13, 2015 Dave Kruseman Chris Blinston Matt O'Baugh
7 16 March 1, 2016[18] May 24, 2016 Anthony Michaels James "Cleen Rock One" Steinke Christian Buckingham
8 18 August 23, 2016[19] December 6, 2016 Ryan Ashley Malarkey Gian Karle Cruz Kelly Doty
9 36 June 6, 2017 September 26, 2017 Old Town Ink
(Aaron "Bubba" Irwin and DJ Tambe)
Black Cobra Tattoos
(Katie McGowan and Matt O'Baugh)
Basilica Tattoo
(Christian Buckingham and Noelin Wheeler)
10 18 January 9, 2018 April 24, 2018 Josh Payne Juan Salgado Roly T-Rex
11 18 August 28, 2018 December 18, 2018 Tony Medellin Teej Poole Tiffer Wright
12 18 June 11, 2019 September 24, 2019 Laura Marie Dani Ryan Creepy Jason
13 20 January 7, 2020 April 14, 2020 N/A[a]
14 14 September 7, 2022 November 2, 2022 DJ Tambe Gian Karle Cruz Bob Jones
15 15[20] November 1, 2023 December 20, 2023 Bobby Johnson Freddie Albrighton Jon Mesa
  1. ^ The live finale was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The three finalists (Bob Jones, Angel Rose, and Jimmy Snaz) were awarded a monetary prize, but none were named Ink Master.


Various standalone holiday and special event-themed episodes have been made that do not follow the series seasons. They have typically followed an upcoming or recently passed holiday. These episodes feature previous Ink Master contestants competing for smaller cash prizes.[21]

Ink Master licensed a Dutch/Belgian edition called Ink Master: Meesters van de Lage Landen (Masters of the Low Countries) to Spike NL in 2017. The format remains largely intact; filming occurs mainly around Amsterdam. The winner of the first season of this edition was the Belgian contestant "Djoels". The second season takes place in IJmuiden and was won by Belgian contestant Joyce.


Ink Master: Redemption[edit]

The spin-off series Ink Master: Redemption premiered in September 2015.[22][23] The spin-off features canvases who are unhappy with the tattoo they received during the competition. After discussing their tattoo with Navarro, the canvases are given a chance to confront the artist who did the original piece. The artist is offered the chance for redemption by being able to consult with the canvas on a new tattoo (or modification to improve their existing Ink Master piece). After reviewing the artist's new drawing, the canvas is given a no-strings-attached choice to proceed with the new tattoo or leave the shop. Episodes sometimes feature a twist, such as rival artists returning to draw a design for the same unhappy canvas, potentially stealing the original artist's chance at redemption. Ink Master: Redemption was renewed for a second season to coincide with the premiere of season 7 of Ink Master.[24]

Ink Master: Angels[edit]

In June 2017, Spike announced a new spin-off series titled Ink Master: Angels. The premise follows four female contestants from the eighth season of Ink Master – season winner Ryan Ashley Malarkey, Kelly Doty, Nikki Simpson, and Gia Rose – as they travel around the United States to face other artists in tattoo challenges with a spot on season ten of Ink Master on the line.[25] The show premiered on October 3, 2017.

Ink Master: Grudge Match[edit]

On August 21, 2019, it was announced that a spin-off titled Ink Master: Grudge Match would premiere on October 1, 2019.[2][3] Judges for the series include former Ink Master contestants Cleen Rock One, DJ Tambe, and Ryan Ashley Malarkey.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Meet Your New Ink Shrink: Sarah Miller". Inked. 2014-12-16. ISSN 1555-8630. Retrieved 2023-09-13.
  2. ^ a b "Paramount Network Expands Hit "Ink Master" Franchise with Multi-Season Renewal, Spin-Off Series, Dedicated YouTube Channel". The Futon Critic. May 7, 2019.
  3. ^ a b ""Ink Master: Grudge Match" Premieres Tuesday, October 1 at 10pm ET/PT on Paramount Network". The Futon Critic. August 21, 2019.
  4. ^ Bibel, Sara (May 27, 2015). "'Ink Master' Renewed for Season 7 by Spike TV; Network Orders Spin-Off 'Ink Master: Redemption'". TV by the Numbers. Tribune Digital Ventures. Archived from the original on May 28, 2015. Retrieved July 13, 2015.
  5. ^ Sacks, Ethan. "'Ink Master': Halloween gets scary – for all the wrong reasons – with horror elimination challenge". Retrieved 2021-08-20.
  6. ^ Petski, Denise (April 24, 2018). "'Ink Master' Renewed For Season 11 By Paramount Network". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  7. ^ "Video: New Season of Paramount Network's "Ink Master: Turf War" Trailer". The Futon Critic. November 12, 2019.
  8. ^ Otterson, Joe (September 22, 2020). "Paramount Network Rebrands, Doubles Down on Movies and Minis (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  9. ^ "What's New on Netflix: December 1st, 2020". whats-on-netflix. 2020-12-01. Retrieved 2020-12-07.
  10. ^ Moore, Kasey. "Full List of What's Leaving Netflix in December 2021". What's On Netflix. Archived from the original on 17 November 2021. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  11. ^ Moore, Kasey. "What's Coming to Netflix in December 2021". Archived from the original on 13 December 2021. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  12. ^ White, Peter (February 24, 2021). "'Ink Master' & 'Dating Naked' Set For New Seasons At Paramount+". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Shafer, Ellise (August 5, 2022). "'Ink Master' Sets Premiere Date on Paramount+, Joel Madden to Host". Variety. Retrieved August 5, 2022.
  14. ^ Rice, Lynette (September 28, 2023). "'Ink Master': Paramount+ Reveals Return Date For Joel Madden-Hosted Tattoo Competition". Deadline.
  15. ^ Leupp, Thomas. "Ink Master | TV". Retrieved 2014-05-13.
  16. ^ "Ink Master season 9: Judge Oliver Peck doing well after heart attack". 16 August 2017. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  17. ^ "Oliver Peck leaves 'Ink Master' after blackface controversy; Paramount Network weighs in". USA Today.
  18. ^ Ravindran, Manori. "Renewed and returning: "Real Housewives," "Ink Master"". Real Screen. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  19. ^ "A First Look At Ink Mster Season 8". Youtube. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  20. ^ "Paramount+ Reveals All-New Season of Hit Competition Series "Ink Master" to Premiere November 1". The Futon Critic. September 28, 2023.
  21. ^ "Sneak Peek: HallowInk - Video Clips - Ink Master |". Retrieved 2016-05-01.
  22. ^ "Ink Master: Redemption Website". Archived from the original on 2015-09-10.
  23. ^ "'Ink Master' Renewed for Season 7 by Spike TV; Network Orders Spin-Off 'Ink Master: Redemption'". TV By The Numbers by 2015-05-27. Archived from the original on 2016-02-11. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
  24. ^ Petski, Denise (2015-10-14). "'Ink Master: Redemption' Renewed For Season 2 By Spike". Deadline. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
  25. ^ ""Ink Master: Angels" Spreads Its Wings". 2017-06-05. Retrieved 2017-09-27.
  26. ^ "Ryan Ashley Malarkey Dishes About 'Grudge Match' and Moving to Colorado". Female Tattooers. 2019-10-08. Retrieved 2019-11-07.

External links[edit]