Ink Master is one the most popular competitive shows around, with plenty of fans who are “inked” and plenty who aren’t. The reality-competition show went on for 13 outrageous seasons until its cancellation in 2020. The show first aired in January 2012 and features tattoo artists competing in various challenges to test their tattooing skills. After being judged by renowned tattoo artists, one contestant or more is eliminated until one is left standing. Whoever wins earns $100,000 and the title of “Ink Master.” Since the show’s premiere, there have been many who have won this title. But where are they now?
Season 1: Shane O’Neill
Artist Shane O’Neill had the honor of being the first Ink Master when the show was just beginning to take off. O’Neill is best known for his realistic style of tattooing, including portraits, wildlife, and horror. The Delaware native graduated from the University of Arts in Philadelphia. He also worked as a freelance illustrator with some of his artwork being featured in various tattoo magazines. His creation of a Japanese calf-sleeve is what won him the Ink Master title. Currently, O’Neill has his own tattoo shop, Infamous Tattoo, in Delaware.
Season 2: Steve Tefft
In season two, Steve Tefft won the championship title under different circumstances. This season came with a catch: The viewers and fans of the show had a say in who won the title. Tefft, who drew a full horror back tattoo depicting a woman and skull, owns his own tattoo shop, 12 Tattoos, in Gordon, Connecticut.
Season 3: Joey Hamilton
Season three saw the introduction of the infamous human canvas jury. The human canvases reviewed and critiqued each other’s tattoos, which led to artist Joey Hamilton taking the title of Ink Master. Hamilton’s creation of an aquatic scene depicting a partially nude mermaid is ultimately the piece that won him the title. Hamilton owns his own shop in Las Vegas called Revolt Tattoos and is married to body instructor Liana Hamilton.
Season 4: Scott Marshall
For the fourth season, the show introduced the elimination challenge, where each challenge winner nominates another artist for elimination. Scott Marshall beat the odds with his piece, a multi-colored back tattoo depicting surreal imagery including a heart, serpents, and a female form. Unfortunately, Marshall passed away at the age of 41 due to an accidental drug overdose, just a year after winning the Ink Master title.
Season 5: Jason Clay Dunn
In the show’s fifth season, Jason Clay Dunn returned from season three to compete for the title of Ink Master. This season also brought back other rivals that duked it out, but it was Dunn won with a Japanese-inspired cartoon of a girl riding a tiger. After returning to claim the title, Dunn opened up his own shop, Tattoo Alchemy, which he still owns.
Season 6: Dave Kruseman
In the sixth season, Dave Kruseman won the title. This season was Master vs. Apprentice, which saw former winners of the show return to face off with their apprentices from back home. Kruseman won the season with a scene of a ship that was framed in natural imagery including roses and feathers. He is currently tattooing at Olde Line West in San Diego, California.
Season 7: Anthony Michaels
Season seven brought back veterans from past seasons, giving them another chance to compete on the show. Surprisingly, the season’s underdog ended up taking the crown. Anthony Michaels from Arizona won with a full-chest dragon tattoo. Michaels has his own shop, Twenty Five Twelve, in his home state. He was previously married to beauty Youtuber Kasey Michaels, but she announced their divorce in the summer of 2021.
Season 8: Ryan Ashley
Ryan Ashley is the number one fan favorite among all the winners from Ink Master, and it’s easy to see why. The young tattoo artist won season eight with her talents in black-and-gray designs with lace detail and beadwork. Ashley was the first female competitor to win Ink Master. Ashley is married to fellow tattoo artist Arlo DiCristina, and the pair welcomed their first child, a son, in 2020. Ashley also still appears on the Ink Master spin-off shows as a host and owns her own antiques and oddities shops in Pennsylvania.
Season 9: Old Town Ink
Old Town Ink consisted of Bubba Irwin and DJ Tambe. The two won season nine, but this season was different. This season’s theme was “shop wars”, which had teams of two compete with other shops. Irwin and Tambe still run their shop, Branded Tattoo, together. Irwin also co-owns Old Town Ink, and Tambe works with Bad Apple Tattoo.
Season 10: Joshua Payne
In season ten, Joshua Payne was the Ink Master. Payne was on the team of DJ Tambe, as season ten consisted of three teams of six artists that were led by former winners of Ink Master. Payne is still creating masterpieces at Long Live Tattoo Collective in Denver, Colorado.
Season 11: Tony Medellin
A grudge match was formed between two former rivals in season eleven. Veterans Cleen Rock One and Christian Buckingham coached two teams of nine, where Tony Medellin took home the prize. Medellin was on Cleen Rock’s team and won with an image of a multi-colored back tattoo depicting a Viking-helmed icy skull. Medellin has taken his experience as a tattoo artist and created his company, Gold English Goods, an online store heavily inspired by his artistry.
Season 12: Laura Marie
The show’s most recent season was won by its second female winner, Laura Marie, in a battle of the sexes competition. Marie is a New York native and the co-owner of Atomic Roc Tattoo in Rochester, New York.
Season 13: Three-Way Tie
Ink Master saw its final season in 2020. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented it from happening as planned, as was the case with most things that year. The three finalists were each awarded a cash prize and got to share their master canvases on the show, but no official winner was declared.