xxx = Pioneering Color Realism Nikko Hurtado EP 259 Pioneering_Color_Realism__Nikko_Hurtado__EP_259 Fireside Tattoo Network

Business and Mindset: Pioneering Color Realism Nikko Hurtado EP 259

Pioneering Color Realism

| Nikko Hurtado | EP 259



Nikko Hurtado's impact on tattooing over the last 15-20 years has been pretty extraordinary. In today's episode, Nikko sits down with Jake to discuss his journey, his approach to color realism, his current relationship with tattooing, and much more. 

We want to give a special thanks to Jagermeister for arranging this interview! And Don’t forget to learn more about Jagermeister and Nikko's chosen charity, "Pauly's Project" at the link below.



This episode was made possible thanks to:

Interview By Jake Meeks —

Writing By Daniel Pushcarich —

Topics: Realism Tattoos, Color Realism Tattoos, Fire, Tattoos, Nikko Hurtado, Black Anchor worldwide, Tattoo Convention, Oil Painting, Painterly Tattoos, Jagermeister, Inspiration, Creativity, Artistic Voice

Kobe Bryant Color Realism tattoo, by Nikko Hurtado

“Something lit these people's souls on fire to the point where they were so obsessed with what they were doing, and they were so in love with it that it showed and it lives forever. And I think that that's what artists need to do.”

— Nikko Hurtado

Nikko Hurtado (@nikkohurtado) began at the Art Center of Pasadena, where he honed his skills in the vibrant world of art. While he temporarily veered towards construction, destiny intervened, leading him to a life-changing encounter in 2002. A visit to Art Junkies Tattoo Studio introduced Nikko to his friend Mike DeMasi, an experienced tattoo artist, who offered him an apprenticeship. 

Within a remarkably short span, Nikko's talent blossomed, and he achieved a milestone that forever transformed his career trajectory, a color portrait of Catwoman, his first foray into the challenging realm of color tattoos. To his astonishment, the completed artwork was submitted by the client to the Pomona Tattoo Portrait Contest, claiming the coveted First Place. This accolade propelled Nikko into the limelight and cemented his reputation as a masterful artist.

Amidst the peak of his career, Nikko embarked on a new endeavor in 2009, establishing the renowned Black Anchor Collective tattoo studio. Recognizing the devotion of his clients, who traveled from across the globe seeking his artistry, Nikko sought to create an environment that honored their loyalty.

In 2017, Nikko expanded his artistic empire, unveiling the esteemed Black Anchor Los Angeles studio, nestled in the vibrant heart of Hollywood. This iconic space not only showcases world-class tattoo artists but also serves as a dynamic venue for art shows, as well as hosting enlightening workshops and seminars through the Black Anchor Academy.

Today, Nikko stands humbled by the unwavering love and support of his dedicated fans, cherished friends, and beloved family. Nikko's life is a testament to his unyielding dedication to the art of tattooing, his exhilarating globetrotting adventures, and the precious moments he treasures with his loved ones.

Nikko is based in Los Angeles, CA, and owns/tattoos at Black Anchor Worldwide

Please enjoy!


Color Realism Cat Portrait Tattoo, By Nikko Hurtado



  • Connect with Nikko Hurtado: | Black Anchor Worldwide | IG 

Learn more about Jagermeister and Nikko's chosen charity, "Pauly's Project" at the link below.



Color Realism Arm Tattoos, The Nun, Breaking Bad, The Joker, By Nikko Hurtado


  • [00:00] Intro
  • [01:29] Enter Nikko, The Beginning
  • [07:05] The Secret of Tattoo Longevity
  • [10:42] Giving It All Away, And Wanting Tattooers to Succeed
  • [14:35] Evolving the Style
  • [17:55] On Composition
  • [20:28] The Importance of Bringing LIFE to Tattoos
  • [24:46] On Inspiration
  • [27:49] Tattooing Is Serious Business
  • [29:10] How Has Celebrity Changed Tattooing For You?
  • [31:42] The Need For Artistic Change
  • [33:49] Set Your Soul On Fire, Finding Your Unique Mark Making
  • [39:21] Pauly’s Project
  • [44:11] Wrapping it up


Giving It All Away, Wanting Tattooers to Succeed


[10:42] “I think hearing all this negative stuff about color realism just pushed me to want to give all the information away. I want everyone to know how to do this. I want everyone to be killing at this”

— Nikko Hurtado

Tattooing has undergone a remarkable transformation. It's no longer the enigmatic secret society it once was. The rigid opinions and traditional notions of how the tattoo world operates have gradually faded away, making room for fresh perspectives and exciting possibilities. A wave of "Acceptance and Inclusion" has swept across the tattoo community, paving the way for incredible experimentation and the emergence of new styles.

A key driving force in this evolution is the dissemination of information and the desire to inspire others through it. Tattooers like Nikko, among many others, have become torchbearers of this new era. They possess a genuine passion for educating and dispelling old myths, striving to make tattooing an even better place than they found it.

This collective effort to share knowledge and give back to the tattooing community breathes new life into the art form. It propels tattooing forward, fostering an environment of growth, creativity, and continuous improvement. The era of these visionary tattooers is marked by a profound dedication to uplifting the industry and leaving a positive legacy for future generations.

We Are Serious Artists, Represent The Tattoo Community


[24:46] “I want to be the best representative for the tattoo community, because I really think it’s needed. I think sometimes we’re taken as a joke, but we’re real serious artists and we dedicate our whole life to this.”

— Nikko Hurtado

What does it mean to be a representative? Is it about being well developed at your craft artistically and technically? Sure that can definitely be a part of it. What about being knowledgeable and taking responsibility? I think there are many things that make a good representative for tattooing:

  • Respect: It's important to show respect for the art itself and for your fellow tattoo artists. Don't talk bad about other artists, no matter what your relationship is with them. Appreciate the traditional techniques, styles, and symbolism that tattoos carry, while also being open to new and trendy stuff.
  • Professionalism: Be ethical in your studio, with your clients, and even outside in the world. Strive to make a positive impact and build a good reputation for the tattooing community as a whole.
  • Communication: A great tattoo artist knows how to communicate effectively. Listen carefully to your clients' ideas, offer guidance when needed, and work together to create a design that matches their vision. Good communication builds trust and ensures your clients are happy with the final result.

Keep these things in mind as you navigate the tattoo community and the wider world. Remember, you're not just leaving a mark on someone's skin, but also on their mind and their impression of what tattooing is all about.

Bringing LIFE To Tattoos, Inspiration From Outside


[20:28] “It’s an ongoing road, and I really enjoy learning. I don’t feel like I know anything really. I look at painters and museums and that’s where I find most of my inspiration.”

—Nikko Hurtado

Many tattooers have delved into the world of fine art, experimenting with painting, illustration, and even sculpting. People often say that these creative hobbies outside of tattooing inspire them and provide fresh perspectives for their tattoo designs.

Engaging in painting or drawing from life is an incredible way to grasp the shapes and forms in space. It offers valuable insights that shape creative decisions by studying how objects truly look. By closely observing and studying real-life objects, artists gain insights that inform their creative decisions. This practice allows them to develop a deeper appreciation for how objects truly appear, translating into a heightened ability to bring believability and authenticity to their tattoo designs.

Chris Cornell Stencil Stage Color Realism Portrait Tattoo, By Nikko Hurtado


By branching out and exploring different art forms, dedicating time to study other artists' techniques and styles allows tattoo artists to expand their repertoire and refine their own unique artistic language. It opens doors to discovering fresh approaches, incorporating innovative elements, and pushing the boundaries and infusing their own unique style. Embracing these artistic explorations fuels growth and unearths hidden potential.

Set Your Soul On Fire, Finding Your Unique Mark Making



[33:49] “One thing I’ve learned is if you're talented, you know what you’re looking at, and you have some fundamentals, it’s really important to continue that road and not ask too many questions of too many people.”

— Nikko Hurtado

In the video, Nikko emphasizes the importance of taking risks, which, in my opinion, is absolutely vital for an artist. Let's delve deeper into this topic in the final section. Having the courage to forge your own path is crucial for personal growth and fulfillment. Your unique style of creating art is what will attract people to your work. It's important to invest time in recognizing and refining your artistic identity, which should be a significant goal as you progress as a tattoo artist and artist in general. However, keep in mind that your style may evolve over time, so continuous development is necessary.

That being said, no artist exists in isolation. Drawing inspiration from others and learning from established artists is an integral part of the creative process. However, there comes a point where an artist should strive to develop their own artistic language. For instance, you might be heavily influenced by Kenneth Rocafort, a comic illustrator, and find yourself creating jagged or graphic shapes. Alternatively, you might be captivated by the biomechanical art of Gifford Kasen, a tattoo artist, with its intricate organic curves. While it's perfectly fine to imitate these artists or borrow certain elements from their work, directly copying their style and techniques will hinder your own growth. Instead, try to understand the reasons behind their mark-making choices and consider what you aim to achieve with your own individual style.

Little red riding hood, color realism full back tattoo, by Nikko hurtado





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Transcript for this video can be found (here). All transcripts can be found (Here)

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The Fireside Tattoo Network is home to the Fireside podcast, Fireside Technique video series and our Fireside Weekly blog.

The Fireside Tattoo podcast is hosted by veteran tattooer Jake Meeks, check out our episodes where we discuss, argue and wax philosophical, from tips for all levels of artists to trends in the tattoo world. Many guest artists have sat down for interviews and in-depth conversations and many more are planned…check back often!

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Running a tattoo business requires a completely different skill set than putting tattoos into skin. As tattooers, we tend to put all of our emphasis on the technical aspects of tattooing. Unfortunately for shop owners and tattoo entrepreneurs, tattooing is only one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to the business of tattooing. 

Fireside is here to help:

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We also have plenty of Business and Mindset Deep Dive content to help you avoid the most common pitfalls of shop owners.

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