Ink Master is an American reality competition series on Spike, which premiered in January 2012 and features tattoo artists who compete in various challenges to assess their tattoo (and other related artistic) skills. The tattooists are judged by Dave Navarro, Chris Nunez and Oliver Peck with one or more contestants being eliminated each episode.
The show is produced by Original Media, who also produced the show Miami Ink, featuring Chris Nunez among others from Love Hate Tattoo.
All episodes, save the finales, follow the same format. First, there is a Flash Challenge that is evaluated based on how well an artist met the skill of the week. Some Flash Challenges involve tattooing, but typically, flash challenges do not incorporate the act of tattooing; rather, they require a related skill (i.e. painting, hair cutting, etching, burning, etc.). The winner of the flash challenge acquires the ability to select their own human canvas in the elimination challenge, and, as of season two, pair up the other contestants with their human canvases.
After the Flash Challenge is the Elimination Challenge, a further test of the skill of the week on a human canvas, typically incorporating a certain style of tattooing. Once the contestants are paired up with their canvases, they are given the rest of the day to consult with their assignment. The next day, each tattoist is given four to six hours to complete their design. Once completed, the contestants meet as a group with the judges and are each singled out and critiqued. The contestants are then dismissed, with four later being called back. The four typically represent a top two and bottom two for the week, though this breakdown can change. At the end of each episode, a winner is typically declared and one contestant is eliminated.
For the finale of season one, the final challenge was a marathon tattooing for up to 18 hours.
In the season two finale, however, the three finalists meet with his/her respective canvas for four six hour tattoo sessions to create a final piece, which was not limited to a specific tattoo genre or location. The season two artists were able to choose these details for themselves, with their only restriction they being the time limit.
The season three finale followed a similar format to the season two, but the artists were allowed five seven hour sessions for a cumulative 35 hour master canvas tattoo.