Private Studio: What’s that mean?

Level Up Tattoo Studio has recently switched to a fully private studio. Let’s talk about what that means to you as a client/potential client.

So right away, let’s define it! Private studio means that shop has no public hours, ever. It means that everything from consults to tattoo appointments requires a prior scheduling. It also means that as a client you get provided with an environment that is chill, comfy, and all about you. It allows us to make the schedule however we decide, without being confined to business hours. It gives our artists the chance to be without any outside distractions, and overall makes your experience even better.

As we decided to become a private studio we also changed the booking system just a tad, and made it so Derick handles is own appointments on his website (linked at the bottom) rather than through the facebook messenger which will remain the primary way to obtain Pablo for your tattoo appointment if that’s your desire.

We hope that you enjoy these changes as much as we have been and look forward to working with all of you!


Tattoo pricing; what you’re getting

Tattoos are expensive; and they should be. Art is such a subjective thing that it can be hard to determine a value that is fair and it’s become apparent that we need to redo the rundown of what you’re getting when you pay for a tattoo here at Level Up.

First off let’s talk about the shop. We recently renovated, specifically with customer comfort in mind. We use high grade materials; needles that are lead free, inks that are trusted and organic, along with multiple disposable barriers around the tattoo machines, stations, and tattoo chairs to ensure that everything is as clean as possible. We also have in house sterilization of certain non disposable tattoo tools and perform monthly spore tests to ensure everything is as it should be.  We offer a shop manager that handles scheduling and questions so that when it’s your turn to get tattooed your artist has 100 percent focus on you and your needs, and doesn’t have to get up every five minutes to help the people walking in the door. We keep our space clean and well taken care of to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible when getting tattooed.

Next on the list is experience. Pablo did his first tattoo in 2003 and served a formal apprenticeship (meaning he didn’t learn in prison or “on his own”)  under a nationwide, trusted, trackable lineage. He taught Derick how to tattoo eight years ago and the both of them are now teaching our apprentice Brandon, who was with the shop a year before he was ever allowed to do his first tattoo on a client. To say that they are picky about the quality of work produced is an understatement. Pablo, Derick, and Brandon put their heart and soul into every single piece they do. Every tattoo done in our shop is a custom piece of art, meaning it was drawn for the client.  This means that multiple hours are spent in the design process before a client even hits the chair, and these design hours are not only unpaid for, they are done in the artist’s free time at home. Here at Level Up we rush absolutely nothing. It is of utmost importance to us that each design is handled in the best way possible for that tattoo and the integrity of the piece as time goes on.  There are no cut corners here, and there never will be. They take classes once to twice a year from the best artists in the world to continue their education and improve upon the skill that they are offering to you the client because we believe that you truly do deserve the best.

We know tattoos are spendy, each of us has spent thousands, and in some cases tens of thousands on our own body art. Yes it can take time to save for it, but at the end of the day it’s ultimately a one time cost for something that no one can ever take away from you. You literally carry this custom piece of art with you for life.

Finally let’s talk about you and what you think your skin is worth at the end of the day. If you are looking for a quality, custom piece of art that will look beautiful for the life of the tattoo then we are here for you. Furthermore if you want a tattoo done in a clean environment with quality tools, and skilled and well trained professional artists, then you’ve found the shop for you. Don’t make the mistake of underselling yourself and what you deserve out of a tattoo experience. Your skin will thank you in the end.

Holiday Fun

Hey all! It’s that time wonderful time of year again; time for family, friends, and fun. One of the most prevalent issues we often see during this time of year are lots of last minute cancellations or no call, no shows. So in the spirit of things I wanted to put a little reminder out there that if you are running low on funds due to the holiday and need to reschedule, it’s totally okay! We understand, just give us some notice so we can fill the open spot!

That being said as well, we gladly offer gift certificates, so stop in if you want to buy that person you love a forever gift! We are going to be open completely normal business hours which are 1pm to 8pm Thursday through Sunday! We hope you all have an absolutely amazing holiday season, and from our family to yours we say Happy Holidays!!!

A quick update

I realize that the last blog was a while ago; but given I have clients frequently mention it to me that they read it, I wanted to post an update so everyone who is new to the game has a recent entry!

Pablo, Derick, and new comer Nessa are all doing wonderful. They each specialize in something a little different so feel free to contact the shop for details on how to get scheduled.

We are open 1-8 pm; Thursday through Sunday. About the only dates that will be affected this holiday season will be a closure on Thanksgiving day; but aside from that we are open and working pretty consistently through the 2018 holiday season. On that note; keep in mind we also offer gift certificates- stop by the shop for more info!

We hope that everyone has a wonderful end to 2018 and look forward to the exciting things happening within Level Up in the next few months!

Thanks for your continued support everyone!

Manager Donna ❤


Lately there’s been quite the common trend occurring in shop. Someone will come in, we will begin to go through a consultation, and then they tell me their idea. We get into the layers of it all, it is a potential sleeve project, or a back piece, and everyone is jazzed and stoked, and then the hammer drops. It goes something like this “that will take how many sessions?”

Let’s take a minute and talk about large tattoo projects and the commitment of both time and money that they take. Tattoo sleeves and back pieces, unfortunately, don’t just pop into existence at the willing of the client/artist. It’s actually a ton of work. First off there’s the conceptualization and design process. This alone can take a lot of hours, unpaid hours for your artist mind you, and even more gumption and creativity. Once a large tattoo is designed and effectively created, part two of the process begins and with it the hardest part of a large project… getting it done.

Now large tattoo projects will take various amounts of time, depending on artist, style of the tattoo, where its going, how well the skin takes the tattoo, what kind of content is being tattooed; the list goes on and on. The bottom line here is that you should have realistic expectations going into any tattoo project, because great art takes time. Granted there are certain styles of tattoo that can be completed more quickly than others, but take a step back and consider this; your art is permanent. It’s a feature we are adding to your body for the test of time, to enhance, and create beauty. Do you really want to rush this? Would you want any professional to rush anything when it comes to changing the way your body looks forever? I know that I wouldn’t.

This brings me to part two of commitment, which is cost. Granted, this isn’t something that happens often in our shop but it’s definitely an underlying issue from time to time. Permanent artwork, especially large pieces of it, are going to cost you a decent amount of money. It’s just the way it is. When it really comes down to it, one of the most unfair questions you can ask a tattoo artist is how much your whole entire sleeve will cost. Generally speaking an idea of cost is there, but at the end of the day they won’t be entirely sure what it will take time wise, energy wise, etc until they get into the meat of conceptualizing your design and furthermore into your tattoo. This is work people.  A lot of time, energy, and love are going into the piece that you will permanently carry with you for life. So my question to you is this. If you’re getting ready to go and commit to a large tattoo project and worried about pricing, I want you to ask yourself one thing; how much are you worth? Because if you can answer that question you’ll realize that there isn’t a cap to your spending limit when it comes to such significant changes to your appearance.

All of that being said, the one thing I want you to take away from this is simple. Be patient. Be ready for that commitment. If you’re in a hurry to “get covered” than take a step back and consider your reasoning behind that idea, make sure it’s the right one.


As shop manager my job is to answer emails, facebook messages, instagram, control the social media, answer the phone, and deal with consults and scheduling directly in shop, as well as a host of many other things. Most of my time is spent on customer interaction. I love it, I get to be the bridge between client and artist and for the most part keep things running pretty smoothly in between all that.

I have a pretty steadfast rule that applies 99.9% of the time and that is that I straight up will not schedule any appointments over the phone or internet. Why? Well let’s get into it.

I know I’ve discussed the importance of face to face interactions before, so I won’t rehash what was said there. Rather this blog today will address a completely new aspect as to why I will make you come into the shop to schedule your tattoo appointment. In the past I would often get facebook messages and the like asking for small tattoos. At that point in time I didn’t really mind scheduling them over the internet, just so long as the person inquiring made the time to come into the shop and pay the deposit. Today I was given an ever sharp reminder as to why I don’t do this and will not do this any longer.

I know it seems like as a shop manager I have endless amounts of time to sit, ponder, peruse the world of social media, but that’s not exactly the reality. One of the biggest reasons I stopped scheduling over the internet is because we lose that very essential face to face time that not only really sells someone on their tattoo, but increases their comfort in the shop they’re getting the work done. This is super important time, because it allows me to sell our product (my artists’ incredible skill, and a nice clean shop environment), when I schedule appointments over the internet I lose that almost entirely, and then 9/10 my time ends up being wasted, because chances are the person not concerned about actually going into the shop they will be getting their tattoo is gonna cancel on me because they don’t want to wait for the opening I have a couple months later.

Why on earth would this be frustrating? Well, let’s break it down. First of all its the amount of time I spend answering questions and going through the whole process, granted this is my job, but whenever I get a message from someone in that regard its kinda like, well okay then. Secondly I have actually at the point when someone tells me they will come in with their deposit, held that appointment spot for them. This is a big deal! It means that the entire day/week/month while multiple people came in and out of the shop I actively held a spot that ultimately I am going to have to fill and has also royally messed up the scheduling for that entire day. When you think about tattoo scheduling it comes down to timing and fitting an efficient amount of tattoos into the day, when I have reserved say a three hour spot, it tends to throw a wrench in that day trying to find another three hour tattoo to fill said spot, when originally because we have such a high volume of larger tattoos, I could have put something more substantial there…. in other words it leads to awkward holes.

While I definitely appreciate someone at the very least letting me know that they wouldn’t make the appointment (its super irritating when I just don’t know and they don’t show up) time wasters like these have further made me never want to make those little exceptions for people any longer. So all that being said… no deposit, no face to face.. no tattoo appointment for you 🙂


Last night, as with most nights were sitting after the shop closed and chatting when Pablo brought out a stack of photos from his own apprentice days around 12 years ago. It’s absolutely crazy to see the progression he has made as an artist in the last 12 years, and even more exciting to see where he will go from here. We can even look back on when Derick officially started on clients just four years ago and see his crazy progression. One of my favorite parts of managing a studio is being a part of an atmosphere that is completely about self growth and pushing to the next level.

Reflection over the last six years as business owners is even crazier yet. Realizing how much can happen in what seems to be such a short time. It makes a person aware of how important growth is to the individual and how important life lessons can be in the long run. At the end of the day, as silly as it sounds, we are here because we are meant to be and we will go further because the boys will never stop pushing the envelope, because there is never going to be a time when they can sit and say “Well, that’s good enough”

So all that being said the boys are currently looking for some sweet pieces to continue to push that envelope and get to the next level. Come in and talk to me if you have a sweet idea and we will go from there!

Leveling up

Pablo and Derick recently returned from California where they took a class with tattoo artist Nikko Hurtado and sculpture artist Chet Zar. It was an incredible opportunity for them, and perfectly timed as Level Up Tattoo enters it’s sixth year of business. As a shop philosophy we all believe in the importance of continued education and breaking out of the boundaries every once in a while. It can be incredibly refreshing and renewing to go learn some new tips and tricks, and to hang out with amazing artists. It grounds us so that we can keep the level going up as time goes on. This year is definitely a big year for us a shop, and there are lots of new and exciting things coming your way! So here is to our sixth year and hitting that next level!

The title is tattoo ARTIST… not your own personal xerox machine

We live in the age of entitlement folks. It is shown in every single phase of life we see. As a tattoo shop we see it often. A lot of people want it, and they want it now. The line between respect and personal needs is blurry and undefined. People walk in, they want what they want, as if were a fast food restaurant to be ordered from, and when they don’t get it, they throw a fit.

It seems to me that people seem to see the art of tattoo as anything but art, and thus in lies the problem. Not every artist is meant or wants to deal with every thing, and nor should they have to. Art is emotion driven, creative produced madness. It’s not for everyone to be an artist. So when did we forget that a tattoo artist is in fact an artist as well? It makes little sense to me why someone should view this business as one meant for service because it is far from that simple. I don’t know about you guys but I want my tattoo artist to be just as jazzed about my tattoo idea as I am. At the end of the day tattoos are a collaboration between artist and client, it’s a beautiful thing where two ideas meet in the middle and become beautiful art.

What does this mean? Well in the grand scheme of things its accepting that the tattoo artist you choose might say no to your project. Its not being offended by that notion, because you understand that as artists they need to feed their artistic mind. Its knowing that you can’t always have it your way, everywhere you go, and realizing that if someone isn’t into your idea, its nothing personal. It just means your artist knows that there is someone out there that would not only be jazzed about your piece, but be happier with the outcome and have the ability to put the passion and love required. At the end of the day all we can do is our best, for every single person.

As a shop we take every single piece we do completely to heart. It matters to us immensely that people trust us with such an important and permanent decision. So yes, we say no to projects, there are rules we won’t break in the world of tattoo, and we turn people away. If that makes us arrogant, so be it. The number of extremely positive interactions we’ve had tells me that while we may not be the shop for everyone, we are the shop for some pretty amazing people and for that we are eternally grateful.


Time to get scheduled

Hey all. We hope you had a fabulous New Year and a good time with your families and friends for the holidays.

As we enter 2016 we are all pretty excited, it’s a big year for Level Up Tattoo and our fifth year in business. Looking back on 2015 I have to say that was a big year for us too, lots of new stuff, lots of exciting adventures, and lots of amazing clients.

Pablo will be returning from his learning  venture in Hawaii in the next few months and while we aren’t scheduling him quite yet, be on the look out for big announcements.

These next few months will highlight a significantly busy time for us, so be sure to come in say hello, and set your next tattoo appointment. Now that we are on the other side of Christmas we get to start looking forward to the beautiful Montana summer, and what better way to do that then to prepare your skin with some fresh ink? Winter is one of the best times to get tattooed, you get the ink without the worry of sunshine and swimming and it makes it that much more fun to reveal and show off once the weather starts warming up again.

As we have entered a new year it means new goals, and one of my goals is to blog at least weekly. I want to bring you all some new and fun content, your opinions are welcome on what you’d like to see.

Let’s make 2016 amazing guys!