Who will bite the dust next on “Ink Master”? Episode 15 is the last episode before the finale of the Spike reality show and the stakes are high. Four artists remain after Duffy’s elimination in episode 14 … but only three can move on to the live finale next week. The competition is down to Kruseman, Matt, Chris and Craig, and anyone of them could walk out with $100,000 grand prize and “Ink Master” title.

The judges surprise the remaining contests with a new challenge that requires them to use every single one of the skills they’ve been tested on throughout Season 6  … a tattoo marathon. How it works is that each artist will choose a skull labeled with a specific style. They must create a design and utilize that style. However, one skull is labeled “artist’s choice,” which allows that person to pick whatever design and style they want. Each contestant will be required to tattoo their design and style, along with the three other ones, on the same human canvas.

Matt picks the “artist’s choice” skull and decides to use it to attack Chris. His choice is a geometric design in black and grey – something that Chris has complained about on numerous occasions. Craig chooses new school color, Chris picks fine line black and grey and Kruseman gets stuck with Japanese.

The artists must first tattoo Matt’s design, a mandala. Second is Craig’s tattoo, a new school popsicle design. Third is Chris’ tattoo, which is a fine line black and grey eyeball, and finally is Kruseman’s piece, which is a Daruma doll design.

So, who won the tattoo marathon? Judges Dave Navarro, Oliver Peck and Chris Nunez find flaws in everyone’s work.


  • Oliver Peck compliments Matt’s line work on his mandala, while Chris Nunez praises his outline and color on the new school popsicle. Unfortunately, the judges could not praise Matt for his tattoo of Chris’ eyeball design due to shaky lines, but he redeemed himself with his clean and traditional Daruma doll.


  • Craig’s critique doesn’t go well. Dave Navarro criticizes the mandala for looking rushed, while Peck rips into the popsicle design for not being smooth or having a color that pops. Things don’t get better with the eyeball design. While from far away it looks good, a closer inspection at the linework makes it appear rushed. Although the Daruma doll is the best one he did, it’s still far from perfect due to its patchy coloring. “These are the four roughest tattoos I’ve seen from you,” Chris Nunez tells him.


  • Things start off well for Kruseman. Despite a few hiccups on the mandala, the tattoo overall is clean. However, the judges wish that he experimented more with color on his popsicle and had smoother grey on the eyeball. He really hits it out of the park with his Daruma doll though, leaving the judges with nothing to pick apart.


  • The judges immediately rip into Chris’ choice of shading on the mandala, saying that the piece looks unfinished. However, Dave Navarro loves the texture and color he chose to incorporate into the popsicle design. The praise continues into the eyeball piece, which Chris Nunez calls “really strong.” But the judges all agree that the Daruma doll is not his best tattoo of the day.

The judges decide winners for each design. Matt wins for the mandala and popsicle, Chris wins for the eyeball and Kruseman wins for the Daruma doll. Because Matt won more than one design, he’s declared the winner of the challenge and secures a spot in the finale. However, the three remaining contestants still have one more shot at joining Matt.

In another shocking twist, the judges announce that Chris, Kruseman and Craig must “learn from their own mistakes” in the final challenge. All three artists get a do-over. The judges will pick a tattoo they completely botched and have them tattoo it one more time. Chris must tattoo a phoenix, Kruseman a stained glass carousel horse and Craig a Neptune design. Needless to say, no one is happy with this challenge.

Each artist gets six hours to complete the tattoo and redeems themselves, however the judges are looking for perfection … and that causes Chris to lose his cool. Chris has seen himself as a frontrunner throughout the competition, so the thought of placing fourth has him all fired up. Can he pull himself together to give the judges the tattoo they’re looking for?

When it comes to the critique, Chris’ original tattoo had no detail. He managed to add that the second time around, incorporating feathers and different textures. The judges agree that they like it better than his first, but it still has flaws. For starters the bold lines are inconsistent and his outline is shaky. But the biggest offender is that Chris Nunez figures out that the wings on the phoenix should be reversed.

Craig’s first Neptune had design issues and did not flow together. The second time around he added fine details … up until the face of Neptune. The judges say it’s an amazing drawing that he “muddied up.”

Kruseman’s first carousel tattoo did not meet the challenge, but he managed to pull off the stained glass effect during his second tattoo … and sweep the challenge! The judges decide that Kruseman’s piece is the least flawed, awarding him best tattoo of the day.

Kruseman’s challenge win also means that he secured a spot in the live finale – which means that the competition is down to Craig and Chris. The pressure causes Chris to lash out at the judges, claiming that the critiques sometimes feel “ingenuine.” And the judges don’t take kindly to that. Dave Navarro warns Chris that if he feels that way then they don’t need him there. Chris reins it in and the judges make their decision … Craig is eliminated and Chris is headed to the live finale.

The live finale airs next Tuesday. Each finalist has 35 hours to complete a back piece using any style and subject. However, there is one twist. They also have to impress America. While they have several months to complete the back piece, they must work on a six-hour tattoo live in the style that viewers choose. One winner will be decided from those watching at home and move onto the final two. From there, the contestants will be judged on their 35-hour back piece.

Craig Ink Master Craig was eliminated during episode 15 of "Ink Master" Season 6. Photo: Spike