Velvet Lotus Tattoo is an Iowa City tattoo parlor that offers quality, professional tattoos in a clean, sterile, yet comfortable, and friendly environment.

Velvet Lotus Tattoo is Iowa City's option for quality, professional tattoos in a clean, sterile, yet comfortable, and friendly environment. Owned and operated by Michelle Balhan, a professional tattoo artist since 1996, Velvet Lotus Tattoo offers Iowa City experience and expertise. The aim is to guide you in the tattooing process, educating on what will work for a long lasting, quality tattoo of a lifetime. Here your ideas will be treated with care and concern whether your tattoo is to be a meaningful one or one just for fun! You can bring in a design, collaborate with the artist for your design or choose from a selection of designs to gain the perfect tattoo for you. The choice is yours and at Velvet Lotus Tattoo, we choose YOU!

How to book an appointment!

Appointments are booked in batches every few months
An announcment will posted on our social media and on this website when books open.
Please choose which artist you would like to work with and send them an email.

To expedite a response please include answers to ALL questions listed below in the email you send to the artist you wish to work with.

Please allow 2-4 weeks for a reply.

1. Your idea for your tattoo or which posted available design you are interested in getting.
2. Size in approximate inches tall and wide.
3. Location on your body for the tattoo.
4. Any other tattoos we are working around.
5. Whether you desire color or black and grey.
6. Any reference photos (knowing that we will not copy an exact image, but use it as a reference point of what you like visually in terms of style, coverage, etc.)
7. Any other pertinent information to your design.
8. Your phone number.
9. To secure an appointment, an $80 (NON REFUNDABLE) deposit is taken in person, over the phone, via Venmo or via PayPal. The deposit will come off the total price of the tattoo. Please provide us a 48 hour notice if needing to reschedule, and you can move you appointment to another time without losing your deposit.

We will begin scheduling clients interested in one of our custom designs posted on social media first. We will always welcome you to send your design ideas as we still love being inspired by my clients! We will look over those ideas in the order received.

Our Artists

  • Michelle Balhan

    Books Closed - Will open August 1 - 4

    Michelle Balhan describes herself as a versatile tattooist with a passion for exploring all styles of my craft. Born in Chicago suburbs with a touch of the crazies, Michelle became involved in the tattoo industry during the year of 1993 and began tattooing in 1996. A pleaser by nature, her love of tattooing allows her to make the customer happy working on a design they present to her or by creating something based upon the customer's ideas and inspirations. Inspired by a communal rhythm that moves through the universe and creates a connectedness between humanity and nature, she brings a sense of flow and balance to her designs. Vivid color is dominant in her work reflecting the colorful personalities she meets on a regular basis. She welcomes the challenge to create unique tattoos which express emotion and mark moments in the life of her clients. Outside of tattooing, Michelle tries her hand at painting, loves to travel but mostly enjoys spending time with family and friends conversing about life's joys and obstacles.

    Follow Michelle

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    Books Closed
  • Arie A'Lee

    Shop Apprentice

    Books Closed - Will open July 1 - 5

    Arie is an ambitious artist who studied art all of high school and some of college. She left college to pursue her long standing interest in tattooing. In 2015 Arie began teaching herself the art of tattooing gaining quite a few skills. She began studying under her now mentor Michelle Balhan in 2021 and has progressed greatly with professional guidance and equipment upgrades. She is very inspired by all things cute and spooky. This shows through in her art. Her personality shines in her work and her relationship with clients. Arie puts all of herself into each piece and interaction. She loves a challenge and is always excited to take on clients ideas!

    Follow Arie

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    Books Closed

COVID-19 Protocols

*Subject to change as needed

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do you do piercings?
No. Thanks for inquiring if we can help you with a tattoo down the line please visit us at

2. What are your hours?
We are typically here Tuesday-Saturday noon - 6pm. Each artist does their own booking. Please visit the booking information tab for booking info.

3. Do you take walk ins?
Our artists work by appointment. Walk-ins are sometimes available if an artist has a no show or reschedule. Feel free to call us to check walk-in availability. Better yet book an appointment by visiting our booking information tab.

4. How do I get an appointment?
Each artist does their own scheduling. Please visit the artists page where a link will be available to email the artist during the time their books are open for new appointment requests. Including all the information listed on the booking information tab will expedite a response.

5. How much does a tattoo cost? Why do you not do pricing over the phone?
Our tattoos start at $80 and go up from there. Larger designs, such as those bigger than a sheet of paper or so, are priced at an hourly rate of 120-150 an hour. (Discounted rates for apprentice may be available.) Many factors are considered in pricing a tattoo such as size, detail, location and amount of color.

6. Do tattoos hurt?
Pain is relative. We all feel it differently. There is a discomfort that is more irritating and annoying than painful. While described many ways, it is kinda like a cat scratch on a sunburn.

7. How old do you have to be to get tattooed?
Iowa State law requires you to be 18 years of age with a valid, government issued ID such as a drivers license, non-drivers license, passport or military ID. There is NO parental consent allowed in this state.

8. Do you use new needles on each client?
YES! Each tattoo is applied with new, sterile needles and tubes. The pigment is poured in individual ink caps. Ointments are single use. All is disposed of after each client.

9. Are you State licensed?
Yes. You can find licensed studios and artists online at and typing tattoo establishment directory or tattoo artist directory in the search bar. Our permit is visibly seen at the studio as well as each artists permit. Once a year we are inspected by the health department and must have our inspection checklist posted for viewing at the studio.

10. What type of tattoos do you do?
We like to custom design tattoos for our clients via a sit-down (consultation) appointment. We do everything from flowers to animals, geometric, to traditional. If your idea is not applicable to be translated to a tattoo we can educate you to what can work and still get across your idea. We want you to have a long lasting, legible tattoo for years to come.

11. How long have you been in business and how much experience do your artists have?
Velvet Lotus Tattoo opened in August of 2013. Our artists have a combined experience of over 25 years. For more information on our artists visit and click on the artist page.

12. How long does it take for a tattoo to heal?
On average, 7-14 days for the initial healing flaking to subside. The underneath layers of skin can take anywhere in the month or so range.

13. Do you do touch-ups?
Touch ups are free of charge within the first year. You will know if there was an issue with the application of your tattoo within 2 weeks. If you followed the care instructions as received and feel you need a touch up please contact us right away. There may be a small set up fee for tattoo touchups on the feet, hands, and fingers.

14. Do you do permanent makeup/cosmetics?
No. Thank you for your interest. If we can help you with a tattoo down the line, let us know.

15. Which artist would be best for my project/tattoo idea?
Choosing an artist is really a personal decision. Please visit the artists page view a sample of each artists work and find links to view are work on their instagram or Facebook page.

16. Why do you require a deposit to secure an appointment?
The deposit helps compensate for our time. To secure an appointment, an $80 (NON REFUNDABLE) deposit is taken in person, over the phone, via Venmo or via PayPal. The deposit will come off the total price of the tattoo. Please provide us a 48 hour notice if needing to reschedule, and you can move your appointment to another time without losing your deposit.

Gift Cards

Gift cards are not refundable!
Please check booking dates before purchase.