Why Watercolor Tattoos Won't Stand the Test of Time

Why Watercolor Tattoos Won't Stand the Test of Time

Learn why your artist might advise against getting a watercolor tattoo.

This aesthetically pleasing new style of tattooing greatly resembles free form and abstract art paintings. But before you go running to make your artsy tattoo dreams a reality, there are some things you should know.

Watercolor tattoos have been the latest craze sweeping the internet over the past few years, but are they built to last? The answer is... probably not. 

I've seen the degeneration of these types of tattoos first hand, having worked at a tattoo shop when the trend began.  The artists I worked with used to deny those kind of jobs on a daily basis, in fear of having their name attached to a tattoo that would look terrible in a matter of years. These types of tattoos just don't age well, and the reason is science.

There are certain fundamentals necessary in tattooing in order to create not only a nice tattoo, but a quality tattoo. A tattoo built to stand the test of time. Black outlining is fundamental number one.

Black ink is carbon based, while all color inks have a base of pigment. When carbon-based ink is applied into the skin as an outline it becomes hard, and creates a dam that keeps pigment from spreading further into the skin. The abstract and watercolor tattoos done nowadays typically lack proper outlines, and without them the pigment tends to bleed, as well as lose its crispness and vibrance, when healed. This means that the once beautiful watercolor butterfly will become a large blob of indiscernible color in just a few months time. 

Scroll down to see a few examples on the progression of watercolor tattoos.

Disclaimer: We have withheld artist's names on some of the images below, in order to protect identity.

Fresh French Bulldog tattoo made without outlines, with use of black shading, made by Sasha Unisex #SashaUnisex #watercolor #frenchbulldogtattoo
Fresh French Bulldog tattoo made without outlines, with use of black shading, made by Sasha Unisex #SashaUnisex #watercolor #frenchbulldogtattoo
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This is a better example of a tattoo without black outline that has held up nicely so far, though a bit faded from when it was originally made a few months prior. #watercolor #frenchbulldogtattoo
This is a better example of a tattoo without black outline that has held up nicely so far, though a bit faded from when it was originally made a few months prior. #watercolor #frenchbulldogtattoo
Freshly made Pegasus tattoo, both abstract and vibrant. #watercolor #abstract #pegasustattoo
Freshly made Pegasus tattoo, both abstract and vibrant. #watercolor #abstract #pegasustattoo
Note a discernible loss of color after healing. #watercolor #pegasustattoo
Note a discernible loss of color after healing. #watercolor #pegasustattoo
An extremely faded example of an aged watercolor tattoo. #watercolortattoo
An extremely faded example of an aged watercolor tattoo. #watercolortattoo
The bones of this tattoo are still apparent, though it has faded quite a bit. #watercolor
The bones of this tattoo are still apparent, though it has faded quite a bit. #watercolor

All in all, it's not as simple as "Don't get one," and is only of importance if the wearer is concerned. But if longevity is something that matters to you, you can opt instead for a traditionally built tattoo, that is black outlined and black shaded. If made well, you can hardly differentiate between fresh and healed.

Fresh Hannya and Snake by Johan Svahn (@johansvahntattooing) #JohanSvahn
Fresh Hannya and Snake by Johan Svahn (@johansvahntattooing) #JohanSvahn
A couple weeks healed and still as vibrant and crisp... made by Johan Svahn (@johansvahntattooing) #JohanSvahn
A couple weeks healed and still as vibrant and crisp... made by Johan Svahn (@johansvahntattooing) #JohanSvahn
Traditional Eagle made by Grez at Kings Avenue Tattoo. Fresh. #KingsAvenueTattoo #Grez
Traditional Eagle made by Grez at Kings Avenue Tattoo. Fresh. #KingsAvenueTattoo #Grez
Traditional tattoo made by Valerie Vargas. #traditional #ValerieVargas
Traditional tattoo made by Valerie Vargas. #traditional #ValerieVargas

Check out the healed versions below:

As solid and vibrant as the day it was first made. This is how a good tattoo will age. #traditional
As solid and vibrant as the day it was first made. This is how a good tattoo will age. #traditional

In the end, the tattoos we choose to get are a matter of personal preference. Remember, when your tattooer tries to talk you out of getting a watercolor tattoo it's not because the artist is a prima donna and a jerk that hates new trends; the tattooer is looking to make sure that you walk away with a piece of art that you will be happy with for the rest of your life. Being equipped with the knowledge on the pros and cons of these modern trends is essential in making a good choice, and we hope that we have helped you become a more informed client. 

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