Even in today’s modern world we still see many questions and myths surrounding the tattooing of darker skin tones. Many people have experienced uncertainty surrounding tattooing due to fear about how the ink will appear on their skin tones. If you have been curious about whether or not a tattoo is right for your unique shade, read along as we take you through our guide to beautiful tattoos for dark skin.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Tattoo for Dark Skin
The first thing to consider when getting a tattoo for dark skin is to make sure your artist has experience working with a range of black and brown skin tones. The technique and application process required to adequately tattoo darker skin tones differs a bit from lighter skin tones and takes practice to perfect. You will want to work with an artist who knows how to best compliment your skins unique undertones while delivering bold, clean results. To determine which artist is right for you, browse through their portfolio to see prior experience in working with your particular shade.
If you are looking for a place to gain inspiration for tattoos on dark skin, or to find a suitable artist to work with, check out Ink the Diaspora. This page features high-quality tattoos on a variety of darker skin tones, while also acting as a platform to help create visibility for minorities within the tattoo community.
Although the process of tattooing darker skin may be different than tattooing pale skin, it is not more difficult, nor impossible. Many people with dark skin have been lead to believe that the process will be more arduous to endure and yield less desirable results. We are here to let you know this is a myth! Tattoos wear beautifully on dark skin tones when crafted using appropriate colors and techniques.
Tattooing Dark Skin Vs Light Skin
The difference in the process of tattooing deeper skin tones lies in the various techniques and colors used for the tattoo. In the process of getting a tattoo, ink is inserted into the middle layer of skin, referred to as the “dermis”. The upper layer of skin or “epidermis” acts like a filter over the top of the tattoo. The darker the melanin pigments within the skin are, the less transparent the upper layer of the skin becomes, and the less visible the tattoo appears when using lighter colors and thinner lines.
All of that aside, rest assured that color tattoos are entirely possible for people with black or brown skin. One key to success lies in choosing bold colors that are darker than your natural skin tone in summer. Black, red and green inks are often recommended as tattoo colors to use on deep skin tones, but an experienced artist will inform you on which colors would suit you the best, as well as the type of shading variations and line thickness possible for your tattoo.
Common Myths about Tattooing Dark Skin
Many artists and potential clients have been lead to believe that tattooing dark skin is somehow more difficult and will not be able to display colorful or detailed designs. Fortunately, this is not true and with the right technique and appropriate color selection, you can sport a gorgeous and detailed tattoo on your dark skin.
One common myth surrounding tattoos for people with black and brown skin alike is that color tattoos won’t show up bold enough on the skin. Many people with darker skin tones have elected to stick with black and grey designs to avoid having color that doesn’t show up well. An artist with experience working on all color canvases will know how to best work with your skin’s unique undertone, choosing complementary colors that will show up bold regardless of your shade. When choosing a color, tattoo artists recommend a variety of hues that will pop best depending on your skin. For medium skin tones, colors like orange, bright blue, and variations of green work best. If your skin tone is on the deeper end of the spectrum, colors like dark blue and crimson are excellent choices.
Another popular misconception in the realm of tattooing is that dark skin tones are more likely to develop keloids or show signs of scarring after healing. While dark skin tones are more prone to developing collagen growth after trauma to the skin, this is often due to artists who are too “heavy-handed” during the application of the tattoo. This means that the artist may have used too much pressure or allowed the needle to get too deep within the skin. When tattooing dark skin it is not necessary to overwork the skin to pack in color. Darker skin tones can actually be more delicate than lighter skin tones and need to be treated as such. Through a variety of techniques in application and tweaks in colors used, tattoos can be done on any skin tone without the risk of unsightly scarring.
White Ink on Dark Skin
Although color tattoos are certainly possible for persons with medium to deep skin tones, white ink is still considered to be ineffective when used on darker shades of skin. White ink is known to fade on every skin tone imaginable, but with dark skin, the fading occurs almost instantaneously directly after the healing process. If you are determined on getting a white ink tattoo, make sure that you choose a simple design featuring bold lines; this will help maintain the color and display details visibly. To ensure that your tattoo looks vivid and bold, always stick with colors that your artist feels will work alongside your shade.
Gold Ink Tattoos on Dark Skin
If you have a darker complexion it may be tempting to choose a tattoo featuring gold or metallic ink with the desire for it to “pop” against the skin. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a true metallic gold or silver ink. For an ink to maintain a shimmery gold or silver tone, the ink needs to contain a metal flake base which is considered to be highly toxic and unsafe for use. The good news is that a gold or silver “effect” can be achieved with skillful shading, but it will not present as a true to color metallic pigment. Keep in mind when designing your tattoo that just because a pigment may appear metallic in the bottle, it will not appear that way when inserted into the skin. During a tattoo, the ink is deposited into the middle layer of the skin, creating a barrier between the actual color and what you are able to see, much like trying to shine a flashlight through a transparent but fairly dense piece of cloth. So remember to stay safe when designing your next tattoo, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different tried and true techniques to achieve the desired end result!
Tattoo Inspiration for Dark Skin
When searching for tattoo inspiration it becomes clear that there is a definitive lack of representation when it comes to tattoos on black or brown skin. Browsing through artist’s public portfolios will often showcase a wide variety of tattoos on light skin tones, but no depiction of how these tattoos would wear on darker skin. This lack of representation leads many people into feeling discouraged that perhaps the tattoos they want are unattainable. Luckily people like Tann Parker, creator of Ink the Diaspora, and writer Bryan Washington, who authored “A Darker Canvas: Tattoos and the Black Body”, have been speaking up actively about this lack of diversity within the community.
Although it may have been difficult in the past to find examples of detailed and colorful tattoos displayed on the bodies of black, brown and diverse people of color, the community of tattooing is increasingly becoming aware of past faults in inclusivity, as well as visibility, and has been working to create more platforms displaying tattoos on a variety of skin colors.
Our Top Artist Picks for Dark Skin Tattoos
Finding and researching an artist who is well versed in working with your skin type can sometimes be a time consuming process. To make your journey to awesome looking tattoos a bit easier, we have compiled a list of talented artists who know how to work on a variety of skin tones. Check out the list and links below and get paired up with your artist and check out their work!
Daniel the Gardener
More Beautiful Tattoo Ideas for Dark Skin
Now that you’re informed on the precautions, application practices and complementary color selections for tattoos on darker skin tones, we hope you will find the perfect motif for your next tattoo!