In classic art, negative space is a tint area of black color, but in tattoo art, it is the skin, left uncovered by ink. Negative space tattoos are designs playing with reverse images with skin as the main subject. The skin tone is used by tattoo artists for the lighter shades of the tattoo, especially in the delicate black and grey style where they play on the opacity of their black shadings.
Due to an optical illusion called figure-ground, the brain can clearly recreate the part of the design left blank, only by the hint of the contrast with black or colored outlines. Negative spaces are a witty game for tattoo artists, allowing them to create very bold designs, especially in the dotwork, blackwork, tribal and graphic styles. Leaving the skin blank also allows the artist to avoid the use of ink colors too close to the skin tones and white ink, for long lasting and readable tattoos.
The coolest thing about these tattoos is that half of what you are looking at really isn't there. And for those of use that are a little bit afraid of the pain that goes along with getting a tattoo, negative space tattoos are an easy cheat to end up with some great body art without having to suffer for it.
So there you have it, a perfect example of how less can be more. With these negative space tattoos you don't need to cover your whole body with ink, as long as you leave some clever spaces blank.