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Creating a tattoo to commemorate your lost loved one has become a more personal process than ever, thanks in part to newer practices in the realm of tattooing.

When a loved one passes, the pain can feel unbearable. Many people cope through this profound sadness by finding ways to still feel connected to the deceased. One of the most popular methods has come in the form of memorial tattoos, as a way to honor the loved one lost, while still feeling close to them. Now this process has evolved to now include actual human ashes within the tattoo. This process is referred to as “cremation tattooing”, or “ritual tattooing” and it has become a beautiful way to pay tribute to those lost, while providing the wearer the ability to feel connected forever. This feeling of connectivity is why many people are now embracing the process of tattooing ashes into the skin

What are cremation ashes tattoos?

Cremation tattoos are created by infusing a small amount of your loved one’s ashes into tattoo ink. The ink is then used in the same fashion as it would be during a regular tattoo. The needle injects the ash infused ink into the middle layer of skin, creating the permanent design, and allowing the ashes to be embedded within the motif. Many people are utilizing ash infused ink to create tattoos for pets and deceased loved ones in an effort to still feel connected to the one they lost.

Tattooing with ashes: How does it work exactly?

The ashes of the person used in the commemorative tattoo are sifted and filtered to remove any large pieces until the artist is left with a very fine dust. It is then considered best practice to then bake the ashes before the tattooing process begins for sterilization. When the ashes are sterilized and ground the artist will mix a very small amount of the ash with the ink before beginning the tattoo.

Tattoos made from human ashes are seeming to rise in popularity due to the deeply personal feeling of connection and togetherness they create. Many people who decide to adorn their body with a tattoo often do so for a deep and meaningful reason. When it comes to creating a tattoo with ashes, there is nothing more unique and heartfelt than wanting to keep a part of your loved one with you forever. As people learn to cope with their grief in various ways, new methods and solutions are always arising. Instead of having your loved one in an urn, or a piece of jewelry, they become a literal part of your being, which is often very comforting for those dealing with the trauma of death.

Popular companies like Everance are also assisting in awareness of the practice, offering services to allow individuals to easily incorporate ashes, DNA, and hair into tattoo ink. Everance even offers the ability to place animal ashes into the tattoo ink for those who have lost a beloved pet.

Thanks to increased awareness and growing artist comfortability, cremation ash tattoos are steadily rising in popularity.

Is a cremation ashes tattoo safe?

Although memorial tattoos using ashes have not been extensively studied, as of now there is no evidence to suggest that they are unsafe in nature. The most important component in regards to safety is how the ashes are handled prior to being used within your tattoo. Any qualified artist will ensure that all of their tools and equipment are autoclaved and safe for use, as well as taking precautions to make sure the ashes are ground finely prior to being mixed with the ink.

When a body is cremated the temperatures within the incinerator reach over 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, reducing a great deal of risk from infection due to bacteria or bodily fluids. When the ashes are then finely ground and further baked, this helps to eliminate any concern regarding cross-contamination or bacteria entering the skin. While there is a risk of rejection or infection, this would only occur if necessary steps in the procedure were omitted. Finding a qualified third party company to safely create your ink, or an experienced artist is paramount to ensuring the process is risk free and yields the desired results.

Many have also wondered if ashes in tattoo ink are legal. The quick answer is that yes, they are entirely legal as long as your artist follows all required safety procedures standard with any tattoo.

When contemplating moving forward with a tattoo using ashes, try to select an artist who is comfortable and knowledgeable about the process. Skip ahead to the bottom of the article to see some cremation artists we highly recommend!

Do memorial tattoos with cremation ashes look different than “regular” tattoos?

Tattoos using ashes do not appear different in quality or color, nor do they waver in durability when compared to “regular” tattoos. The only difference reported has been in the actual healing process itself. Some have reported that they have noticed slightly more irritation and itching after receiving cremation tattoos. It is advised if you have sensitive skin to consult a dermatologist before proceeding with your cremation ashes tattoo.

How to prepare the cremation ashes for the tattoo?

When bringing ashes to your artist, make sure that they have been processed appropriately prior, through both a furnace and cremulator. Next you want to ensure that they are sealed in an air tight container. From there you can bring the ashes to an artist skilled in the process of cremation ash tattooing. Your experienced artist will make sure that the ashes are ground to a microscopic level, which helps to remove the risk of rejection. After the sample is properly ground it will need to be baked again by your artist to remove any possible contaminants from bodily fluids, which are sometimes present in ashes. The more ashes that are added to the tattoo, the higher the risk of rejection or infection. Your experienced artist will add only a miniscule amount of the sample to the ink to help preserve the quality of the tattoo and follow best safety practices.

If it makes the process easier, you can also utilize services from companies like Engrave Ink, or Cremation Ink, which produce ash infused ink similar to Everance. These companies will sterilize a sample of your loved ones ashes and place them into an ink bottle prior to be used by your artist prior to a tattoo.

Is the healing process of a cremation ashes tattoo different?

Though the healing process should not differ much from any other type of tattoo, it is possible to experience more skin irritation and itching in the aftercare duration. To make sure that your healing process is as seamless as possible, make sure to wash and clean the area several times a day and then apply hypoallergenic aftercare products such as coconut oil, particularly if you suffer from skin issues or sensitivity.

How much does it cost to get a commemorative tattoo with ashes?

Costs associated with cremation ash tattoos are a bit higher than that of a traditional tattoo. If you decide to use a third party company to create your custom ash ink you can expect to pay around $195-$289 for a single ash infused ink, or up to $489 for two ash infused colors. If you choose to have an artist prepare and mix the ashes with the ink there may be additional costs involved since this process requires extra time and expertise.

Can you get a cremation memorial tattoo with your pet’s ashes?

It is definitely possible to use your pet’s ashes in your memorial tattoo! The process works exactly the same as it would for human remains, giving you the option to either order an online kit and have a third party prepare the ink, or bring it straight to your experienced artist to blend. More and more people are deciding to make their cat or dog memorial tattoo even more personal by adding their pet's ashes in it.

Cremation tattoo artists

Searching for the right artist to design your ritual tattoo near you? We have compiled a list of our top 5 recommended artists for cremation ash tattoos for your convenience!

Mike Rubendall
 Kings Avenue Tattoo
 New York, NY

Chris Garver
Five Points NYC
New York, NY

Mario Desa 
Great Lakes Tattoo 
Chicago, IL

Chuco Moreno
Classic Fullerton
Fullerton, CA

Dan Smith
Captured Tattoo
Old Town Tustin, CA

When taking the step to make your deceased pet or loved one a part of your body forever, make sure that you proceed with the knowledge you need to make this process safe and simple. Keeping a part of the one you love with you forever can be incredibly comforting and healing throughout the grieving process. We hope this article has provided you with the necessary tips to help move you along your journey to peace.

Jennifer R Donnelly
Written byJennifer R Donnelly

Freelance Journalist | Tattoo & Art Collector