Tattooing On Dark Skin: The Advanced Guide

Posted by Josh Melvin on

You’ve finally found the perfect Instagram-worthy tattoo. You’ve spent hours online choosing the best tattoo artist, but can they tattoo on darker skin types? 

Any tattoo artist worth their salt sees little difference between tattooing different skin types. Consider how hairdressers style straight and curly with ease—the same story with skin tones. 

A quick bio lesson should dismiss most stereotypes. Everyone’s skin consists of three layers—epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous fat. Pigmented cells known as melanocytes are in the epidermis, and all skin types have the same number of these cells. 

Melanocytes create melanosomes, which determine skin color. So, darker skin types aren’t tougher or thicker; they simply contain more melanosomes. 

Let’s see what differences you should keep in mind. 

The Difference Between Light And Dark Skin Tattoos

The main difference is that skin tone can play a role in the visibility of tattoos. When tattooing light skin, it is relatively easy to get a clean tattoo, but the same doesn’t apply to dark or black skin, which is why it takes some practice to ink this type of client.

Person with darker skin getting a tattoo on his arm

You can think of skin as a few layers of translucent barriers to the body. The more melanosomes a person produces, the darker the skin. Artists inject ink into the dermis between these layers when a person gets a tattoo.

Think of paintings done on glass and then placed behind more layers of glass. The more tinted the glass is, the more difficult it is to see the art. However, that doesn’t mean the right art pieces won’t still be visible. 

Color Vs. Black And Gray

A grayscale image of tattoo gun with certain colors in containers

The best way to tattoo light skin is with vibrant colors. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for darker skin tones. Most artists will tell you the only way to tattoo dark skin is using black ink—they’re wrong.

Several other factors come into play, such as how deep your tattoo pigments go in the dermis, come into play. These factors include how much color contrast there is between your base and shading if any at all.

Another factor includes how many layers of melanin are preventing the pigment from coming through as clearly as it should. The more layers of melanin a person produces, the darker their skin tone becomes. Tattoo colors can come off as muddy when the person has too many layers of melanin. 

For best results, you want to use black ink with skin tones that are on the lighter side. If not, your artist might have to mix colors into their blacks to make for a more solid tattoo.

When it comes to using color on darker skin, you want to find one that matches the tone. Blue and purple typically work well but can’t be used alone. You’ll want deep hues of those to create a contrast against your skin tone.

It’s all about understanding how different colors interact with skin tones. Then, it’s up to the tattoo artist to practice the skills necessary to choose the perfect palette to compliment your skin tone. 

Don’t Overapply

A lady getting a tattoo on her back

Many people believe dark skin tends to scar more easily when tattooed, which isn’t the actual situation. The excess scarring happens because artists apply too much ink and pressure to the area, which leads to overworking the skin and causing damage.

Body Parts To Tattoo

Darker skinned persons forearm with a world map tattoo

The best place to tattoo dark skin is on the forearms, legs, and ankles. Mainly because these areas have a smaller amount of melanin, making your ink more visible. It doesn’t mean tattoos on the rest of your body are taboo, though. Except for feet—where a lot of melanin is present—tattoos should look great anywhere if your artist knows what they’re doing.

Face Tattoos     

You might have to reconsider if you’ve been considering joining the ranks of Post Malone and Mike Tyson. 

While you could easily get away with getting a face tattoo, people with darker hair and skin tones should think twice. Even though the black ink would easily show, it will likely fade when you spend time in the sun.      

Care Of Tattoos 

Tattoo aftercare is just as important as the artist who inked you. Proper care can prevent scarring, aid in the healing process, and keep your tattoo looking great for years to come. 

The basics are the same regardless of skin tone. Always keep an eye out for signs of infection, which include redness and bumps forming around the area, in addition to drainage. 

Always remember that less is more. While hydration and cleanliness are essential, avoid using heavy ointments and creams to trap bacteria. Instead, use unscented antibacterial soaps and lotions that are rich in vitamin E. 

Don’t stop using these once your tattoo has healed. Moisturized skin is the perfect canvas for gorgeous tattoos. 

Photographing Tattoos On Darker Skin

A person with a darker skin getting a tattoo on his back, photographed from the top

When trying to photograph tattoos on dark skin, it is vital to have the right equipment. The camera lens should be able to adjust for lower amounts of light, or else you’ll end up with nothing but blurs.  

You will also need a flash that doesn’t produce too much light. It can be problematic because if your flash is too bright, it can make your tattoo appear faded or washed out in photographs.

Lastly, use a studio light to suppress some skin pigment and bring out the tattoo. 

You can show off that beautiful ink with the correct setup and tools. 

Dark Skin Tattoo Removal

There aren’t any special instructions that come with dark skin tattoo removal. However, there are a few things the client should be aware of before they decide on getting their tattoo removed.

For one, their skin will be more susceptible to sunburns after treatment because it is more fragile than lighter complexions.

Find Your Design

We all know tattoos require lots of thought, but it is even more critical when you have dark skin. That doesn’t mean your favorite designs won’t still look great on dark skin, though. As long as you follow the rules and do your research, you can get great-looking tattoos.

Are you ready to get your next piece of body art? Visit our website to find an artist with whom you can schedule an appointment. Alternatively, you can keep reading more interesting facts about tattoos and piercings on our blog

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