Tattoo artist shares things you should never do when getting a colorful tattoo

  • I’m a tattoo artist specializing in black and gray and color realistic designs.
  • Don’t expect the color to look exactly like the reference photo, especially once it’s healed.
  • Consider getting colored tattoos in an area that doesn’t see a lot of sun and know that touch-ups may be needed.

I’ve been a tattoo artist for years. In addition to black and gray work, I have specialized in color-realistic designs.

But the latter requires a little more research to get the best results, so there are some common mistakes people make when they’re unprepared.

Find an artist who specializes in color tattoos

colorful Harry Potter artifact tattoo on arm

Not every artist knows how to inking colored tattoos.

Alisa Young

These tattoos require more knowledge in color theory as well as technique. Black ink is easier to saturate and heal on the skin, so many artists find it easier to work with.

Finding an artist who understands color and how to work with it on the skin is important.

Without an experienced tattoo artist, it’s easy to choose the wrong colors and overstress the skin, which can result in scars or blemishes.

Don’t expect the color to look exactly like the reference photo

Your artist will do their best to match the hue as closely as possible to the drawing or reference. But once the color is placed in the dermis, your skin acts like a sheer filter over it.

This will become more common as your body art heals and the vibrancy of a fresh tattoo fades.

If you’re concerned about how the color will appear on your skin tone or how your skin will react to the ink, ask for a patch test.

Familiarize yourself in advance with how color tattoos heal

Two healed tattoos - a bouquet of flowers and a butterfly - on the arms

Healed tattoos (left) are not as vibrant as fresh ones (right).

Alisa Young

All tattoos will fade over time, however colored tattoos are generally more prone to fading than black ink. It’s important to see your artist’s cured work to know what to expect.

Depending on how you heal, you may need a touch up to keep the tattoo looking fresh and vibrant, which is normal with color designs. Each artist has their own touch up policy, so check with yours.

It all depends on how your skin reacts during and after the tattoo, what colors are used, and how well your artist saturates the color.

Expect more money — and possibly more pain — for color tattoos

Depending on the design and style, these tattoos may take more time to complete. Working with color is a bit more difficult, takes longer to saturate, and sometimes needs to be colored in a specific order.

Since artists take time into account when calculating a tattoo, color designs are likely to cost a bit more.

As for the pain, it’s not the actual colored ink that hurts more, but the speed, depth, shading technique, and order in which colors are placed that potentially make it more painful.

Consider choosing a location that doesn’t see a lot of sun

colorful floral tattoo on ribs

Good are places that can be easily covered with clothing.

Alisa Young

If you spend a lot of time in the sun, you should choose a spot that can be hidden under clothing or not often visible.

UV rays from direct sunlight will break down the pigment and fade your tattoos – even more so with colored ones.

If you want your tattoo to be visible I recommend placements on the inside of the forearm as they are mostly facing towards the body and away from the sun.

Make sure you can commit to color

All tattoos are a commitment, but color designs are something that people usually don’t give enough thought to.

Many people love individual color tattoos, but once they start planning more, they find that they want their art to have the cohesive look of black and gray designs. This is just personal preference but definitely something to consider.

Also keep in mind that color tattoos may require a bit more maintenance in terms of maintenance and touch-ups.

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