Gone are the days where the default ink for tattoos was black. While different shades of ink have been around for a while (saturated traditional American sailor tattoos and tebori tattoos, to name two colorful inking styles), in recent decades choosing one color for a tattoo has become popular.
Leaving black ink behind, shades of blue can be a unique choice for your next tattoo.
Blue is one of the rarest colors to find in nature (when you’re not looking up at the sky or out on the ocean). Less than one in 10 plants have blue flowers, and this hue isn’t seen often on animals either.
This is partly because natural blue pigments are rare – both plants and animals often have to perform tricks of the light to appear blue.
The Ancient Egyptians were the first to create a synthetic blue pigment; Egyptian blue was created around 2,200 B.C from ground limestone mixed with sand and either azurite or malachite.
“The result was an opaque blue glass which then had to be crushed and combined with thickening agents such as egg whites to create a long-lasting paint or glaze,”My Modern Met
And, only one new blue shade has been created using modern chemistry in the last 200 years – YInMn Blue, was made at an Oregon State University lab in 2009.
But, why is humanity looking for new shades of blue, and why is this group of shades getting so popular in the tattoo world?
One answer is the blue symbolism.
The Symbolism Behind Blue
Blue is one of the most popular answers to the question, “What is your favorite color?” This could be because of the emotions it represents.
According to Very Well Mind, psychologically speaking the color blue calls to mind feelings of calmness or serenity and is often described as peaceful, tranquil, secure, and orderly.
The color blue also has different meanings in different cultures. Color Explained tells that in Greece,
“…the color blue is believed to ward off ‘the evil eye.’ Those who believe in this Greek superstition wear a blue charm necklace or blue bracelet for protection.”
While in China, colors are associated with the elements; blue specifically is related to wood, east, and spring.
In Latin America, blue is a symbol of hope. This is due to the high population of Catholics in this part of the world, and in many images of the Virgin Mary, she is depicted wearing a blue cloak and hair covering.
While blue has great qualities, before you set your mind on a blue ink tattoo, there are a few things you should know.
Your Skin Tone Will Have An Impact On Your Tattoo
Your skin isn’t necessarily a blank canvas – it already has pigments and tones that will have an impact on tattoo ink.
Tattoo artist, Tiaret Mitchell, shares with Allure,
“Let’s say you have a red undertone and you get blue [ink]; your tattoo could end up healing [into] a turquoise-green color.”
Get a color test with the blue ink you want to get tattooed to see what kind of hue you can expect once your design is fully healed.
Blue Tattoo Ink Has Been Banned In Europe
In 2022, the European Union made a law against a couple of tattoo inks,
“…new rules say that pigments called Blue 15:3 and Green 7 must be phased out,”NPR
This is due to the small possibility that the elements that make up these inks – when in excess – can be toxic to humans over time.
But, reports on the level of toxicity are very low, which means risk levels are mild. So this ban could be cautionary measure to avoid an excess of certain metals in the body.
Ines Schreiver, who studies tattoo ink at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, told NPR that when her institute examined the two pigments, they had,
“a comparatively low level of toxicity”.
A lack of data means that we don’t have a clear cut answer as to the safety of some tattoo inks.
Blue Ink Tattoo Removal
While you need to think long and hard about your tattoo before you commit and get it done, if you do end up hating your design, you can get it removed through laser tattoo removal.
However, not all ink is created equal, and so not all tattoo ink is removed in the same way and with the same level of results.
Somewhat counter intuitively, white ink tattoos are the hardest to remove, while black ink tattoos are the easiest to remove. Goodbye Tattoos explains,
“If you think about the color spectrum, black absorbs all wavelengths. And absorbs the most heat. Whereas white retracts all wavelengths of light. And absorbs the least heat.”
But, on the spectrum of black to white, where does blue fit in? It depends on the shade of blue…
“Generally black and darker inked tattoos are the easiest to treat. Followed by reds and warmer colors and then blues and greens. With blues and greens needing a few more treatments.”
Do Blue Ink Tattoos Fade Quickly?
The shade of the blue tattoo ink you’ve chosen doesn’t just affect the removal process, but also how your tattoo will fade over time.
All tattoos fade. Remember, ink is a foreign substance, so your body breaks down the ink particles over time to get rid of it. The sun speeds up this process, as UVA and UVB rays not only age your skin, but your inkings, too.
The color of your tattoo also has an impact.
“Blue and dark blue ink is a longer wearable pigment when it comes to tattooing,”Ink Art By Kate
However, the lighter the shade of blue, the quicker it will become faint and fade. So, if you’ve got your heart set on a light blue tattoo, be prepared to go for touch ups sooner rather than later in order to prolong the crispness of your design.
Every single style of tattooing has its pros and cons. The best way to figure out if a certain tattoo is what you really want is to take your time, research your idea, and speak to professional tattoo artists.
Click here to find out when you definitely shouldn’t get a tattoo.