Watercolor Tattoos: What You Should Know

Watercolor Flower Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Watercolor Flower Tattoo

Gorgeous colors intermingling to create a unique design – watercolor tattoos have become popular over the last few years for obvious reasons. The colorful style looks like a master painter has taken a paintbrush to skin. 

A watercolor painting is distinguishable from other forms of paintings for its vibrant, yet sometimes slightly transparent colors – the bottom canvas or paper is often glimpsed behind the paint.

Watercolor Tattoo Machine | selftattoo.com
Watercolor Tattoo Machine

Lines are slightly blurred, and shaded and blended colors are seen. This style of art can be translated amazingly well onto skin.

Styles of Watercolor Tattoos

While there are many different ways to design a watercolor tattoo, there are two main types of watercolor tattoos: ones with a black base, and ones without a black base.

Watercolor Ocean Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Watercolor Ocean Tattoo

Tattoos without a black base makes the colors look like they’re melting into the skin with no distinct edges. With this design, the vibrancy of the colors takes center stage and the use of shading blends one tint into the next.

Calves Watercolor Tattoo with Flowers | selftattoo.com
Calves Watercolor Tattoo with Flowers

A black base of line work can lay a foundation for a watercolor design. Lines are drawn, before adding the shades over it, creating an artwork that doesn’t stick to coloring within the lines.

This can create a striking contrast between rigid black lines and free flowing, vivacious colors. This style is a great way to incorporate traditional tattooing with an extra splash of liveliness.

Meanings Behind Popular Watercolor Tattoos

There are many types of symbols and images you can alter with a watercolor design. 

Some popular styles of watercolor tattoos include butterflies – because of their natural colors, these insects can be a great choice for a watercolor design. Butterflies are often representations of beauty, freedom and transformation.

Butterfly Arm Watercolor Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Butterfly Arm Watercolor Tattoo

Flowers can be attention-grabbing when done in a watercolor style – putting the emphasis on color and shading can make the design hyper realistic.

The meaning behind flower tattoos are varied; flowers have long been symbols of life and beauty throughout the world. More specifically, red roses can represent love, while pink roses can represent grace and gratitude.

Watercolor Tattoo Design with Flowers and Hummingbird | selftattoo.com
Watercolor Tattoo Design with Flowers and Hummingbird

Though a pivot from traditional black ink and block colors could seem like something to jump at when deciding on a new tattoo that’s distinctive and artistic, there are a few things to consider before getting colorfully inked.

Be Completely Sure About the Design

As with any kind of tattoo, you should be one hundred percent certain you will love the design for a long time. 

Watercolor Tattoo with Roses | selftattoo.com
Watercolor Tattoo with Roses

You can’t wash off the tattoo when the colors start becoming a bit much or they clash with your wardrobe. It’s best to ask the question: Is this tattoo going to match with my long-term style?

Dragonfly Watercolor Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Dragonfly Watercolor Tattoo

A pop culture reference may seem like a good idea at the time, but your favorite band or character from a movie might change after a few years.

Research designs and take your time deciding. If you think you’ve found “the one”, save the picture as your phone or computer’s background. If you get tired of looking at it day after day, multiple times, then it’s not the one.

Know How to Look After your New Tattoo

All tattoos fade over time, including watercolor designs – the vibrant colors you started with will soften and lighten as the years go on. You can always get touch ups if you want to keep your tattoo looking super colorful.

Watercolor Tattoo Arm Sleeve | selftattoo.com
Watercolor Tattoo Arm Sleeve

Due to the transparent design of the watercolor look, your tattoo could fade a little bit faster, so it’s important to take the time to properly look after it.

However, as watercolor tattoos don’t stick to the lines, some fading may actually work well. 

If you’re not a fan of fading colors, you may want to give some extra thought into where you want your tattoo to be.

Watercolor Flower Tattoos | selftattoo.com
Watercolor Flower Tattoos

Putting it on a part of your body that is frequently in the sun will mean some extra TLC, whereas a place that’s usually covered up requires a little less maintenance.

What is key is looking after your tattoo and not to pick at it while it’s healing – it could remove some of the color. Ensure your tattoo is clean and keep it moisturized.

Gently wash your tattoo twice a day with a gentle soap and pat dry before applying an antibacterial ointment that will help it heal.

It’s best to keep your tattoo out of the sun while it’s healing; after it’s healed, keep it protected from the sun with sunscreen.

Find a Skilled, Experienced Tattoo Artist

Watercolor designs can require a bit more skill than your average black stenciled tattoo, so make sure you find an artist that has experience in watercolor styles. Here are some tips on choosing the right artist:

Watercolor Tattoo Artist | selftattoo.com
Watercolor Tattoo Artist

Don’t Rush It

Just because there’s a tattoo parlor across the street from your office, it does not mean you should get tattooed there. Take your time, do your research and find a studio that you love and in which you feel one hundred percent comfortable. 

Be Objective when looking through an Artist’s Portfolio

Attention to detail is key here. Look through their work and notice whether there are any jumpy lines, lopsided circles, or whether you’re simply not a fan of how they approach watercolors.

If you don’t absolutely love their work, keep looking around.

Ask Around and get some Advice from Fellow Tattooed Friends

Your friends should tell you the truth and will be able to warn you against a studio if they themselves had a bad experience.

Also, notice other people’s tattoos. If your work colleague has a tattoo that looks amazing, start a conversation and ask them where they got inked.

Take Your Time

Taking your time and doing proper research can save you a lot in disappointment and tattoo removal fees.


If you want something unique and eye-catching, a watercolor tattoo is a beautiful choice. As with every type of body modification, you’ve got to do your research, prepare yourself and make sure you’re ready to live with this, and love it, for years to come.

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