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White Ink Tattoos: What You Should Know Before Getting Inked

White Ink Butterfly Tattoo @tattooist_color.b

White ink tattoos turn the process of tattooing completely on its head. It’s not just a case of swapping out black ink for white; a white ink tattoo is on a different level and different considerations need to be taken than for standard, traditional black ink tattoos. 

What Are White Ink Tattoos?

These are tattoo designs done in white ink, unlike traditional tattoos in which black ink and colors are used with lines and shading techniques to create a piece of body art. 

Heart White Ink Tattoo @keenetattoo

Shading isn’t often done with white ink tattoos because the ink is already so pale and subtle, and shading could make it all but disappear. So, the most common designs for white ink tattoos are outlines and words

Why Are White Ink Tattoos Popular?

There’s no denying it: White ink tattoos are certainly eye catching. They are unique in a sea of black, grey, and color tattoos, and can add an element of airiness and whimsy to your body art.

With a lighter color pigment, you might feel like your tattoo isn’t that flashy, so you may be compelled to go bigger with your design. But, even though they’re subtle, it doesn’t mean they don’t make an impact. 

Lion White Ink Tattoo @anniphibibibi

Plus, a cool party trick is that white ink tattoos can glow under UV light (you’ve got to add UV ink to the white ink, though). 

Ways To Incorporate White Ink Into Your Tattoo

A white ink tattoo can be done purley on its own, or you can add white ink into the design of a greyscale tattoo instead of shading. 

“Outlining a colored or blackwork design in white will make it pop and give it a sort of halo effect, whereas filling in a darkly-outlined design in white makes the outlines pop against such a bright background,”

Byrdie
White Dragon Tattoo @free_tattooer

When you look at a white ink tattoo next to a blackwork tattoo, it looks as if the white ink tattoo is more raised on the skin. All tattoos raise the skin slightly because of the scar tissue that forms in the healing process. This is just more pronounced in white ink tattoos because of the light color.

This can give your tattoo a 3D effect, which can be a pro or a con of this tattoo style, depending on your preferences.  

White Ink Is A Different Composition To Black Ink

White ink is thicker than traditional black tattoo ink, so it’s essential that you find a tattoo artist that is well versed in creating white ink tattoos. 

Also, white ink can be more difficult to see when applying, which makes the tattoo experience a whole lot more challenging for the artist. Another reason to make sure your chosen tattooer is skilled in white ink tattoos.  

White Map Tattoo @whitettts

Your skin tone also has a big impact on the way a white ink tattoo turns out. The paler you are, the more subtle the tattoo will be and the white ink can blend into your skin tone. 

And darker skin tones? Dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Houshmand told Skincare.com,

“Many individuals, particularly those with darker skin tones, cannot absorb enough of the white ink for it to appear brightly on their skin….when white ink tattoos are performed on dark skin tones, they tend to fade completely after the healing process, which is why many tattoo artists will not recommend these to dark-skinned individuals.” 

Number White Tattoo @nhi.ink

However, for people with dark skin tones, there are ways to get a white tattoo that will last. According to Bustle,

“Artists at Precision Body Art suggest that if you have an older, healed, black ink tattoo, it’s easy for the artist to layer white ink on top – and the color will hold much better. Fresh black ink doesn’t hold white ink very well, so if you’re looking to go black/white, handle the dark color first and then head back to the shop for the detail once it’s fully healed.”

Do White Ink Tattoos Fade Faster Than Traditional Black Tattoos?

The short answer is yes. This longer answer is that lighter ink pigments tend to disappear from the skin faster than black and other darker shades. 

Matching White Ink Tattoos @mr.inktokyo

“One of the biggest downsides to white ink tattoos is the fact that they tend to be some of the quickest to experience fading,”

Chronic Ink Tattoo

However, there are some precautions you can take.

“Your first line of defence is picking an experienced tattoo artist to apply the tattoo in the first place. After this, being extra diligent with your aftercare routine during the healing process will also play an important role in your tattoo’s longevity.”

Chronic Ink Tattoo
Tiny Daisy Tattoo @whitettts

If you love the idea of a white ink tattoo, but are worried about shelling out for something that isn’t guaranteed to stand the test of time, you could go the Henna route. A white Henna design can last for up to a month (as long as you take care of it). 

Read more about Henna tattoos

How To Look After A White Ink Tattoo

As white ink tends to fade a lot quicker than darker shades, it’s super important to pay attention to aftercare instructions. 

Remember, your tattoo is essentially an attractive open wound, so you’ve got to make sure no bacteria gets in to cause infection. Before touching or washing your tattoo, make sure to scrub your own hands first.

Black and White Tattoo @whitettts

Wash your tattoo every morning and night during the healing process with skin sensitive soap, and pat dry with a paper towel. Don’t rub your fresh ink with a towel while it’s healing, as this could damage the design. 

“Try to apply a thick layer of lotion each time you wash the tattoo to prevent the area from drying out afterward. However, you should never apply a new layer of lotion over an older layer without washing the area clean first, as this can cause tattoo bubbling and set you up for an infection,”

Authority Tattoo
Mixed Color and White Tattoo @broccoli_tattooer

The sun’s rays are extremely damaging to white ink tattoos, so cover up your tattoo and try to keep the area out of the sun. 

There are pros and cons to every type of tattoo out there. If you absolutely love a design, go for it! Just make sure to do your research so that you’re fully prepared for what’s in store.

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