What to Know About Tattoos on Dark Skin, According to the Pros

  • Getting a tattoo requires thought and preparation.
  • You'll especially want to find an experienced tattoo artist if you have Black or Brown skin.
  • Whether you want a color tattoo or traditional black ink, here's what to know about getting a tattoo on dark skin.

There's quite a process that goes into getting a tattoo. Once you've actually made up your mind to get one, you then have to think of a design and placement, find a reputable parlor, and schedule the actual appointment. For Black and Brown people, there is one additional aspect to consider: whether the artist is well-versed in tattooing dark skin.

As popular as body art is among all people, there are still so many myths out there surrounding the process of tattooing on deeper skin tones and whether or not doing so is more difficult. It is not uncommon for Black or Brown people to browse through a tattoo artist's portfolio and not see clients with skin tones similar to theirs, leading to the question of why. Add in additional factors like wanting a color tattoo, and it can feel like the pool of artists who can execute a vision shrinks.

According to Kandace Layne, owner of Magic Mirror Tattoo Studio in Marietta, GA, tattooing dark skin isn't necessarily harder, it just requires someone taking the time to learn a different approach or strategy because certain designs or colors can show up differently. "Tattooing deep skin tones is something you can only learn to do by doing it often, and since there are so many different skin tones and types, it takes a long time to understand," she tells POPSUGAR.

What to Know About Tattooing Dark Skin

For Layne, the most important difference all comes down to design. "It's similar to drawing on a brown piece of paper versus a white one," she says. "On the brown paper, I might use bolder lines for more visibility and choose certain colors that carry through well even though the paper is brown. Green and red are good examples of that."

Keeping negative space in mind and knowing how to best approach the overall design is important as well. "Keeping the design open by avoiding really compact design elements — like lines being really close to each other in the tattoo — really helps with visibility as well for dark skin tones," Layne says.

There are other considerations to note on Black or Brown skin. "For the artist, the difference when you're tattooing is that there is a risk of scarring," says Miryam Lumpini, global director of tattoo artistry for KVD Beauty. "Deeper skin can scar light or dark and can also lose pigment as well. With the tattoo specifically, the pigment of the colors can also change once the tattoo heals."

When using color on deep skin tones, it is important to consider not only the person's skin color, but their skin type as well. "I tattoo everyone based on their individual skin type, which can vary with tone and thickness," Lumpini says. "One of the main things I like to focus on is not traumatizing the skin too much to prevent excessive scarring."

What to Know About Color Tattoos on Dark Skin

Alongside skin types, you'll want to find an artist who's considerate of the colors of the tattoo when designing the final piece. "It can take a while to learn which colors will be the most flattering to use on different complexions. Even gray tones show up differently," Layne says. Lumpini agrees, adding: "I try to use a lot of black and contrast to make the different colors pop and stand out."

Lastly, always note that getting a color tattoo may require a less-is-more approach to the design. "Keep in mind that when you get color tattoos that you may need touch-ups in the future," Lumpini says. "Don't do too much of the tattoo in one session, particularly if you have sensitive skin, and make sure everything fully heals before working on more."

What Colors Look Best For Tattooing Dark Skin?

Miryam Lumpini

Not only do artists need to know how to tattoo deep skin tones, they should also know what colors will work best with each individual client. There are, however, a few baseline colors that will look good across various deeper skin tones. "Black, green, and red are the colors I think work best on deeper skin," Lumpini says. "White would also stand out really well depending on how deep the client's skin tone is."

How to Find a Tattoo Artist If You Have Dark Skin

It can feel overwhelming sifting through artists to find one that you like, but social media can be a huge help. "Instagram and other social media is a great way to find artists that do color well," Lumpini says. "Have your own vetting process by checking if they have photos of people with similar skin tones as you and if they use color frequently."

If you are unsure of whether an artist is versed in using color on dark skin, never be afraid of asking for past photos or to see more of their portfolio as well.

If you feel ready to go forward with your color tattoo, we rounded up some of the best designs on Instagram to give you some inspiration ahead of your appointment.