Even though it seems like a simple process, choosing the right tattoo style for your next, or first, ink session can be pretty hard. Unless you have a specific style and design in mind already, choosing the design, tattoo style, and of course the color scheme can take some time, and even require help from your tattoo artist. But, even with a custom design, you still have to choose the color scheme or choose between colored and a black & grey tattoo.
However, with some help, and a few clicks on Google, the choice can turn out to be pretty easy. So, chances are, if you’re reading this you decided to do some research and consider all the pros and cons for colored or black/grey tattoos. And, you’re definitely at the right place.
Getting a tattoo is pretty rad, and it can be a spontaneous process. But, choosing whether the design will be colored or not is a big deal and one of the most important steps of getting a tattoo. So, let’s look at the colored tattoos first, see what the pros and cons are, and then move on to black & grey ink, to make some final conclusions.
In the following paragraphs, we’ll compare the two tattoo styles, see what their advantages and downsides are, and which one will suit your better. Therefore, let’s just get right in!
Colored Tattoos Vs. Black & Grey Tattoos
So, colored tattoos are done using different ink colors. The tattoo artist will mix the colors to achieve the proper shade and tone, considering the tattoo design and what you want it to look like. Some of the most prevalent ink colors used for colored tattoos are red, blue, green, yellow, brown; this also comprises darker or lighter shades of these colors.
People generally get colored tattoos to emphasize their expression or the meaning of the tattoo. Some people get such tattoos simply because they seem more fun, artistic and interesting, compared to a simple black & grey design.
Color helps a tattoo stand out, which is generally the very aim of a tattoo in the first place. But, as fun as all of this sounds, colored tattoos do have some pros and cons we need to take a look at.
Advantages of Colored Tattoos
- There are a lot of tattoo styles that complement color; some of the styles include traditional Japanese, classic Americana, watercolor, old-school sailor tattoos, illustrative and new school tattoo styles.
- To get an exceptional colored tattoo, you can always find tattoo artists who specialize in colorwork for particular tattoo styles and designs.
- If you want to emphasize or add meaning to a tattoo, color can always help you achieve that. The color of a tattoo can set its mood, emphasize or add meaning, and generally make it more artistic.
- Colored tattoos are more fun and exciting, and make even the most basic designs interesting.
- Colored tattoos are excellent for those looking to get a medium-size or large tattoo. The bigger the tattoo, the better will the color appear visually, and have better brightness and overall integrity, compared to smaller colored designs, for example.
Disadvantages of Colored Tattoos
- Unfortunately, colored tattoos tend to fade faster than black & grey ink. This especially applies to tattoos exposed to the sun and not protected by sunscreen.
- Because of the quicker fading, certain ink colors may require frequent touch-ups to maintain the color scheme integrity of the tattoo.
- Color doesn’t work well on small tattoo designs; the colors can easily, visually and physically, appear muddy and dirty (of course, depending on the color scheme).
- An exposed, colored tattoo might limit your time in the sun and surely requires proper and regular sunscreen protection, especially during the summer.
- Ink colors can contain super toxic and harmful components, which can cause ink allergy or tattoo infection. This especially applies to red ink, which is a cadmium-based ink known to cause serious infections and even cancer.
- As the skin ages, colored tattoos tend to emphasize wrinkled skin and well as the tattoo changes brought by the skin changes and aging.
- Colored tattoos take longer to heal, due to excessive skin damage. With colored tattoos, more ink is being used and the skin is more poked. As a result, there is more skin damage which takes more time to heal.
- Colored tattoos you see online look amazing generally because they’re fresh and covered in ointment. As such, they’re at their best appearance. A healed, colored tattoo has less brightness and vividness, which in some cases, can make the color appear dull.
Well, it seems that colored tattoos offer more disadvantages than advantages. But, we’re just trying to be completely honest with our readers. Colored tattoos are awesome, no doubt. But, that is only short-term, because, as the tattoo ‘ages’ it loses color brightness and can easily become dull looking.
Sure, with proper aftercare, your tattoo can stay bold and bright for years, but that is generally not the case, especially for colors like yellow, orange, light blue, light green, etc.
Colored tattoos also require long-term aftercare, and do not like being exposed to the sunlight. If you’re someone working or spending a lot of time outside, we surely don’t recommend you go for a colored tattoo.
And, of course, there is the issue of colored ink ingredients. Ink is something that isn’t currently fully regulated by the FDA, so ink bottles can contain different kinds of toxic and harmful ingredients.
For example, red ink is known to contain cadmium, cinnabar, and iron oxide, all of which are toxic ingredients responsible for allergic reactions, infections, and cancer. Colored inks can also contain toxic pigment carriers, like denatured alcohol, rubbing alcohol, formaldehyde, as well as animal products, and antifreeze. These are known to be highly toxic for humans, causing skin irritation, rashing, burn, and overall skin damage.
So, should you get a colored tattoo? Well, if you’re fine with the disadvantages, and you’re ready to commit to long-term tattoo aftercare, then you should go for it. However, we do recommend you get tested for different allergies (and ingredients typically found in ink), just to make sure you’ll be safe when exposed to different ink colors.
Black & Grey Tattoos
Now, black & grey tattoo looks great in almost every tattoo style, but they’re generally intended for designs with intricate patterns, complex lining, geometric lines and shapes, realistic illustrations, and similar artistic directions.
Black & grey tattoos are generally toned down a little bit, and require shading and mixing of black and white ink to achieve the grey tones and dimension. Either way, black & grey tattoos are simply perfect for delicate, intricate designs, so if you’re a fan of such tattoos, then you should surely consider a black & grey tattoo.
Bear in mind that these tattoos are more detailed, and require a specific type of precision, one that cannot be fixed or improved by adding color. The use of space is also of essential value, as well as the way the tattoo artist adjusts black and grey tones to achieve dimension and depth. What we want to say is that, when doing a black & grey tattoo, you need to go to an experienced professional.
But, just like colored tattoos, black & grey designs also have their own pros and cons that we need to discuss;
Advantages of Black & Grey Tattoos
- Black & grey tattoos are excellent for bold, complex patterns, but also for subtle and subdued aesthetics. These tattoos also focus on contracts, light and dark relation between the ink and the very tone of your skin, as well as the negative space. This is known as blackwork since there is no color gradation.
- Black & grey tattoos are suitable for both small and large designs. There is no color to be messed up, so smaller designs can be done incredibly well in this style. The more details, the better, when it comes to this style of tattooing.
- Black & grey tattoos don’t fade as fast as the colored ones. However, they still need to be cared for properly, meaning, applying sunscreen and protecting from excessive exposure to sunlight. Regardless of the color and style, tattoos are susceptible to damage due to sun exposure, so bear that in mind.
- Black & grey tattoos are low maintenance and rarely require touch-ups. They also don’t fade quickly, as we mentioned, but this of course depends on several factors; where the tattoo is placed and whether you’re taking good care of it. Either way, black & grey tattoos are overall more practical.
- Unlike other ink colors, black ink isn’t considered to be as toxic or harmful as, for example, red ink. The black ink does contain carbon, iron oxide, powdered jet, or carbon soot. But, it doesn’t cause nearly as many allergic reactions or infections cases as other ink colors.
Disadvantages Of Black & Grey Tattoos
- Black & grey tattoos can be boring without a good design. For example, some designs may seem boring, but when colored, they come to life and become interesting. That is not the case with black & grey tattoos, since there is no color; just lines and shading.
- Black & grey tattoos have a hard time translating the meaning and the whole story behind the design. As we mentioned, color adds meaning, while the lack of it can also mean something. But, if you want to truly express yourself through a tattoo, then black & grey might not be the style for you.
- In black & grey tattoos, tattoo artists generally struggle to achieve gradients. Even though the black & grey do contrast well, it can be hard to achieve the full contrast one usually achieves with solid colors. Black and grey tattoos generally have up to 5 different tones only.
Black & grey tattoos are generally the closest to the natural skin color, regardless of the skin tone. They have been the staple in tattooing history for thousands of years, and even nowadays, tend to look the best on almost everyone. Sure, the outcome of a black & grey tattoo might not be as spectacular as that of a color tattoo. But, the tattoo will look more natural, and it will last you longer, requiring minimum maintenance.
Overall, black & grey tattoos require proper aftercare to heal and look good after the healing is done. Without that, there is no guarantee any tattoo will look good. Ink allergic reactions are also possible with regular black ink, but there are significantly fewer cases of such reactions compared to other ink colors and colored tattoos. So, if you think a colored tattoo might cause you some serious skin damage and reactions, then go for a classic black & grey tattoo.
The Final Takeaway
So, which tattoo style should you go for? Considering all the pros and cons of both colored and black/grey tattoos, we say that it is safer to go for a classic black tattoo. However, if you want to translate a specific meaning and story with your tattoo, you should then consider a colored design.
Overall, it all boils down to what you want to get from the tattoo; if it’s just some shapes and patterns, there is no reason to go with color. But, if you’re telling a story, and the disadvantages don’t bother you, then color is the way to go.
If you’re still having trouble deciding which tattoo style to use for your next ink, try talking to your tattoo artist and explaining your concerns or doubts. The artist will talk to you directly and see first-hand what the design idea is and how it can be executed. That is why consultations are essential for a successful tattooing process.