White Tattoos: Challenges, Benefits, and Tips
May 25th 2023
In our last blog, we discussed the history and techniques behind blackwork tattoos, this time we are going to go in the complete opposite direction: white tattoos. Although they are still not seen as widely as black and gray or color tattoos, tattoos done with only white tattoo ink are rising in popularity. Perhaps it is due to the recent trend of realistic temporary tattoos or the growing number of tattoo studios offering tattoos with made-to-fade black tattoo ink that lasts 1-3 years, but subtly is “in.” Let’s explore the most subtle of all tattoos: white tattoos.
What Are the Benefits of Using White Tattoo Ink?
Although white tattoo ink isn’t new, it has historically been used to provide highlights and details to black and gray or color tattoos. The trend of completely white tattoos has developed relatively recently. There are a variety of benefits to using white tattoo ink. A few of them include:
- White tattoo ink provides depth and dimension to the shading on black and gray tattoos. It can also provide a great way to highlight color tattoos, such as those done with pink tattoo ink or blue tattoo ink.
- White ink can create negative space to provide contrast in black and gray or color tattoos.
- Whether you blend your own gray wash or you buy one pre-mixed, like our Arron Raw Skull and Bones Death Wash, adding a few drops of white to your lighter gray wash shades can provide a little opacity. One of the major benefits of adding white tattoo ink to gray wash is to the artist. That is because when white is added to lighter gray wash mixtures, the mixed gray wash and the colors going in, look closer to how the healed results will look. It eliminates some of the guesswork, especially for newer artists.
- Tattoos that are done with just white tattoo ink are more subtle and easier to hide, especially on light skin. In fact, if a client with lighter skin tones does not point out a small white tattoo, people may not even notice it is there. White tattoos are also easier to cover with makeup and light-colored or sheer clothing.
- Whether a client wants something personal that only they know about or something easy to hide at work, subtle tattoos like those done solely with white tattoo ink, fineline tattoos with black tattoo ink, and micro tattoos are all trending lately
What Are Some of the Challenges When Using White Tattoo Ink?
If you are a tattoo artist planning to do a white ink tattoo, it is going to be more important than ever to make sure that you are communicating the reasonable expectations a client should have about their white tattoo.
White Tattoos Won’t Be a Bright and Solid White
Many people who jump onto the white tattoo bandwagon expect that their white tattoo is going to look as crisp and white as a blank sheet of paper. In reality, white tattoos are not truly white. Because the pigment is so light in color, the color of the tattoo client’s skin tone and their undertones may affect how white a tattoo actually looks.
White Tattoos Look Different on Everyone
To expand upon our earlier point, skin tone affects how any tattoo will look. As a general rule of thumb, tattoos done with white tattoo ink will end up looking about a few shades lighter than the client’s natural skin tone. That means, it could take on the color of pink or yellow undertones in their skin. On many skin tones, white tattoos may end up looking like a scar, which could be a pro or a con based on personal aesthetics.
White Tattoo Ink Is not Made for Outlines
Many tattoo clients want to combine the fine-line tattoo trend with the white tattoo ink trend. The best way to get clean and clear lines with fineline tattoos is to use a lining black tattoo ink. However, white tattoo ink is not made the same as black tattoo ink designed for outlining. White tattoo ink is a thicker consistency than black tattoo ink for lining. This may make it trickier to get smooth thin lines with white.
White Tattoos May Hurt More
When artists are using white ink, they have to stretch the skin more and insert the needle deeper than with other tattoos. Because these tattoos commonly have fine lines, a lining needle may be used for the entire tattoo. Most tattoo enthusiasts will say that the outline is worse than the shading. They describe lining as a sharp or stinging pain while; whereas shading is described as more of a scratching pain.
White Tattoos Won’t Last as LongBecause the pigment of white tattoos is already so subtle, white tattoos may appear to fade faster than those done with darker colors or black tattoo ink. Exposure to UV rays, how the tattoo is taken care of, placement, and the quality of the ink can all impact how long a white tattoo lasts.
How Can a Tattoo Artist Get the Best Results With White Tattoo Ink?
Tattoo clients should weigh the pros and cons of white tattoos before making a decision. Likewise, tattoo artists have to think and work carefully to ensure that they achieve the best results for their clients when using white tattoo ink. Following a few simple tips will provide you and your client with the best possible outcome.
- Set clear expectations. Helping your client understand the pros and cons of white tattoos is the key to making sure that your client is happy with the way their tattoo comes out and heals. Show your client healed results of white tattoo work on skin tones similar to theirs to ensure that you are both on the same page about how the tattoo can be expected to look.
- Use the right ink and tools. All tattoo inks are not created equal. Use white tattoo ink with a high concentration of pigment to get the most from your white. If you need to dilute it for workability with thin lines, use a mixing solution that will not affect the color. You should also be considering quality, consistency, and reliability when choosing a tattoo needle cartridge. High-quality cartridges, like those from Quantum, provide optimal results whether you are using white tattoo ink, black tattoo ink, or even blue tattoo ink.
- Choose the best size and placement. Because of the way white tattoos are applied, and the nature of the ink, very small white tattoos or those with lots of tiny details may not look as clear for as long. Especially if the tattoo client is looking for script or lettering, slightly enlarging the tattoo may lead to better results. Also, help the client be thoughtful about placement. Because white tattoos already fade faster, applying them on hands, feet, or other areas prone to faster fading may not be a wise choice.
- Make sure the client knows how to take care of their new tattoo. Aftercare is important when getting any type of tattoo. It becomes especially crucial in white tattoos where improper care may lead to faster fading and more visible scarring. Make sure your client is using a quality aftercare product.
- Push the SPF. Before the tattoo is healed enough to wear sunscreen, make sure to let them know to stick to the shade or wear loose-fitting clothing that will cover the tattoo done with white tattoo ink. Once the tattoo is healed enough for sunscreen recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays. It should be SPF 30 or higher and free from ingredients, like fragrance and alcohol, that may damage the tattoo. Dermatologists recommend water and sweat-resistant sunscreen to keep the skin protected longer.
Should I Do White Ink Tattoos for My Client?
Being well-informed will help you make the best decisions for your clients. Ultimately, it is up to each individual artist whether the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to creating tattoos with white tattoo ink. If you decide to proceed, having these tips under your belt will help you achieve outstanding results with white tattoo ink for your clients.
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