Color vs. Black & Gray Tattoos

Color vs. Black & Gray Tattoos

So you know that you want to get a tattoo. You may even have a vague idea of what you want to get and where on your body you would like to place it. However, you are having trouble deciding if you want a classic and timeless black and gray tattoo or if you prefer to go bold with vibrant colors. Choosing the right style and color of tattoo ink for tattoos can be tricky so let’s weigh the pros and cons of color tattoos and black and gray tattoos.

History of Tattoo Ink Colors

Based on current evidence, researchers believe that tattoos date back over 5,300 years. The mummified remains of Ötzi the Iceman display 61 tattoos created by cutting into the skin and tracing the cuts with charcoal. Similarly, natural tattoo ink from ancient Egypt was created using charcoal, ash, or soot. This means that the oldest tattoos were black.

Eventually, cultures like the ancient Inuit people,  known for their choice of yellow tattoo ink, and the ancient Romans started adding color. In 17th century Japan, criminals who had been tattooed to let everyone know about the crimes they committed started using elaborate and colorful decorative color tattoos to cover up their crimes.

However, it was not until the 1950s and the advent of the Old School style of tattooing that color tattooing really became popular. At first, the addition of a few limited solid colors provided accents and a bold new look to the artform. Since then, color tattoos have become increasingly popular and today there is a seemingly unlimited number of colors for tattoo ink.

The Benefits of Black and Gray Tattoos

The term “black and gray tattoo” usually refers to a technique where black ink is mixed with a clear solution like our Holy Water Mixing Solution to create lighter and darker areas of gray. It is a great way to add detail, depth, and dimension without color. Opaque gray tattoos will include a touch of white added to black tattoo ink to create a more opaque look.

There are several styles of tattooing that can be done in black and gray including Realism, Surrealism, Portrait, and Old School tattoos. While these styles can also be done in color, there are also a few other styles that work best with just black and gray tattoo ink. Fine line tattoos, tiny tattoos, small script, and other tattoos that are very small work best with just black ink instead of color. Very small and delicate details will be sharper and more precise with black ink on a lining needle.

One of the major benefits of black tattoo ink is its longevity. Black and gray tattoos generally last longer and require touchups less frequently than color tattoos. For optimal results, make sure that your artist uses only the best black tattoo ink. 

The Benefits of Color Tattoos

Many of the styles that can be done in black and gray including Realism, Surrealism, Portrait, and Old School tattoos can also have beautiful results in color. Additionally, newer trends like sticker tattoos and metallic tattoos depend on the skillful use of a variety of colors. The emerging Trash Polka style smashes together the worlds of color tattooing and black and gray tattooing with its designs that are predominantly black and gray with splashes of red.


Color is great for medium or large pieces where the details and the colors will stand out from one another instead of getting blurred together. However, adding color to tattoos isn’t just for looks. The colors you choose can convey your mood and personality, or have a deeper meaning. For example, a soft pink watercolor rose will convey a different mood than a bright crimson one. If you want to make a bold statement, opt for a color tattoo.

The Similarities Between a Color Tattoo and a Black and Gray Tattoo

Whether you opt for simple black and gray or for pops of color, there are several factors that remain the same. Though the healing time and complexity can vary depending on tattoo size, type, and location, preparing for and taking care of your tattoo is going to be pretty much the same regardless of your choice of colors for tattoo ink. You are going to want to use high-quality natural tattoo aftercare to ensure your tattoo heals properly and lasts as long as possible.

Regardless of if you are getting work done with black tattoo ink or color tattoo ink, you should look for a tattoo artist that is skilled in the specific technique and style that you want. Make sure to take a look at their portfolio and that they show examples of healed work, not just fresh work. How their work heals is a testament to both their skill and the quality of the products they use. To get an idea of the variety of styles and to help you choose an artist, check out the work by Quantum Pro Team Artists  and rest assured that they use only the highest quality vegan tattoo ink.

In the end, there is no real objective winner between color tattoos and black and gray tattoos. It really comes down to personal preference and choosing the style that best fits who you are and the message you want to convey to the world. Your tattoo should be as awesome and unique as you are. Treat yourself to the best organic tattoo ink now available in REACH-approved colors! Shop our vegan tattoo ink including gray wash or black ink for tattoos in black and gray or our vibrant color ink for tattoos that are bright and bold.