Watercolor tattoos look spectacular, although not all artists know how to create them. It takes a special skill set to create realistic watercolor designs that also look clear and age well. For fans of watercolor tattoos, the lack of artists proves a problem when seeking out these beautiful tattoos. I included some special tattooing tips and tricks for those artists in this watercolor tattoo gallery so that, hopefully, that problem disappears with time!
As a huge fan of watercolor tattoos myself, I know all the ins and outs of this style. It certainly has its weaknesses, but the pros outweigh the cons here. Check out these beautiful watercolor tattoos and learn about the technique behind them! Perhaps you will also fall in love with this beautiful inking style!
Watercolor Tattoo Technique
Want to learn how to make watercolor tattoos look spectacular? Looking to see the color tattoo techniques that bring them to life? Thankfully, any artist aware of basic tattoo shading techniques can quickly graduate to the watercolor style.
Before you begin making watercolor tattoos, practice using your pigments on mixed media paper to create basic watercolor images and designs. Pay close attention to how the colors blend, since this represents the most appealing aspect of watercolor tattoos. Once you understand how your pigments react to each other, downgrade to regular watercolors to save some money. Any brand works. This practice helps you learn how to make crisp outlines where necessary and master the colors along with the texture.
Moving on to tattoos, go ahead and water down your pigments before application. Make sure the water is perfectly sterile, of course. Apply the ink in layers, starting with very light doses of color and adding more pigment where necessary. Build up your ink into a realistic watercolor design, using all of your normal tattoo shading techniques to pull it all together.
In order to make the tattoo resilient against time, pay close attention to the brightness and contrast of your tattoos. Where the colors must remain distinguished, use different amounts of thin black ink to create a tiny amount of contrast. Though hard to see, the small amount of black ink remains visible as the tattoo ages. This makes any touchups easier and more spaced out! Plus, extra contrast in designs look pleasing to the human eye. Experiment with it!
Are Watercolor Tattoos Permanent?
To be honest, watercolor tattoos fade. Just like every other colored tattoo, colored ink fades quickly and an aged watercolor tattoo’s pattern may disappear entirely. This, of course, is the hallmark of a bad watercolor tattoo. In the previous section, I mentioned that brightness and contrast determine how long your tattoo lasts—and all of that plays a part in the fading process. With different amounts of ink to absorb light, separate blocks of color fade at different speeds. With sharply contrasting colors, even an area with no black ink still looks distinguished as it fades.
Thinking about getting a tattoo? You can ease the pain by using a special numbing cream or spray for tattoo sessions. Below is our favorite tattoo numbing product. Read our full reviews here!
Watercolor tattoos receive a bad rap because they fade noticeably within a decade. People often see that and believe that the style of tattoo is at fault, rather than their artist, activity, or simply the passage of time. All tattoos fade—even plain black outlines—but many steps delay the process. Our tattoo aftercare articles go over the details of that!
Watercolor Tattoos Pros and Cons
Still on the edge about watercolor tattoos? Admittedly, the new trend of watercolor tattoos leaves much to the imagination—especially concerning how well they age. Maybe this list of pros and cons helps form a decision for you!
- They Look Spectacular
- Emulates Watercolor Art
- Easy to Cover Up or Touch Up
- Ages Well
- Variable Price
- Requires Specialized Artist
- Frequent Touch-ups
- Fast Tattoo Aging
“But wait!” you might say. “It says ‘ages well’ in the pros, but ‘fast tattoo aging’ in the cons! Which is it?!” Strange as it might sound, some types of aging work well for tattoo art. Ink naturally migrates around your skin, resulting in a blurry look over time. But for some tattoos, including watercolor tattoos, that blurry look is exactly what you want.
Watercolor tattoos naturally blend colors on day one—a little bit of blend later on barely registers! With tiny touchups, your tattoo looks spectacular. However, the blurry lines of a black ink tattoo don’t add to its design. So, in a way, you trade the typical ‘blurry’ look of old tattoos for a ‘faded’ look—but touch ups fix one of these better than the other!
Watercolor Tattoo Designs
A watercolor tattoo flower emulates the beautiful pigments of the real thing. Combined with a black outline, the flower looks spectacular and lasts for decades. As more and more artists learn to work with the watercolor tattoo style, the watercolor tattoo design scene explodes. I prefer watercolor tattoos that utilize negative space—in other words, the areas without ink—in their design. However, abstract swatches of paint, combined with black lines to tie the piece together, also look spectacular. Watercolor tattoos push the boundaries of the medium, but they also pay homage to the wide spectrum of watercolor art. Accordingly, watercolor tattoo designs show incredible diversity!
Watercolor Tattoo F.A.Q.
Since many questions surround the new trend of watercolor tattoos, I answer the most commonly asked questions here! If this article still leaves your question unanswered, go ahead and ask your question in the comments section, and we will quickly add a section for it.
Are watercolor tattoos more expensive?
Before we think about water color tattoo prices, let’s consider another question: how much do small tattoos cost, anyways? The price varies depending on location, cost of living, and style. All of the same rules apply for watercolor tattoos. Some artists may offer fairly inexpensive watercolor tattoos—that is to say, comparable prices to traditionally colored tattoos. On the other hand, some artists charge a fortune. A lot of work goes into making these tattoos look great, so not every artist enjoys making them. On top of that, since watercolor tattoos quickly fade, some artists charge a high entry price to ensure you can spare the cash for touch ups later down the line. Weird, I know. But that’s economics.
Do watercolor tattoos hurt more?
Thankfully, watercolor tattoos hurt no more than regular tattoos. However, since a watercolor tattoo takes more time, you will need to endure the pain for a little longer. The location of your tattoo drastically affects the pain you experience, so look up which locations hurt the least if you worry about pain. Or, you can consider applying a topical anesthetic beforehand.
Do watercolor tattoos take longer?
Yes! While some artists finish watercolor tattoos with lightning speed precision, high quality watercolor tattoos usually take many layers of color and a large amount of time. Think of it this way: a solid ink color takes 100% of the ink, with no dilution. Artists usually start with 10% ink concentrations and work their way up from there. They ink each layer carefully to create a cohesive picture, occasionally adding different inks to increase the contrast. Of course, the wait is worth it!
Watercolor Tattoos: Art from Pigment
In the end, lasting watercolor tattoos fall down to two things: artist knowledge and client knowledge. An artist masterfully creates a tattoo resilient to age, while a client wears sunscreen frequently and receives touchups when necessary. As long as both people know what to do, a watercolor tattoo lasts for ages longer than a regular black and white design. On top of that, watercolor tattoos look spectacular, and allow for many complex colors and ideas to flow together in a single design. I highly recommend receiving at least one of this wonderful type of tattoo. Watercolor tattoos cement the relationship between body art and high art, showing the world just what kind of style you live your life in!
Related: Full Tattoo Aftercare Guide