White ink tattoos are some of the most beautiful ones out there—but they come with a catch. They’re very difficult to pull off well. They require extra care and planning if you want to keep one from looking like a well-formed scar. White ink doesn’t show up well on skin of any color, so the design itself will always be subdued. This also means that skin that was torn up during the healing process will be evident. After time, raised outlines outshine the ink itself. This can be good or bad, depending on your take of it. However, there are other things to look out for when it comes to these types of tattoos. Consider using tattoo lotion to mitigate scarring after a new tattoo. Alternatively, consult our Resources page to find out how else you can care for it.
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In today’s article, we’ll be looking at the pros and cons of white ink tattoos. Along with that, let’s check out ways to ensure that they are high quality and long lasting. We cap it off with how they appear on different skin colors and even more! Personally, I find white ink designs to be very beautiful, but beauty is subjective. Many people get white ink designs without realizing what it will actually look like at the end. Many artists dislike them for various reasons, so they might not be familiar with designs or inks that work well.
Read closely if you want a white ink design or are an artist looking for more information on these types of tattoos. Furthermore, if you are an artist, check out some specialized tattoo chairs and beds to help you with this difficult job. Certainly, any time you deal with white ink designs, there will be a little bit of risk and reward!
Related Article: Simple Tattoo Designs
White Ink Tattoos Information
When white ink tattoos are done correctly, they look amazing. These tattoos are incredibly subtle, especially on lighter skin, and can take on many forms. Small outlines of white ink can accent the tattoo more than black ink would. It’s a good way to tattoo something that you imagine to be glowing. The white ink can be mixed with other inks to give a gleaming sheen. It can also be toned down to show barely perceivable lines on the skin.
Since white ink is less saturated and very light, it’s easier to see how the skin raises from a tattoo. This can be used to your advantage—the 3D shadows will make it pop more than a regular tattoo. If you don’t want to deal with the raised skin, using a tattoo numbing spray before or after the tattoo may assist with your recovery process.
White Ink Over Time
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to using white ink. The color and effectiveness of white ink varies depending on brand and artistic technique, so there’s no way of knowing what it will look like after it ages a little. Sometimes it will retain its pure white appearance, but usually as time goes on, most inks will fade into a grayish-green or even entirely transparent color. It’s pointless to get a tattoo that changes form over time—they are meant to be permanent, after all. Where most tattoos would require touch-ups to look better, it’s very difficult to recover the look of a fresh white ink tattoo. This is why it’s absolutely crucial to get the correct tattoo artist with a long track record of doing white ink designs.
It’s impossible to tell by looking whether an ink will successfully stick to your skin, so you have to rely on your tattoo artist. Ask to see their samples beforehand, especially those of recurring customers, since you will be able to see how the white ink designs age on different people. With the help of your artist, you will be able to tell what kind of result you will get ahead of time and whether that’s the kind of tattoo you will want down the road. Also ask them about lidocaine cream if you want to mitigate the pain of your tattoo session.
Cons to White Ink Designs
Another disadvantage of white ink designs is that they have no form. While black ink tattoos have solid outlines to define them, white ink tattoos are subtle and rely more on the shadows of the skin to get their design across. Over time, the images may look more like a scar. If you do opt to get a white ink design despite all of the drawbacks, be sure to pick a good design. In order for the design to age well, you have to take into consideration the type of design along with the ink you use.
Small, abstract tattoos tend to look more like scars or mosquito bites than tattoos as time marches on. Larger designs might look uneven or poorly made, since it is much easier to see the skin’s texture underneath. A mix of something in between seems to work best for tattoos. Outlines also seem to work well, but it has a very different look compared to black outlines, so scour those samples for something that suits you!
White Ink Tattoos on Dark Skin
White ink designs stand out beautifully on dark skin. The human eye is naturally inclined to love contrast, so light markings on dark skin appeal to an aesthetic that we are all born with. New tattoos stand out vividly against the skin and—unlike designs on pale skin—designs on dark skin can take a huge number of forms without looking uneven, washed out, or scarred. These tattoos also look excellent under black light, despite not being black light tattoos (which are also a pretty neat thing you should check out).
As white ink fades on dark skin, the discoloration of the ink—if any—is obscured. This means that white ink designs age very well on dark skin. Like black ink tattoos, the ink may gradually migrate out of its initial location and create a blurry outline.
Tattoos with Texture
A simple touch up is enough to fix this…but you could also leave it as-is if you would like to create a subtle image of raised skin. There are many cultures that prefer scarring to inking as a means of body modification, so white ink designs are an interesting in-between that you might want to consider. Even as the ink fades, it will still make the raised area of the tattoo look highlighted and give them contrast, and it will also look like the skin itself is covered or lifted into a beautiful pattern.
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White Ink Tattoos on Pale Skin
White ink designs are much more subtle—and sometimes invisible—on pale skin. It depends entirely on the ink you use—sometimes, the ink will have less pigment and be a little more transparent than it should be. This works fine for black ink tattoos, but white ink tattoos on light skin really need that extra bump to make them visible. There’s also the matter of people with really light skin. You know what I mean—the type you see on the beach that prompts you to get your sunglasses out because they are probably reflecting every light beam that touches them and maybe glowing underneath all that.
I give them credit for trying to get a tan when they will probably just burn, but if they want a white ink design, they should really think twice. There is such a thing as too light for a white ink tattoo. If they want a subtle look, it might be cheaper and more consistent just to get it done with no ink at all and wear a nice-looking scar. No upkeep required, and the tattoo would be just as visible had ink been added to it—what’s not to like?
Reasons to Find the Best Artist
Another big disadvantage of getting a white ink tattoo on light skin is that low-quality ink will become colored over time and result in the opposite look off a white ink design. The grayish-yellow color is just a sign that the ink is breaking down. This occurs naturally in all pigments, but is most noticeable in white tattoos, and impossible to ignore on light skin. This is why finding a tattoo artist with high-quality inks and a track record of return customers is crucial to getting a white ink design.
Are White Ink Tattoos Raised?
White tattoos are no different from regular tattoos—that is to say, they are raised! The body handles tattoos as it would handle any sort of wound. It takes care of the inky pathogens by swallowing them up with macrophages. Then, it starts healing the wound, raising it with scar tissue in the process. Since white ink is sometimes transparent and always quick to fade, the work of the tattoo artist will really show up underneath.
Uneven tattoos are a sign of inconsistency, but sort of unavoidable when different areas have different levels of detail. This is why thin outlines work best for white ink tattoos—it’s hard to tell that one part is raised higher than the other when you can’t directly compare them. It simply looks like the whole thing is raised up by just a little bit.
Because white tattoos are raised, many people may mistake them as scars. Smaller tattoos might be easier to recognize, while larger tattoos have more wiggle room for uneven surfaces. The design you pick will affect how good it looks. However, even scars can be beautiful. Many people capitalize on this fact and get large, intricate sleeves that look like lovely Lichtenberg figures on their skin. Large lace-like tattoos are also suited to this sort of display, but be aware that other people may not appreciated them as much as black ink or watercolor tattoos, simply because they resemble scars so closely.
Do White Ink Tattoos Fade?
After you get the tattoo, you can expect it to fade much more quickly than normal. How it fades is determined by the exact ink that was chosen for the job. Some inks fade away evenly, similar to a henna tattoo, and they leave behind a blank slate with an area of raised skin for you to work with. As the tattoo heals more, the raised part of the scarred skin may even lower as the body heals, completely wiping any trace of the tattoo from your body. Unfortunately, not all white inks fade as nicely.
Other types of ink will appear gray or green as the components start to break down—which is the opposite of what you wanted! This is more likely to happen if you take poor care of your tattoo as it heals. When the tattoo is opened, it paves the way for contaminants to get into the skin, and those contaminants will show up as soon as the ink fades away. Planning ahead to take care of your skin helps prevent this, as well as keeping your tattoo clean both before and after it heals…but it’s also worth checking the reviews of the white ink that your tattoo artist uses. Just in case.
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More White Ink Tattoos Pros and Cons
Since we’re done talking about the negative, let’s talk about the advantages of white ink designs. There are a few neat tricks to them, and the best one is due to the fact that the tattoos are nearly invisible. If you end up getting a tattoo that is a little more subtle than you expected, there’s an easy and amazing way to make it pop—UV light! Your tattoo will glow under UV light, putting on quite a display if you ever find yourself out clubbing. It doesn’t absorb light or glow in the dark on its own, but it does look really fancy. Since white ink doesn’t stand out during the day at all, it can also lead to a pleasant surprise for friends you already know who haven’t quite noticed the shape of the tattoo yet.
White tattoos are tricky, but they can have some amazing advantages. I am personally a huge fan of them, since their subtle appearance makes the tattooed area look like a natural marking rather than something you drew on your skin. They are tattoos that look like they’ve been with you since the day you were born! The whole part where they glow in the dark is just a bonus! Admittedly though, they have some huge drawbacks.
Working with White Ink
You need an experienced artist and a bit of luck to get the exact look you were going for, and even then, you have to show some exceptional tattoo aftercare to make sure it stays looking good—or at least fades out gracefully. A little bit of numbing cream for your tattoo eases the inking process. Even if things do go perfectly, you’ll be subject to people who jump to conclusions and assume they are scars or messed up tattoos. To be honest, people who think scars are automatically ugly aren’t worth associating with, so perhaps that’s not something you should worry about anyways.
White Ink Tattoo Designs
If you do opt to get a white ink design despite all the drawbacks, be sure to pick a good design. Small, abstract tattoos tend to look more like scars or mosquito bites than tattoos. The reason is pretty simple—white ink allows the actual scar that the tattoo leaves behind to show more easily, and then accents that. The design you pick will affect how good it looks. Smaller tattoos will be easier to recognize as tattoos, while larger tattoos are more likely to be recognized as a scar at first glance.
However, even scars can be beautiful. Many people capitalize on this fact and get large, intricate sleeves that look like beautiful Lichtenberg figures on their skin. Large lace-like tattoos are also suited to this sort of display, but be aware that other people may not see them as beautiful as black or colored tattoos, simply because they resemble scars so closely.
The Cost of White Ink Tattoos
If you want to get a white ink design, but are worried about the price compared to other types of tattoo…you’d be in luck! They cost just as much as a regular tattoo. This means that the small tattoos can be as low as $50, while larger ones will fetch a very high price, but no higher than their colored or black ink counterparts. The main issue with getting a white ink design is finding an artist who will actually do them.
Because many white tattoo designs do not hold their form over time and because most patrons will get the tattoos for the novelty of them without knowing how they age, it can be an absolute nightmare for artists. This is especially so if their customers return to complain about their faded tattoo or the ‘scarring.’ These are natural traits of white ink designs so the only thing the artists can do to ward off these customers…is to stop offering white ink designs entirely.
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Making the Dream Come True
You may yet be able to convince an artist to give you a white ink design. If you say that you know the risks associated with tattoos, know that they will look aged or discolored over time, and insist that you like the look of raised skin that the tattoo will inevitably give you, they may cave in. You might get some extra lines on your waiver, but many artists do actually appreciate the look of white ink on skin. Once you get that approval, it’s only a matter of figuring out whether they use high-quality ink to do their tattoos. If they don’t, suggest that they order different kinds of ink, or seek out an artist who will do so. To be honest, that’s a lot of demanding to do of an artist, so they may not be receptive. It’s worth a try for an optimal tattoo, though.
These tattoos are a subtle way to show off your beauty while keeping the color of your skin—whatever color you start with—looking natural. They are much lighter and fade more quickly than other types of tattoos, so if you think you’re going to get more in the future, you don’t have to worry about the white ink design taking up space. Since they don’t pop out as much, they tend to look more professional than other types of tattoos. All-in-all, white ink tattoos are a beautiful way to accent the beauty that your mother gave you.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out the other stuff on InkDoneRight! Check out our complete Tattoo Aftercare Guide or our fashion articles like “The Best Pit Bull T-Shirts“. You can subscribe to our email list for weekly updates, or you can follow our Twitter for updates as they happen. As always, thanks for reading!