Can you add color to any tattoo? Does it last? What do you need to know before getting a color tattoo? Wonder no more! We looked into this tattoo genre to give you all the info you need before booking...

How to Design a Color Tattoo

Can you add color to any tattoo? Does it last? What do you need to know before getting a color tattoo? Wonder no more! We looked into this tattoo genre to give you all the info you need before booking your next appointment. We tell you where to start, what to keep in mind, and what elements are needed to make a killer color tattoo. Read on to find out everything you need to know about color tattoos.

What is a Color Tattoo?

It’s pretty self-explanatory – it’s a tattoo that has color. Tattoos have been around for centuries, but color tattoos may not be quite as old. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when color entered the tattoo scene. Different cultures around the world have been using color pigments for centuries, but some say that the Sailor Jerry tattoo phenomenon brought color tattoos to the Western mainstream. During this time, new color pigments were added to tattoos to create a whole new spectrum of possibilities, largely attributed to tattoo artist Norman Collins, aka Sailor Jerry.

Montreal tattoo artist David Peyote believes that newer technology also played a part in color tattoos becoming the norm, “The fact that pigments are manufactured on a big commercial level allows the quality to stay the same over time. As when it comes to tattoo machines, the arrival of rotaries and new needle types helped a lot in making the job easier when it comes to putting colours in the skin”. There are a lot more options for pigments and application than there were in the Sailor Jerry days, so this could explain the rise in popularity of color inks.

Key Elements of a Color Design

Color tattoos are obvious, and so are the key elements to it. If a tattoo includes color, especially as a main feature of the design, it can be classified as a color tattoo. All color tattoos will overlap with another tattoo style, because color itself isn’t a specific style of tattooing. If you don’t know what the main style of the tattoo you’re looking at is, if it includes color, you at least know that it’s a color tattoo. Aside from that, possibilities include Illustrative, Neo-Traditional, New School, or Fine Art tattoos, just to name a few.

Where to Start with Your Design

When coming up with an idea for a color tattoo design, David suggests that you don’t overthink it, “Don’t think too much. There isn’t much of a difference between black and grey and colour tattoos. Make sure the artist uses enough black so the tattoo will age well over time”. Tattoos that are done strictly in color don’t have the same longevity as black ink tattoos, because color has a tendency to fade with age. Choose a design idea that can successfully be outlined using black ink, at the very least.

Wolf in Watercolor Tattoo Style

Color tattoos aren’t a standalone style, so when you’re coming up with your design idea, research some tattoo styles to see what you like. You could have a color Realism tattoo, for example, if you want something with a ton of detail that looks photographic, but with added color to really make it pop. Even watercolor tattoos aren’t a style on their own – they’re doubly considered Illustrative or New School tattoos for the most part. Look into some of the different styles that are you there, and choose one that resonates with you most, and from there, add color.

Things to Consider with Color Tattoos

Rose in a Watercolor Abstract Tattoo Style

As far as limitations, there aren’t any. Color tattoos are “a lot more complex and the boundaries of creation are limitless”, according to David, so don’t be afraid to get creative with your idea. There is one thing to keep in mind, however. Color tattoos, David emphasizes, should not be done without black ink, “It’s really important to have black in a tattoo. It’ll make the tattoo live longer and [stay] prettier”. Color fades with age, and can require touch ups to stay bold, so keep that in mind when you’re looking into tattoo design ideas – don’t go with just color, add black to some key areas of the design to make sure it’ll last.

Most Popular Color Designs

As David said, the options are limitless for a color tattoo, so there’s no way to pinpoint any one popular design over another. Color can be added to just about any tattoo design, so no matter what your tattoo is, it’s going to be unique. That being said, watercolor, specifically, tends to be seen a lot with designs involving birds, animals, and nature.

The Son of Man Tattoo

Color tattoos are an awesome way to express your creativity with body art, but there are some things to keep in mind with these kinds of tattoos. Black needs to be present in the tattoo, or there’s a good chance it will fade quite a bit with age. It’s important to research other tattoo styles if you’re thinking of getting some new ink, and then add color to that, as color tattoos almost always overlap with another style. From there, find an artist who’s skilled in your chosen tattoo style, and especially in using color, before booking your appointment.

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