Unfortunately, there's a very pervasive myth that darker skin tones cannot accommodate colorful tattoos. This makes color tattoo inspiration for folks with dark skin harder to find â€” and once they do find a design they love, it can be even trickier to find an artist who knows how to do the job effectively.
Yes, it's true that colorful inks will not show up on more melanated skin the same way they do on lighter skin tones â€” but that doesn't mean the colors won't be visible at all, or we should just stick to black and gray ink. If that were the case, tattoo artists like the ones featured in this article simply would not have a job: A lot of their work involves tattooing vibrant ink on clients with brown skin.
Tattooing darker skin with color is truly not impossible. It just requires your artist to be knowledgeable about working with darker skin â€” specifically, how to identify undertones within darker skin tones and adapt their techniques to accommodate the many different skin tones that exist. "It boils down to knowing that you have to have a different approach, you have to experiment more, and you have to have more understanding," Baltimore-based tattoo artist Tiaret Mitchell shares with ishonest. "When you're dealing with dark skin, you've got to evaluate undertones, you have to study color theoryâ€¦ and then apply it." Sadly, some artists simply haven't dedicated the time and effort to learn how to do that.
Your skin's undertones do matter a lot. Once ink is healed, its color can shift into a different hue. For example, "let's say you have a red undertone and you get blue [ink]; your tattoo could end up healing [into] a turquoise-green color," Mitchell says. That's why they highly recommend getting color tests, especially for any large pieces you want.
"Color tests are basically swatches of ink â€” like small little dots, squares, or whatever shape you want â€” where you get the [colors of the] rainbow [tattooed] to see how each heals on your skin," before you commit to the full tattoo, they explain. While some artists might not have color tests listed on their booking pages, it's always a good idea to ask if they can do one as part of the consultation process, Mitchell says. It's a great way to see what shades you like best to create the tattoo of your dreams, and it helps determine if you have any potential allergies to pigment. No matter what design you're getting it's important to make sure it's what you want and that you communicate your desires clearly (and respectfully, of course) with your tattooist. It's their art, but it's your body.
Going With the Flow
There's something distinctive about Mitchell's artwork, which you might have already seen floating around on social media. They are known for their colorful, nature-inspired pieces, such as these navy blue and red vines and leaves that flow from the ankle up to the hip in this healed tattoo (the solid line was done by another artist). Overall, Mitchell would define their work "as an experience," and it's a very pleasing experience to see.
For each tattoo they draw, Mitchell offers the client a personalized aftercare routine. While healing, colorful tattoos can end up looking inflamed, scabby, and just straight-up gross sometimes because they can peel and sometimes crack. "[Colored ink] heals basically the same as black, but it looks different to the naked eye," Mitchell says. Don't be alarmed if your tattoo becomes very itchy at some point; that's also to be expected. Just remember, "don't scratch it."
Getting a foot tattoo might not be the most comfortable experience, but this intricate skull could convince you to take the plunge. We love how the blue, red, and yellow hues complement one another in this cover-up piece created by Atlanta-based tattoo artist Aaron Davis.
Throughout his tattooing career, he's found that there isn't a universal color that will work best for all dark skin tones. Tattoos should be created on a case-by-case basis because results ultimately depend on each client's skin and the brand of ink each artist uses, he says.
Atlanta-based tattooist Charity Hamidullah, known to many as Cake, is responsible for this intricate animal skull. The bright teal and magenta add dimension to this overall beautiful piece. The upper thigh placement is also the perfect spot to showcase the work.
This tiny tattoo is actually a color test drawn by Toronto-based tattoo artist Brittany. You'll notice the range of shades that represents all the colors of the rainbow with these teeny tiny leaves. It's a perfect display of how colors can show differently on dark skin, like the yellow shade, which is much fainter than the rest, or the very vibrant blue that stands out.
The upper thigh is a great location for tattoos because they can easily be shown off or hidden with clothing. It's also the perfect spot for medium-to-large body art like this cute colorful cat drawn by Brooklyn-based artist Jessica Valentine. The adorable purple kitty looks like it's walking down the thigh in a field of pink flowers with its mesmerizing neon-green eyes.
Tree of Life
The emerald-green hue in this tree etched on the skin by New York City-based tattooist Liv Novotny feels otherworldly. Though the vibrant color is gorgeous, we are equally impressed with all the great attention to detail in the tree trunk, roots, and night sky.
For their clients, Novotny's aftercare advice is pretty simple: It's most important to keep the tattoo clean and moisturized. "My go-to saying is 'wash with unscented soap and moisturize with unscented lotion,'" they say.
In the Ditch
Colorful tattoos don't need to involve a lot of different shades. You can keep it simple with just two, as shown on this pink peony that sits in the elbow ditch area. It looks like its petals are practically flowing in the wind, thanks to talented Atlanta-based artist Debbi Snax.
On the Vine
Toronto-based tattooist Jessica Chen is responsible for this beautiful floral piece, which is fully healed in this photo. The vines extend from the back to cover part of the stomach and chest, making for a sizable tattoo. The brick-red and green shades give this otherwise minimalist piece an unexpected twist.
Tattooer Proph Bundy created this elaborate back tattoo on fellow artist Snax. The main colorful points of the piece are the pink-and-yellow lotus flowers and forest-green leaves and buds that are placed on either side of her back. They add the perfect natural element to this overall gorgeous piece.
Just a Hum
With this tattoo, Brittany shows how playing with color and negative space really elevates the look of your body art. The vibrancy of the teal and green shades immediately stands out in this small hummingbird tattoo. Brittany captured the essence of the bird with all the little details, like the curved lines that make up the wings and vibrant feathers on the animal's body.
What's not to love about this back tattoo? Baton Rouge, Lousiana-based tattooer Kirk Boutte created a beautiful side profile of a face complete with black eyeliner that's sharper than a Samurai's blade. The swirls of purple and green in the background, plus the colorful blooms that seem to sway in the background, are the perfect additions.
This healed body art was rapper Rob Stone's very first tattoo that Los Angeles- based tattooist Miryam Lumpini completed. The vibrant yellow-and-orange citrus fruits look so lifelike next to the green leaves and white flowers. The bright hues have held up very well in his healed neck piece.
A hint of color can be the perfect accent to your black-ink tattoo, like the red shown in this rendition of Sailor Mars from Sailor Moon. Queens-based artist Katherine Yu perfectly etched this anime-inspired tattoo on a client at Yant Studio. We're truly amazed at how realistic it looks.
Now, this is a leg piece. Chen is the mastermind behind this viney creation that actually wraps around the client's entire leg and extends up onto the abdomen. The healed red, green, and purple inks elevate these simplistic flowers and leaves.
It Takes Two
Brittany etched these two gorgeous hibiscus flowers onto their client's forearm. We love that the beautiful pinkish-orange color is more of an accent on the florals rather than completely covering the whole thing because it adds dimension. And of course, what flower tattoo is complete without some green leaves?
A Teary Puddle
The simple outline of an upside-down body looks so dainty until you notice the puddle of stunning colors where the head should be. The red, blue, and yellow hues look like they are flowing outward in this minimalist art. Mitchell managed to make these primary colors look anything but basic.
Kiss From a Rose
Red ink is a pretty popular color for a reason â€” it looks so good on any skin tone. These roses by Snax prove it. Unlike some other floral pieces, these leaves are simply shaded with black ink, which really lets the candy-apple red shine.
Love of Florals
Peonies are a great flower to get tattooed on the body, whether it's somewhere more inconspicuous or smack dab on the back of the hand, where everyone can admire it. All of the shades here are gorgeous, but the purple and lavender hues that Davis added really mesmerize us.
Mitchell beautifully tattooed this piece that incorporates their client's scar. The vines and roots reach up from the scar, located on the lower leg, and extend into leaves on the uppermost part of the thigh. You'll see that some of these vines and leaves were done with green ink if you look closely. At the tips of the leaves, there are red circles and semicircles in various sizes.
Wow, where do we even start with this one? This abstract design of a women's face is complete with stunning coils, baby blue eyeshadow, and plump pink lips that take our breath away. The added hues of blue, green, pink, and purple are really what make this tattoo created by Boutte unique.
Shine Bright Like a Diamond
Color tests can really be whatever you want them to be, like these tiny sparkly diamonds that were painted onto the hip by Brittany. This color test doesn't feature all of the shades of the rainbow â€” just green, blue, red, and purple. The simplistic body art fits perfectly right on the hip.
Full of Vines
Give yourself a second to fully admire these vibrant leafy greens tattooed by Mitchell. We love that some of these monstera leaves are fully green while the others are simpler outlined in black ink. It creates a contrast that works well on the arm.
Snax excelled at capturing all the beautiful hues of a mango for this calf tattoo on brown skin. But the fruit isn't the only star of the show. These green leaves and teeny lily flowers and buds are the perfect complementing elements.
Eye on You
If our Bajan queen Rihanna hasn't already proven that sternum tattoos are hot, then this unique red-and-blue tattoo by Mitchell should. There are a couple of colorful details here that you might miss if you don't look closely â€” like the navy blue spirals, the fine red line that runs right through the middle, and the teeny tiny red accents around the eye.
This intricate tattoo covers the entirety of the chest with scarlet and shamrock-green hues that contrast beautifully. The attention to detail that Hamidullah added to this body art does not go unnoticed. We can only imagine how long it took her to add each individual circle, line, and tiny flower.
Show Your Feathers
Honestly, who knows how many different colors of ink Novotny used to capture all the vibrant details in this peacock, but they did it extraordinarily well. We are obsessed with all the greens, reds, pinks, and blues here. The red-and-pink flowers surrounding the bird add the necessary finishing touch.
Welcome to the Jungle
The bright yellow-and-orange sun in this thigh tattoo draws your eyes in so quickly. But take a closer look and you'll see that it's complete with clouds in the sky, a few trees, and several tiny animals, including an elephant, walking underneath the bright sun.
These gorgeous roses flow up from the foot to the leg in this tattoo from Boutte. The way he contrasts both light and dark colors to create shadows where needed makes the foot tattoo look stunning. It's no wonder the client has such a wide smile while staring at these florals.
Snax brought this potion bottle to life with a deep purple hue and shading that gives it realistic dimension. And we can't forget about the scarlet flowers and shamrock-green leaves surrounding it. The colorful, witchy tattoo fits perfectly on the client's forearm.
Bouquet of Flowers
This picture was taken right before Chen did a touch-up on this floral tattoo, so what you see above is fully healed. We especially love the different green hues used, the vibrancy of which is still clearly there. The yellow, orange, and red hues in the florets also jump right at you.
Shea Butter Queen
A rainbow of beautiful colors exists here, and we can't stop staring at it. Fans of Erykah Badu may recognize this body art because it's a recreation of the album cover for New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh). The main difference is that instead of Badu's face, Hamidullah drew a face that resembles her client's.
Light and Darkness
Hand tattoos are definitely not for the weak, but this vivid sun and moon tattoo created by Hamidullah makes it look worth the pain. The baby-blue, canary- yellow, and hot-pink colors help bring the expressive faces of these celestial bodies to life. We especially love the rosy heart details and two-toned lips on each hand.
Strike of Lightning
Anime-inspired tattoos are amazing because the shows have so many bold colors to draw from. Naruto lovers will be obsessed with this Sharingan-inspired tattoo full of blue, yellow, and red hues drawn by Davis. The multicolored lightning bolts that fade from yellow to red to black make this an epic tattoo.
This flower above a client's elbow is so simple yet so beautiful. We love how Chen added white highlights to accompany the pink and green hues. It gives this singular flower some dimension as it sits prettily on the arm.
This is another healed piece from Mitchell that proves how gorgeous light green shades can heal on brown skin. The leaves are the star of the show here, and we love that only a few carry the lime hue.
In Full Bloom
We don't know what's more beautiful: the elaborate mandala in black ink or the extremely vibrant bloom full of rainbow hues. Each side of the petals tattooed by Hamidullah is a different color. The underside is a bright baby blue with a yellowish hue at the tips, while the inside of the leaf has red and oranges hues instead.
Let It Grow
This delicate flower is tiny, but the red and green colors that Chen added make a huge impact. Its two-toned leaves extend and wrap around the arm, making it look like this bloom is growing across the arm.
You can't see all the incredible detail Hamidullah added to this forearm, so let's break it down. On one side of this healed tattoo is a butterfly whose antennas you can see in the photo above, and there's another fluttering insect further up on the arm. The opposite side features a man's face. The swirling red and green shades inks are the main colors in this arm piece.
There are actually two tattoos in this photo instead of just one. The reddish- orange flower in the upper right corner is actually healed (three years old to be exact) â€” Hamidullah added the side profile and three vivid sunflowers with fresh ink. This atypical profile includes florals and leaves where eyes and other facial features would be, and we love every inch of it.
This jar may not have a genie inside of it, but we're impressed by the color palette Davis used regardless. The bright blue waves look absolutely stunning flowing out of the pink and yellow vase. The crescent moon and star give the jar personality, while the pink hues surrounding the blue waves add a beautiful shadow effect.
Davis adds a unique twist to the traditional butterfly tattoo, and it's not just due to his master employment of color theory. This butterfly has a skull right on its abdomen that will make you glance twice. Honestly, it could be a creature straight from a horror movie.
Seat at the Table
This minimalist tattoo's vibrancy lies in the purple and blue flowers and green leaves that sprout from the head of the body drawn. Mitchell's masterful use of purple, green, and blue colors makes these blossoms shine next to the simplistic line design.
Turn your floral tattoo around with a more abstract design like the one Boutte completed on this client. We honestly can't imagine what this bloom would look like without the vibrant swatches of green, blue, and purple hues. It's truly a work of art.
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