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21.12.2021 Author: admin

SHADES of INK on SHADES of SKIN

Dark Skinned Woman with beautiful tattoos.

From the entire first page of the Google images search "Tattoo Ideas," there is a surprising and slightly discouraging pattern.  From the over 400 (yes I said 400) initial images on Google under that search term, there is 1 picture of a person of color who has a tattoo. That image? A picture of The Rock. No hate to The Rock, however, this vast disparity in representation reveals a huge issue in the tattoo industry. This is the representation of persons of color within the tattoo industry. This is due to a few primary reasons.

For one, over the past many decades, myths about tattooing dark skin circulated around the industry and spread to potential customers. This caused many (artists and customers) to believe that folks with more melanin are limited when it comes to tattoo options. Among the many misbeliefs, there is the belief that dark-skinned folks can't get detailed tattoos or ones with color because the pigment and fine line detailing "won't show up." There is even lore that people with darker skin shouldn't get tattoos at all because their skin will scar and form a keloid (Allure). However, this couldn't be further from the truth. 

From the entire first page of the Google images search "Tattoo Ideas," there is a surprising and slightly discouraging pattern.  From the over 400 (yes I said 400) initial images on Google under that search term, there is 1 picture of a person of color who has a tattoo.

City of Ink Tattoo Artist Kandace Layne spoke on the matter in a recent interview with Byrdie. She spoke on one of the most prolific myths in the industry regarding dark skin and their ability to get colored tattoos. It's just how you use those colors and how those colors play out with each other,” says Layne. “There's some colors you probably would want to be more strategic with, but the idea that people of color can't get colored tattoos is just a lie.”

Tattooing on different skin tone shades is similar to painting on different colored canvas. For each general group of shade, there are different rules, however, this doesn't mean one group of tones needs to or should be excluded from being able to enjoy the art they love in the way they want to see it. Tattooing on different skin tones is similar to watercolor on a sheet of paper. On darker paper, you’ll see less color than you would on white paper. And with tattoos, it's ultimately not so different. 

​A SHORT GUIDE:

On medium-dark skin tones, you’re going to want to go darker — blue, black, red, and purple according to artist Hannah Skalsky. In addition, the medium brown skin tone also goes better with green than for other skin tones. On the other hand, orange and yellow, which are lighter colors, would be hard to see and should be avoided except as accents or details. However, they can still be seen well when surrounded by other colors.

For darker skin however, the options are counterintuitive to what you may logically think.  You might expect that we’d be looking for contrast — light colors on a dark canvas. But, in actuality, the background will show through the light-colored ink. For darker skin tones, darker colors, like royal blue, crimson red, and black, work best. Lighter shades such as light blue and white, don't show up as well. Darker tattoo pigments bring out the color in the skin.

We've talked a lot about how different skin tones work with different color palettes, however, I don't want to leave out some other myths to be knocked down about getting a tattoo as a person of color. And out of these, the primary myth would be that darker skinned individuals can't get fine line tattoos. According to Atlanta tattoo artist, Tann Parker, fine line tattoos are all in the artist's technique, and with darker-skinned individuals, the idea stands just the same. Unfortunately, according to parker, a few artists are very aggressive during the lining process. At times, on an initial first run over, an artist may not see the line right away and subsequently go over that line 2,3, 4 times which can destroy the integrity of the design itself. To do fine line tattoos, on POC's it is incredibly important for the artist you are going to take their time and be patient with the piece and give the skin itself time to react. This may sound scary, however, we assure you many artists are able to do this but those extreme examples deserve to be pointed out. 

Dark Skin tattoo done by an incredible artist. These are incredibly rare to find.

The fight for inclusion within the tattoo industry goes far beyond opening up different styles, colors, and designs to people of color. It starts with what the tattoo industry puts out on its own to represent the industry. Tattoo artists, shops, and tattoo pages alike all have a responsibility to showcase the beauty of tattoo art on darker skin tones. Currently, there is an unfortunate trend in the industry where many artist Instagrams are filled with their work on only light-skinned individuals with no diversity in skin tone. This is due to the stigma that tattoos on people of color do not photograph well and appear well online. With the right lighting in the image, anything is possible. Not only for the benefit of the artist (more potential customers) but also for the ease of POC who are interested in tattoos it is time to shift the tide to begin posting more work on POC. 

We strongly believe, as do most tattoo artists, that tattoos are an art form for all. No one should need to feel excluded from appreciating it and joining the community due to stigma, myths, and underrepresentation. We would like to step up to our own challenge and offer our extended services. If you are looking for a tattoo, specifically if you are looking for a tattoo and you believe some artists may struggle with your skin tone, allow us to help. Visit our Get Inspired page and search for "Dark Skin" to find some beautiful designs by artists who work in dark skin. Or, send us a DM at our Instagram for one on one consultation to find a design and artist who works best for you!

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