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Creating a beautiful tattoo doesn’t always involve a lot of colour. Sometimes, not even black.

Here is a style of tattoos that you can easily say is the most unisex of them all – white ink tattoos. There are many reasons to decide to get one, but there are also a few drawbacks that you should be aware of before committing.

Pros and Cons of White Ink Tattoos

The first and main pro of white ink is that it gives the skin a lovely lace-like pattern. But it’s a fairly one-dimensional medium. There is no shading happening with only white, so forget about solid patches of ink. The least that will happen if you insist on packed in white is that any inconsistency in the technical application will light up as soon as the tattoo heals. The worst is you getting different hues of yellowish grey or even green once it’s healed and the ink starts to break down.

What could be done for shading is accentuating the white design with black/grey. But only enough to make the white pop, not so much that it becomes the highlights itself. Since white ink is less saturated in pigments than any coloured ink, the raise that all tattoos create on the skin is more visible in just white. That gives it a light 3D shadow, which is a pretty neat effect.

white ink tattoo cross
@Deloachhh

But that also brings me to the first con. That same raise you get from any tattoo is usually not noticeable under coloured ink. But with white ink, and depending on how your white tattoo heals, that relief might come off as scarring. Which is the reason for a lot of people to dislike this type of ink work.

And it’s also the reason these make great unisex pieces – they’re in-between tattoos and scarring, and the latter is a popular body modification in its own right. But whether your white ink will look like lace or a scar depends on several other factors.

Choosing the Right Man (or Woman) for the Job

As always, when you go for any tattoo it’s paramount to find the right artist for the job. You want a clean studio with quality materials and, of course, a good artist who will not butcher the job. But when it comes to tattoos made with white ink you don’t just want a good artist. You want an artist that is good at doing white tattoos!

Scar-like sakura white ink tattoo
Scar-like effect. Cuded

It might sound like the same thing but it’s really not. Think of it as going in to a black and grey artist to get a new school tattoo. Even if they get the design right, an artist who is not well versed in colour will not be able to pack in the colours the way a colour artist would. Not to mention their colour theory would have to be on point too.

Colour theory does not play here, but technical application is king. Any bump, any overworked line will light right up in a white tattoo. And the other equally important feature of the artist is the ink he or she is using. Low quality white ink does not stand the test of time. And what you don’t want is greyish – or even worse, greenish – snowflake or lace pattern on your skin.

White quill ribs tattoo
@HanuJardin

There is much more to say about white ink tattoo work, so take a look at a few ideas and check back at Inked Cartel soon for more on these elusive pieces.

White Snowflake tattoo
@Vivian Watson
Foot lace tattoo
@DeenaJohnsonPurvis
White Sleeve tattoo
@Mark Hoppen
Shoulder lace tattoo
@JessieDoughty

Feather on Inner arm tattoo

Flower on calf tattoo

Mandala on shoulderblade tattoo

Paisley on shoulder tattoo

World map on wrist tattoo
Photos: Pout+About

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