Since ancient times, black ink has been an essential tool for tattooing.
It’s been made with various ingredients like soot, bone black, and rusted metal.
Some inks included pigment from printer toner and automotive paint (1).
Needless to say, it wasn’t always the healthiest thing to inject into the skin.
But the top black inks for tattoos today are safer than ever before.
They are made from rich pigments suspended in a non-toxic carrier liquid.
Plus, they are sterilized to prevent infections.
Instead of turning green over time, modern black ink retains its deep, dark color.
And it’s possible to find the exact shade of black you need for portraits, tribal sleeves, and more.
Today, we’re going to review the best black inks for tattoos from the best brands of tattoo ink.
- Why Does Black Ink in Old Tattoos Turn Green?
- What’s in Modern Black Tattoo Ink?
- Three Reasons Why You Should Only Buy Black Ink from Reputable Manufacturers
- Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink, Double Sumi Tribal Black
- Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink, Eggplant and Purple Black
- Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink, Outlining
- Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink Lining and Shading Set
- Dynamic Color Triple Black Tattoo Ink
- Dynamic Black Ink Bottle
- Millennium Moms Black Pearl Outlining Tattoo Ink
- BLACK ONYX Millennium Moms
- Millennium Mom’s BLACKOUT Tattoo Ink Color Shader Artist Liner All Purpose
- Intenze Tattoo Ink True Black
- Intenze Professional Tattoo Ink Zuper Black
- Intenze Professional Tattoo Ink Suluape Black
- Intenze Professional Tattoo Ink Black Sumi
- Dimension Black By Bob Tyrrell – Intenze Tattoo Ink
- Radiant Colors – Tribal Black
- StarBrite Colors Sterilized Tattoo Ink Jet Black Outliner
- StarBrite Colors Sterilized Tattoo Ink Tribal Black
- Skin Candy tattoo ink, all-purpose black
- Bloodline/Skin Candy Tattoo Ink, Tribal Black
- Alla Prima Black Tattoo Ink ZAO
- Panthera Tattoo Ink – XXX TRIBAL BLACK
- Panthera Black Liner Tattoo Ink
- Panthera Artist Series — Ralf Nonnweiler Smooth Blending Black Tattoo Ink
- Viking Tattoo Ink Black Liner & Black Tribal
- Viking Tattoo Ink, Black Fill
- Practice Inks
- Ideas for Your next Black Ink Tattoo
- Go Old School and Make Ink Yourself
Why Does Black Ink in Old Tattoos Turn Green?
In decades past, tattoos were often done with India ink that was composed of dark green and blue pigment. Over the years, the pigment breaks down into its composites. That’s why old black ink tends to turn greenish-blue.
What’s in Modern Black Tattoo Ink?
Modern tattoo ink consists of pigments like carbon black, iron oxide, powdered magnetite, and jet. The pigment is suspended in a carrier like glycerin, pure water, or witch hazel (2).
If you request an MSDS sheet from the ink manufacturer, you’ll get an idea of what’s in the ink you’re using.
Three Reasons Why You Should Only Buy Black Ink from Reputable Manufacturers
Obviously, if you buy cheap black ink, you won’t get the performance of a higher-quality ink.
The color won’t be as crisp.
But worse, cheap inks use sketchy ingredients like heavy metals. Those toxins travel throughout the body and lodge in lymph nodes where they’ve been mistaken for cancer (3).
Also, bargain inks may not be sterilized. They may use carrier liquids like alcohol that slow down healing or cause infections.
Trust us; the price difference isn’t worth the consequences.
You and your clients will be much happier using top quality black tattoo ink.
Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink, Double Sumi Tribal Black
Kuro Sumi is a Japanese brand that’s now manufactured in the United States. They are one of the most popular and trusted inks on the market.
Artists like Tattoo Lou, with 50 years of experience, recommend them as a superior choice.
There are two crucial points in Kuro Sumi’s favor.
First, their inks are vegan, and they contain organic pigments.
Second, each color is bright and long-lasting.
As for the Double Sumi Tribal Black, artists say that it’s the ideal solid black shade for filler. It’s very smooth, it saturates perfectly, and doesn’t fade.
Keep in mind that Kuro Sumi, like all popular tattoo ink brands, has a problem with counterfeits. If you receive a bottle with a black and white label, it’s not the real deal. Their labels are maroon and white.
Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink, Eggplant and Purple Black
Try the Eggplant and Purple Black shade to add a zing to portraits.
Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink, Outlining
If you do stick and poke tattoos, the black outlining ink from Kuro Sumi is highly recommended.
Otherwise, it lays down a deep black color for lining and filling.
Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink Lining and Shading Set
Save a little money by getting a set of Kuro Sumi inks. This one includes black and two shades of gray wash for lining and shading. It makes transitions straightforward as you won’t have to blend your own washes.
Ingredients include pigments in a base of glycerin and witch hazel.
Dynamic Color Triple Black Tattoo Ink
The Dynamic Color Co. has been in business in the USA for almost three decades. Their Triple Black ink has a very high pigment load which leads to a deep, intense color.
Some artists find that this is their favorite shade for lining. It’s also frequently suggested for cover-ups and reworking.
Ingredients include carbon black, isopropyl alcohol, acrylic polymer, and water.
Dynamic Black Ink Bottle
Dynamic’s regular black ink is ideal for tribal tattoos and outlining. It comes in a convenient eight-ounce bottle.
Millennium Moms Black Pearl Outlining Tattoo Ink
Mom’s Ink contains homogenized, uncut pigments in a base of water and glycerin. The result is ink that flows fast and smooth.
It’s another US company that’s been around for almost three decades. They offer more than 60 colors, including black-light ink.
The Black Pearl shade is perfect for lining and shading. Artists have commented that it doesn’t dry out in the ink cups and they never have to go back over lines.
Why do we advise buying ink from American companies? It’s because the FDA has rules regarding ink safety.
BLACK ONYX Millennium Moms
The Black Onyx color from Mom’s Inks is used by the famed artists like Brian Murphy and Marcus Kuhn.
Millennium Mom’s BLACKOUT Tattoo Ink Color Shader Artist Liner All Purpose
If you can only afford one black ink, get the Blackout. It’s a deep, dark black for lining, lettering, shading, and tribal tattoos.
If you’re hunting for a black shade based on the pigment color, this one uses 77226.
Intenze Tattoo Ink True Black
Intenze just hit the two-decade mark. They involve artists in the creation of their vegan-friendly inks. Some of the big names that promote Intenze inks include Mark Mahoney and Bob Tyrell.
The company employs biochemists to keep their inks sterile. Then they test them by way of a third-party laboratory. But that’s not all.
Intenze stores their inks in controlled conditions to keep them fresh and sterile.
When you buy Intenze inks, you can be sure that they are free of mutagenic toxins, yeasts, spores, and bacteria. They abide by FDA and EU quality standards.
That all sounds great, but what about the color? Happily, True Black is a favorite lining ink of artists around the world.
Intenze Professional Tattoo Ink Zuper Black
Zuper Black is the deepest black that Intenze makes. You can purchase it in either small 1-ounce or large 12-ounce bottles.
Intenze Professional Tattoo Ink Suluape Black
Suluape Black was designed in collaboration with the Suluape Tatau family of Samoa. It’s a rich shade that’s perfect for tribal tattoos.
The artist Petelo Suluape says he’s proud of its blend of traditional and modern formulas that gives his work a “unique radiance.”
Intenze Professional Tattoo Ink Black Sumi
Intenze also created a traditional Japanese style ink with Black Sumi.
If you do precision work with fine lines, get this one.
Dimension Black By Bob Tyrrell – Intenze Tattoo Ink
Artist Bob Tyrell is famed for portrait work. He created the Dimension Black ink for Intenze.
Radiant Colors – Tribal Black
Radiant Colors is a US company that makes pre-dispersed inks. The pigments are uncut and homogenized. Then the inks are irradiated for sterilization.
It’s possible to find their vibrant inks in ½ ounce bottles which allows you to try them without investing a lot of money.
Artists who prefer Radiant Colors say that they have a thin consistency and flow quickly.
StarBrite Colors Sterilized Tattoo Ink Jet Black Outliner
StarBrite manufactures tattoo inks in the USA. They have bright colors that flow easily. There are economical prices make them a favorite choice of new artists.
Moreover, each ink is sterilized by irradiation to kill harmful microorganisms.
StarBrite Colors Sterilized Tattoo Ink Tribal Black
If you do heavy black lines and tribal work, give StarBrite’s Tribal Black a try.
Skin Candy tattoo ink, all-purpose black
Skin Candy and Bloodline are the same company based in California. They’ve been around since 1996.
Their manufacturing facility is state-of-the-art with a special pigment dispenser that ensures consistency between batches.
The carrier for the pigments is something “zero water.” It’s purified with UV filtration and reverse osmosis.
The company suggests shaking the bottles before dispensing the ink, then stirring with a handheld mixer.
The all-purpose black is thick and dark. Combine it with Magnum needle groupings for tribal work, but cut it with distilled water for outlining and shading.
Bloodline/Skin Candy Tattoo Ink, Tribal Black
Tribal Black has a shelf life longer than two years. Just be sure to mix it well before using.
Alla Prima Black Tattoo Ink ZAO
Alla Prima’s black ink is designed for shading, outlining, and tribal art. It’s made in the USA from organic pigments and packaged in a plastic bottle free of PET.
The company does not use acrylics or solvents in their ink.
Panthera Tattoo Ink – XXX TRIBAL BLACK
Panthera is made by an Italian company called Futura. It’s popular throughout Europe and has a growing presence in the USA.
Interestingly, Panthera only makes a range of black colors and one shade of white. Each one withstands fading in sunlight.
The XXX Tribal Black ink is the deepest color they offer. It comes in a five-ounce bottle.
Panthera Black Liner Tattoo Ink
Panthera’s liner ink has a dark velvet sheen. It’s also resistant to UV light to keep it from fading in the future.
Panthera Artist Series — Ralf Nonnweiler Smooth Blending Black Tattoo Ink
Artist Ralf Nonnweiler collaborated with Panthera to formulate this smooth black shade. It’s superb for subtle details.
Viking Tattoo Ink Black Liner & Black Tribal
Viking Tattoo Ink manufactures in the USA. It’s one of the few brands licensed for use in Spain. These inks are popular throughout the rest of Europe and the USA, too.
The vegan formulas are sterilized for safety. They saturate well.
Although there are more than 150 colors available, we selected just two shades for this review. The Black Tribal doubles as a liner.
Viking Tattoo Ink, Black Fill
The Black Fill ink also performs well for lining and shading.
Expand your skillset with inexpensive inks and practice skin.
Kokkai Sumi Tattoo Black Lining Tribal Shading Ink
If you’re familiar with DragonHawk, you might recognize the Kokkai Sumi ink.
This is a black shade with a thin consistency that you can use for shading, lining, and tribal work.
Scream Tattoo Ink PITCH BLACK
Aspiring artists have commented that Scream Tattoo’s Pitch Black ink dries quickly and tends to fade, but it’s just fine for practice work.
Solong Tattoo True Black Tattoo Ink
Solong’s ink comes in a four-ounce bottle. The pigment is water-soluble, and the ink is sterilized by gamma rays.
Ideas for Your next Black Ink Tattoo
If you’re not sure where to start, where to go next with your art, check out this free resource for ideas.
Tattoo Johnny provides thousands of ideas organized into categories like Polynesian, lettering, gangster, funny, and Gothic.
You can also browse through flash books. We recently reviewed more than 30 of the most popular tattoo books.
Go Old School and Make Ink Yourself
Would you like to experiment with making your own ink? There’s a recipe online that’s easy to follow (4).
You’ll need medical-grade glycerin, propylene glycol, vodka or witch hazel, a blender, and pigment.
It’s possible to order dry pigment from a tattoo supply house. Or you could make your own by burning wood.
Don’t forget gloves and a dust mask to protect your skin and lungs from the pigment.
But if it seems like too much work, we hope you found what you need among the best black inks for tattooing.
You have a lot of choices when it comes to black tattoo ink.
Some are formulated especially for lining, others for shading, and still others for precision work.
Modern inks are ready to go right out of the bottle as they are pre-dispersed and sterile.
Furthermore, they are available in a wide variety of shades for every imaginable type of art.
Let us know what your favorite black ink is and why you love it in the comments below.
1. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/think-you-ink-are-tattoos-safe accessed September 12, 2019
2. https://www.thoughtco.com/tattoo-ink-chemistry-606170 by Anne Marie Helmenstine, published July 3, 2019, accessed September 12, 2019
3. https://www.livescience.com/60503-tattoo-ink-body.html by Amanda Onion, published September 25, 2017, accessed September 12, 2019
4. https://www.thoughtco.com/mix-your-own-tattoo-ink-602245 by Anne Marie Helmenstine, published March 14, 2017, accessed September 12, 2019