When you scroll through Instagram feeds, sometimes it seems like tattoos are only for white people.
It’s frustrating to see how few artists have experience inking nonwhite skin.
One thing that might help is to learn about the best tattoo inks for darker skin.
Today, we’ll review the ones that show up well when filtered through melanin, or skin pigment.
- What colors are best for tattoos on dark skin?
- The “lost” art of tattooing dark skin
- Top Tattoo Inks for Darker Skin
- StarBrite Colors Tattoo Ink – 3 Basic Color Set
- StarBrite Colors Tattoo Ink Purple Rain
- StarBrite Colors Tattoo Ink Fire Orange
- Intenze Advanced Tattoo Ink Bright Red
- Intenze Tattoo Ink Japanese Dragon Color Series by Mario Barth (6 Bottles)
- Viking Ink Boreal Blue
- StarBrite Colors Sterilized Tattoo Ink Royal Blue
- Dynamic Turquoise Tattoo Ink
- RED LIGHT Millennium Moms Tattoo Ink
- StarBrite Colors Tattoo Ink Crimson Red
- Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink – Magnolia Pink
- Dynamic Tattoo Ink Color Leaf Green
- Kuro Sumi Color Tattoo Ink Bamboo Green
- Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink – Tsunami Blue
- Jose Perez, Jr. Dark Water Shading 6 Bottle Set – World Famous Tattoo Ink
- POWER WHITE Millennium Moms
- Dynamic Heavy White Tattoo Ink
- StarBrite Colors Sterilized Tattoo Ink Battleship Gray
- Viking Tattoo Ink Platinum Liquid Metal
- Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink, Double Sumi Tribal Black
- Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink, Outlining
- Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink Lining and Shading Set
- Radiant Colors Victor Portugal Profesional Shading Series 5-Color Set
- Dynamic Black Ink Bottle
- Dynamic Color Triple Black Tattoo Ink
- Millennium Moms Black Pearl Outlining Tattoo Ink
- Millennium Mom’s BLACKOUT Tattoo Ink
- MOM’S Tattoo Ink – Black Onyx
- Tattoo Ink Black Liner Viking Ink USA
- Black Tribal Viking Ink USA
- Bloodline Tattoo Ink – All-Purpose Black
- StarBrite Colors Tattoo Ink Tribal Black
- StarBrite Colors Tattoo Ink Jet Black Outliner
- Intenze Tattoo Ink Supplies Black Samoan Tribal Ink
- Intenze Tattoo Ink True Black
- Intenze Professional Tattoo Ink Zuper Black
- Can you get gold ink tattoos on dark skin?
- Where can you learn more about tattooing darker skin?
What colors are best for tattoos on dark skin?
The best colors for dark skin depend on the natural skin undertone and the amount of melanin.
That’s because the tattoo ink will sit in the dermis below the layer of melanin.
See this 4-second video to see how melanin alters the color of the ink.
Think of skin pigmentation as a filter through which you view the colors.
Tattoos on very dark pigmented skin look best with the darkest colors like black, gray, royal blue, and crimson red.
Medium skin tones generally do well with green, orange, and bright blue. (1)
The “lost” art of tattooing dark skin
Ancient Egyptians had some of the earliest tattoos on record. (2)
Samoans and other Polynesians, the Japanese, and Native Americans have all practiced tattooing for centuries.
Of course, early tattoos were primarily done with black ink.
The darker the skin, the blacker the ink, the better the tattoo looks.
Moreover, artists who tattoo olive, brown, and black skin understand another important concept.
It’s essential to make tattoos bolder and larger on dark skin. (3)
Also, it’s crucial to do good needlework to avoid creating keloids or raised scars.
Top Tattoo Inks for Darker Skin
Now, let’s review the top inks for tattooing darker skin.
StarBrite Colors Tattoo Ink – 3 Basic Color Set
Starbrite’s tattoo inks are vibrant, consistent, and smooth-flowing.
They are made in the USA and come pre-sterilized. Starbrite irradiates them with gamma rays to kill harmful microbes.
Are you familiar with the Fitzpatrick skin type scale? It has six categories, from skin that burns easily and won’t tan to skin that never burns and tans quickly.
The basic set of red, green, and blue is bright enough for medium and olive tones (numbers III and IV).
StarBrite Colors Tattoo Ink Purple Rain
This rich shade of purple is also suitable for medium skin tones, although it may not be the ideal color for everyone.
StarBrite Colors Tattoo Ink Fire Orange
Add zest to art on tanned skin with this brilliant orange ink.
Intenze Advanced Tattoo Ink Bright Red
Red ink on brown skin looks impressive, depending on the image. This particular shade reminds us of rose petals.
Intenze has been making inks in the USA for more than ten years. The Bright Red color is vegan-friendly.
It’s mixed and sterilized in a clean room, then double-checked by a third-party lab.
Intenze Tattoo Ink Japanese Dragon Color Series by Mario Barth (6 Bottles)
One artist showed how he livened up an old tattoo with this set of inks. The color intensity was outstanding.
The Japanese ink kit comes with the Dragon colors: turquoise, light green, dark green, yellow, red, and blue.
Viking Ink Boreal Blue
Viking makes vegan-friendly inks in the USA.
The vibrant Boreal Blue color will show up well on Fitzpatrick categories 1 through 4.
StarBrite Colors Sterilized Tattoo Ink Royal Blue
Royal Blue will hold its own on medium and dark brown skin.
Dynamic Turquoise Tattoo Ink
Turquoise may be a lighter color, but it’s radiant on olive skin.
RED LIGHT Millennium Moms Tattoo Ink
Here’s another intense red ink that might turn out well on category 5, brown skin.
It’s made by Millennium Moms in the USA.
Mom’s ink is recommended by well-known artists like The Gentleman Gypsy. It’s highly pigmented.
StarBrite Colors Tattoo Ink Crimson Red
Try this crimson red on darker skin.
Case in point: look at Whoopi Goldberg’s shoulder tat.
Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink – Magnolia Pink
Magnolia Pink will look radiant on olive and medium skin tones.
For an example of how pink pops on dark skin, scroll through Miryam Lumpini’s Instagram.
Dynamic Tattoo Ink Color Leaf Green
Dynamic ink has a thinner than typical consistency, and it goes in smooth. The colors are bright and lush.
You might like this green color on medium skin tones.
Kuro Sumi Color Tattoo Ink Bamboo Green
Kuro Sumi manufactures ink in the USA with vegan-friendly, organic ingredients.
It has a reputation for concentrated color and very smooth consistency. Artists around the world speak highly of this brand.
Bamboo Green will show up well on tanned and medium-tone skin.
Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink – Tsunami Blue
If you need a bold blue ink, check out this color from Kuro Sumi.
It’s powerful enough to stand out on brown skin.
Jose Perez, Jr. Dark Water Shading 6 Bottle Set – World Famous Tattoo Ink
This set was created by one of the best black and gray realism tattoo artists.
The deep black outliner and premixed gray washes are perfect for portrait work on medium, olive, and brown skin. The
World Famous ink is vegan-friendly and sterilized with gamma radiation.
POWER WHITE Millennium Moms
This white ink saturates well and retains its brightness when used for highlights.
Dynamic Heavy White Tattoo Ink
If you need a thick white ink, this is one of the best choices. Use it for highlighting, mixing gray washes, or the occasional white tattoo.
Unfortunately, white is prone to fading faster than other tattoo colors.
StarBrite Colors Sterilized Tattoo Ink Battleship Gray
Here’s a powerful gray that no one will mistake for graywash.
Check out Rihanna’s gray tattoo.
Viking Tattoo Ink Platinum Liquid Metal
Viking’s Platinum shade is “metallic” but not a glitter ink. It’s more like a special greywash.
Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink, Double Sumi Tribal Black
From here on out, we’ll review black inks for lining and shading.
They will look good on any color skin.
The Double Sumi Tribal Black is a bright saturation ink that’s ideal for tribal tats. We’ll bet it’ll become one of your favorite fillers.
Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink, Outlining
This black liner ink has a deep color that retains its richness even after the tattoo has healed.
Just a note on Kuro Sumi inks: make sure you purchase those with a mahogany label. Black and white labels are fakes.
Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink Lining and Shading Set
If you do Asian traditional art, check out this set with black liner, and gray and light graywashes.
Even the lighter shades fade very little over time.
Radiant Colors Victor Portugal Profesional Shading Series 5-Color Set
This set is just what you need to do black and grey work and portraits.
Dynamic Black Ink Bottle
Choose Dynamic black ink for outlining and tribal work on brown and black skin. You can also use it to make your own graywash.
Also, it’s a good choice for stick and poke.
Dynamic Color Triple Black Tattoo Ink
The Triple Black ink from Dynamic is a newer shade. It’s packed with even more pigment than the original black.
Dynamic has been manufacturing tattoo ink for almost 30 years in the USA.
Artists who work with Triple Black recommend it for cover-ups.
Millennium Moms Black Pearl Outlining Tattoo Ink
Moms Black Pearl ink isn’t the deepest black you can buy. It’s closer to a wash when you compare it to the Triple Black above.
It’s good for olive, medium, and brown skin.
Millennium Mom’s BLACKOUT Tattoo Ink
The Blackout Ink is slightly less dark than the Black Onyx ink below. It’s still a very good all-purpose ink for shading and lining.
Use it for tribal tattoos and lettering, too.
MOM’S Tattoo Ink – Black Onyx
Black Onyx is a rich black shade. The consistency is thin, which makes it pleasant for a fast hand.
Tattoo Ink Black Liner Viking Ink USA
Viking promises that their Black Liner ink won’t fade to green or blue over the years. It provides exceptional saturation as a shader, too.
If you have a client that hasn’t taken ink well in the past, this could be the solution.
The company manufactures vegan inks in the USA.
Black Tribal Viking Ink USA
If you plan to do Maori or other tribal work, check out the Black Tribal ink from Viking.
It penetrates well, yet it’s thick enough to fill and saturate with ease.
Bloodline Tattoo Ink – All-Purpose Black
Bloodline was formally known as Skin Candy. They make inks in the USA.
Their All-Purpose Black is very thick. If you do tribal tattoos with it, use magnum needle grouping.
Otherwise, thin it. Combine three parts ink with one part witch hazel or distilled water.
One artist mentioned that this shade could show up as brown on very dark skin.
StarBrite Colors Tattoo Ink Tribal Black
Starbrite’s Tribal Black shouldn’t fade after the tattoo is healed. This brand’s colors tend to stay vibrant for years.
It flows smoothly and saturates well.
StarBrite Colors Tattoo Ink Jet Black Outliner
Use Starbrite’s Jet Black for lettering and lining. It flows smoothly so you can work quickly.
Intenze Tattoo Ink Supplies Black Samoan Tribal Ink
The Suluape Tatau family of Samoa are traditional tattoo artists. They collaborated with Intenze to develop this concentrated black ink.
It’s just right for tribal tattoos. Surprisingly, it’s not as thick as some tribal inks. And it’s dark enough that you shouldn’t need to go over it.
Intenze Tattoo Ink True Black
Right between rich black tribal ink and regular black is the True Black color. Oddly enough, it may look a little less “true black” on brown and black skin.
On the bright side, collectors have said that it retains its crisp appearance.
Intenze Professional Tattoo Ink Zuper Black
Which is the blackest of all black tattoo inks?
Many artists would tell you it’s Zuper Black from Intenze. It has a cool undertone.
It was created by the tattoo artist Mario Barth. It’s also recommended by London Reese and Steve Butcher.
If you’re going to tattoo black skin, this is a prominent color that will hold its own.
It’s thin enough for lining and thick enough to saturate and fill large areas.
Can you get gold ink tattoos on dark skin?
Unfortunately, no true gold or silver tattoo ink exists yet.
There are no glitter inks with gold as the pigment.
The only way you can get a gold ink tattoo on dark skin is to use body paint.
Where can you learn more about tattooing darker skin?
To learn more about tattooing darker skin, follow the artists who showcase their work on people of color.
Miryam Lumpini is one, and Nikko Hurtado is another. Don’t forget about Brittany Randell, James Spooner, Bang Bang, and Mario Barth, either.
Also, check out celebrities like Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), Whoopi Goldberg, Lenny Kravitz, and P Diddy who’ve been inked.
Nikko’s work on P Diddy is impressive as it’s a portrait with black, white, and greywash and a beautiful amount of depth. Sure, that white ink may fade, but I’m sure he has the money to get touch-ups.
Compare older tattoos with more recent ones.
Find a mentor with experience inking brown and black skin. They can provide invaluable guidance regarding colors, contrast, transitions, size, and texture.
Transitions on dark skin don’t have to be as bold aggressive as you might think.
Speak to people with darker skin about their tattoos. Learn about the challenges they face and discover their ideas for future tattoos.
We hope you found the ink you need to tattoo olive, medium, brown, and black skin.
Now go forth and liven up the world with beautiful art.
Expand your skill set and take your craft to the next level by specializing in tattoos for dark skin.
If you have a moment, drop us a comment below about your experience with these inks.
1. https://customtattoodesign.ca/blog/colors-work-best-tattoos/ accessed October 30, 2019
2. https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2018/02/01/darker-canvas-tattoos-black-body/ by Bryan Washington, published February 1, 2018, accessed October 30, 2019
3. https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/12/01/503014301/for-tattoo-artists-race-is-in-the-mix-when-ink-meets-skin?t=1572425008142 by Parth Shah, published December 1, 2016, accessed October 30, 2019
Video of melanin filter: https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_320/pwfkydzfrfjan4wjka8k.mp4