White ink tattoos are the most tricky ones out there. It's quite difficult to know how they're going to heal and age, and they can get easily distorted in a short period of time.
When I was waiting at the tattoo parlor to get my first tattoo, a girl came out with what I thought was the most beautiful tattoo I had ever seen. It was a mandala design outlined with white ink and intricate patterns done with a very bright turquoise, orange, and magenta colors. I fell in love with it immediately, so when they called my name I asked the artist if we could make something similar with my design and incorporate the white ink. He knew it was my first tattoo and he tried to persuade me not to do it, especially for the design we had in mind. He just told me that, although it looked great at first, it wouldn’t resist aging as any other ink out there and it wasn’t as permanent as regular tattoos. I changed my mind on that occasion but once in a while, I get that craving for a white tattoo. So, this article won’t be me convincing you not to get a white tattoo, but telling you some facts you should take into account before rushing to the studio. In fact, these tattoos can look great when they’re done properly, but also bear in mind that they require a lot of aftercare. And even when taking precautions, they change a lot with the passing of time. So, let’s go to the facts you should take into account if you’re dying to get one of these:
The color changes drastically
It may sound contradictory, but white inks are very thick and at the same time quite light. Let me explain; they’re thick in their consistency but lightly pigmented. Then, it doesn’t matter how much ink they put on the tattoo, it will never look as bright and condensed as it happens with other inks because it has a transparent consistency. In that way, with just a matter time (even a few days) it starts changing colors and adapting to your skin until it looks almost imperceptible.
It’ll never look completely white
You must also know that, actually, these tattoos will never look completely white, not even the day you get them. In order to give them to have more pigmentation, so that it stays a bit longer, most tattoo artists add a bit of other color, like pink, yellow, blue, or even gray. This mixture helps improve the color but also makes it adopt a very light shade of the used color. Other artists even outline the design first with another color so when they apply the white ink, the colors mix on your skin.
It doesn’t look good on every skin color
There are mixed opinions on this issue. In some places, you’ll find people claiming that these tattoos look better on pale skins, while others prefer how it looks on darker tones. It all depends on your preference, but it’s true that it doesn’t look the same on every tone. On lighter skins, the tattoo looks redder, creating a scar-like effect at first. Most people actually go for these designs because they look similar to scarification. If that’s your aim, then this is a perfect way to achieve it without having to cut your skin. Now, those who think it looks better on darkest skins, it’s because the white tone lasts for a bit longer and makes a nice contrast. In these cases, the ink also starts losing pigmentation, but due to the natural color of the skin, the design becomes darker. Also, it seems to age better on these skin colors.
It raises the skin’s surface
Besides what I mentioned about pale skins looking like scars, since you have to apply more ink on the skin, it actually swells your skin a little more than other tattoos, regardless of your own skin's scarring process. This happens because the ink is placed around 2mm from the skin surface. This, like any other ink, distorts the color due to the natural tone of the skin, making it adopt another hue rather than white. Also, the density of the skin makes the skin bumpy, creating its particular texture. Now, even if you’re going after this effect, it’s important to bear in mind the design you want. It’s become quite popular to get tiny tats with this ink, but with time the borders of the design get also distorted making them look like mosquito bites or another type of skin wound.
Due to its thickness, it’s hard to get clean lines
Most of those designs you’ve been seeing throughout the article have many intricate strokes that might look amazing at first but with time they will get blurry and distorted. The thing is that, since the consistency of the ink is thicker, it becomes hard to make clean and delicate lines that really set on the skin, which takes us to the next and last point.
White ink works better for highlighting rather than outlining
So, basically, this ink color is mainly used to bring dimension and highlight other tattoos. The poor opacity of its color easily blend with other colors, creating that glowing effect. Actually, the girl with the mandala I told you about had gone that day to get all the white outline of the tattoo so that it wouldn’t mix with the bright colors. So, it’s advisable to incorporate that white ink to other designs to intensify and bring dimension to other colors.
Most of the pictures of white inked tattoos we see on the Internet were taken the day they were made, so they can be quite misleading. The truth is that, although they can look pretty good, there's no way of knowing for sure how they're going to heal and age, so it's basically something that depends on the type of skin of the person and their particular healing process. This, of course, plus all the facts we just mentioned. So, it's really a tricky decision when it comes to these designs. If this is your first tat, as the artist who made mine, I would recommend you to put this one on stand-by so that you get to know how your body reacts to the inks and needles.
Here are other options if you’re still making up your mind of what to get:
Tattoos That Will Turn Your Skin into A Colorful Folktale
Tattoos That Turn Your Body Into A Fractal Kaleidoscope
The Abstract Tattoo Style That Turns Your Skin Into Street Art