Tell me About White Ink Tattoos
May 8, 2012 6:17 AM   Subscribe

What can you tell me about getting a white ink tattoo?

I'm considering getting a white ink tattoo ranging from my hand to my upper arm. Personal experiences or any reliable resources you can point me to about the pros and cons and things to look out for? Also, if you can recommend (based on personal experience) a skilled and talented white tattoo artist in Melbourne (VIC) please let me know.
posted by =^^= to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've got some white ink on my shoulder, but it's mostly just a small part of a bigger blue/black/purple tattoo.

The thing about white ink is that it really doesn't show up that much at all. Maybe this is my experience because I'm pale and it has other colors to compete with. If yours is all white and you have darker skin it might show up more. The difference between white tattooed skin and regular skin is pretty subtle, which might be exactly what you want, but if you want it to pop expect to get it touched up a couple times.
posted by cirrostratus at 7:46 AM on May 8, 2012

It's generally recommended against, but really it's entirely up to you. It will most likely not be very visible. BME is my go-to for all things body modification related, here's a relevant question. There's also apparently a risk of it turning yellowish after sun exposure. You can search their listings for artists in your area

It's your body so you should do exactly what you want with it. I think the idea of white tattoos is really neat, just maybe a bit less practical than other colors.
posted by krakenattack at 7:47 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have white tattoos, but had them done in Perth so can't recommend a Melbourne artist. They are beautiful and get many comments. Strangers come up to me all the time to ask if I've had brandings because they've never seen white ink before.

You're certainly doing the right thing asking lots of questions, and a good artist is essential. One of mine was done by a well respected tattooist but it was a bad 'fit' as most great tattooists are not into white ink at all. They seem to resent using it. And it takes very little to fuck it up as scarring or grey stains can happen if they don't take more care than with coloured ink. That happened on one of my tattoos and I ended up having to have it colour inked after two years. So, a great tattoo artist is not necessarily a great white tattoo artist. Ask to see photos of previous work or come to Perth and get Mike E at Unique Tattoos to do it. He travels the world as a much sought after artist and he did one of mine. His studio has great artists, and is very female friendly (if you're a gal, this could be good to know.)

White also fades which I don't mind - I have one that's ten years old and it looks like slightly faded lacework, I much prefer it to the greeny black ageing of traditional tattoo. It looks excellent as it ages.

Something to consider: have a very fine line of russet/ red around parts of your white tattoo. It gives it a three dimensional look and makes the white seem to stand up. I would also suggest that you use a design with lines and shading rather than blocking of white ink. Blocking was what caused scarring on my had-to-be-redone tatt.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:48 AM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

My wife has a white ink tattoo on the inside of her wrist. It's very different looking than a regular tattoo; it almost looks like a brand or a scar. This can be a pro or con depending on your point of view. It's hard to show off, and a lot of people might think it's weird, but it's also easy to hide. Other than that it's been pretty much like her other, regular tattoo.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:48 AM on May 8, 2012

One of my tattoos has a little bit of white ink in them, to fill in a little area. I was originally going to leave the little square just plain, skin colored, but my tattoo artist asked if I want a little white there. Essentially, he said that the white would stick around for a few years and wear off. It's been about two years and there's still some white there, but it's certainly dulled a bit. I can imagine that in a few years, it will be completely skin colored. But again, I only have tiny bits of white so YMMW
posted by Geppp at 8:53 AM on May 8, 2012

As others have said, all-white ink tattoos can fade or turn yellowish, so you really need to keep them out of the sun or use sunblock religiously. It does look subtle and very different from regular tattoos, which I'm assuming is the look you're going for. You'll definitely want to find an artist that has experience with them because it does take a little extra care and skill to make them look good. However, healing and aftercare is the same as any other tattoo.
posted by bedhead at 11:26 AM on May 8, 2012

My wife got a white-ink tattoo while she lived in Melbourne and says you should look up Tim Dywelska.

I haven't observed any fading or discoloration while she's had it, but we do live in Seattle, so there isn't much sun. She does get a little annoyed with all the strangers who ask whether it is a tattoo, or a scar, or what. White ink is apparently still unusual enough to surprise people.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:39 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all your responses, they have been very helpful. I'm interested in a white ink tattoo precisely because it looks different from other tattoos. I have some accidental burn scars I very much like the look of, so was hoping the white ink would be similar.
posted by =^^= at 11:58 PM on May 9, 2012

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