Can I outline my black tattoo with white to good effect?
May 21, 2015 9:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in recommendations for tattoo artists who are experienced in white tattoo work. I live in the Boston area, but I regularly travel to San Francisco, Austin, and Atlanta, so recommendations there are also welcome, and if there's someone especially awesome in other places, I could make a fun trip out of this project.

I have a black line tattoo (here) that I think could look interesting with the addition of white around the edges. I am aware the effect would be subtle. I'm wondering if it might also help reduce the inevitable bleeding between the close-set black lines of the existing tattoo.
posted by spindrifter to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hi there, I have white ink in one of my tattoos and I'm actually very unhappy with it. I got it close to 10 years ago and it began to yellow around year 3, and actually caused the color around it to bleed together around year 6 or 7. I have a couple other nice tattoos that I chose not to include white in from the same era, and they are still as fresh as when I got them.
posted by Kestrelxo at 9:33 AM on May 21, 2015

Do not do anything with white ink on a tattoo. I got white ink put in about 7 years ago for a really awesome tattoo - had the same problems with color bleed and the white is basically completely gone. Everything else besides the white looks gorgeous. White is the devil.
posted by corb at 10:00 AM on May 21, 2015

The tattoo artist I used to live with said white ink fades faster than other inks, so keep that in mind. She included some fairly subtle white in the piece she did on me close to two years ago. It's still there, but it's definitely not as bright as it used to be. You might get the effect you want, but it may not last.
posted by QuickedWeen at 10:01 AM on May 21, 2015

A friend of mine who is an accomplished tattoo artist with her own shop rants about white ink's poor staying power. She won't use it.
posted by erst at 10:07 AM on May 21, 2015

I love love love my white tattoo. Here's the backstory. This is my tattoo artist.
posted by janey47 at 10:08 AM on May 21, 2015

I have a half sleeve that has a lot of solid black in it. The artist used white ink in a few places. I thought it looked pretty neat at first, but pretty soon the white parts got kinda yellowy. Two years later and the white ink is no longer visible at all. It is completely gone. For what it's worth, I always cover my tattoos in sunscreen to minimize sun damage and by the looks of your picture, we have a similar skin tone.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:11 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

My artist uses light grey instead, which seems to work well.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 10:11 AM on May 21, 2015

I agree that white will fade/yellow very quickly. (It generally yellows due to the fact that the ink is under a few layers of skin. Generally inks overcome this with their saturation, but white fades too quickly for that.)

Light gray or opaque gray could be an option. Light gray might be made with a black wash (or watered-down black) or opaque gray is made with white and black to make a - well, opaque gray. Though opaque gray can still yellow a bit due to the white content.

Another option is just getting another color fade/wash around it. Possibly something like a light blue might give a similar effect. Although I personally like your tattoo the way it is! You could add some extra linework accents with a color as another option. (Although keep in mind linework with colors tends to bleed and feather a bit more due to the way the inks are.)

I have like... 17 tattoos (I think?), watch way too many tattoo shows, and tattoo fruit in my spare time.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:11 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you can get to Concord, you should get a consultation with Kurt Brown at Gallery Tattoo. He was a major artist at (I think) Pino Brothers or some highly rated place until he decided to move out to the suburbs. His staff is spot on.
posted by kinetic at 1:49 PM on May 21, 2015

Best answer: I got my tattoo in New Orleans at Electric Ladyland in 2006.

My tattoo is words written in someone's handwriting, and there are a lot of tight curves involved. Initially the tattoo artists were worried that as the tattoo aged, it would bleed and not look good or be legible.

The tattoo artist I eventually worked with had the idea to do the black lettering as is but outline the words in white. That way, when the tattoo spreads, it won't just be a blurry mess. Also, the white around it makes the black letters pop more. I think it looks great and still very bold. The outlining made it cost more, hurt more, and take longer, but I wanted it.

No idea if my artist is still there. I think her name was Rachell.
posted by mermaidcafe at 11:41 AM on May 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

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