White Tattoos: Yay or Nay?
October 10, 2006 3:24 PM   Subscribe

My sister is interested in getting a white tattoo. She keeps asking me what I think. My internet research turns up little reliable information.

The limited stuff I've been able to find about all white tattoos (damn you, Lindsay Lohan, for starting this trend) suggets that, a, not a lot of tattoo artists can do them well, b, they don't show up well on dark skin (and my sister is ultra very VERY tan), and c, they can sometimes fade away or turn weird colors. But I haven't found any real solid information. So I turn to all of you. What do you know about all-white tattoos? Are they a worse idea than getting a tattoo of any other color? If she decides to get one, what should she look for in an artist?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
A very experianced tattoo artist that I know said that white ink is translucent, rather than opaque. That means that if you have brown skin it won't bleach it white, but just lighten it. A perusal of Suicidegirls shows quite a few girls with gorgeous white ink as part of a tattoo.

An all white tattoo, several years old, on a pale friend of mine, looks rather like a network of beautiful gothic scars. Which has it's own appeal.

I'd imagine checking the artists book for previous white ink tats would be a good idea.
posted by juliarothbort at 3:28 PM on October 10, 2006

looks rather like a network of beautiful gothic scars.

Yes, that's exactly how I'd describe them, they look like scars rather than tattoos. So if you're into that...
posted by rkent at 3:31 PM on October 10, 2006

Best answer: I have a white ink tattoo and I am olive skinned/very tanned.

I went to a few tattoo artists. One told me that due to my tan skin, it would not show up. Another told me that it was a crapshoot, no matter what my skin colour was. And lastly, the one I went with told me that it MAY work, and if it doesn't he would redo it.

I ended up getting it on my wrist (I sadly did not know about La La Lohan's similiar placement, also in white ink, beforehand).

I have a word written in fine script. It's been about 8 months now, and it does not look like a scar. It has faded slightly, so it's not super noticable (not that it was before).

I'd recommend getting a white ink tattoo for something small and simple, not something that requires alot of filling in. Also tell her to find an artist that has experience with white ink and would be willing to go over it again if it doesn't take.
posted by wilde at 3:51 PM on October 10, 2006

Response by poster: Any chance you'd be willing to share pics, wilde? E-mail is in my profile.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:54 PM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

I know a black guy with a white ink tattoo and it looks cool. Kind of like a ghostly shadow on his skin.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:55 PM on October 10, 2006

Best answer: I've got about a dozen tattoos. When people ask me about getting tattoos (which isn't often since you can't see mine with a shirt on), I tell them something similar to this:

1. Do TONS of research on tattoo artists in your area. Don't even consider getting one while on vacation or on a whim when you're drinking with your buddies (any reputable artist will refuse to tattoo you while you're drunk anyway). The best method I've found is to go up to people on the street who have nice ink and ask them where they went.
2. Go to the place that you think is the best regardless of price.
3. Don't pick something trendy like the dancing Grateful Dead bears. You'll regret it when you get older and you're friends are no longer idiots who watch MTV all day.
4. Don't get it anywhere you can't easily cover it up. I have many friends with tattoos on their wrists, forearms, calves, necks, ect. that regret it (actually, regret isn't a strong enough word - I've seen them in tears about it).
5. Once you've found your tattoo and artist, wait atleast 6 months to make sure you really want to do it.

I wouldn't say I regret my tattoos at this point in my life (early 30's), but I can see the potential for that to happen in the future. I would advise against getting any to be honest.
posted by bda1972 at 3:59 PM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

I had a white tattoo done on my chest when I was in LA a few years ago. I suppose what she should know is that it's not going to be as prominent and long lasting as a darker colour, although that may be what she's after. I had mine done on my chest and, since then, have grown a little more chest hair so you can't actually see it unless you're a few inches away.

That said, I'm glad I had it done. It does look like a little scar (in the shape of two footprints) and I like the fact that it's not something totally public, that it's not out there for everyone to see. If you're worried about consequences with work, it's much easier to cover up if it's white.

Also, you need to take care of it more if you want it to last. If you have a black tattoo, it'll fade over time as it's exposed to sunlight, but that doesn't matter because it fades from very strong black to something lighter but still very visible. A white tattoo, however, will fade to nothing. If she gets it done somewhere exposed to the sun, she will have to put sun cream on it every day, or cover it somehow.

I don't regret mine at all. It's something that I enjoy, and I know it's there so it doesn't really bother me that the whole world can't see it. Instead of looking like a picture on my skin it actually looks natural, like a scar of some kind, like it's a part of my body, which I like. I say go for it (but keep in mind bda1972's advice about tattoos in general).
posted by twirlypen at 4:48 PM on October 10, 2006

I had a roommate with a white tattoo of an escher pattern. He was very pale and so you couldn't reallly see the tattoo at all, it just looked sort of like a pattern on his skin, a really light one. white tattoos seem to work best when they are pattern-y so that you can sort of catch a glimpse of them and say "oh cool" or if it has a special personal meaning to you so it's sort of a secret tattoo.
posted by jessamyn at 5:56 PM on October 10, 2006

Two things: first, be aware that white tattoos are (according to what I have read) the most difficult tats to remove (even more permanent than most; second, if you haven't checked out bmezine yet, that should be your next information source. They have very complete information on what you can reasonably expect, and lots of artist portfolios. Who knows, maybe you'll find a terrific local artist there.
posted by ilsa at 6:14 PM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

This is more for future tattoo researchers than for your sister, but ... there was something online recently about a tattoo artist doing blacklight tattoos. I'm on dialup right now, or I'd look it up for you.

I can't remember if the blog where I saw it deemed him a moron or revolutionary.
posted by Alt F4 at 7:20 PM on October 10, 2006

There are no inks currently widely accepted for use in blacklight tattoos. Some folks have had very bad delayed reactions to them. It's hard to find a reputable artist who will do one these days.
posted by jammer at 7:26 PM on October 10, 2006

My boyfriend's tattoo has white areas in it. I definitely agree that it's translucent rather than opaque, the natural variations in his skin tone show through. This makes it look a little patchy, although it's still obviously white. In his case it shouldn't be patchy, solid 2D shapes is what he was going for. I think it could do with some re-inking and he's probably going to get that looked at in the next year or so. He sunblocks it regularly and after two years there is no fading despite getting a lot of sun.

Personally I'd restrict white tattoos to skin that has even colouring, so avoid moles or freckles or patchyness. I'd probably also avoid large areas of white, although my boyfriend is happy with his.

This isn't a great photo of the tattoo, but you can see the white bits quite well on the larger versions.

As an aside, there was one unexpected side effect of his tattoo. Kids love it. They run over and look at it in public. His nephews are entranced. Given neither of us are overly keen on kids, it's somewhat amusing that it has this effect.
posted by shelleycat at 8:48 PM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

omg Bananas in Pajamas tattoo! How cool! (though also a bit odd)
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:06 AM on October 11, 2006

Wow, never heard of white tattoos and now this has got me intrigued. I've wanted a tat for years but never quite commited in fear of regretting it later. But, the white tat is alot more subtle so think I might go for it.

Just did a google image search and within the first few results came up with a couple of decent examples. 1 2
posted by floanna at 12:10 PM on October 11, 2006

It looks cool.
posted by radioamy at 8:49 AM on October 12, 2006

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