Watercolor Tattoos: All You Need to Know

Watercolor tattoos are perhaps the most prominent new trend in tattoo artistry, where the artist tattoos in a style reminiscent of watercolor paintings.

These are beautiful, colorful works that lack the solid black outlines traditional tattoos have, giving them a completely different look.

watercolor flower tattoo fall season

A watercolor tattoo is instantly recognizable and presents a distinct new style of tattooing.

The level of vivid color and gradients of tone tattoo artists can achieve with the style captures the beauty of watercolor paint.

Some even mimic the style of impressionist artists like Monet. However, getting a watercolor tattoo also has a few controversies that we will dive into in the article. So, without further due, let’s get started.

What are Watercolor Tattoos? How to Recognize Them

Watercolor tattoos are a newer style of tattooing that looks like a watercolor painting on the skin. Watercolor’s soft, textured effect is replicated through brightly colored tattoo ink placed without outlines.

Conveniently, the inconsistencies of a tattoo gun seem to match the different tones in watercolor that give it its characteristic charm.

Almost any kind of image can be made in the watercolor style. That being said, flowers, whimsical paintings, and nature tend to be some of the most popular motifs. Abstract shapes are also a good choice.

Read also: Popular Tattoo Meanings (With Pictures)

watercolor tattoo

They have gained popularity in recent years as one of the most easily identifiable and unique new trends.

How to recognize watercolor tattoos:

● Little to no black outlining on the piece
● If it has an outline, the bright colors tend to expand beyond it
● The colors are vibrant and placed in a blob-like way
● They look similar to watercolor paintings

What Type of Needle Do You Normally Use for a Watercolor Tattoo?

Watercolor tattoos require a different technique than standards tats, as they don’t begin with an outline. Instead, the process works similarly to watercolor painting, where after placing a stencil onto the skin, the artist will begin with the darkest colors to the lightest.

Watercolor floral tattoo

Depending on the specific artist’s style, the types of needles used can vary, but a mag shading needle is a common choice. There are no specific special needles or inks for watercolor-style tattoos.

Do Watercolor Tattoos Hurt More?

Not at all! Many people even report that they tend to hurt less. Overall, it’s generally in the same range as other tattoos, so don’t expect a big difference if you’ve already had other tattoos. 

Less ink is used overall in watercolor tattoos, meaning it requires fewer punctures into the skin to deposit the ink. Theoretically, this is why it might hurt less for some people.

Now, most watercolor tattoos require a lot of shading, which can be one of the more painful aspects of getting a tattoo. Of course, some tattoos don’t need much shading and can be less painful for that reason, but watercolor tattoos are made almost entirely of shaded sections.

Read also: Where Does It Hurt Most to Get a Tattoo?

Watercolor Tattoo on Dark Skin

People with dark skin tones can have a lot of concerns with watercolor tattoos and whether they will show up properly. However, it’s something that absolutely can be done by an artist with the proper knowledge.

A skilled tattoo artist should be able to tattoo on all skin tones, not just lighter ones.

The colors used on dark skin tones have to be different from those used on lighter skin tones. Thus, the artist has to know how to get the proper saturation to show up on dark skin using knowledge of color theory.

Earth tones tend to work the best on dark skin tones, making watercolor tattoos more challenging to pull off overall.

For example, peach works better than orange, while olive tends to work better than green.

Do Watercolor Tattoos Fade Easily?

Watercolor tattoos can lose their luster faster than other tattoos, but this is not because they fade faster than other tattoos. Traditional and watercolor tattoos last the same amount of time, but watercolor tattoos can blur more quickly over time without solid outlines.

Read also: Guide on How to Make Your Tattoos Shine

Galaxy watercolor tattoo with planets

However, the good news is that tattoo tech has improved a lot in recent years. As a result, the prevention of blurring and the strength of colors are stronger than ever before.

Unfortunately, this has happened mainly in the last decade, meaning we don’t have much long-term information. Beyond that, we know that work completed in the last 20 years still looks good without some of these updates.

That said, some factors can affect the speed of fading. How much sun the skin gets is one of them and the subtlety of the contrasts in color. A good artist will know how to design the tattoo to help it last as long as possible.

Are Watercolor Tattoos a Bad Idea?

Not necessarily. Let's explain this.

Some tattoo artists have a problem with watercolor tattoos. They feel that tattoos require proper outlining and that it does a disservice to the client in the long term if they don’t have them.

Black inks used in outlining are unique in that they have a carbon base. This creates a barrier around the colored parts of the tattoo that keep it from blurring out. That’s why there’s often still some outlining, even if it’s thin, to help prevent this.

Pokemon watercolor tattoo pikachu and bulbasaur

Some also argue that watercolor is still too new to understand its longevity.

The debate around this online is quite heated. Regardless, watercolor tattoos have been done for over a decade now, and you can examine the results for at least that period. Some have turned out well; others have faded.

It’s likely some of the old guard of tattoo artists are too aggressive on this front without knowing how the new upgrades in technology are changing the industry. However, that’s not to say that their experience should account for nothing.

As long as you understand the controversy and that any watercolor tattoo will change over time, it’s not necessarily a bad idea.

Summary

Watercolor tattoos are a whimsical newer style that looks remarkably similar to watercolor paintings. They forgo solid outlines and use large swatches of saturated color to create a bright splash on the skin, often with a design mixed in and spilled over.

We hope this post was helpful to better understand watercolor tattoos and the implications of getting a tattoo in this popular style! 

Our mission is to inspire and educate the tattoo community. We have combined our many years of experience in the industry and our love for tattoos to create useful and enlightening content. Join us in this exciting journey in the beautiful art of tattooing.
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