The Untold Truth About Watercolor Tattoos

The Ins and Outs of Watercolor Tattoos

If you are considering getting a watercolor tattoo, and you have stumbled across this article then you are in the right place. Even if this isn’t your first rodeo, you probably know that tattoo mistakes tend to hurt the most and you need to be careful.

Every competent, professional tattoo artist will tell you that not all tattoo styles are the same, and some styles, regardless of their popularity, may come with a few drawbacks. It is always best to do some research before letting a new ink style under your skin. With that in mind, we’ll cover everything you need to know and take into account if you’re considering getting a watercolor tattoo.

What Are Watercolor Tattoos?

For anyone not familiar with this style, watercolor tattoos are works of skin art that resemble delicate watercolor paintings. In terms of technique, your tattoo artist will use all of the same supplies as any other tattoo but their technique will be a bit different. 

What makes this style notable is the absence of heavier black outlines, which allows colors to smoothly blend in a tattoo - the same as they would on a painted canvas. The ink is not diluted the same way as watercolor paint is but is rather applied in a slightly different technique. The most common techniques a tattoo artist needs to master to achieve the watercolor effect are blurs, shades, fades, bleeds, and runs. 

If you are a new tattoo artist looking for tips on how to up your tattooing game, there are lots of online sources, like Hugo Feist’s Black & Grey Realism Tattoo Course. Enroll now to unlock the secrets of the trade and develop your own unique tattooing style, which is one of the most important aspects of tattooing. You need to master your craft to become the best!

Are They More Painful?

The experience of pain is somewhat subjective - what hurts for some people may not hurt for others. As mentioned above, an artist will use specific techniques to make a watercolor tattoo look the way it’s supposed to. This includes applying different shades of color, brushing colors on top of each other to blend them in, etc. Layering colors means going over the same spot a few times, which can mean more pain.

However, if you were to pack an entire area of your skin black, this would also involve going over the same area a few times and would cause a similar amount of pain.

So, are watercolor tattoos more painful than regular tattoos? They can be, but not necessarily. Let’s get one thing straight – watercolor tattoos will hurt. The sensation of getting a watercolor tattoo is a lot different from a traditional linework-based tattoo, and going over one area a few times can be quite painful.

Should this be a determining factor in getting a watercolor tattoo? Not really. But if you’re squeamish or have a low pain threshold, larger and more detailed tattoos in general might not be for you. If you are still worried about the pain, read about our strategies for reducing tattoo pain

Do They Fade More Quickly?

No matter how well you take care of it, your watercolor tattoo will fade faster due to the soft colors, shading, and no distinct outline present holding the color ink in place. The rule here is that the brighter the ink is the quicker it will fade. 

Some watercolor tattoos include the color white, which is known to fade the quickest. Using richer colors like blacks, blues, and reds in your tattoo rather than pastel pinks and yellows can reduce how much the tattoo fades over time, but be prepared to need a touch-up. 

What About Touch-ups?

After a few years, it’s common to do a touch-up regardless of the style of your tattoo. However, since most watercolor tattoos have no strong outline to follow, touch-ups may be difficult. A good idea would be to merge a more traditional style which includes outlines with a watercolor concept to produce a tattoo that combines the best of both worlds.

If that’s not your vision and if you’re absolutely in love with watercolor ink, then, by all means, go for it. But before you do, consider what you can do to keep your tattoo from fading as much as possible.

How to Prevent Your Watercolor Tattoo from Fading

The primary culprit behind tattoo fading is sunlight, or UV rays, to be exact. The more UV rays your tattooed skin is exposed to, the quicker a tattoo will fade. UV rays break the pigment particles within the tattoo and thus fading happens. 

There are ways to counteract this by applying sunscreen. We recommend a minimum SPF of 30 for a daily moisturizer but when you are going to be in the sun for prolonged periods, consider going with SPF 50.

If you get a lot of sunlight exposure over the years, no SPF will save your ink. If you work on a beach or a farm, go outside often, and live in an area that gets a great deal of sunlight, we have bad news for you. You should maybe reconsider getting a watercolor tattoo or at least consider choosing a placement that gets the least amount of sun. 

We know that watercolor tattoos are all the jazz right now and that they can look amazing. But if you’re getting a watercolor tattoo on an exposed area like your arm or shoulder, you may need to change your lifestyle a bit to include regular sunscreen applications and covering your tattoos if you are in the sun for long periods. 

Does Location Influence Fading?

If a mosquito bites a fully-healed tattoo, you can go ahead and scratch it; you won’t damage the tat. However, consistent and constant rubbing will inevitably lead to a faded tattoo.

This means locations such as the fingers and hands (if you use your hands a lot), tops of your feet, buttocks, etc. are areas that fade fairly quickly. Areas that are exposed to the sun a lot like your outer forearms, shoulders, and face also tend to fade quickly. 

So, if you’re keen on getting a watercolor tattoo, consider areas other than the above-mentioned such as your ribs, thighs, or inner bicep. 

Ideal Locations for a Watercolor Tattoo

An often unexposed area of skin will offer the most protection against UV rays. But this doesn’t mean that a watercolor tattoo on your foot is ideal due to the friction on the area. 

It also depends on your clothing style. For example, if you aren’t someone who likes to show off their body wherever they go, and don’t take your T-shirt off too often, your torso may be full of great spots for a watercolor tattoo. The same can be said for your upper legs as well.

So what’s the ideal watercolor tattoo location then? It depends on your lifestyle preferences and is something to think about carefully. 

Take Care of Your Ink by Using a Moisturizer

This doesn’t pertain solely to watercolor tattoos. Making sure that your skin isn’t dry is essential to keeping all of your tattoos looking great for years to come. Because of the nature of watercolor tattoos, this rule especially applies to caring for them long-term. 

You do not need to buy a special tattoo moisturizer - anything you usually use at home works perfectly.  Applying the appropriate skin moisturizer regularly is essential if you want to keep your tattoo as vibrant and fresh as possible. Yes, this does mean occasional skin moisturizing for the rest of your life.

Getting a tattoo requires life-long maintenance if you want to keep it looking fresh for years to come. Read all about looking after your tattoo properly here. 

Should You Get a Watercolor Tattoo?

The watercolor tattoo style has minimal line work, which results in fluid, organic, and beautiful works of art that closely resemble the painting style. The colors are softer, brighter, and smoothly blended together. While it all comes down to personal preference, before you decide to go for a watercolor ink, make yourself aware of all the risks that may come with it. If you are someone who is not good at tattoo maintenance or you are regularly exposed to the sun, perhaps consider getting a tattoo with some linework and bolder colors as this may be better suited to your lifestyle. 

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