Homemade tattoo ink seems like a cool idea, but saving money isn't worth endangering your health. There are risks in using do-it-yourself pigment, and those risks are serious. Learn about how homemade ink is created - and then get tattooed by a qualified professional who reduces your chance of infection by practicing aseptic techniques. Make your own tattoo ink as an experiment, but recognize that creating homemade ink art is a gamble.
Ancient Tattoo Ink
Many ancient cultures created their own tattoo pigment inks from natural materials. One of the simplest recipes called for mixing the ashes of completely burned wood with water to create a crude black ink. Carbonized black ash from burned wood makes very dense black ink, but it's better to use something other than water as your diluent. Some do-it-yourself ink makers recommend substituting vodka for water, because vodka is clear and antiseptic.
Use this recipe at your own risk.
- 1 cup black carbon ashes
- Place the ashes in a sterile blender.
- Add vodka slowly until the slurry is the consistency of commercial tattoo ink.
- Blend the mixture at medium speed for one hour. If the mixture is too thick, add more vodka. If it is too watery, add a little additional ash.
- Use immediately.
Professional Grade Tattoo Ink Recipe
Fastidious tattoo artists prefer to mix their own inks so they know exactly what is in them because ink manufacturers are not currently required to disclose ingredient information. A common ink recipe approximates what some pros mix up for their own use.
Purchase dry pigment from a reliable tattoo supply company - the surest way to avoid using toxic substances to create your colors. Sterilize all your utensils before mixing your ink. Wear a sterile mask and gloves to preserve the sterile environment. Remember that you are making tattoo ink at your own risk.
- 28 ounces of witch hazel or vodka
- 1 tablespoon propylene glycol
- 1 tablespoon of medical grade glycerine
- 1 - 2 inches pigment powder
- Mix together the first three ingredients: witch hazel (or vodka), glycol and glycerine.
- Add the pigment powder to a blender, then slowly add enough liquid to create a slurry.
- Mix on low speed for ten to twenty minutes, and then check the consistency of the mix. If it's too thick, add a little more liquid. If it seems too thin or the color looks too washed out, add a pinch of pigment powder at a time to adjust. Keep in mind that this is a trial and error process; adjust until you reach the consistency you prefer to work with.
- Blend at medium speed for one hour.
- Pour the finished ink into a sterile container, put a secure lid on it and store it out of direct sunlight.
Prison Ink Recipe
This is an example of how homemade black ink is often created in prison from simple ingredients like baby oil. Remember, prisoners may create and use their ink without regard for their personal health. The following formula is educational-only; stick with professional ink for your own tattooing needs. Regard this recipe solely as information, not a recommendation.
- Plastic razor or baby oil
- Razor blade
- Bottle cap
- Ethyl alcohol
- Burn the plastic razor with a lighter or heat the baby oil to smoking.
- Place a mirror about 3 to 5 inches away from the burning plastic or oil.
- Catch the soot particles on the surface of the mirror as soon as the material begins to smoke.
- Once the mirror turns black, scrape the mirror with the razor blade and gather the soot scrapings into the bottle cap.
- Add a drop of water to the bottle cap.
- Mix the water and ashes with the toothpick.
- Add a couple drops of shampoo and a drop of ethyl alcohol to thicken and disinfect the formula; mix thoroughly.
- Discard any leftover ink promptly after use.
Tattoo shops are regulated strictly by the department of health in each state. But tattoo inks (including professionally manufactured varieties) have yet to be approved or regulated by states or by the FDA. It's up to you to protect yourself if you create your own ink. Always follow basic precautions to ensure your health and safety - that means sterile equipment and professional quality pigment powder. Be aware that most homemade ink lacks vivid pigments, which can result in a washed out and faded design. You could end up needing a professional touch-up or removal. So, the extra dollars spent up-front on professional ink buy you quality results - and a lot safer skin.