Tattoo Ink Colors

Dipping into the ink

Choosing the colors that go into your tattoo can be a more complicated than you might think. From considering the different types of ink to finding shades that work well with your skin tone, you may find the process of choosing ink colors to be somewhat overwhelming at first. Learning about the different options is an important key to making a wise decision.

Purchasing Tattoo Inks

While some artists choose to mix their own inks, many rely on pre-mixed colors instead. Pre-mixed colors undergo rigorous testing to be licensed as a cosmetic product, which means consistent quality can be expected. These types of inks are often longer lasting than those mixed on-site. They are often pre-sterilized as well. Companies that manufacture tattoo ink include:

Intenze Tattoo Ink

Intenze Tattoo Ink was created by artist Mario Barth. Barth was one of the pioneers in creating a full palette of commercial ink colors, all of which are rigorously tested for high quality and sterilization. Intenze Tattoo Ink offers a full 54 colors to choose from, and all are guaranteed to be smooth, bright and long lasting.

Starbrite Inks

Starbrite Inks have been around since 1988. The company offers one of the boldest, most intense color palettes you can purchase. Their colors undergo a sterilization process, as well as testing to conform to FDA regulations and standards. Starbrite Inks are sold individually and as kits. Options include a standard color palette, specialty sets for portraits and the Solar line of inks in super-bright colors.

Alla Prima

If you're after unique color sets like periwinkle, zombie color and blood color Alla Prima ink is a good choice. The company's inks are sold in full, primary color sets, as well as specialty sets that will give you all the colors you need to achieve specific looks, including portraits.


Skincandy was created by Mark August, a tattoo enthusiast who was dissatisfied with the color and quality of inks on the market. He decided to make his own line of inks, mixing them by hand for the first eight years to ensure quality control. Skincandy inks are vegan, organic and leave a bold color behind. Sets are available in standard colors, and specialty sets for portraits and hard-to-mix shades.

Fusion Tattoo Ink

Fusion Tattoo Ink produces bright, bold colors because inks in this brand have a higher pigment load than many tattoo inks on the market. The inks are vegan and organic. They are available in specialty palettes, as well as full 50-color sets.

Choosing Your Tattoo Colors and Inks

There are numerous factors that go into the choice of tattoo inks and colors. While many manufacturers now strive for quality control and transparency of ingredients, there are other important considerations.

Reactions and Chemicals

When choosing your color, make sure you know what goes into the ink. Pigments and carriers can vary greatly by brand; just because a tattoo ink is the color you're after, doesn't mean it's the right one for you. Stay away from inks containing heavy metals, as well as any that may contain ingredients that may trigger an allergic reaction.

Colors and Skin Tone

Your skin tone has a huge impact on the way a tattoo color translates to the eye. Inks are deposited in the dermis. It is beneath the layer you see, which is the epidermis. This means that your skin tone and natural pigments will be on top of the tattoo ink. Because of this, white tattoos may appear yellow on darker skin tones, and lighter colors may not show up well on very dark skins.

The darker your skin tone, the stronger and bolder the color should be. This doesn't mean brighter; black is often one of the best colors for tattooing darker skin. Likewise, bolder colors may appear too strong and jarring on lighter skin. Brighter and lighter colors may give better results than bold shades on people with fair skin.

Long Lasting

While tattoos are meant to be permanent, new advances in tattoo removal have left some people with the idea that they can always get a tat removed if they no longer care for it. If you adopt this attitude, give some thought to your color choices before getting inked. Some colorful pigments, including green, yellow and orange, may not be easily removed.

Choose the Right Color for You

Getting the right tattoo means talking over not only the design but also the colors and inks with your artist. Ask for a list of ingredients to make sure you are comfortable with the ink that will be used. Also request recommendations for what colors will show up best on your skin tone. The final color you choose should be one that you are completely happy with, in terms of appearance, ingredients and how well it is applied to your skin. Make sure you don't accept a tattoo until these requirements are met.

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Tattoo Ink Colors