Colors for Life with Tattoo Inks

Colors inserted into the skin’s dermis are known as tattoos or dermal pigmentation. A practice traced back to Neolithic times, tattooing remains popular worldwide for body decoration, initiatory rites, religious observance, love vows, and identification, to name but a handful of uses. Tattoo inks come in nearly unlimited variations, the most popular being red, green, yellow, blue, and white, which is used as a tint (source).


Photo by weebum

Tattoo inks comprise of a variety of pigments in carrier solutions. The pigments may be organic-based, mineral-based, or plastic-based. The plastic-based pigments offer the most vibrant colors. “The inks used in tattoos and permanent makeup (also known as micropigmentation) and the pigments in these inks are subject to FDA regulation as cosmetics and color additives. However, the FDA has not attempted to regulate the use of tattoo inks and the pigments used in them and does not control the actual practice of tattooing.

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Photo by spaceninja


Photos by skalasinc & toolera

Rather, such matters have been handled through local laws and by local jurisdictions. . . . Although a number of color additives are approved for use in cosmetics, none is approved for injection into the skin. Using an unapproved color additive in a tattoo ink makes the ink adulterated. Many pigments used in tattoo inks are not approved for skin contact at all. Some are industrial grade colors that are suitable for printers’ ink or automobile paint” (source).

Some Tattoo Palette Inspiration from the COLOURlovers Library:

Tattooed Obscenities Classic Tattoo

Tattoo Parlor Fresh Tattoo

How Permanent Are Tattoo Pigments?


Photo by spacemanbob

Even severe burning often fails to obliterate them. However, tattoo pigments can fade over time, especially red and yellow. Lighter tattoo colors, such as pink, fade more quickly than darker ones. Tattoo colors typically fade with sun exposure, so sunscreen is recommended to keep them looking vivid. Over time, tattoo pigments drift deeper into the dermis, blurring their detail.


Photos by desert_koi

“At present, no one laser can remove all tattoo colors well. Black, blue, and green inks are all well absorbed by red and infrared light lasers,” says dermatologist Randall Roenigk. “Red inks are not well absorbed by red or infrared light lasers, but are well absorbed by green light lasers. . . . Purple, yellow, and orange pigments are often more difficult to eradicate and respond variably well to green, red, and infrared light lasers” (Roenigk & Roenigk’s Dermatologic Surgery, 1996).


Photo by doggo

Tattoo inks carry the risks of allergic reactions and toxicity triggered by sunlight exposure and heavy metals.

More Tattoo Palette Inspiration from the COLOURlovers Library:

My tattoo tattoo

Tribal Tattoo Pictish Tattoo

my tattoo tattoo removal

Tattoo_Ink Fresh_Tattoo

Tattoo Heavily_Tattooed

blue_tattoo Tattoo_White

the_rose_tattoo Tattoo_Ink

Tattoo pink_tattoo

real_tattoo Blood_Tattoo

Tattoo_Me tattoo

tattoo old_tattoo

Title by Adventure Addict

Craig ConleyAbout the Guest Author, Craig Conley
Website: http://www.OneLetterWords.com
Craig is an independent scholar and author of dozens of strange and unusual books, including a unicorn field guide and a dictionary of magic words. He also loves color: Prof. Oddfellow

Author: Prof. Oddfellow