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All About Tattoo Ink

All About Tattoo Ink

As the tattoo industry has expanded, so have the brands and color choices available. In this post, we’ll go over the main types of tattoo inks, common ingredients, and some frequently asked questions.

Tattoo Ink Types

Tattoo ink types fall into two main categories: powder and dispersed.

Powder: This is the type of tattoo ink that's been used for decades, and consists of powdered pigments mixed with a carrier solution. These inks tend to separate drastically when sitting on a shelf, so they need to be mixed thoroughly before use. They are usually on the thick side in terms of consistency, especially white and pastel shades.

Dispersed: The newest form of tattoo ink uses a carrier solution and acrylic polymers along with some powder pigments to create ink formulas that are generally thinner, and tend to separate less than their purely powder based counterparts.

Tattoo Ink Ingredients

Tattoo ink pigments are mixed into a “carrier” solution, which is usually made of a mixture of water and ingredients such as witch hazel, alcohol, glycerin and propylene glycol. These ingredients help the pigments mix properly into the solution or, in the case of glycerin, add thickness and additional hydration to the mixture to prevent it from drying out. Each brand has a different recipe for their carrier solution. Most brands offer some form of “mixer,” which is just their proprietary carrier solution that can be added to your ink to add extra moisture or thinning particularly thick colors.

Tattoo ink pigments come from a variety of sources, including azo dyes and metals like titanium dioxide or iron oxide. For a full list of pigments used in a particular color, consult the ingredients list located on the bottle or contact the manufacturer directly. This is especially important if you or a client have an allergy to a particular pigment.

What are UV reactive inks?

UV reactive inks use fluorescent pigments that absorb and re-emit UV light, which glows under blacklight. The most common colors offered are pink, orange and red. While these colors are very vibrant, they can fade faster when exposed to sunlight over time compared to non-UV reactive pigments. Therefore, it's especially important to use sunscreen on these tattoos to keep them looking good.

Are all tattoo inks vegan?

While more companies are offering tattoo ink lines that use exclusively vegan ingredients, many companies still use formulas that are not considered vegan friendly since certain formulas may contain ingredients that have animal origins. For example, carmine, a red pigment, comes from insects, and is thus not suitable for vegans. If vegan ingredients are a concern, look for companies that label their products as vegan friendly, or contact the manufacturer for an ingredient list.

How does triple black ink compare to lining black ink?

Triple black ink refers to black ink that is more concentrated(contains a higher pigment load) compared to regular or lining black. This variety is great for when you want solid, saturated black in a tattoo, like in blackout pieces or bold, thick lines. It is generally not suited towards fine line work, or mixing into graywash.

How does triple(heavy) white compare to mixing and classic white?

Similarly to triple vs lining black, heavy or triple white contains more pigment than standard white. The term "heavy white" refers to the fact that it actually weighs more due to amount of pigment mixed in. Due to the high pigment load, heavy white is often very thick, so more care should be taken when using it. It works best for strong highlights and working over dark colors. Mixing white contains the least amount of pigment of the three varieties, and is good for subtly lightening colors. Stick with classic white if you're looking for a white ink that is more all-purpose.

We hope this helps you better understand the variety of tattoo inks available, and find the best formula to suit your needs.

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