Every individual is a unique canvas for a tattoo.
Their skin type will affect how well they take the ink. Meanwhile, their tone acts as a filter, subtly altering the appearance of the ink.
Are you curious about the best tattoo inks for darker skin? Are certain colors or brands better than others?
In the reviews today, we’ll cover ink brands for tattoos on dark skin and how to choose colors that will look rich and vibrant.
Which are the best colors of tattoo ink for darker skin?
It’s time to throw out preconceptions about tattooing Black or Brown skin. The amount of melanin will affect the color like a filter. But that shouldn’t stop you from experimenting.
Tattoo artists with experience tattooing dark skin will do a color test. They discuss the design with the client, creating a stencil if needed. (One artist we know of sketches the stencil on brown paper to help the client visualize the end result).
Then, they tattoo various colored dots to see how the ink looks. They may wait a week to see how it heals. (This is also helpful for monitoring allergic reactions).
While that process isn’t always necessary, it’s crucial to have an awareness of how skin color interacts with tattoo ink.
You might be tempted to stick to only black and bold colors, but that’s not essential. Take a look at the portfolios of artists who specialize in tattooing Black skin. You’ll see that portraits and fine details show up beautifully when the artist has sufficient skill.
Tips for tattooing darker skin
Skin type can cause more difficulty than skin tone. Some folks are prone to scarring and forming keloids regardless of the color of their skin.
Part of the reason why those with darker skin may end up with keloids from tattoos is that untrained artists insist on being heavy-handed. There’s no need to overwork a line just because someone has dark skin (1).
Take it easy if you’re practicing on darker skin. Do a color test first. And remember, use a light hand.
You can’t go wrong with black ink, but remember to match the tone. Some are reddish, while others are neutral or bluish. Don’t skimp on detail or shading.
Finally, if you’re not sure which shades look best on dark skin, try earth tones. Rich reds, salmon, and olive green are gorgeous (2).
Best Tattoo Inks for Darker Skin in 2023
Dynamic Tattoo Ink
Dynamic is one of the most popular American tattoo ink brands. They’ve been in business since 1990.
They offer a wide range of colors and sizes of bottles, so you can stock up on what you use the most.
Their black ink flows fast into the skin. But don’t let the thin consistency for you – it can be diluted for greywash. Artists like it because it heals quickly and retains its vibrance, too.
The ink is made with vegan ingredients, and it’s cruelty-free. But be careful to avoid knockoffs as this brand is often imitated.
Allegory Premium Tattoo Ink Blak
This black tattoo ink was the first product developed by Allegory in Florida. It has a silky texture that stays smooth so that lines are easy to pull and the color is easy to pack. Blak is excellent for both lining and shading.
Each bottle has a glass marble agitator to keep the pigment adequately mixed. Moreover, the transparent bottle shows you at a glance how much ink is left. Each one has a tamper and leak-resistant twist top.
Panthera Artist Series — Ralf Nonnweiler Black Tattoo Ink
Italian brand Panthera makes one of the safest tattoo inks. The company was founded by experienced artists in 2000. Their goal was to create premium ink that respects the tattoo collector’s well-being. They also ensure that the colors withstand exposure to the sun.
Each pigment has to meet strict European standards for purity and quality. They never include carcinogens. Then, each ink is sterilized in the final phase of production.
If you do portraits, you must try the Ralf Nonnweiler series as it’s one of the world’s best black and grey sets.
Otherwise, try their XXX Tribal Black as it’s extremely dark and won’t fade in sunlight.
Bloodline Tattoo Ink All-Purpose Black
Bloodline is extremely picky about their ink. They manufacture it in a clean room in California. In the laboratory, they have a special dispenser to weigh pigment. This ensures the ideal consistency of color and texture from batch to batch.
Artists like the ink because it saturates equally, and the skin heals quickly. That might be due to the fact that they use organic pigment and sterile water as two of their base ingredients.
Keep in mind that Bloodline ink is thicker than many brands, so you may want to thin it for lining to keep it from blowing out. It can be cut with distilled water, witch hazel, or Listerine.
Bloodline 5-Color Primary Tattoo Ink Set
Blend your own shades by starting with this selection of vibrant inks. It comes with Bloodline Black, Fast Weight, Canary Yellow, Redneck, and Caroline Blue.
Intenze Professional Tattoo Ink Zuper Black
Zuper Black was created by the artist Mario Barth. It’s potent stuff. Intenze recommends using it anywhere but on the face.
It’s perfect for cover-ups as it can reach 100% opacity. Also, it has a cold tone with hints of blue and purple. Check the instructions for tips on the most appropriate needle sizes depending on if you’re lining, color packing, or shading. Happily, this is one ink that won’t dry out while you’re working.
Intenze also offers many other brilliant colors, including pastels and UV-reactive (glow-in-the-dark) ink. Each one is pre-sterilized, and it needs both US and European Union safety standards.
Intenze Earth Tones Color Tattoo Ink Set – 10 Bottles
Not every shade in this set will stand out on darker skin. On the other hand, it’s an outstanding palette for color portrait tattoos.
As Intenze points out, these shades are difficult to mix from other colors.
Intenze Bob Tyrrell 6 Colors Ink Set
Black-and-white portraits have never looked more realistic. This set has the colors you need for professional results: Dimension Black, Sculpting Black, High White, and light, medium, and dark tones.
Kuro Sumi Colors Tattoo Ink – Master Set of 7 Best Sellers
You can recognize a good ink without even trying it. Just see how many fakes there are on the market.
Kuro Sumi is one of the most copied brands. Watch out for inauthentic bottles. Fortunately, their site lists approved distributors and explains how to detect knockoffs.
This brand is manufactured in the USA from vegan ingredients. It’s a non-toxic water-based ink that’s highly-pigmented. Artists love it because it heals rapidly and stays colorfast for years afterward.
Here’s a set with black, white, red, blue, orange, yellow, and green. Each one saturates well and flows smoothly.
Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink Lining and Shading Set
You’ll never want to make your own greywash again once you try this set. It covers all the necessary transitions from dark to light.
Reviewers say it looks just as crisp and clear when it’s healed as it does when it’s fresh.
BLACK ONYX Millennium Moms
When you use this brand of tattoo ink, you shouldn’t have to go over lines.
One artist said this particular color is as “black is the ace of spades”. It’s highly pigmented yet has an even consistency that flows perfectly into the skin.
Millennium Moms Tattoo Ink Set
Get familiar with Mom’s ink by starting with this 7-color set. The bold colors include Black Onyx, Power White, Grey Hound, Hello Yellow, Ectoplasmic Green, Blue Balls, and Monthly Red. They blend well if you’d like to create your own unique shades.
This brand is a favorite among tattoo artists because the ink is colorfast and smooth.
Millennium Mom’s Earthtone Tattoo Ink 14-Color Set
Check out this set for subtle tattoos on dark skin. It contains a beautiful collection of shades like Deep Moss, Dogwood Pink, and Ginger. They come in half-ounce bottles.
Nocturnal Full Set of 6
Have you heard of Jack Rudy and Franco Vescovi? They are the founding artists of this ink brand.
Their goal was to create dark shades with excellent fluidity for even shading. Black and gray artists and those who do Chicano-style tattoos love these colors.
The set comes with Lining & Shading Black, Super Black, Shine White, West Coast Light, West Coast Medium, and West Coast Dark.
They use only three simple ingredients: sterilized water, ethyl alcohol, and organic pigment.
StarBrite Colors Sterilized Tattoo Ink, 7-Color Starter Set
If you’re on a budget, get to know StarBrite ink. They offer a wide assortment of stunning colors that stay vivid even in darker skin.
They are based in Connecticut, where they manufacture the ink in an ISO-certified cleanroom. Each bottle is gamma-sterilized before shipping.
The colors in this set include Tribal Black, Jet Black Outliner, Brite White, Canary Yellow, Crimson Red, Country Blue, and Lime Green.
VIKING INK – BLACK DYNAMITE
Viking manufactures ink in the USA with vegan ingredients. This color, along with Black Tribal, and Black Liner, are intense shades. They don’t fade or turn green or blue after they heal.
Also, the consistency is perfect for precision work without blotting.
Choose from one half, 1, 4, or 9-ounce bottles.
World Famous Tattoo Ink – Black Outlining
The founders of World Famous Ink have a combined 50 years of experience. Although they make ink in the USA, they comply with the stricter European standards for health and safety.
Artists say the black lining ink is richly-pigmented yet has the perfect consistency for fine details. The outlines stay sharp long after the tattoo heals.
World Famous Primary Color Ink Set
Explore more World Famous ink with this set of a dozen top-selling colors. It includes Everest Orange, Great Wall Yellow, Pitch Black, and more.
Each one is packaged in a crystal flex bottle with a waterproof label and a twist cap to prevent leaking. Believe us when we say we love waterproof labels!
ReproFX Spirit Green Sheet Thermal Tattoo Stencil Transfer Paper
If you’ve ever tried blue and purple stencils on dark skin, you know that they are hard to see. The solution is to use green stencil paper like this. It has a high-visibility dye that’s safe for most skin types.
The paper is suitable for freehand or printer use. How can you tell? If it says it’s thermal paper, you can use it either way.
Just be sure to use the matching green transfer cream for the best results. It keeps the stencil bright and smudge-free while you work.
Each legal size sheet measures 8.5 x 14 inches, which gives you plenty of room to draw. You can cut it down to size if necessary.
Spirit Green Stencil Transfer Cream
Here’s the stencil cream you need for the green transfer paper above. It comes in an 8-ounce pump bottle. As you only need a small quantity, the bottle should last for a while. Moreover, the pump ensures that it stays free of contamination.
Apply a thin layer of the cream directly to the clean and shaved skin. Press down the stencil paper and wait 10 seconds. Be careful not to slide it around to prevent blurring. Carefully lift the edge and check to see if the image has transferred.
If it looks good, remove the paper and let the cream dry completely before wiping the skin.
You can use any color ink you like to tattoo darker skin. Just be aware that the skin tone acts as a filter.
Depending on the effect you desire, you may need to go brighter and bolder. But this never requires going over lines repeatedly or forgoing details and shading.
Take the time to study work done by artists who specialize in tattooing Black skin. With practice, you can make the magic happen, too.
1. https://www.allure.com/story/tattoo-artists-that-work-with-dark-skin by Kaitlyn McNab, published November 4, 2020, accessed December 28, 2020
2. https://www.bustle.com/p/4-myths-about-tattooing-on-dark-skin-that-are-completely-untrue-19188832 by Tamara Santibañez, published November 5, 2019, accessed December 28, 2020