I got a tattoo for the second time in my life recently, and one of the first things I noticed while scouring social media for design inspiration and artists to consider for the job was that the tattoo industry is lacking a lot of color — both in terms of the people on which the work is showcased and the artists behind the chair. As common as body art is among all people, there are still so many myths out there surrounding the process of tattooing on Black and brown skin and whether or not doing so is more difficult.
According to Kandace Layne, an artist at the Queen Bee Tattoo Parlor in Marietta, GA, tattooing dark skin isn’t necessarily harder, it just requires someone taking the time to learn a different approach or strategy because certain designs or colors can show up differently. “It’s something you can only learn to do by doing it often, and since there are so many different skin tones and types, it takes a long time to understand,” she told POPSUGAR.
For Layne, the most important difference all comes down to design. “It’s similar to drawing on a brown piece of paper versus a white one,” she said. “On the brown paper, I might use bolder lines for more visibility, and choose certain colors that carry through well even though the paper is brown. Green and red are good examples of that.”
Outside of knowing how to play with color, keeping negative space in mind and knowing how to best approach the overall design is important as well. “It can take a while to learn which colors will be the most flattering to use on different complexions, even grey tones show up differently,” Layne said. “Keeping the design open by avoiding really compact designs elements — like lines being really close to each other in the tattoo — really helps with visibility as well for dark skin tones.”
In the same way that it’s important for all aestheticians to know how to properly work on all skin types and colors, the same thing applies to tattoo artists. If you’re a person of color and are still in the research phase of your tattoo journey, make sure you check out each artist’s portfolio and try to find some examples of their work on a variety of skin tones.
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