White Ink Tattoos

Our guest blogger is psychologist, freelance writer and creator of the blog Dream Electric, Ally Richards. In this post she is asking the question are white ink tattoos beautifully “barely there” or barely worth it? 

Tattoos entirely in white ink have become particularly popular. Part of the appeal may be their subtly for those unwilling to commit to a very visible piece. They’re discreet and often easily hidden. Celebrities such as Cara Delevigne and Rihanna now have them. 

An oft quoted criticism is the perceived pointlessness of getting a tattoo that isn’t especially visible or durable. My own interest developed after discovering images online of delicate, filigree-style designs that had an almost “secret” quality to them. I have other tattoos so I don’t personally see white as a “soft” option and like the scar-like quality of the ink, so I made plans to get my own.

Trying to find reliable information on white ink proved both challenging and discouraging. I was unable to find artists who advertised as being experienced in white ink. Artists told me it was a difficult job that they were reluctant to take on, that the design would fade and wasn’t worth the effort. I saw images of designs that barely showed up or had blurred into an off-colour smudge. Many articles on white ink frequently confuse it with images of UV tattoos and even scarification and warn customers off.

Eventually I took a studio recommendation and the artist assured me they had experience, although they weren’t able to show me any of their white work. The design was a lace heart, inspired by mandalas and also the doilies of a traditional cream tea. 

 I had read that the stencil ink can bleed in and discolouring the tattoo and was particularly concerned about this. A blood-line technique is often recommended. The artist was confident that their stencil was suitable.

As soon as the tattoo was finished a lilac colour was very evident, which I was assured would go away during healing. The colour did fade but a blueish tinge stuck to parts, giving a bruised colouring. The artist did a free touch-up on the bluest parts. This did decrease the blue, but it was not entirely removed.

Over a year has passed since and my tattoo still has several blueish patches. Positively, the white does show up on my very pale skin. It’s slightly raised in an appealing way. I apply sun cream to prevent it yellowing. One edge is becoming fainter and I have accepted that it will require future touching up to maintain its visibility. Though others usually only notice it when very close, my tattoo regularly receives very positive responses. People frequently tell me they love it and they’ve never seen one like it. Other artists have told me it is actually a particularly good example of white ink, which is some comfort.

I do however feel disappointed with the outcome. At this point I plan on letting the entire tattoo fade then getting it all retouched. Another possible option is going over in light blue for consistency. I still love the look of white ink but I would probably think twice about getting another, due to the unpredictability of the outcome.

Do you have a white ink tattoo of your own? Have you encountered the same problems as Ally? Comment below and let us know your experiences… 

5 comments

  1. Loup

    My white ink tattoo has healed wonderfully but the artist did a bloodline (thus making it the most painful tattoo I’ve ever gotten) and it rarely ever gets any sun. It was a bastard to heal too, taking forever and looking like a burn rather than anything else.

    The interesting thing is that a dermatologist/plastic surgeon I was seeing for mole removal had a good look at it (he was curious) and he thinks it is actually more like scarification because to him it looked like the melanin had been pulled out of my skin during the healing process, rather than white ink being put in.

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  4. Kerry Newton

    I have 3 white tattoos, the oldest is from ten years ago and I think the white ink has worked really well on me (I’m very pale). I’m keen to get another but can’t find an artist who will work with white ink now 🙁

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