Best Tattoo Colors for Darker Skin

  • Written By Dan Hunter on January 17, 2022
    Last Updated: January 17, 2022

People with dark skin complexions can definitely get tattoos. The skin is made up of three layers: dermis, epidermis, and fat layer. The epidermis contains pigmented cells, melanocytes, which everyone has, no matter their race or skin color.

Melanocytes produce melanosomes, which determine an individual’s complexion. The only difference between lighter and darker skin tones is that people with dark skins produce more melanosomes, hence the varying shades among races and ethnicities. 

As such, you’ll need to find what works for you well before getting tattooed. In this article, we highlight the best tattoo colors for dark skin complexions.


Do Color Tattoos Show on Dark Skin?

This is a question that people with darker skin tones often ask themselves when they consider getting a tattoo. And the answer is yes! Contrary to what most people think, tattoos can show on any skin.

Is Tattooing Dark Skin Different From Light Skin?

A skilled tattoo artist should easily manage tattooing light and dark skin complexions. Since our skin is structured in translucent layers, the final image of the tattoo should be visible through them all. However, the higher the melanosome production, the darker the skin. Thus, the finished product may not be as visible as you’d like.

Before getting a tattoo, the best thing is to consult a professional artist to find the best design, style, and tattoo color for you. Below are other considerations you may want to make. 

Stencil Color Used

Did you know that color tattoos look just as great on darker complexions? That’s right! It’s all about the expertise of the tattoo artist, i.e., do they understand how color behaves on dark surfaces.

According to Anthony Michaels, a tattoo artist based in Arizona, your skin will dilute the ink color. The original ink color used will not remain the same no matter your complexion. If you have a darker complexion, the final color will appear muted compared to lighter skin shades. 

For instance, light colors like yellow may end up “disappearing” as they’ll become more diluted.

So what are the best colors to use on dark complexions? According to research, dark blue, dark green, purple, black, and red look great on such skin tones. Dark ink colors map out the final design very clearly for the artist and client to see.

Using brighter colors may do more harm than good. Unlike what most inexperienced artists believe, white ink will make your skin look somewhat lighter than it did before.

Avoid Overworking the Tattoo

Most people believe that dark skin scars easily and develop keloids during the tattooing process, explaining why inexperienced artists overwork the skin. However, this is not always the case for everyone.

Another instance when tattoo artists can overwork the skin is when they use ink colors similar to the client’s skin tone. The result is diluted or unclear line work, which often invites the artist to keep working the skin, thus creating scarring or keloids.

Using the Correct Undertones and Ink Color Warmth

Black ink creates excellent linework since it gives better contrast than most colors. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve the same by using bright ink color on darker complexions. Of importance is to consider the client’s undertone to find the best ink to use.

One way to do this is to conduct a color test to create an effective contrast in the final product. The process entails drawing a series of lines in various colors on the client’s body. After 2-4 weeks of healing, the artist will determine the best choice based on how the skin reacts to the ink.

However, a skilled artist should know what colors will suit their client’s skin tone and make the colors pop.

Tattoo Design and Placement

Where the tattoo artist places the color tattoo is a huge determinant of how visible or effective the tattoo is. Since direct sunlight fades tattoos, placing yours on your forearms, for instance, will fade faster than one tucked away under your shirt or on your inner thigh.

If going for a large tattoo design, ensure adequate negative space around the colorful parts to make the tattoo pop. Additionally, placing it on the inner thigh rather than the exposed forearm will make it appear brighter. This is because the less exposed body parts often have a lighter skin tone.

Photography and Editing

When taking photos of the final work, tattoo artists use bright studio lights and camera flashes, making the skin appear washed out. Unfortunately, this is unflattering to dark complexions, which explains the lack of diversity in most artists’ portfolios. 

However, with practice, it’s possible to capture accurate tones of the tattoo against the client’s dark complexion.

Additionally, an experienced and professional artist should have excellent editing skills, i.e., they should avoid desaturating the image to create contrast. 

Is Dark Skin Hard to Tattoo?

Another common misconception is that dark skin tones are challenging to work with since they are thicker. But in reality, dark skin tones only make it difficult for the artist to see the line works. 

Furthermore, they require less ink to create visible line work details. Allowing adequate space between the skin and dark ink will further emphasize the tattoo’s visibility.

How to Find the Right Tattoo Artist for Dark Skin Complexions

As with everything else, it’s essential to conduct your due diligence before engaging a tattoo artist. Below are key things to observe to help you find the best one for you.

  • Read reviews online. Before booking an appointment, check out the customer review section on the artist’s website. The reviews will give you a good idea of what to expect in terms of quality and cost.
  • Check out their Instagram photo gallery. Since tattoos are a unique form of art, artists will post their work to promote their brand. If the artist’s bio states they are racially diverse, their gallery section should display images with varying skin tones.
  • Ask for healed photos of tattoos on dark skin. This will help you see how the tattoo will age on your skin.
  • Choose a patient and experienced artist. Your tattoo will remain on your body for a long time, and as such, you should be as comfortable as possible. 

In Summary

Your dark complexion shouldn’t stop you from getting a bright, colorful tattoo. Skilled tattoo artists can work with all skin tones to give you your desired piece, thanks to their education and experience. However, it’s best to do your research in advance before getting your permanent body art.