A Complete Guide To White Ink Tattoos

  • Written By Dan Hunter on December 19, 2016
    Last Updated: November 15, 2020

While there are thousands of people proudly showing off white ink tattoos all around the world, many of them will be far less than perfect. White ink tattoos are much harder to pull off when compared to traditionally-inked tattoos.

Within this article, you will learn everything there is to know about getting the perfect white ink tattoo for yourself. Be aware though; there are definitely some potential downsides to consider.


What Is A White Ink Tattoo?

While the very large majority of tattoos are made up primarily of black ink and color inks, white ink designs contain nothing but the single white ink color. This form of body-art is generally seen as being much more delicate and subtle compared to most other ‘standard’ tattoos.

While many patterns and images can be created using white ink, because of it’s very light nature, the most common types of white ink tattoos created are lace-type patterns, as they help to portray a more natural look within the tattoo.

Because of the light, delicate nature of white ink tattoos, they have become particularly popular with women over the last several years, but many thousands of men have gone for the style also.

What you must know about white ink tattoos is that they are much harder to do correctly, and requires an extremely experienced tattooist who has previous hands-on experience with designs that incorporate white ink. White ink is a bit temperamental and challenging so it must be inked by someone who knows exactly what they are doing.

Due to the dilution and formation of most white inks compared to other inks, it takes practice in order to create a tattoo exactly how it’s requested by the customer. Not only this, but it’s much harder to see the white ink as it’s being added to the skin, meaning that the tattoo artist must have a very well-trained eye to remain aware of exactly where the needle is going as he or she tattoos white ink.

If you’re wanting to get a white tattoo, you should think long and hard before taking the leap. White inked tattoos require much planning in order for the whole process to go as smoothly as possible, and you must also be aware that the color of your skin can massively dictate how visible and effective the tattoo turns out. Some white ink tattoos can even look as though they contain no ink at all if not done correctly.

Factors To Consider

While you may be excited about getting a white ink tattoo and feel the need to rush to the parlor to get inked as quickly as possible, there are several factors you should take into consideration before making the big move and finalizing a design.

Chose The Right Tattoo Artist For The Job

As previously mentioned, if you want a white ink tattoo, then you should choose tattoo artists who are experienced in creating them. If you decide to choose somebody who has never created a white ink tattoo in their life then it’s extremely likely your tattoo is going to turn out far from how you expected it to.

Not only this, but experienced tattoo artists will be able to answer any important questions or queries you may have about the entire process.

Chose A Tattoo Design That Will Complement The White Ink

Again, as mentioned, you should definitely choose a tattoo design that you are sure will turn out looking great in white ink. Remember, these tattoos are more difficult to create and therefore, the simpler the design, the higher the likelihood it’s going to turn out looking better.

If in doubt, always consult a tattoo specialist, who will be able to give their professional opinion as to whether they think your idea will work well with white ink or not.

Visualize What Your Tattoo May Look Like Down The Line

White ink tattoos generally don’t stand the test of time as well as more traditional tattoos. Because of how light they are, white inks tend to be the first to fade as a tattoo ages. For this reason, you need to be aware of this before getting your tattoo that may be completely faded with only residual lines and scars 20 years down the line.

However, there are some things you can do to help prevent your tattoo from becoming prematurely faded, and we will discuss those a bit later on.

White Tattoos

How Quickly Does White Ink Fade?

Unfortunately, the rumors are true in that white tattoos will fade at a much faster rate than darker ones. It isn’t usually anything to do with the process of getting a white ink tattoo – more of the fact that lighter inks just generally fade quicker due to the lack of strong, hardy pigments within the ink mix.

And of course, white is as light as they come (although other inks such as reds, yellows, and greens also have a bad reputation when it comes to premature fading).

In terms of how long it actually takes for a white ink tattoo to fade, this is quite a tough question to answer because there are so many variables involved besides the lightness of the ink, and everybody who has a white tattoo will find themselves in their own completely individualized circumstance.

Other factors that can dictate how quickly your white tattoo fades include:

The Experience/Knowledge Of Your Artist

These people are not a “one size fits all” bunch of people. You need no qualifications and no certificates to draw on people’s skin, and therefore there are as many bad tattooists out there as there are good ones.

For this reason, ensure you pick the best professional your money can buy, and somebody who is already highly experienced with using white ink in their work.

Great tattoo artists will know exactly how much to pack out the skin with ink in order for it to set in well and stay in there during the healing process (when the body is trying it’s hardest to get the foreign elements out from under the skin).

Bad tattoo artists could all-too-easily misjudge how much ink to use in the design (or which dilution strength to mix), which in turn will only lead to a faster demise for your new prized possession.

Do your research and find some great people – there are many out there.

How Well You Care For Your Tattoo While It Heals

Once you leave the studio, you’re on your own, and it’s your responsibility to help your tattoo get through the healing stages until it has finished healing.

You should follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare advice as closely as possible. Failing to do this and deciding not to look after your tattoo the best you can will likely mean that your tattoo heals sub-optimally.

A poorly healed tattoo can finish up looking patchy, dull, and faded – and if you’re not careful, you could end up with an infection, which in extreme circumstances can lead to permanent scarring throughout the area.

By looking after your white ink tattoo as best as possible while it heals, you’re ensuring it starts its journey looking bright and healthy

How Well You Care For Your Tattoo After Healing

Looking after a tattoo doesn’t stop once it’s finished scabbing and peeling. In order for your white ink to remain looking bright and vibrant, you’ll want to make sure you moisturize it as much as possible (ideally every day). This ensures the skin is well-nourished and hydrated – and healthy skin means a healthy-looking tattoo.

Giving the skin over the tattoo a gentle scrub once in a while will also help to pull away any dead skin cells which could be sitting on top of the ink and giving it a faded, lackluster appearance. Doing this regularly will help the white ink to break through the skin as best as possible. Just remember to wait to do this AFTER your tattoo is completely healed. Also, if it hurts, you are scrubbing too hard.

How Well You Keep Your Tattoo Away From Direct Sunlight

It’s common knowledge that the sun is the biggest tattoo killer out there. The intense beams of UV firing into your skin will relentlessly damage the area and cause the ink to break up and fade away. Even more so for a color so light and delicate as white.

Try to keep your white ink tattoo as protected from the sun as possible. Stay in the shade when you can, and if you must go out in direct, intense sunlight, make sure you choose a good, reliable sunscreen to shield the area from the harmful rays (but not until the tattoo has completely finished healing. In the meantime, just don’t flaunt your new ink in the sun). Better yet, protect your tattoo with clothing.

The bottom line is – if you don’t look after your ink very well, and if you choose to get your ink done by an experienced tattoo artist, you could find your white ink tattoo fading significantly in the first year. However, if you care for it properly and get it done by an experienced professional, there’s no reason why it can’t look amazing for many years (or even decades to come).

Are White Ink Tattoos Always Raised?

What you need to understand is that all tattoos are slightly raised whether they are white or any other color. The tattooing process causes the skin to scar as it heals, normally causing it to end up slightly raised.

The only reason why people generally think that this style of tattoo heals with more raised skin is that the ink is much lighter, meaning that the raised skin is more visible and therefore becomes more apparent when compared to tattoos created with much darker inks.

Sometimes, a white tattoo can fade so much that the color looks like it has essentially completely washed out, therefore leaving just a raised area of normal-colored skin.

When this happens, it’s not uncommon for the area to just look like a collection of raised scars laid out in a peculiar pattern.

What Do They Look Like On Light/Pale Skin?

Due to the very light and delicate nature of all white ink tattoos, it’s clear to see that the paler the skin tone, the more obscure the tattoo is going to look compared to the same tattoo on darker skin.

It has been known for some people with extremely pale skin to come out of a tattoo studio having gotten a white tattoo and not even being able to see any of the ink (apart from the redness and swelling around it).

Normally, as long as your skin isn’t completely white, you should be able to see the ink when looking at the area carefully, although you should accept that the tattoo will generally be rather difficult to make out at any distance greater than a meter or two.

If your skin is very pale and you wish to get a white ink tattoo, be sure to check the quality of ink your tattoo artist is using before he begins the procedure. Poor quality white ink is very likely to turn into an offset white/yellow color a few years down the line, especially if it’s frequently exposed to sunlight. If you’re very pale, there is more of a chance for the color change to become much more noticeable.

What Do They Look Like On Dark, Tan & Black Skin?

Dark skin is perfect for white ink tattoos. The white ink stands out better, and can really pop if done by a good tattoo artist due to the huge difference in contrast between the dark skin pigment and the white pigments stored within the ink.

While lightly tanned skin presents less contrast between itself and a white ink tattoo compared to darker/black skin, the tattoo can still look impressive if done correctly.

With dark skin, tattoo discoloration becomes less of an issue due to the contrast between areas continuing to remain high. For this reason, the human eye will still generally see off-white ink as a nice bright white, even if it’s not, due to the vast difference in tone when compared to its darker surroundings.

Aftercare Advice

Wash Your Tattoo Regularly

You will need to keep your new tattoo as clean as possible. A new tattoo is essentially just an open skin wound in which bacteria can easily enter and cause infection if you’re not careful.

You should wash your tattoo carefully but firmly with lukewarm water and a skin-sensitive, colorless soap (like these specialized tattoo soaps). Make sure your hands have been thoroughly cleaned before touching your tattoo.

Once the tattoo has been washed, gently pat the area dry with a clean paper towel. You must refrain from rubbing the area as this can cause damage to the tattoo.

Wash your tattoo morning and night, and at any point in between where you suspect the area may have come into contact with something unsanitary.

Only Use Small Amounts Of Lotions

Try to apply a think layer of lotion each time you wash the tattoo to prevent the area from drying out afterward. However, you should never apply a new layer of lotion over an older layer without washing the area clean first, as this can cause tattoo bubbling and set you up for an infection.

Ensure the lotion you use is tattoo-friendly and contains no artificial colors or scents, as these are known to commonly irritate newly tattooed areas of skin, which can delay healing and cause unnecessary discomfort.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.

Don’t Pick Your Tattoo When It Peels/Scabs

While white ink tattoos tend to peel and scab much more lightly when compared to regular tattoos, you will probably still notice these processes happen during the healing stages. This is completely normal and you should not in any circumstances attempt to pull off these scabs or pieces of flaking skin before they are ready to fall away on their own. Doing so can cause infection, delay healing, and can even cause permanent fading and scarring to the tattoo design.

Keep Out Of Sunlight

As already mentioned, sunlight is enemy number one for white ink tattoos, and even more so while the tattoo is healing. The skin will be highly delicate while it’s recovering, and the strong UV rays from the sun (and sunbeds) will quickly and easily cause damage to the area if you’re not careful.

Stay Away From Water

All forms of water harbor bacteria, some of which will wreak havoc within your new tattoo. Stay out of all water until the area has completely healed. Bathwater is generally very dirty, so when you wash, do so by showering quickly while trying not to submerge your tattoo for too long under the water jets.