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Can you be black and have colored tattoos?

Tattoos have become increasingly popular in recent years among all races and ethnicities. However, there has been some debate around whether certain tattoo styles and colors look good on darker skin tones. In particular, there is a common misconception that black people cannot get colorful tattoos because the colors won’t show up well on their skin.

The Visibility of Color on Darker Skin

It is true that some colors, especially pastels, light greens, purples and yellows, tend to appear less vibrant on dark skin. However, most colors actually show up quite well. While the tattoo may look slightly different than on paler skin, vibrant colors like reds, oranges, blues, bright greens and pinks will still be clearly visible. How well the color shows up also depends on the tattoo artist’s skill level and experience in working on darker skin.

Black skin and colored ink have quite a bit of contrast, which allows the colors to stand out. Lighter skin provides less contrast against brighter colors. In fact, some argue that color tattoos pop more on black skin. As long as the colors are saturated and dark enough, there should be no issue with visibility. Choosing the right artist who knows how to adjust and enhance the colors specifically for darker tones is key.

Best Color Choices for Darker Skin

While any color can work, some of the best choices include:

  • Black
  • Gray
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Green
  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Brown

Darker, richer tones tend to work better than pastels or neons. Blacks, dark blues, bold reds and deep purples will really pop. Vivid greens, oranges and yellows also make a bold statement.

Stay away from lighter colors like pink, light purple, baby blue or soft yellow. Go for colors with depth and vibrancy. Bold jewel tones and primary colors are great choices.

Tattoo Ink Options for Darker Skin

There are a few tattoo ink options specifically designed for richer skin tones:

  • Dynamic Colors – This ink brand offers colors formulated to show up on darker skin, like Honey Gold and Rich Chocolate.
  • Dark Skin Tattoo Ink – A line of ink containing darker versions of colors like red, yellow and orange.
  • All Nighter Tattoo Inks – Inks designed to maintain vibrancy even after years on the skin.

Most standard tattoo ink brands also carry colors that work beautifully on dark skin, like black, grey wash, vibrant blues, deep greens, bold oranges and rich purples. The key is choosing an experienced artist who can select the right shades.

Tattoo Styles That Stand Out on Dark Skin

While any tattoo style can look amazing on darker skin, these tend to pop the most:

  • Blackwork/Neotraditional – The high contrast shows off the thick, solid black outlines.
  • Watercolor – Soft blends of vivid colors look stunning.
  • New School – The bold outlines and bright colors really stand out.
  • Geometric – The sharp edges of shapes pop against the skin.
  • Abstract – Flowing organic shapes and bold colors make a statement.
  • Fine Line – Thin lines and delicate shading are still visible.

The key is keeping things bold. Thick outlines help colors pop while providing definition. Solid blocks of color also look great against the skin.

Placement Guidelines for Darker Skin

The body part you get your tattoo on also impacts visibility. Areas like the wrists, arms, shoulders, upper back, thighs and ankles allow colors to stand out best on darker skin tones. Avoid placing lighter colors on areas with thicker skin or more sebum oil production like hands, ribs, elbows and knees. Those areas tend to fade more quickly.

It’s also best to avoid areas that see a lot of sun exposure if you get light colors as they can fade more rapidly. Some decent spots include:

  • Inside forearm
  • Chest
  • Upper shoulder
  • Upper thigh
  • Calf
  • Ankle
  • Behind the ear

Aftercare for Color Tattoos on Darker Skin

Proper tattoo aftercare is important for any skin tone, but especially for darker complexions. The following tips can help your colors stay bright and vibrant:

  • Avoid sun exposure while healing. The sun can fade new tattoos quickly.
  • Use an unscented moisturizing lotion. Keeping the skin hydrated prevents scabbing.
  • Stick to the artist’s aftercare instructions. Over-cleansing can fade colors.
  • Apply a sunscreen of SPF 30+ on healed tattoos when in the sun.
  • Consider getting a touch up if needed once fully healed to refresh colors.

Examples of Colorful Tattoos on Dark Skin

To see examples of how well colored ink can turn out on dark skin, here are some photos:

Tattoo Style Photo
Watercolor lion Watercolor lion tattoo on dark skin forearm
Floral shoulder tattoo Pink and purple floral tattoo on woman's shoulder
Bright geometric sleeve Geometric sleeve with bright colors

As you can see, vibrant colors like pinks, oranges, greens and blues show up beautifully on dark brown and black skin tones.

Finding the Right Tattoo Artist

Choosing an artist who specializes in coloring darker skin is key to getting a vibrant, quality tattoo. Here are some tips for finding the right artist:

  • Look at their tattoo portfolio and focus on their color work on dark skin.
  • Ask about their experience with coloring deeper complexions.
  • Choose an artist skilled in a variety of color tattoo styles.
  • Ask for referrals from friends with colored tattoos.
  • Read reviews from black clients who got color work.
  • Schedule a consultation to discuss your vision and options.

Take the time to research artists thoroughly, just as you would for any permanent body art. A skilled, experienced color tattoo artist will work with you to create a vibrant, beautiful design that pops on your skin.


Black skin and colorful tattoos can go together beautifully. With the right tattoo artist and design choices, the colors will show up vibrantly and make a bold statement. From watercolor to geometric patterns, any style can work well on darker skin when inked by a knowledgeable professional.

So don’t shy away from getting the colorful tattoo you want because of misguided myths about visibility. With the proper placement, color selection and artistic skill, your tattoo will turn out amazing on dark skin and be something you can enjoy showing off for years to come.