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What are the cons of getting a color tattoo?

Tattoos have become increasingly popular in recent years, with color tattoos being one of the most popular styles. While tattoos can be an amazing form of self-expression, there are some potential drawbacks to be aware of when considering a color tattoo.

Higher Cost

One of the biggest cons of getting a color tattoo is the higher cost compared to a black ink tattoo. Color tattoos require more time, effort and specialized equipment from the tattoo artist. This means you’ll likely be paying a higher hourly rate and the total cost of the tattoo will be greater.

The more complex the design and vibrant the colors, the more it will cost. While a simple black tattoo may only take an hour and cost $100-200, a color tattoo of the same size could take 2-3 hours and cost $200-500 or even more. If your design is large or includes a lot of intricate detail work, expect the price to rise accordingly.

Fading Issues

Black ink tattoos tend to hold up well over time, but color tattoos carry a higher risk of fading or discoloration. UV rays, sun exposure, skin damage and the natural fading of pigments can cause the colors to blur or change over time.

Some colors are more prone to fading than others. Red, orange, pink and purple are notorious for fading quickly. Blue and green tend to hold up better. But even vibrant colors will likely look a bit duller 10 or 20 years down the road compared to a fresh tattoo.

More Touch Ups

In addition to the colors fading, color tattoos require more frequent touch ups over time. As the tattoo ages, you’ll start to notice inconsistencies in the vibrancy of the colors. Certain areas may look faded while other spots retain more color.

To keep the color looking rich and consistent, you’ll need periodic touch up appointments over the years. This means additional costs and time spent getting rework done.

Skin Irritation

Some people may have skin reactions or allergies to certain pigments used in color tattoos. Red ink is one of the most common causes of tattoo allergies. The pigments get recognized as foreign material by the immune system, causing itching, swelling, bumps or excessive scabbing around the tattooed area.

These skin reactions can develop immediately or even years later. Getting a small color test patch done first is wise to screen for possible allergic reactions before getting a large scale color piece.

Makes Future Cover Ups Harder

If you later decide you want a cover up tattoo, this process becomes much trickier with a color design. The existing colors will show through the new tattoo, mixing together into a muddy result.

Covering up black ink is straightforward since dark shades can simply be layered on top. But altering or removing existing vibrant colors is difficult. More strategic cover up work is required, such as incorporating the old colors into the new design.

Finding the Right Artist

Not all tattoo artists specialize in color tattoos or have a keen eye for color application. It takes great skill to evenly saturate the skin with vibrant tones. One poorly mixed or spotty color can throw off the whole tattoo.

Do your research to find an experienced color tattoo specialist. Examine their color portfolio closely to get a sense of their style, technique and color blending abilities. Their expertise will greatly impact how the healed color tattoo turns out.

Longer Healing Time

Color tattoos take longer to heal than black ink tattoos, especially vibrant reds and oranges. The extra trauma to the skin from multiple passes and needle sticks makes the area tender for a few extra weeks. Bold colors may appear raised or feel warm to the touch during the healing process.

Sticking to the recommended aftercare is essential. The healing skin is fragile and more susceptible to damage, bleeding and scabbing. Avoid sun exposure until fully healed as UV rays can quickly cause fading and discoloration.

Challenging to Remove

Tattoo regret is real. If you later decide you want a color tattoo removed, it presents some unique challenges compared to black ink.

Laser tattoo removal works by targeting the ink particles under the skin with pulses of highly concentrated light. These pulses break up the particles so they can be absorbed by the body. However, color pigments absorb and reflect light differently than black ink.

Color Number of Treatments
Black 6-10 sessions
Blue 8-12 sessions
Green 8-12 sessions
Red 10-15 sessions
Orange 10-15 sessions
Purple 12-18 sessions
Yellow 15-20 sessions

As shown in the table, blue, green, and lighter color tattoos may take up to double the number of sessions to remove compared to black ink tattoos. Treatment times increase even more for difficult colors like purple and yellow.

The body also tends to hold onto color pigments much more stubbornly than black ink. It is hard to predict how many treatments will be needed for complete removal. Traces of color may remain even after 10+ laser sessions.

Risk of Skin Discoloration

Another issue with color tattoo removal is the risk of skin discoloration. The laser targeting the color pigments can potentially leave behind permanent lightened or darkened areas of skin.

This risk is increased with red and yellow pigments. Vascular damage from removing reds may cause the area to remain reddened. Yellow has been linked to hypopigmentation or loss of natural skin color.

Those with darker skin tones have greater risk of discoloration issues. Lasers calibrated for lighter skin may overly lighten darker complexions. Managing patient expectations is key when removing color tattoos, as some pigment or tone changes may persist.


Color tattoos allow for amazing artistic expression, but also require careful consideration. There are financial, maintenance, healing and removal factors to weigh when deciding on getting one.

Set your expectations upfront about the higher cost and touch up requirements. Find an artist proficient in color techniques and skin tones. Allow plenty of time for the extended healing process. Avoid cheap laser removal options that can scar or blotch the skin.

While more challenging in some ways, a well-done color tattoo is a beautiful investment. Doing your homework to find the right artist and care properly for the tattoo will help you enjoy it for years to come.