White Ink Tattoos

Maybe you've seen Lindsay Lohan’s “Breathe” tattoo on her wrist, perfectly healed and without a doubt re-done over and over again.  Many people have no idea that white ink tattoos exist, and to be perfectly honest, many artists like it that way! Why? Well, first know that this blog entry is coming from my own personal experience. My name’s Genevieve, I’ve worked at Liquid Amber Tattoo over the last 5 years, and I have 6 white ink tattoos from our shop that all healed differently. Here’s a bit of my perspective, and a few reasons why we don’t recommend white ink tattoos. 

My First White Ink Tattoo

As an actor, I'm reminded at every moment that tattoos could cost me the job. That being said, working part time at Liquid Amber as a shop manager without any tattoos was getting a little ridiculous. I had heard about pure white ink tattoos but had never seen it. I felt that I was ready to take the risk because what I wanted tattooed was something very personal; I didn’t want it to be noticeable to others & in the event it turned out as bad as the artists warned, I wouldn’t be too upset.

Tattooing Process

So the process begun; a half hour of stencilling trying to figure out the placement of these symmetrical designs on an asymmetrical human body was a bit of a headache. Once they were placed, the tattoo took a lot longer then expected as we had to avoid mixing the purple stencil pigment in with the ink. The solution was to go around the stencil and create a “blood line”. 


A blood line is tattooing the area with water, creating a scratch in the skin marking the area temporarily. Once that was completed we filled in the area with white ink. In the end, I had bright white tattoos. They were noticeable, bright, and looked like I had used fancy white-out on my skin. But unfortunately that didn't last for long. Once the scabs fell off about a week later, the tattoo was only noticeable in the right light and was fading more day by day.

Healed Tattoo

Tattoo inks sit under the epidermis in the deeper dermis skin layers. Contrary to popular belief, the lighter your skin, the better white ink shows through the epidermis. Unfortunately white ink tends to act quite differently in the skin. It changes it’s appearance over time and can completely disappear. In my case, 2 of my 6 white tattoos completely disappeared. One of them healed incredibly well after a second round of tattooing, another one healed half-okay after the second round and the last two turned out to be just what I had been warned of: brownish, grey like scars that are half visible and look more like a dirty mark then a tattoo even after going over them twice. Simply put, white ink is very unpredictable.

Allergic Reactions & Sunshine

 Body lotions, chemical sunscreens and sunshine are all notorious for affecting white ink tattoos.  It’s very common for people to experience allergic reactions with white ink and some continue to have these reactions while in the sun years after the tattoo has been healed. In my personal experience, 2 of my white ink tattoos completely disappeared within weeks. The day after tattooing, my skin rejected the ink and I had an incredibly itchy tattoo that was way more uncomfortable then it should have been.

Still want a white ink tattoo?

I took photos of my tattoos just so you can get the visual of my experience; why we always recommend choosing a colour or a lighter pigment instead of getting a white ink tattoo. Know that light colours will only appear on fair skin tones, should be in an area that does not get much sun exposure and can still heal a little patchy and change tones as the skin ages, but are usually a better result compared to white ink. Still want a white ink tattoo? Send us a detailed email with what you are interested in getting tattooed and we'll move forward and see if it's possible. Don't forget to include the size, location and photos that help us understand what you want.

In my opinion, you’ll be much happier with the outcome of your tattoo if you choose a colour or black ink. Though I love my white ink tattoos, they really don’t look very good and tend to get itchy in the sun. It’s also important to mention that I’m in position to always get them re touched as I work in a tattoo shop.

Is white ink the same as ultraviolet blacklight ink ?

- No. White ink is completely different then ultraviolet/blacklight/glow-in-the-dark ink. UV ink has changed over the years, and it's probably better than it was when it first came out, but it hasn't been out long enough for us not to have concerns over the long term effects and if it's safe in the skin. Because of this, none of our artists have or will use UV ink.

Can I get a large detailed tattoo in white ink?

-If one of our artists agrees to do a white ink tattoo, it's generally when they are only done with simple lines. That being said, white ink is best used for highlights. It’s a perfect finishing touch to add to the details of colour or black and grey tattoos.

I have a lot of heavy black work and I’d like to tattoo white ink on top of it and embellish my black work, is this possible?

 -It depends on the tattoo, how you heal, and how you take care of the tattoo as to how this could end up looking. Book a consult with one of our artists and we can see if there’s a way for us to accommodate your concept.