White ink tattoo, three years later

One of the most common search terms used to find my site is “white ink tattoo“. According to Google Analytics, 301 people have found my site by searching for some variation of this phrase in the past 30 days, with a real peak beginning around the first of September.

These searches are landing them on the page where I show off my white forearm tattoos, one day old at the time the post was written. I’ve recently had few people ask me how they’ve held up over the three years since, so here’s a picture, taken over the weekend.

White ink tattoo

Look closely, they’re pretty subtle. The ink is holding up pretty well — I have white ink on two other pieces so I know my skin can hold it fairly well, some people can’t — but the color is not as uniform as I would like. I had them gone over three times and some scarring has resulted, so I don’t think there’s much I can do about the color now. I’ve seen better white work but I’m still pretty happy with these.


Jena Kruse says:

I’ve been searching the internet for white ink tattoos, I came across your site. I was wondering where and who did your tattoos. I am having a hard time finding an artist is comfortable with this form of tattooing. Thankyou.

Kenn Christ says:

They were done by Levon Leeds, formerly in Los Angeles. He’s now working at Five Star Tattoo just outside of Portland, Oregon.

Lotus says:

Hey, thanks for having this page up. I just got a white ink tattoo last night and googled the images because it’s REALLY not subtle right now- all the skin around it is red! What you’ve got is what I was going for- and even in the same spot.

It’s good to see what it’s likely to look like in a couple of years.

Katie says:

Does anyone know if you can tattoo white ink over black ink? And what will it look like?

Kenn Christ says:

Katie: I’d say probably not.

I won’t say no because I did something similar. I have a piece that’s largely black with thin white (rather, untouched) lines between the black segments. When it began to bleed together my tattoo artist went over the white lines with white ink, which helped define the black a lot. It’s been something like nine years and it’s still holding up well. You can see it in this picture.

That said, bleeding color is a lot different than skin that’s been tattooed directly, so I don’t think putting white over black would work out so well under those circumstances. It really all depends on your existing piece anyway. Ask your tattoo artist for his/her opinion.

Liz. says:

I’m going to get a white ink tattoo next week, and my artist is really confident in the process, and I am really happy with him.

I’ve been hitting the Google, and there is a lot of crap out there about the stencil ink running into the white ink and making the tattoo blue instead of pure white. This is, obviously, panicking me a bit, as I am wedded to the idea of white ink and not a muddy color.

Do you know how your artist prevented this? What kind of question should I be asking about the stencil to ensure that this doesn’t happen?

Kenn Christ says:

Liz: I don’t recall my artist taking any particular steps to prevent it, but it’s possible I just didn’t notice. I honestly don’t know if this is a common problem (or if it’s really a problem at all). The best thing to do would be to express this concern to your own artist and get his thoughts on it. If he’s done white pieces before, he’ll know what to do.

Camie says:

I got an all white tattoo on the inside of my wrist yesterday.
The artist did say you have to be very careful about not hitting the purple outline ink or it will be a muddy light purple color. I can’t wait to see what it looks like once it’s healed. I will probably have it hit again just because. The artist called mine a “negative tattoo” which means there is no outline just blood shading.


emma says:

Hey there.
I see loads of ppl are asking about the ink from the carbon paper getting into the tattoo. Yes, this is exactly what happened to mine, but carbon ink is broken down by the body whereas tattoo ink isn’t, so there is no need for an artist to take any particular precautions – the tint goes away in about a month.

Did your artist warn you about the ‘nicotine’ tint? I was told white ink will yellow, but my artist (being aware of my translucently pale Scottish forearms) was more than happy to use white, although he doesn’t like to on olive toned skin.

My white ink, however, was really irritated for a long time. In fact, 7 months on, it’s still sometimes itchy, a tiny bit inflamed and feels like crocodile skin! How long did your take to settle?


Kenn Christ says:

Hey Emma, nice work. Thanks for the info about the carbon ink, that’s good to know.

Mine healed pretty normally, but I did end up with a little scarring due to having to go over the white in three sessions (3 – 4 months apart). The healing itself after each session was only a month or so, as usual for me.

My artist had only done one or two other white pieces before mine and so didn’t have much information for me other than a warning that we’d probably have to go over it a few times and that there was still no guarantee that it would take well.

Tiffany says:

Hi there…I am really interested in getting a white ink tattoo…. this is the first site that I’ve actually been able to get some real information on them. Are all of you happy that you got the white ink or are any of you wishing you had gone with another color? Has anyone gotten white ink and later colored over it?

Emma, love your tattoo on your forearm…how long after you got the ink done was that pic taken?

shan says:

Thank you for this site. I have asked out local tattoo artists about white ink but havent really gotten that far. They have all heard about it but no one had any pictures of what it looks like after the fact. This page has helped me make my choice. Thanks again.

emma says:

Thanks, Tiffany :)
I think in that picture it’s about 5 months old, but it hasn’t changed any since then.

I’m really happy with the ink and people frequently comment on it or ask about it (many guess that it’s branding or scarification); I think maybe the white ink has an almost ‘natural’ look that people don’t normally associate with tattoos.

Denise says:

I’ve been looking for a tattoo artist that does white ink well for some time now. Do you know of any good artists in California?


emma says:

Every artist will use white ink, usually just for highlights etc but only because people seem to ask rarely for entirely white tattoos. It is no different than any other ink – a good artist will be competent regardless of the colour they’re using.

It might be an idea to look for artists in your area on bmezine.com – you’ll find pictures of work as well as written accounts of experiences. In general, the better the artist, the longer in advance you’ll need to make an appointment. If you can walk in off the street – avoid! :)

wynne says:

I have “shalom” in hebrew tattoo’d on one forearm and “salaam” in arabic on the other in white. They both mean peace. After two months they are still very grey in places, although the grey seems to be dropping out gradually.

They are not white, however, they are very pale, and I was forwarned that they would have to be touched up. The tattooist is not keen yet to do it until the first tattoo healing has evolved – which seems reasonable.

The only part of the tattoo which is clean and white is the outline, and I will ask that it be reinforced.

The tattooist doesn’t believe the theory about the stencil being trapped in the ink, he says that the body will absorb it – it is water soluble. He thinks that the grey comes from metal in the needle being ground down by the abrasive ink. I am apprehensive of a poor outcome.

emma says:

The body does absorb the carbon paper residue, but it takes a few months, so be patient.

The theory that grey is caused by the needle being ground down by the ink — surely it would be ridiculous to use an ink that abrasive or a needle that soft? Wouldn’t it blunt the needle chronically? That just strikes me as a bizarre idea :/

I would just be philosophical about it. Tattoos can always be fixed up and re-worked. They won’t ever be a true white though, since the image is shining through your skin. The more olive your skin, the less white the tattoo.

joe lanza says:

I want to “white out” a section of a black cross. On the white I want a cover tattoo to calm the black down.