the trouble with white.

in the process of setting up for a white ink tattoo.

in the process of setting up for a white ink tattoo.

White ink on the hands.
Plenty of tattooers won’t even do this. For good reason, too! White ink does not heal white. It heals slightly lighter than the skin tone, and often unevenly. It ends up looking a bit like a pale scar, nearly invisible.

Most tattoo artists who will do tattoos in white-ink-only, will not guarantee it, do a free touchup, after it heals. It’s acknowledged that it will not look right when it heals. There’s a very, very rare person for whom it heals and looks ok- but that person is truly rare. I’ve only ever met one, in 16 years of using white alone in tattoos.

All that said, I will do white-ink-only tattoos. And I’ll even do one free touchup, just like with any other tattoo. BUT, I try to make it really clear that it’ll never heal just right, never look perfect. That it’s going to fade into a pale hint of a tattoo, like a scar. Barely there, and that this is likely to happen unevenly, too.

Here are two matching tattoos, freshly tattooed with white-ink-only.




Here are white tattoos, about two or three months after healing.


As you can see, not only is it faded, it’s uneven.
The fact that these tattoos are on hands makes it even less predictable, less likely to heal well. Hands and feet are areas that see a lot of wear and tear, a lot of rough treatment. The skin there is harder to tattoo and the tattoo itself will get more sun damage and have more trouble during the healing process, so any tattoo there tends to look wrong after healing, but with white as well it’s even worse.Like I said, I do these tattoos. I don’t mind doing them- covering up white is a snap, in the worst case, and they tend to fade out too much, so they’re not highly visible in their yuckiness. But they’re not guaranteed to stick or look nice. And yeah- that means they just won’t, and that your skin/hands are not special, and it applies to you and me and everyone who wants white ink on their hands. Except for my friend Peck. He’s the one person I have ever met for whom white ink is usually perfect- and even he has some stuff that has faded. 


miscellaneous healed white ink tattoos found online (not done by me)

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