Tattoo Artist Shares Things to Never Do When Getting a Colorful Tattoo

  • I’m a tattoo artist that specializes in black-and-gray and color-realism designs.
  • Don’t expect the color to look exactly the same as in the reference photo, especially when healed.
  • Consider getting color tattoos in a spot that doesn’t see much sun, and know you may need touch-ups.

I’ve been a tattoo artist for years. In addition to black-and-gray work, I specialize in color-realism designs.

But the latter requires a little more research for the best results, so there are some common mistakes people make when they’re unprepared.

Find an artist who specializes in color tattoos

colorful Tattoo of Harry Potter artifact on arm

Not every artist knows how to ink color tattoos.

Alissa Jung


These tattoos require more knowledge in color theory as well as technique. Black ink is easier to saturate and heal on the skin, so many artists find it simpler to work with.

Finding an artist who understands color and how to work with it on the skin is important.

Without an experienced tattooer, it’s easy to choose the wrong colors and overwork the skin, which can lead to scarring or patchiness.

Don’t expect the color to look exactly like it does in the reference photo

Your artist will do their best to get the shade as close to the drawing or reference as possible. But once the color is placed in the dermis, your skin will act as a sheer filter over it.

This will be more prevalent as your body art heals and the vibrancy of a cool tattoo fades.

If you’re worried about how the color will appear on your skin tone or how your skin will react to the ink, ask for a patch test.

Get familiar with how color tattoos heal ahead of time

Two healed tattoos — a flower bouquet and butterfly — on arms

Healed tattoos (left) aren’t as vibrant as fresh ones (right).

Alissa Jung


All tattoos will fade over time, however, color tattoos are generally more susceptible to it than black ink. It’s important to see your artist’s healed work to know what to expect.

Depending on how you heal, you may need a touch-up down the line to keep the tattoo looking fresh and vibrant, which is normal maintenance for color designs. Every artist has their own touch-up policy, so make sure to check with yours.

All of this depends on the way your skin reacts during and after the tattoo, the colors used, and how well your artist saturates the color.

Anticipate more money — and possibly more pain — for color tattoos

Depending on the design and style, these tattoos may take more time. Color is a little trickier to work with, takes longer to saturate, and sometimes must be inked in a certain order.

Since artists take time into consideration when charging for a tattoo, color designs are likely to cost a bit more.

As for the painit’s not the actual colored ink that hurts more, but rather the speed, depth, shading technique, and order in which colors are placed that may make it more painful.

Consider opting for a placement that doesn’t see a lot of sun

Colorful Floral tattoo on ribs

Spots that can be easily covered with clothes are good.

Alissa Jung


If you spend a lot of time in the sun, consider choosing a placement that can be hidden under clothes or isn’t often exposed.

UV rays from direct sunlight will break down the pigment and fade your tattoos — even more so for colored ones.

If you want your tattoo to be visible, I recommend inner-forearm placements since they’re mostly turned toward the body and away from the sun.

Make sure you can commit to color

All tattoos are a commitment, but color designs are one people don’t typically think enough about.

Many people love color tattoos individually, but once they start planning more, they realize they want their art to have the cohesive look of black and gray designs. This is just personal preference, but definitely something to consider.

Also keep in mind that color tattoos may be a little more high-maintenance in terms of care and touch-ups.

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