Tattoo shops should be a place for everybody (okay, except children and assholes). For too long, people with dark skin have been discouraged and even excluded by the tattoo community due to misconceptions and bias. The truth is, a skilled artist can work collaboratively with clients of any skin tone to create beautiful body art!
If you’re on the fence about your dream tattoo because of your skin tone, I hope this information encourages you to reach out to a reputable tattooer. If you’re an artist, I hope this inspires reflection on how we can make the tattoo industry more inclusive for everyone.
Racism/Colorism in tattooing
It would be remiss of me to discuss inclusivity in tattooing without acknowledging both historical and current discrimination in the tattoo industry. You may be reading this after an artist turned you away, saying your skin tone was the reason. Or maybe you’ve seen multiple instances of colorism on tattoo reality shows. Or you’ve felt unwelcome due to the climate of certain tattoo shops. This is wrong and needs to change.
Systemic racism influences every aspect of our culture, and unfortunately tattooing is not immune. It takes artists and shops standing up against racism and colorism to improve the industry. It is our responsibility as the experts to familiarize ourselves with color theory, learn to tattoo all shades, make space for artists of color, and consult openly with clients using factual information.
How does skin tone affect tattooing?
Tattoo ink sits just below the epidermis, or outer layer of skin. It’s oversimplified to think of skin as a piece of paper to draw on because it’s more like a filter we view tattoos through. Everyone’s skin is unique, but there are general color schemes and tones that work well together to make the art pop.
Skilled tattooers have an understanding of color theory and can collaborate with clients to choose the best colors based on the individual they are tattooing. Let your artist know if you are prone to keloids or have any other concerns about your skin so they can be aware beforehand. Following the aftercare instructions provided by your artist will also help the healing process.
Rather than turning people away, artists should be actively supporting clients in the process of creating a tattoo that works for them. Adjustments can be made by a skilled artist to ensure the tattoo holds up over time.
Get a test tattoo!
If you have a color scheme in mind but aren’t sure how it will look, a small test tattoo can be a good first step. Think of it as a color swatch. Once you see the color in action, it can help you determine if a larger piece would meet your expectations. This can be especially beneficial if you’re interested in using colors.
Finding a trusted artist that is open to having these conversations during the consultation phase is important. It’s all about communication!
Book a consultation
Okay, are you ready to get your dream tattoo?
Book a consultation with a reputable artist. Let them know if you are prone to keloids. Be open to their feedback. Consider getting a test tattoo. And remember that tattoos are for everybody (except children and assholes)!