I once saw a watercolor tattoo IRL and bet my friend five bucks that it was actually a temporary design. Like, it really, truly looked as though it were painted with actual paint brushes, with realistic paint splatters and perfectly blended colors. Fact: I lost five bucks that day, and since then, I’ve become legit obsessed with all things watercolor tattoos. So if you’re lookin’ for tattoo inspo and wanna know more about this soft, fluid style, keep reading to hear what tattoo artists who specialize in this style have to say about watercolor tattoos, followed by all the design inspo you could ever need.
What is watercolor tattooing?
As NYC-based tattoo artist Amanda Wachob explains it, a watercolor tattoo lacks the black outline of traditional tattoos, in order to highlight and emphasize the color in a design. The result? A tattoo that looks much more realistic and less cartoon-like. But even within the style of watercolor tattoos, you’ve got different sub-genres to choose from. “Some artists are more expressive with their work, adding brush strokes and color splashes and sketchy lines,” says NYC-based tattoo artist Bryan Gutierrez. “Others do a more refined look, using more pastel and muted-down colors to make it look softer, like a real watercolor painting.”
Do watercolor tattoos fade easily?
Ah, yes. The million-dollar question of how watercolor tattoos age, and if they fade or blur over time. So what’s the consensus? Gutierrez and Wachob agree: All tattoos will fade and age. “Time marches on regardless of the style of tattoo or the color in it, and tattoos with black outlines don’t stop the aging process of a human being,” Wachob says. “Black tattoos get thick, gray, and fuzzy, while colored tattoos will lighten and soften over time.”
If you notice some fading, you can get a touch-up (which is when additional color is applied) to keep your tattoo looking almost as good as the day you got it. But you might not even need to. Think of some watercolor tattoos like a hair color that grows out nicely: “Some watercolor paintings tend to have blurred edges, undefined details, and softer colors, so I think the natural aging of the tattoo can work really well with the initial design,” Gutierrez adds.
How long do watercolor tattoos last?
Tattoos are permanent, but just like the rest of your skin, if you don’t take care of it, it isn’t gonna age well. Protecting the tattoo from the sun is *so important* for preserving the color, so always use sunscreen to protect it from UV rays and take care of your tattoo when it’s healing. “With proper care and proper application from the artist, even the lighter colors should last a good amount of time,” Gutierrez says.
Fully convinced you need a watercolor tattoo? I knew you would be, so I gathered all the inspo for you below.
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