It’s one of the most pressing questions for those looking to get a tattoo. The battle of black vs color tattoos ? Much of the time it comes down to personal preference. There are many factors you can consider when deciding which route to go with your tattoo. Sometimes, it’s less about preference and more about what’s good for the design or even your skin. There are many pros and cons to each option. 

So, what to look for in black vs color tattoos? When deciding which one is best for you and your tattoo, you want to consider several factors: 

All of these things come into play when choosing black vs color tattoos. If you’re unsure, you’ll want to go over these factors carefully before making a decision. It’s also a good idea to talk to your artist. They may suggest one or the other for that particular tattoo and it’s usually a good idea to listen to the artist. If it doesn’t matter to them either way, they can help you weigh the options and tell you the good and bad of each choice.

Black vs Color Tattoos – Female arm sleeve in color.

Pros and Cons of Black vs Color Tattoos

While it can be a difficult choice to make, no good artist will lead you in a bad direction. They will take your ideas and desires and make it the best version of everything you want. That being said, they can’t always make the decision for you. 

It’s up to you to do your research, learn about black vs color tattoos and decide which one is right for you. There is a chance your decision might even change the artist you end up using if there is a big difference in style. 

Advantages of Black and Grey 

Black and grey tattoos are classic and traditional. It was the only tattoo option for a long time, before the introduction of colored ink that made so many more things possible. However, it is the classic way for a reason. There are many advantages to a black and grey tattoo, some of which may line up with what you’re looking for in your tattoo: 

  • Black and grey tattoos typically take less time to complete. This means less pain and often, less money. This is good for those with a low pain tolerance as well as a lower budget. 
  • They fade slower and less noticeably. All tattoos will fade to some degree. There is no denying or avoiding this. Exposure to the sun and other elements will wear on any tattoo. However, it will happen more slowly and be much less noticeable than with a color tattoo. 
  • Black and grey is a subtle, neutral choice. If all you have is black and grey, you never have to worry about the colors on your skin clashing with your clothing choices. 
  • Black and grey is more universal. With the right amount of shading and saturation, black and grey will work with any skin tone. Some skin tones and even types don’t hold color as well as others. You run the risk of the colors coming out less vibrant than you imagine. 

Disadvantages of Black and Grey 

While there are many benefits of a black and grey tattoo, they aren’t perfect and you should consider the other side of things before making a choice: 

  • True black and grey requires a very skilled artist to make the image lifelike and high-quality. This means that you might be paying more per hour for someone with more experience. You may also have to wait longer if the black and grey specialist you want is booked up far in advance. 
  • While you always hope you’re making a good decision and you’ll love your tattoo forever and ever, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, you come to regret a tattoo and will start looking into removal options. Technology has certainly come a long way and often, removal is possible. However, it’s important to note that black ink, especially applied heavily, is the most difficult to laser off. 

Advantages of Color 

While black and grey is the traditional choice, going with color has some advantages of its own. 

  • When done well on skin that is appropriate, color tattoos are bold, vibrant, and bright.  They make a statement. 
  • The use of color allows for almost endless possibilities for a design that is special and completely unique to you. 
  • Color can make it easier to make things appear real and lifelike. The best color realism artists can make a piece look like a photo pasted onto the skin. This is especially useful when trying to recreate an existing image like a person, pet, or location. 
  • With the exception of dark blues, color is fairly easy to cover with another tattoo if necessary or desired. They are also easier to remove if that’s what you choose to do. 

Disadvantages of Color

Just like black and grey, color comes with its own set of challenges and considerations. 

  • Color doesn’t show up well on everyone. 
  • Color will fade faster and more noticeably when exposed to the sun and other elements. Especially if you are someone who spends a lot of time in the sun – if you live in a sunny area or spend a lot of time at the beach – color is not recommended. The long term effects may leave you with tattoos you aren’t happy with several years down the road. 
  • Color takes longer to complete than black and grey. This means it ill be more costly, and you’ll have to deal with the pain for a longer amount of time. 
  • The pain can also be increased due to the layering of colors that is often necessary. This means multiple passes of the needle over one area of skin. 
  • Certain colors are generally more likely to cause an allergic reaction. 

Does Color win in the showdown of Black vs Color Tattoos ?

Ultimately, it is your choice. Your artist can make all the recommendations in the world, but it comes down to what you want and what you’ll be happy with as the years go by. 

black vs color tattoos


When considering black vs. color tattoo, take all of the pros and cons into consideration. Before looking at your own preference, look at your lifestyle. Do you spend a lot of time outdoors? Do you live in an area where the sun is beating down all year long? If this is the case, black and grey is recommended even if you might prefer the look of color. 

The reality is, most designs can be made to look good either way. So, if you’re really set on a color design but you don’t think it will suit your lifestyle, or you’re not up for the pain, find an artist who can make it look great in black and grey. 

Lastly, listen to your artist. While they can’t make a definitive decision for you, they will tell you what they think is best based on your lifestyle, preference, and even budget. They are professional and they certainly know what they’re talking about. Most of the time, you’re wise to listen to them and go with their suggestions.

Should Dark Skin Tones Avoid Color Completely? 

No, not necessarily. While color generally doesn’t show up as well on darker skin tones, that doesn’t mean you’re only ever doomed to black and grey. You can discuss options with your artist. There are certain colors that will show up better than others. 

You may also decide that you simply don’t mind if the colors are more muted and subtle – you just want that color tattoo! That’s fine too, as long as you are fully aware of what you’re getting into when you go with color.

Do Certain Colors Fade Faster Than Others? 

If you’re really set on a color tattoo but you’re worried about fading, you might wonder if you can compromise with certain colors. The answer is yes, there are colors that will fade slowly and more gracefully than others. They will still fade faster and more noticeably than black and grey, but it’s a good middle ground. 

Colors that will fade much faster than others include: 

  • Yellow
  • Hot pink
  • Light green
  • White
  • Any pastel or watercolor shade 

By contrast, there are several colors that are generally more fade resistant than the ones listed above: 

  • Red
  • Blue
  • Brown
  • Purple

Keep in mind that no matter what color palette you are using, the darker the shade, the longer it will last. It’s also good to keep in mind the level of saturation, and this can come down to the skill and ability of the artist. The more saturated and packed in the color is, the stronger it will be. Not only will it appear more solid and vibrant, but it will be more resistant to fading. 

So, if you want a color tattoo that will last as long as possible, you want dark, saturated shades of deeper colors like red, blue, and purple.