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Battle of Black & Grey Vs Color Tattoos


Black floral work by Leah
Black & Grey Roses by Leah
The opposite of black, this very colorful roses pieces was done by Jared.
Full Color Roses by Jared

Black & grey or color. It’s a questions for the ages. Ok, not really, but it is a topic often discussed amongst tattoo artists and enthusiasts alike. Some people definitely prefer black & grey tattoos over color tattoos, and vice versa. There’s even debate from the black & grey vs straight up black.

Basically, it all boils down to personal preference. One isn’t definitively better than the other with one exception, longevity. It’s just a fact that black/grey tattoos last longer over time. Yes, they can fade out a bit to more of a scale of dark grey to grey. But, color tattoos definitely lose their luster faster over time and would require more frequent touchups to make them look good. Some colors fade faster than others. If you go to a low quality tattoo establishment, it’s likely they also use low quality inks, which will just make your tattoo fade that much faster.

Black & grey tattoos can achieve a certain level of depth that is difficult with color. However, color can achieve certain effects that are impossible to pull off with just black/grey. Can you get a monochromatic watercolor tattoo? Sure, but it won’t look very good. Watercolor should be done with color to make it stand out. Dark, deep three-dimensional geometric tattoos just don’t look right in color. It can be done, but it’s missing something that only black can provide.

cool tattoo
Watercolor by Leah

Obviously blackwork tattoos are strictly that. Sometimes you can add a very minuscule amount of color, perhaps in an eye or something, but too much added color will take away the impact of a great blackwork tattoo. Darkart tattoos also fall be these same rules. Darkart can display more color than blackwork, but still, you want to keep it at a level that won’t ruin the effect that the darkart piece is trying to achieve. There are some very colorful and fantastic darkart pieces out there, but the ones that really shine through are the ones true to the darkness.

skull tattoo
Darkart Piece by Jared

Floral pieces often look the best when done in color. Of course there are some fantastic black & grey floral pieces, and they certainly have a place in the tattoo world. If you are looking to have something more realistic and striking, a colorful and detailed floral piece is the way to go. A monochromatic floral tattoo is generally for esthetics and to keep a theme.

Colorful Floral by Rob

As a generality, anything being done to look photo-realistic or fairly realistic would look best done in full color. You can get some awesome realism done with black/grey, for sure. But, for true realism, color looks best unless the original subject matter is typically in black & grey/monochromatic, such as a replication of a marble statue. Often an artist will incorporate opaques and whites, and sometimes some very faint hues of pinks and yellows to get the absolute full realistic effect with minimal color.

Marble Realism by Jared Preslar

When it truly gets down to it, it’s 100% preference. Both black/grey and color tattoos have their strengths and certainly have a place in the tattoo world. Certain styles may be better in one method or another, that’s a given, but that doesn’t mean either dominates overall. Each had much to contribute and nobody should say they’ll strictly stay away from a certain color type, because you never know. You may be surprised at what your artist can create for you, and it may be better than what you imagined. Don’t limit yourself. Your only limitation is your own imagination.


If you’re ready to get your next tattoo done, schedule an appointment with an award-winning tattoo parlor. Here at Lucky Bamboo Tattoo, we have some of the best and most experienced tattoo artists in Utah and the Salt Lake City area. We can tattoo any style you’d like, and our artists can even design your next piece as well.

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