Are you wondering how to stand out as a tattoo artist?
Your work’s good, but you’re not attracting as many clients as you’d like.
There are all sorts of tactics you could try.
And then there’s one that’s guaranteed to work.
You need to specialize in tattooing people with darker skin.
There Are Fewer Artists Who Tattoo People That Aren’t White
Go ahead, scroll through Instagram to see how many tattoo images you see on darker skin.
Not many, huh?
Black, brown, Asian, and Latinx people all have gorgeous ink.
But you won’t see it advertised as much, and that’s a shame.
I’ve heard artists say that they’re worried about the fine detail of their work not showing up as well.
If they haven’t learned to work on dark skin, then it’s true, their work may not look as good.
Or maybe they just need to learn to take better photos.
In any case, the tattoo industry needs more diversity.
If you specialize in this kind of work, it won’t be hard to make a name for yourself.
Word-of-mouth alone will keep you busy.
You’ll be surprised how quickly the community discovers which artists meet their needs.
How to Adapt Your Art for Darker Skin
When you tattoo darker skin, you’re viewing the ink through the layer of melanin in the dermis.
This automatically creates a filter that alters the colors.
You’ll need to develop an eye for which shades you should use.
Start with the best tattoo inks for darker skin.
Bright colors will retain their vibrancy better than you think.
Skip the pastels in favor of rich tones.
If you’d like to see what I mean, grab some tracing paper.
Now color the tracing paper with a marker or crayon so that it’s approximately the shade of skin you will be tattooing.
Lay that paper over the top of the colored design you plan to use.
It’s not a perfect example, but it will help you start thinking.
Next, tattoos need to be bolder on dark skin.
Lettering should be larger.
If you use the best black inks for shading and outlining, you’ll find that they stay sharp for years to come.
They won’t fade to blue like inks used to do.
Then, although white ink only tattoos may be nearly invisible, white highlights will enhance the image.
Yes, you can do gorgeous portrait work on dark bodies.
Finally, be careful about not overworking the skin.
African-Americans are prone to scarring. Damaged skin creates keloids, or raised scars.
Unless you are practicing scarification on purpose, this is not a desirable outcome.
Where to Start Learning about Tattooing Non-white Skin
Besides searching social media, you need to apprentice yourself to someone with expertise.
Seek out artists like Miryam Lumpini and Brittany Randell (1).
If you live in a large city, chances are it shouldn’t be hard to find a few.
In addition, investigate the history of Polynesian and Japanese tattoos.
People who aren’t white have been giving and receiving tattoos for much longer than white people have.
Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find non-white practice skin. It tends to be pink or white.
This means you’ll be drawing on a human canvas to get your experience.
Do the work ahead of time to understand what you’re getting into so that you’re ready.
Can You Make More Money as a Tattoo Artist Who Specializes in Darker Skin?
You might make more money if you specialize in tattooing dark skin.
That’s because you’ll stand out from the run-of-the-mill tattoo artist.
It’s easier to develop a reputation that way.
But you need to realize that people of color are still more likely to be poorer than whites (2).
So don’t go into it thinking you’ll get rich unless your skills are up to par.
If you are a great artist, you’ll be able to charge higher prices regardless of who your clients are.
1. https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/black-female-tattoo-artist-instagram by Aimee Simeon, published March 6, 2019, accessed November 4, 2019
2. https://www.economist.com/special-report/2019/09/26/poverty-in-america-continues-to-affect-people-of-colour-most published September 26, 2019, accessed November 4, 2019