Tattoo techniques

How is a Watercolor Tattoo Done?

Elsie Goycoolea
By Elsie Goycoolea. Updated: January 16, 2017
How is a Watercolor Tattoo Done?

It is not the first time that tattoo artists have outdone themselves by creating truly incredible art pieces on human flesh. When black ink tattoos first started to make their way onto arms, legs and lower backs, everyone knew body art was here to stay. Tattoo art is now seeing a new trend when applying the skill and dexterity of tattoo artists on watercolor styles. Watercolor tattoos are showing up on many people’s bodies, but how exactly do tattoo artists master the watercolor technique?

In this OneHowTo article we explain how is a watercolor tattoo done.

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  1. No outline
  2. Color blending
  3. Windshield technique
  4. Touch ups

No outline

Black ink is the mother of tattoos. It is the base of the cake that you have to make first so that later you can add on top a delicious custard or filling. With watercolor tattoos you are simply leaving out the crust of the cake and working directly on the filling.

Watercolor tattoos generally don’t have a black outline, which makes them look softer and similar to classic paintings. Imagine painting a butterfly tattoo without drawing it first. Black may be used but usually as another ingredient in the art piece.

How is a Watercolor Tattoo Done? - No outline

Color blending

A quality that can make watercolor paintings stand out is the ability to douse the paint in water in order to blend a few colors together. This technique is also used in the making of a watercolor tattoo by replicating this effect. Tattoo artists will work slowly by making sure the colors blend smoothly from one color hue to another.

To perfect this technique, some artists will use different color tones and place less pressure while working on the skin. The more pressure added, the more difficult it will be to move from one color to another while still using a watercolor effect.

How is a Watercolor Tattoo Done? - Color blending

Windshield technique

Many artists have used the term “windshield” to refer to the repetitive motions of coloring the skin. The ink brush hand will color the skin in gentle but successive motions just a windshield hits the car screen or an artist paints on a canvas.

Additionally, a difference between watercolor tattoos and normal tattoos, is that artists extend their techniques to incorporate some of the most common watercolor painting characteristics such as blurring, splashing, shading and color running. These techniques make it appear as if ink were escaping from the canvas. Some artists may need to take advantage of muscle memory and hours of practicing on paper to achieve this effect.

How is a Watercolor Tattoo Done? - Windshield technique

Touch ups

A critique to watercolor tattoos is the fact that they may not be as long lasting as the classic black ink tattoos. Since less pressure is added to lightly add color to the skin and since most of these tattoos don’t have a black solid outline, it proper tattoo care is needed to maintain the vibrancy of the design.

The need for a touch up will depend on how light or strong the brush colored the skin and how many nuances where used. While stronger colors such as red, blue or green may persist for longer, the use of the watercolor technique to blend in the colors may affect the lighter tones used alongside.

How is a Watercolor Tattoo Done? - Touch ups

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How is a Watercolor Tattoo Done?