With so many ink brands on the market, it’s hard to decide which is the best tattoo ink for you. The diversity of brands and colours can be overwhelming but making a good selection is crucial for the result. You want ink that is bright, vibrant, long lasting and above all – safe for your customer.
Our ‘Best Tattoo Ink Guide For 2022′ will show you how to spot a reputable brand and give you an overview of the best tattoo ink out there.
What you should look for in tattoo inks
When looking for the right tattoo ink it’s important to take several things into consideration. The most important one is that your ink is safe. That means, your ink should be produced to the highest industry and health standards as well as the packaging they come in.
Inks should be sterilised and sealed when you buy them, so they cause no harm to your customer. The best tattoo ink companies have information on their production and quality control on their websites (and the required Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for download). Also, you will want to have ink your customer’s skin will accept won’t cause any allergic reactions in the short and in the long run. Aiming to use tattoo inks made from natural pigments, and that are vegan, can definitely help with this.
Good manufacturers produce cruelty-free inks and are proud to do so. You can usually spot a reputable manufacturer by looking on their website and by checking the previously mentioned.
Another important point is to buy your inks only from reputable sources. Many tattoo inks get copied and there are a lot of counterfeits out there. Only by buying from a trusted store (like Barber DTS) can you be sure to have the product you want.
The best tattoo ink to use always depends on your needs
When it comes to choosing the best tattoo ink there is no straight answer. The best tattoo ink is always dependent on your needs. Of course, you want to stick to a reputable brand that produces inks under the highest standards, but you also must consider the purpose, style, your own preference and last but surely not least, the skin of your customer.
If you want to tattoo thick outlines you would want to use another ink than when you are doing fine lines or filling big areas. Furthermore, your style and preferences come into play. If you tattoo in a realistic style you will need a different range of colours to those a neo-traditional artist would use. A black and grey artist will most probably use other inks for their tattoos than a blackwork artist. That is, because the first one works with smooth shades and maybe wants to dilute their ink to do so, whereas the other one relies on pure black that goes easily into the skin.
Also, the way you are tattooing should be taken into consideration when choosing the best tattoo ink for you. What might have the ‘right feel’ for one artist might not be for another. It’s best to try what feels right for you and listen to recommendations from other artists.
The skin of your customer is another variable. Some skin is easier to work with than others. Your choice of ink might also, at times, depend on the customer. With experience you will get a feeling how ink will alter over time and with different skin types. So, to achieve a similar result, you will make your choice of ink dependent on your customer’s skin.
The best black tattoo ink
Choosing the best black tattoo ink for you is a hard one. There are a lot of good and very popular black inks on the market, like Dynamic Black, Panthera, MAXX Black from Eternal Ink, Intenze’s Zuper Black. And they are popular for a reason.
But, like already mentioned, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. They are the most used and many artists swear by them.
Here we’ve listed a few of our favourites for the best black tattoo ink:
- Dynamic Black: Dynamic Black is one of the top-selling blacks in the market. Used in all styles and well-known for its long-lasting and colour fastness. It goes into the skin smoothly and easily and stays the same colour after healing. A favourite with black and grey artists, it’s very dark and also available with triple the pigments, as Dynamic Triple Black.
- Panthera: Panthera produces only black and white inks and is another favourite for artists who prefer a consistent and easily workable black. Panthera’s XXX Tribal Black is as dark as it can get and claims to be especially resistant to sunlight. Used mostly for lining, shading and tribal work. The Ralf Nonnweiler Smooth Set is one of the best black and grey sets out there.
- Eternal Ink MAXX Black: MAXX Black stays true to its name. One of the blackest and truest blacks you can get. It is smooth to work into the skin, opaque and has no colour shift or undertone. This makes MAXX Black a candidate for the best black tattoo ink for dark skin. A truly black ink that goes in black and stays black, even after healing! Great for line work, shading, cover-ups, blast-overs and blackwork.
- Intenze Zuper Black: Zuper Black from Intenze is exactly that – intense and super black. It’s surely one of the darkest blacks and another favourite for blackwork and dark skin.
- Kuro Sumi: Looking back on a long history, Kuro Sumi Ink derives from an old Japanese warrior elite named Yayoi Kuro Sumi Tangnuni who had bold markings under their jawline and on their abdominal area. The secret formulas (of course organic, vegan and meeting EU regulations) have been handed down for centuries from Japanese artists. Great for Japanese style, but also very good for outlining and shading.
- Nocturnal: Created by industry legends Franco Vescovi and Jack Rudy, Nocturnal is a rather new player in the game with a very clear vision to provide darker, smoother shades by keeping the same fluidity as traditional tattoo inks. Solely made from three ingredients: organic pigment, sterilised water and ethyl alcohol and therefore completely organic. The brand became popular in a short time frame with Chicano-Style and black and grey artists.
- Big Sleeps Ink: From the West Coast master of lettering himself – Big Sleeps. Big Sleeps created these inks with his own style of tattooing in mind. Coming in a variety of shades to create vivid tattoos that heal as good as they look fresh. These inks are just perfect for lettering and script tattoos.
Special: Dark Skin
Tattoos are all about contrasts. In order to make a tattoo recognisable, the adjacent colours must differ to a certain degree in terms of brightness. The lighter the skin, the easier it is to create an even contrast with bright colours. The darker the skin, on the other hand, the more difficult it is to create contrasts. Colours or fine lines would get lost due to the lack of contrast and the tattoo would be hardly recognisable, or only if you look closely.
That is why it is recommended in most cases to tattoo bold black ink on dark skin. The best black tattoo ink for dark skin needs to be darker than the skin itself. That is why particularly dark inks are recommended on black skin, such as Eternal Ink’s MAXX Black, Nocturnal and Intenze’s Zuper Black.
The best white tattoo ink
White tattoo ink is tricky. Due to its light nature, it changes after healing because the skin covering the ink alters the colour much more than darker tones. It’s not easy to decide what the best white tattoo ink is, but some of our favourites are Eternal Ink White, Dynamic White and Intenze Snow White.
White tattoo ink is mostly used for setting highlights and bringing more dimension to tattoos. The white in a tattoo can make a huge difference and make a tattoo much more vibrant. Also, white tattoo inks are used to mix with other inks. They lighten colours up that are too dark or bold for a particular design.
Our favourite white inks are:
- Eternal White: Eternal White is an all-time classic. Whether it be highlights, linework, filling larger areas or tattooing over blackout sleeves, this white is the weapon of choice.
- Dynamic White: Another favourite by Dynamic. Dynamic White is uniquely vibrant and durable. This high-quality ink is a crisp, bright and clear shade that stays almost as white under the skin as when freshly tattooed. Also available with more pigment as Dynamic Heavy White.
- Intenze Snow White: Intenze Snow White is a long-lasting white that blends excellently with other colours. It is softer and more subtle than a perfect white and comes in two versions; Snow White Opaque is best to be used on its own while Snow White Mixing is made to mix perfectly with other (Intenze) inks.
- Kuro Sumi Samurai White: Kuro Sumi Samurai White is made for Japanese style tattoos. That’s why it is great for bold highlights or tattooing larger areas. It stays true after healing and works smoothly into the skin.
White tattoo ink is more likely to fade over time than other colours, so it’s rarely used as a single tattoo colour. You can still create unique and beautiful white colour tattoos that are wonderfully delicate, but the white ink tends to slightly yellow over time, even more so when exposed to sunlight.
Which is the best tattoo ink brand on the market?
Picking one brand as the best tattoo ink brand on the market is difficult, because a few brands could be considered as such. They stand out for their experience and history, the use of organic ingredients, advanced production, packaging, marketing and of course, their high-quality inks. The biggest brand is definitely Eternal Ink.
“I’ve used all of the top brands over the years and they all behave very similarly as in some are thick some are thin some opaque and some translucent so you have to experiment with them all to get an idea how each colour works and how they interact with each other. What I have noticed with Eternal is that the batches are consistent, other brands I have used I’ve noticed that I would re-order a colour and it’ll be different to the previous batch. Eternals quality control is spot on.”
Lianne Moule, Immortal Ink, Essex, UK
Other big players in the market are Intenze, World Famous Ink and Fusion Ink. All of these brands offer a wide range of black and grey washes and colours. But keep in mind, that a colour is not only one tone. There are many nuances to each colour and with all the inks available, there is a palette for every tattoo. When you are looking for, say, the best blue tattoo ink for a tattoo, you will have to look at the colour scheme of the tattoo and make your choice of ink accordingly. It would be frustrating if one colour pops out and doesn’t work with the other colours.
Most ink brands offer ‘signature sets’ with colours that work perfectly with each other. Some of these sets follow a certain theme (like Portrait Skin Tones by Eternal Ink) while others are composed by artists to represent their style (like Liz Cook Colours by Eternal Ink).When deciding on the best tattoo ink brand you need to ask yourself what you are looking for exactly. Many brands produce high quality inks, but the choice depends on your personal taste. Many artists cannot and will not decide on the best tattoo ink brand for them and use a variety of different inks from different brands. If you want to know how the colours of a brand will look in action, you can have a look at their sponsored artist team. They are a great reference to see what is possible to create with the inks the brand provides.
Here are some of our favourite brands:
- Eternal Ink: Eternal Ink is famous for their long history in making tattoo inks. Their credo is “Made for artists by artists”. They know exactly what the professional tattoo artist is looking for in tattoo inks and the standards they set are the best in the industry. The quality control is spot on and the consistency is unmatched. Their (signature) sets are the most popular in the industry.
- Intenze: Founded by tattoo artist Mario Barth in 2002, Intenze Tattoo Ink is a pioneer setting high safety standards and creating new colour palettes. With a clear vision to create the safest inks on the market that work for any artist under any condition, Intenze became one of the industry leaders.
- World Famous Ink: World Famous Ink created its own formula for tattoo inks with strong, bold and bright tattoos in mind. Used by some of the best artists in the world.
- Fusion Ink: Developed between Adam Everett and Next Generation Tattoo Machines, the Fusion Tattoo Ink range of products are some of the best quality tattoo inks available in the industry. Fusion Inks are rich in pigments and popular for their intensity and brightness. Their sponsored artist team with artists like Nikko Hurtado, Jeff Gogue and Mike Cole speaks for itself.
Special: UV Tattoo Ink
UV Tattoo Ink, or black light ink has become increasingly popular over the last few years. These colours are great for enhancing a tattoo in the darkness, adding another dimension. They’re also great for people who want to have tattoos but don’t always want the ink visible.
With all the inks on the market, the choice for the best tattoo ink is incredibly hard nowadays. We have the luxury to choose from a wide range of brands, colours and nuances that tattoo artists could have only wished for 20 years ago. As a tattoo artist, you have the responsibility to choose a safe product for your customer that gives the best result – over years to come.
That’s why you should put an extra eye on the inks you choose. We have shown how you can spot a reputable brand, and which inks we consider the best. Now it’s up to you to make up your own mind and find out which brand and ink selection will be best for you.
If you want to read further, check out our article about The 11 Best Tattoo Machines 2022.