How Long will Watercolor Tattoos Last?

I see a lot of watercolor tattoo questions floating across the internet. Occasionally I get asked these same questions so I will do my best to answer these questions with an open discussion and room for disagreement.

As you can see in my portfolio of painted style and watercolor inspired tattoos, or any of the other watercolor style tattoos that appear in google images, pinterest (link to my profile) or your favorite tattoo artists portfolio… they appear pretty, bright and vivid.

As long as photo filters are not used and they are really appearing to be of high quality and an experienced tattoo artist was involved then you should be secure in getting a watercolor tattoo.

How long will watercolor tattoos last?

In comparison to a traditional tattoo that is outlined and colored solid with black shading I’d say the traditional tattoo will outlast the watercolor tattoo before it needs a touch up. But by outlast we are talking extremely long term. As in 20, 25, 30, years down the road. And eventually the traditional tattoo will need a touch up as well.

It’s not real uncommon for a tattoo to need a touch up sometimes to begin with.

The reason being a traditional tattoo could outlast a color realism or watercolor tattoo is that black last longer than color. It is obviously darker and more saturated with ink/pigment and some of the lighter colors tend to fade quicker.

I like to use black in my tattoo work to reinforce the tattoo but it doesn’t always do the artwork justice so I omit the black when it just isn’t called for.

Solid coloring can outlast shaded coloring because of color saturation. There is more ink delivered in the technique of solid coloring than that of color shading.

So if you have a tattoo that is almost all shaded coloring with very little black then you have tattoo that could fade a little quicker. That does not mean it will. There are more factors such as time in the sun, condition of your skin and how you take care of it in the healing process.

Some of the old school tattoos we’ve all seen on retired veterans that appear as blue blobs were of traditional style. However they may have been tattooed at a depth that interacted with the fatty tissue layers that causes the ink to halo or spread. Or maybe this blurring of a tattoo is what happens when the skin looses its elasticity and thins while the ink is lost.

The point here is that there is no reason to base a tattoo choice on longevity because it’s subject to so many factors and at some point everything fades away. Might as well enjoy your watercolor tattoo and your life for as many years as you can and not worry about it because how long it will last is completely unknown.

I’ve always laughed at the question of “How will your tattoo look when your 80?”. Who knows and what does it really matter… but maybe it wont look too bad?

In cases of extreme fading I’d say that very light black and gray styles are most likely to fade but thats not a reason to not get one of these either. If it’s a beautiful tattoo that you love then of course you’d like it last and if it doesn’t you may just need another session to increase the tonal values and tighten up some details.

Tattoo projects should be viewed as an ongoing process instead of an in and out – one and done type of fast food style of interaction. I’d rather build some relationships with my clients anyway rather than a series of one night stands.

A watercolor tattoo will last. I have some returning customers with watercolor tattoos from 5 years ago with no signs of needed a touch up. Nothing lasts forever but if you need a touch up I can help you.

What makes a watercolor tattoo different than a normal tattoo?

This is what confuses people about watercolor tattoos the most. The misconception is that a watercolor tattoo is created wildly different from a normal tattoo because of the style.

I assume when people think of a watercolor painting, how subtle and spontaneous it is, they feel that the tattooing process will be out of control, fleeting and disappear in a few day.

Take a look at this tiger lily watercolor tattoo that I really enjoyed doing. The coloring I used is as solid as I would execute in any other style of tattooing. It appears to have a watercolor background and no black outline around the flower.

tiger lily watercolor tattoo

The truth is that the style is the only thing different here. I don’t create a watercolor tattoo any different than I do a regular tattoo. The same ingredients, tools and techniques are used but I focus on simulating a watercolor style effect.

Blurs, bleeds, splatters, runs, fades, shades, are all created on purpose from using a watercolor reference. I’m just copying what I see with the tattooing medium. I like to paint with my own references for my watercolor tattoos so I’m simply copying my own watercolor artwork.

It’s all very controlled and calculated when it comes to tattooing it though.

A watercolor tattoo is just a simulation of watercolor artwork. The tattoo process is very closely related to getting any style of tattoo.

Breathe, let go and let it happen.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, insecurity, concerns, or further questions.

Thank you for taking the time to appreciate my artwork. I enjoy sharing it and if you’d like you can add me on any social media you prefer.

I create watercolor styled tattoos, watercolor paintings, oil paintings, and mixed media sculptures and I write about that in this blog. I also expand upon that with sharing present moment awareness that enhances creativity and energy arts like Reiki, Tai Chi, Qigong that circulate creative energy.

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