The unfortunate reality is that the darker the color of your skin, the more difficult it is to find a tattoo artist who can give you a great tattoo. Tattoos deal with skin as a canvas, after all. Even in the year 2022, some tattoo artists are reticent to tattoo people of darker skin. This usually comes from a fear that the ink may turn out blurry. Let’s talk about some of the barriers people with darker skin face when getting tattooed, and what we can do to dismantle them.
Getting Tattooed (Especially With a Good Tattoo) Is Harder for People of Color
Unfortunately, the number one barrier to getting a great tattoo for people with darker skin is the tattoo artist’s lack of education. The truth is that tattooing darker skin is far from impossible. Still, it has been de-prioritized by the training institutions as a niche interest. Since tattoo artistry is taught through apprenticeship, learning how to tattoo skin of all colors is essential. It’s essential not only for the artists themselves, but for the future artists they train. Even people who would love to tattoo dark skin may not have the tools to do so competently if their mentor does not know how.
A difficult reality is that, within the cosmetic industry, especially salons and tattoo parlors, people who claim to be experts in their field can refuse to work on hair or skin that is “unfamiliar” to them.
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An artist without the ability to work with the color blue, for example, would be hard-pressed to make it in the art world. Yet, some tattoo artists can’t work on skin with more melanin, all the while maintaining that they are at the top of their profession. It’s fair to say that tattooing darker skin requires a specific skill set. But that skill set should be a mandatory part of the education for artists-in-training.
It’s Not Just the Tattoo Industry
The tattoo industry isn’t the only one with this problem. Black people often have better health outcomes when they see doctors of the same race. And for a long time, even people who worked with huge film budgets in Hollywood didn’t know how to light dark skin. If you dig deep enough in any industry, it’s easy to see that people of color were treated as an optional side project.
What We Can Do to Make Getting Tattooed Easier for People With Dark Skin
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You wouldn’t patronize a business that had a sign outside saying “whites only.” And yet, supporting tattoo artists who haven’t learned how to tattoo inclusively is not so different. Certainly, learning how to tattoo on any shade of skin takes more time and effort. But it should not be an optional part of the tattoo-apprenticeship process. Only booking appointments with inclusive tattoo artists will send a message to the rest of the industry.
Lastly, encourage tattoo artists in your inner circle to expand their expertise. It’s never too late to learn how to tattoo all shades of skin vibrantly. And, don’t forget to promote those who already tattoo inclusively on your own social media.