Watercolor tattoo artists create tattoos that look like paint on the skin. Artists do not use different tools or inks to create watercolor tattoos, but the artistic techniques used to create these tattoos differ from typical tattoo techniques.
The main differences between watercolor tattoos, also called painterly tattoos, and traditional tattoos involve coloring and shading. Traditional tattoos are colored solid, while watercolor tattoos exhibit the gradation of coloring typical of watercolor paintings. Traditional tattoos are also outlined in black, while watercolor tattoos have no outline.
Watercolor tattoos range from looking like paint splotches on the skin to full watercolor paintings. Some of these tattoos do utilize black but not as an outline. To create a watercolor tattoo, artists utilize tattoo techniques like bleeds, blurs, fades, runs, shades and splatters. Typical subjects for watercolor tattoos include flowers, birds, feathers and amorphous shapes reminiscent of brush strokes.
Watercolor tattoos do not last quite as long as traditional tattoos. One reason for this is that black ink lasts longer because it is slightly thicker, and watercolor tattoos tend to use little black ink. Additionally, artists creating a traditional tattoo saturate the colored areas with ink, but watercolor techniques require subtle shading, which amounts to less ink saturation. For these reasons, some tattoo artists recommend touching up watercolor tattoos on a regular basis.