One of the most romantic ink trends to blow up over the past few years? Watercolor tattoos
. The washes of color, anchored by classic black line work, look gorgeous on Instagram, but IRL, the style is a little more high maintenance than most.
“Watercolor tattoos can be successful, depending on how they are done,” says Ryan Ashley Malarkey
, a tattoo artist from Northeast, PA. “Some people think watercolor tattooing means a few black scratchy lines with some cups of paint splattered on, and sadly these tattoos will not look awesome forever.” She notes that while a design may look cool on paper, it can read differently when tattooed on skin.Kelly Doty
, a Salem, Massachusetts-based artist with 10 years experience, notes that even the most deft artists who specialize in black-and-white designs may not have what it takes to do the job right. “It takes a knowledge of color theory and a skilled technician. A lot of people think it's an easy way to get out of doing a cleanly applied tattoo and the end result looks like an Easter basket threw up on someone's skin.”
What’s more, the tattoos tend to fade faster than most, and require more frequent touch-ups (as often as five years, depending on the design). “The image can become almost unreadable as some colored pigments are more photosensitive than others and will just fade to nothing over time,” 14-year vet Gia Rose
says, noting that colors on the lighter end of the spectrum (like yellows, light pinks and whites) are the worst offenders.
But that’s not to say that these gorgeous designs can’t be well executed or maintained by someone who specializes in the style. “If there's a strong black skeleton of an image, you can have fun with the coloring of it and play with the watercolor look, as long as the ‘bones’ are there,” Simpson says.