Many people agree that body ink looks best when limited to a simple palette of black, gray, and other neutrals. However, there's one tattoo trend that might just change that misconception. Hugely popular in Japan and South Korea, watercolor tattoos are beautiful and vibrant — without overrunning the skin in hyper-color pigment. The technique mimics a watercolor painting with color that minimally bleeds outside the lines. Think: Wassily Kandinsky's Untitled or Paul Cézanne's Still Life with Blue Pot.
Tired of your simple line tattoo? Add a wash of pale pink or blue to the mix. Looking for a way to rock a little ink that’s only noticeable to those who look closely? Try a design made with the faint body paint.
But before you run to your tattoo artist, there is one thing you should know about watercolor tattoos: They have a bad reputation for not lasting long. Tattoo artist Jessica Valentine tells Refinery29 that these tattoos (that require a bit more shading than your typical linework design) can fade quickly. Her suggestion to keep your colorful ink vibrant: Be liberal with your sunscreen and daily lotion — it'll increase the longevity of that tattoo you just paid a lot of money for. After all, getting the tattoo is easy — maintaining an aftercare routine is the hard part.
Ahead, the raddest watercolor tattoo designs to get this summer.1 of 15
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Making a case for spine tattoos
, this design hides a written message within the color-drenched berry branch.
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There's no wrong place to get a watercolor tattoo. Still, the spine is one of our favorite spots for summer and, thanks to Georgia Grey's work
, you can see why.
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Yes, floral tattoos
are still the design du jour,
and these bleeding hearts and bluebells prove it.
The only thing better than a bouquet of irises is getting the purple petals inked on your arm forever.5 of 15
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Surround your quote tattoo
with colorful designs that practically float without the heaviness of black linework.
The best part about watercolor tattoos is that you don't have to color within the lines. Valentine's poppy creation is no exception.8 of 15
Since your watercolor tattoo may not last forever, book a touch-up appointment and request a few fine lines to anchor the design in darker ink.9 of 15
Valentine says that watercolor tattoos and traditional linework designs are basically apples and oranges. As opposed to the lined stencils created for the latter, watercolor tattoos start out as an illustration of dotted lines, so artists have some freedom to play with color and shading as they work. In this case, Valentine outlined the ink with delicate black lines, but you still get the same watercolor effect.10 of 15
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Scattered tiny tattoos
like this are popping up in Seoul tattoo studios. The small designs fall under the minimalist tattoo trend
, but the bold spectrum of ink puts this watercolor technique in a league of its own.
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Your tattoo doesn't have to be massive to include watercolored ink. Berlin-based artist Madame Unikat's signature
includes collages and faces with small washes of color.
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We said this crayon-like texture would be a huge tattoo trend in 2019
— and it has been. Seoul-based tattoo artist Gong Greem
continues to redefine how we think about art and tattoos by using almost anything but black ink.
Cute pet tattoos only look better when shaded with color.14 of 15
Tattoo sleeves are the perfect place to incorporate color. These tiny strawberries done by Valentine make the prettiest addition to an existing spectrum of color.15 of 15
Florals are even more fun when placed right below the collarbone in punchy colors like red and orange.