Tattoo Inks | What You Need To Know
The composition of tattoo ink is what makes a tattoo permanent and gives it color. Buying a top quality tattoo ink is important since it can affect both the success of the tattoo design and the health of the tattoo recipient.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
does not regulate the ingredients of tattoo inks. It therefore pays to purchase them from a reputable manufacturer to avoid exposure to toxic or heath-threatening substances.
Tattoo Ink Pigment and Carrier
Tattoo ink consists of two components: pigment and carrier.
Pigment is what gives the ink its color. The sources of pigment for tattoo inks are kept secret by most ink manufacturers, but they may include metal salts and chemical elements such as mercury, cobalt, copper and iron. Other ingredients used in pigments include plastics and vegetable dyes.
The carrier acts as a solvent for the pigment, carrying the pigment from the tattoo needle to the inner layer of skin known as the dermis. The carrier keeps the pigment evenly mixed and sanitary.
Typical carriers for tattoo ink include purified water, witch hazel, ethyl alcohol and glycerin.
Mix-it-Yourself or Pre-dispersed?
Tattoo ink may be mixed by the tattoo artist by adding dry dispersed pigment to a carrier solution.
Another option is to use pre-dispersed (pre-mixed) tattoo inks. Since manufacturers of tattoo ink are not required to reveal the ingredients used to make a pigment, there is no guarantee that mixing your own ink will result in ink that is any safer than pre-dispersed ink.
A Note about Black Tattoo Ink
Black is a special category of tattoo ink. Many tattoos, including tribal designs, are created using only black ink. Black tattoo ink comes in a range of intensities, from deep black to more diluted gray washes. For economy, look for a general-purpose black ink that can be used for everything from outlining to shading to solid tribal designs.
When a wash is needed, you can always dilute it yourself with sterilized water.
Top Brands of Tattoo Ink
These are some of the top tattoo inks currently available. There are many brands to choose from. If you’re in doubt about which brand to buy, ask around to find out which ink is favored by tattoo artists in your area and why.
- National – National Tattoo Supply is a long-established tattoo ink manufacturer located in Pennsylvania and in business since 1974. National Tattoo Supply prefers to sell to professional tattoo artists only. National sells both powder pigment and homogenized, pre-dispersed inks. National offers 36 shades of colored tattoo ink, which it advertises as SAFE. There are also a few types of National black tattoo ink available.
- SkinCandy – This is the ink used exclusively by the tattoo artists featured on TLC’s Miami Ink and by many other top tattoo artists around the world. SkinCandy, which is located in Southern California, sells tattoo ink in pre-dispersed form in dozens of bold colors. Sets of ink known as color racks are available or bottles of individual colors can be purchased separately. SkinCandy also makes a blacklight line of colored inks that glow in the dark. Many tattoo artists are wary of this blacklight ink since it’s new and unproven and its ingredients are unknown.
- Starbrite – This is a popular line of color tattoo inks known for their intensity. Starbrite tattoo ink has been manufactured by Tommy’s Supplies in Connecticut for more than 10 years. The Starbrite brand has been associated with some controversy since 2005, when mold was discovered in Starbrite ink used in the Czech Republic. The ink caused one man to be hospitalized with severe inflammation. However, no further problems have been reported with Starbrite since 2005.
- Eternal – Eternal tattoo ink is available in 50 colors. One thing that sets Eternal inks apart is that they are advertised as organic, made from vegan friendly and non-toxic ingredients. Eternal tattoo inks are pre-dispersed and use a water-based carrier. However, some people can still have a reaction even to organic tattoo inks and there have been some problems reported in tattoo forums with Eternal red and crimson inks. Eternal Tattoo Supply is located in Brighton, Michigan.
- Unique PermaPro – PermaPro tattoo ink has been distributed by Texas-based Unique Supply, Inc. for more than 20 years. It is somewhat legendary among experienced tattoo artists and is said to maintain its intense color for many years. PermaPro is only sold to professional tattoo artists. There is no website. Instead, Unique Supply should be contacted by email or phone.
- Dynamic – This ink has been sold by the Dynamic Color Company of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for 15 years. It comes in 2 dozen colors and is sold in pre-dispersed form. Many experienced tattoo artists use Dynamic tattoo inks because of their proven track record.
- Kuro Sumi – This Japanese tattoo ink maker first became known for its black ink. A line of Kuro Sumi color inks have recently been introduced. Some tattoo artists claim that many clients have had reactions to Kuro Sumi inks, while others are happy with the results. The color that is most often mentioned in forums as causing reactions is Kuro Sumi red. There is no link available for the Kuro Sumi manufacturer, but you can buy it at leading tattoo supply companies such as Joker Tattoo (http://www.jokertattoo.net).