Watercolor tattoo Guide: Origins, Techniques, Artists

Watercolor tattoo is usually beautiful, organic, graceful plays of colour that use the skin as a canvas, like the fine art that has inspired its stylistic creation. Due to artists that continue to push the aesthetic, methods, and concepts to new heights of ingenuity, rather newly founded, the trend has since seen a lift. In this guide, we research the origins, watercolor tattoo techniques, and watercolor tattoo artists most often found within the Watercolor style.  The issue of healing and ageing of fluid color pieces will also be exagumined by us.

The Origins of Watercolor Tattoos

The actual type of painting Watercolor tattoos stem from is practically primitive, to be sure. All pigments for painting were made from organic materials including earth substances like plants, minerals, animals, and the like, In ancient times. 

For instance, from calcinated bones, Bone Black comes; from the urine of Indian cows fed only on mango leaves, Indian Yellow used to come; Emerald Green is copper aceto-arsenite, which releases toxic arsenical fumes and has fortunately been replaced with synthetic compounds, and Carmine Red, although no longer used in watercolors, is made of crushed Cochineal insect shells. To this day, it is still often used in cosmetics and foods. how do watercolour tattoo work


Depending on their chemical and physical makeup, all of these pigments, and others, were each processed differently and were mixed with a binder, a type of glue substance that completed the paint mixture. To make the pigment printable, the binder helped, but also bound it to the surface being painted. To palaeolithic cave paintings, the first examples of watercolor painting may actually be traced, however, the first refined use of the medium is often thought to be the Egyptian papyrus scrolls. Watercolor painting did not see consistent and widespread use until the Renaissance, later used for the Illuminated Manuscripts in the Middle Ages.

It is not a surprise that, due to the natural compounds of watercolor pigments, it would lend itself well to natural illustrations. During the Renaissance, many watercolor tattoo artists used these paints to create botanical pieces, popular not only for their beauty but for their scientific uses as well. Watercolors were often used by adventurers to capture the landscape and peoples of their journeys in the late 18th century and early 19th century.

The paints were relatively very versatile, easy to use, and travelled well. Although this may all seem completely disconnected to the contemporary Watercolor Tattooing style, the watercolor tattoo techniques and stylistic approaches are very similar to many of the watercolor tattoo artists working in that particular era.

Watercolor tattoo splashwatercolor tattoo artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner, John James Audubon, Thomas Eakins, John Singer Sargent, and Eugène Delacroix are only a few painters who used watercolor and propelled it to the reputation of a serious arts material. Many of the skills these fine watercolor tattoo artists used are actually employed by watercolor tattooists as well, as the medium and techniques rather easily translate to skin.

Tattoo flash is also often painted with watercolor, as well as a more opaque form of the aforementioned paint, gouache. Due to the progress and work of past watercolor tattoo artists

Some of whom are mentioned above, the lightfastness, quick-dry clarity, ease of use, and brilliance of the pigments lends itself remarkably well to tattoo art. 

Thankfully, the watercolor tattoos we see today are created with more than the traditional red, blue, yellow, and green tints, but at the time flash and modern tattooing was getting its foothold, those were the pigments that aged best not only on paper but on the skin as well. Tattoo flash was making its rounds globally through peddlers, sailors, and artists alike during the late 19th and early 20th century. 

For new and inventive designs, as well as a source for tattooists to share their portfolio, there was a huge demand. The quickest and easiest way to do it was watercolor flash, and many of the flash sheets from those eras still exist and inspire today.

The Techniques and Artists of Watercolor Tattoos

However, although most tattoo watercolor tattoo artists used the watercolor medium to paint their flash, the stylistic differences between traditional artists and watercolor tattoo artists are immediately recognizable. Of course, the affectations and predilections of each artist will naturally guide their personal aesthetic, the watercolor tattoo artists who work watercolor geometric tattoowithin the watercolor tattoo style usually have many motifs in common.

Watercolor tattoo artists such as Rit Kit and Pis Saro have an oeuvre that spans almost every type of flower known to man and is reproduced in a stunningly realistic approach. Amanda Wachob and Jess Chen also often tattoo flowers, but also play with abstract watercolor tattoo concepts that tend almost to look literally like brushstrokes of paint or pastel on skin.

Zihee and Saegeem are watercolor tattoo artists based out of Seoul that often replicate famous paintings by Monet, Elizabeth Keith, Matisse, and Degas with incredible accuracy. It’s no wonder that their pieces translate so well into watercolor tattoos since the Impressionists, Fauvists, and Expressionists were all fond of brilliant uses of light and color. Other watercolor tattoo artists that work within a highly refined painterly style includes Aimee Cornwell, Stephanie Brown, and Hannah Flowers.

Their work can also easily be mistaken for a simple painting on skin, although missing the splashes of organic watercolour-Esque abstraction. Hannah Flowers pieces are infused with the Art Nouveau musings of Mucha and more, while Stephanie Brown is wonderfully influenced by the likes of Sargent. For their use of watercolor and gouache, the graphic arts, Art Nouveau and Art Deco are well-known. Sasha Unisex is another watercolor tattoo artist who employs the technical approaches of the graphic arts as well but in a much different style.

Issues of Aging With Watercolor tattoo

Watercolor tattooists rely on the use of color and fluid technique for their work, whether freehand, abstract, botanical portrayals or perfect emulations of famed paintings. To many traditional tattooists who maintain that the use of thick lines keeps color from spreading, the lack of black, however, is worrisome. 

watercolor tattoos permanentThose who have had their ink for over two decades can attest to lines becoming softened or slightly fuzzy as overtime, any tattoo will age, and. By simply using a black “skeleton” as a sort of underpainting which helps keep colors in place, some watercolor tattooists have settled the debate. Others maintain that tattoo touch up is completely normal for any tattoo, watercolor pieces included, and that it really is not an issue. However, the reality is that black outline on their work is used by traditional watercolor tattoo artists because the ink is carbon-based.

The black carbon based ink becomes a wall keeping colors in once injected into the skin, so the concern of spreading ink becomes a non-issue and the color stays put. Colors used within the watercolor tattoo style tend to fade and disperse more quickly, without that black carbon wall. But it’s a matter of personal choice in the end, as it is with all tattoos. The beauty of the aesthetic and designs is often hard to ignore, regardless of the argument.

Used by famed painters and illustrators for centuries with a foundation in the most ancient and refined of fine arts, watercolor tattoos are continuing a tradition most usually seen within the world of galleries and museums. But often that is what tattoo collectors are looking for; for highly skilled artisans, they use their skin as a walking canvas. Remarkable in beauty and elegance, watercolor tattoos are a trend not likely to see an end any time soon, frequently highlighting the best that the natural world has to offer.