The tattooing process is not only about talent and technique. It is also highly dependant on the equipment used, not to be misunderstood, poor technique and poor drawing skill won’t lead to masterpieces regardless of the equipment. As the final result is the ink on the body it is really important that the ink to be of superior quality, otherwise the tattoo not only will not look the same as a tattoo made with high-quality ink but it may also wear off faster than expected. However, the highest disadvantage of using poor quality ink is not the final aspect of the tattoo. The highest disadvantage represents a health risk. Poor quality inks have a higher chance to damage the skin as they are created just for the sake of profit and may not respect all regulations. Also, when the customer’s skin encounters ink, allergic reactions may occur. Most of the times, the infections after getting a tattoo are related to poor quality ink (some are related to unproperly sterilized needles).
Top 10 tattoo ink brands
1. Kuro Sumi
One of the top choices among tattoo artists around the world, Kuro Sumi is a well-known tattoo ink brand. As one of the leaders in tattoo inks industry, Kuro Sumi never fails to impress its customers with their superior quality products. Kuro Sumi’s inks for outlining and grey wash can even be considered the best inks around the globe.
The brand has its roots in Japan and successfully produce top-notch vegan inks, the black color is obtained from a plant. After years of selling high-quality products, Kuro Sumi moved from Japan to the USA. Nowadays the ink is made in the USA but following the original Japanese recipe.
The brand offers a wide variety of coloured inks: white, grey, yellow, gold, pink, orange, red, magenta, purple, blue, green, brown and black. All of their colours offered can be found in multiple shades.
- All of their products are vegan.
- Kuro Sumi does not test their products on animals, cruelty – free brand.
- High-quality ink, suitable for experts and beginners.
- It is resistant, over the time it fades away quite hard
- Not pricey at all, affordable by most artists.
- Bright and colourful ink with a wide variety of colours.
- Their inks come in bigger quantity compared to most of the inks on the market.
- Some customers noticed the bottle came unsealed, and sometimes the ink was spilt
Intenze has its roots in the USA, it has a great history. It was created in 2002 and was the first company which label its bottles it made the ingredients public and was the first company which sanitized the tattoo ink raising the ink industry health standards to a new level. The ink gets through multiple testing, and every ink ingredient is carefully researched, safety is prioritized. It is 100% guaranteed that their inks do not contain any hazardous ingredients. Their inks are perfect for lining and also for solid areas. All Intenze tattoo inks are safely sterilized in certified labs. As a packaging method for their inks, Intenze uses tamper-proof bottles.
- The brand does not test their products on animals, cruelty-free labelled.
- All of their inks are vegan – friendly and does not contains harsh chemicals.
- Prioritizes health and safety.
- Properly packed in tamper-proof bottles.
- Offers only high-quality inks.
- Offers a wide variety of colours.
- Can be purchased in different sized bottles.
- Some people find it a bit difficult to open the bottle (risk of spilling it is not inexistent).
- Quite pricey compared to other inks.
Having its origins in the U.S and producing high-quality colours since 1990. Their inks never fail to amaze the customers with their long-lasting quality. Dynamic inks are well known in the tattoo industry for their easy healing ability. Suitable for beginners, their inks are easy to handle and ensures a good feel on the skin. The brand is an authentic USA brand and it is against testing on animals.
- Their inks do not contain any animal-based products as it is 100% vegan.
- The brand is a cruelty-free brand as it never tested their products on animals.
- Inks offered in large quantity bottles.
- Can be considered quite cheap considering the amount of ink offered within a bottle.
- All of their inks are suitable for beginners and practice.
- The brand offers a large variety of colours.
- Great for lining and shading
- Some customers complained about the ink not being thick enough.
- It may need a good shake before use.
One of the most well-known tattoo ink brands, often chosen by professional tattoo artists due to their high-quality inks offered. Starbrite inks are specially formulated for a long-lasting effect to keep the tattoos as vibrant as possible. Also, all of the Starbrite inks are irradiated, sterilized and properly packed. Their inks benefit of a low fading over time effect as the inks are specially designed with an increased lifetime. The brand not only that has his roots in the U.S.A but also all of the Starbrite products are made in the U.S.A.
- Does not contain animal-based ingredients as it is a 100% vegan brand.
- Wide variety of colours offered.
- Their inks come in generously sized bottles.
- Provides only high-quality inks.
- Some customers complained that the ink is a bit too thick.
- The diluting process can be a bit tough for beginners ( the ink is a bit thick so diluting may be needed)
- The ink bottles are quite small.
- Compared to other inks, Starbrite inks can be considered a bit pricey.
5. Millennium moms
Millennium moms is an authentic USA brand and it has his products made in the USA. Their inks are a top pick among professional tattoo artists. MOM’s ink contains only vegan ingredients that enhance the ink’s colour, therefore the brand never fails in offering to its customers only high-quality products. The brand is proud about its formula with the highest pigment content possible with pure, uncut and homogenized pigment dispersion.
- Their inks consist only of natural ingredients.
- It contains a higher concentration of pigment.
- The brand offers a wide variety of color selection.
- Offer the possibility to choose the bottle size.
- Provides only high-quality inks.
- All of the inks offered are vegan friendly.
- The brand is cruelty-free as it does not test its products on animals.
- Can be considered a bit pricey compared to other inks on the market.
- Customers complained about the inks not being sealed properly.
- As some customers complain, these inks may not be a good fit for lining as they are thick.
Hawink is a brand that is specialized in tattoo products such as tattoo machines and inks. It offers high-quality inks that enhance the skin’s ability to absorb the pigment. All of the hawking inks are sterilized by gamma rays. As a favoured brand within the world of professional tattoo artists, their inks are also suitable for beginners. Hawink inks are easy to use end ensures a long duration of pure colors with great color stability. The brand guarantees a low to none fade effect after repair. All of their inks are suitable as shaders and liners.
- Easy to use, suitable for beginners.
- Low fade effect after repair.
- Vegan friendly as their inks do not contain animal-based ingredients.
- Wide variety of colors selection offered.
- It is more expensive compared to similar products.
- Some customers complained about some bottles being defective.
- Some customer complained about the inks being “watered down”
Element products are manufactured in the USA and their inks are used and recommended by artists from all around the world. These inks help to boost creativity as it is easy to work with them. Also, Element inks are a good choice not only among professional tattoo artists but also for beginners. The ink formula is free of acrylic and solvent agents and contains only natural and organic ingredients. Element offers a wide variety of inks suitable for outlining, for stand-alone solid tattooing and also the inks can be used for mixing and blending.
- The brand offers a wide range of colors.
- Inks available in different sized bottles.
- Does not contain any harsh chemicals as the brand proudly uses only organic and natural ingredients.
- Suitable for beginners.
- Quite expensive compared to other inks.
- Customer who had a sensitive skin complained about the Elemental ink being itchy.
8. Skin Candy Bloodline
Based in California, this brand provides high-quality tattoo inks since 1995. One of the features this brand provides is that instead of using toxic carriers in pigments, it uses water, which helps the tattoo heals more quickly.
There is a variety of ink colors where you can choose from and all the inks don’t contain any allergic ingredients.
For tribal designs tattoo which needs an ultra-black color, the ink from this brand is the most recommended.
- Because it’s water-based, the healing time is shorter
- It is made of plant-based glycol and it is vegan-friendly
- It is safe for everyone and it can be used even on sensitive skin without problems
- Wide range of shades where you can choose from
- Comparted to the other brands, it can be a bit expensive
Not a very well known brand compared to the others, but highly well-reviewed, Radiant Colours offers fantastic inks at a cheap price. The inks formula is specially designed to boost the skin’s healing capability. It is suitable for both professional tattoo artists and beginners as it ensures a smooth tattoo session and properly settles on the skin. As the manufacturer states, the Radiant team works closely with renowned tattoo artists, using sophisticated technology to create a sterilised, uncut, homogenised pigment which produces solid, long-lasting and bright colours. Radiant inks are manufactured in the USA.
- Only vegan inks as Radiant inks do not contain animal-based ingredients.
- Low inflammation risk as all of their inks are sterilised.
- Long-lasting formula with a low fading over time effect.
- Offers several color range to choose from.
- Not pricey at all, affordable for most of the people.
- Small bottle sizes.
- Some customers complained about poor delivery manner as the inks leaked within the package.
Solong is a known brand within the tattoo industry as it not only offers tattoo machines but it also offers tattoo inks. Solong inks formula enhance the skin permeability and make it absorbs the pigment with ease. The brand proudly states that its inks display no fading effect after repair. All their pigments are sterilized with gamma rays, therefore the infection risks highly decrease. Solong is a perfect choice for starters as it not only offers easy to use products but the brand also offers instructions and support.
- Suitable for beginners.
- Great for practice inks.
- Good range of colors to choose from.
- Low to none fade after repair.
- Gamma rays sterilized pigments.
- Boost the skin’s absorption ability.
- Really low prices.
- Inks can be found only as kits.
- Small ink bottle sizes.
- Some customers complained about the ink quality.
How to choose your tattoo ink
The ink should have a couple of key features in order to be tagged as a high-quality ink. The features below will help you to distinguish poor quality ink from high-quality ink.
Inks need to be organic or vegan. Chemical additives should be strictly avoided as these can produce an allergic reaction or skin infection and can lead to serious health issues. Therefore, the ink must be made of 100% natural ingredients.
The carrier bases
The carrier base of the ink has an important role, to keep the ink-free from pathogens. The alcohol-based inks can be considered slightly better than water-based ones. The alcohol is used not only to disinfect the skin before the pigment settles but also to increase the skin’s permeability, therefore the pigment is transported easier into the skin.
In order to get the ink coloured, it is needed to add into the mix heavy metals (such as mercury, cadmium or iron for red; nickel or iron for black; lead, zinc or cadmium for yellow, and so on). Also, metal oxides can be used (ferrocyanide and ferricyanide). As for organic chemicals, the azo-chemicals can be used for orange, brown, yellow, violet and green, and naphtha-chemicals for red. For black colour, ash or soot can be used. It is not uncommon for producers to use lightening agents in order to reduce production costs. As there is no regulation about revealing the ingredients or conduct trials, it is less likely for companies to reveal their recipe.
As we can’t know all the ink’s ingredients and production methods, it is important to pick brands that already have a reputation within the industry. Brands that focus only on tattoo equipment and inks are more likely to offers products of better quality as their main income comes from selling the ink and tattoo equipment. Brands with a wide variety of niches will pay less attention to the quality of the products as their income is split between several types of products. For example, if a company sells beauty products and also tattoo inks and machines (for permanent make-up) it can be expected that the ink offered by this type of company to be of a lower quality compared to a specialised company.
Also, always check the labels. An honest brand should display on its labels the product name, identity, warning statement for any product with Unsubstantiated Safety and declaration of Net Quantity of Contents. It also must include the directions for safe use, Name and Place of Business and Ingredient Declaration.
You should absolutely avoid blacklight ink and phosphorescence ink. You may think that it is amazing for a tattoo to glow in the dark or to react to UV light, but unfortunately, these types of ink are not safe to use and can cause serious health issues.
As you may expect the price of a good quality tattoo ink will be higher than a lower quality one. That is because of the lightening agents used in the production process. Lightening agents are used to reduce production costs. Therefore, the product can be sold at a lower price and still be profitable.
Country of origin
Always check where your ink was produced to ensure that it complies with health and safety regulations. It is important to make sure that the USA and E.U regulations are adhered to.
Why does it matter to carefully choose the tattoo ink brand?
As mentioned before, is all about safety reasons. Skin damage, infections and allergic reactions are not out of discussion even when using high-quality ink from reputable brands. However, when you carefully pick the ink you are going to use, it is less likely to face such problems.
Are tattoos vegan?
Not all tattoos are vegan. Usually, the ink contains bone char – from burnt animal bone, animal gelatine, glycerine – animal fat and shellac – ingredient made from insects; therefore you should check the label first. Anyway, a lot of brands offer vegan-friendly products. However, not all of their products may be vegan and it would be a good idea checking every product you intend to buy first even if the brand is claiming that most of their products are vegan.
How do you know if a tattoo ink has a superior quality?
Superior quality inks are usually all-natural products and are recommended by artists. Most of them are vegan as they do not contain any animal-based ingredients. Also, you should make sure that the ink is either alcohol-based or water-based.
Can I still use the poor-quality ink I bought?
Yes, absolutely! It can still be used for practice on practice skin or other practice materials. There is no point to waste the chance of improving your technique. Exercising and your handling skill is not a bad idea regardless of your skill level. Therefore, poor quality inks are not halfway bad as these inks can still be used for practice. Also, it is more beneficial to practice with cheaper ink as no one is exposed to any health risks and you don’t end up wasting high-quality ink.
Does the tattoo ink expire?
Ink does not really expire, but it can become contaminated and can lead to infection and potential scarring. Usually the ‘shelf-life’ of the tattoo ink is up to 2 years.
The market has a lot of options to chose from, but not all of the brands offer high-quality products. However, even if a brand offers high-quality products it is impossible to please all its customers, therefore it can be expected for their products to have a couple of bad reviews. Therefore, it is recommended to look at both sides of a product not only at the good part of it.
The risks are not zero regardless the brand chosen as the brands will not reveal the production methods and all of their ingredients, therefore it is not unexpected for some brands to fool the customers saying that some ingredients are not used (while these ingredients may be used, sometimes even in small quantities). A good idea would be to seek professional advice (from professional tattoo artists) as they are way more experienced and used a wide variety of products from different brands. Having the slightest guidance from a professional can help a lot as situations that can endanger the health and well-being can be avoided.