Watercolor tattoos are a hot button issue in the world of ink.
At first, they were first dismissed as a gimmick or passing fad.
Some traditional tattoo artists even pushed back against the idea.
They said these tattoo designs wouldn’t last, both literally and figuratively.
There are even think-pieces that warn patrons against getting watercolor tattoos.
But the watercolor tattoo technique has held strong since 2010 when it broke out onto the scene in a big way.
In today’s highly visual world, tattoo artists and canvases alike are constantly looking for the next big thing.
Watercolor tattoos are eye-catching.
They stretch the imagination to new and exciting possibilities.
With this innovative tattoo technique, artists can create effects never seen in tattooing before.
We’re going to explore everything there is to know about watercolor tattoos.
Watercolor Tattoos: What Are They?
Watercolor tattoos get their moniker from the painting technique of the same name.
In a watercolor painting, pigment is watered down.
Then, the watercolor artist layers it in washes to create a soft, textural effect.
The little inconsistencies in a watercolor painting create feelings of whimsy and movement.
Some watercolor paintings are incredibly dense.
They can even be overwhelming in their level of detail.
The final result is expressive, less contained than a conventional piece.
In tattooing, the artist uses their tattoo gun in very much the same way.
With a traditional tattoo design, they will start with a black outline, then color it in.
The theory is that the black outline acts as a barrier.
With watercolor tattoos, the outline is less obvious.
You may see a watercolor design that:
- “Hides” the black outline under layers of pigment.
- Has a very thin, imperceptible black outline.
- Has an outline, but colors bleed and splatter outward from it.
- Has no black outline at all.
The result is soft, striking, and dreamy, not at all what people expect when they think of a tattoo.
Watercolor Tattoo Technique
Watercolor tattoos are not done with special inks or needles.
Every tattoo artist learns a variety of techniques as they study.
To create the watercolor tattoo, an artist needs to practice softer lines and shading.
Some watercolor tattoos are fully saturated but on a gradient.
A tattoo artist may use multiple shades of the same color.
Watercolor tattoo artists may create these effects by watering down their inks, then layering them.
Exactly how a watercolor on canvas would work.
It’s all about practice and studying the juggernauts in the watercolor world.
If you are looking to get a watercolor tattoo, understand it’s a technique that takes time to master.
And it isn’t a priority for all tattoo artists.
You would be wise to go through someone’s portfolio and be sure they have experience in the tattoo style.
It’s also important to note that not every tattoo artist likes or approves of watercolor tattoos.
Is It a Bad Idea to Get a Watercolor Tattoo?
So, something we do need to address is the backlash of watercolor tattoos.
So many artists dislike this tattoo technique.
It continues to cause ripples in the world of ink, and maybe it always will.
But why? Is there any reasoning behind this feud?
Here are a few of the arguments artists make against watercolor tattoos:
The Pigment Will Bleed Out Over Time
Tattoo colors fade and blur on the skin over time.
The argument for black outlines is that they create a skeleton for the tattoo design.
Even after it has faded, it will read to the naked eye like a bird, or a plane, or a cupcake.
Without that bold black container, you may end up with a tattoo design that doesn’t look like anything.
Or at least that’s what some tattoo artists say.
Watercolor tattoos have had some time to fade and age on the early adopters.
So we can start to see the effects.
Thea Duskin herself has a watercolor sleeve tattoo.
It has maintained its soft, pretty appearance for just under 10 years.
Duskin explains that, as with any tattoo, proper care is key.
You may want to go back in a few years to re-saturate your color, but this is the case with any tattoo.
And it may not even be necessary.
It all depends on your skin type and level of care.
If a watercolor tattoo is properly done by an artist who understands the medium, it should hold up.
It Fades Quicker
Black just doesn’t fade as quickly as color.
It’s much bolder and more saturated, so it stays on the skin for a long time.
Tattoo artists argue that, with several colors next to one another, you may end up with some uneven fading.
A yellow, for example, may fade faster than an orange or a red.
And if your tattoo has a gradient look, this may drastically change your tattoo.
Barriers between tattoo colors could also lose their integrity, fading into one another.
Again, every tattoo fades eventually.
It will never completely vanish, but it will become less pigmented.
But with proper care, your colors should stay intact, even if they get a little less vibrant.
As for the color borders, be sure to visit a tattoo artist who has worked with this technique for a while.
They will know how to layer their color work properly.
It’s Just a Trend
Some tattoo artists claim this look is so trendy and of the moment, it doesn’t have any staying power.
They claim people will come to regret these tattoos as a result.
It’s a matter of personal style.
Watercolor tattoos are so popular because they’re exciting.
Some people were waiting for a look that suited them, and this is it.
Watercolor paintings didn’t disappear from galleries.
So it’s strange to say this look won’t have longevity.
You run the risk of regret with any tattoo design, that’s something you know going in.
One thing does ring true for this argument, though.
Some tattoo artists leap into the watercolor field without proper research.
Even Gene Coffey has concerns about the watercolor tattoo trend.
If you go to someone who is just trying to cash in on a trend, you may end up with a tattoo artist who doesn’t understand the medium.
Do your research and pay close attention to your tattoo artist’s body of work!
Watercolor Tattoo Designs
Are you sold on the idea of a watercolor tattoo?
As we’ve discussed, flowers are popular in the world of watercolor.
They’re beautiful, colorful, and classic.
But there’s so much more to explore before you settle on an idea.
Here are some of the most popular themes and images within the medium:
Watercolor Flower Tattoos
Flowers can carry various meanings and are often used in both men’s and women’s tattoos, but also in tattoo stories that involve numerous meanings.
If you’d like to go for watercolor flower tattoos think about the flower design and the color as a whole in order for it to look the best.
- Watercolor Rose Tattoos
Rose tattoos can symbolize love, passion, purity, friendship, forgiveness, and the list can go on.
Watercolor rose tattoos can truly depict the frailty of the roses and give them a graceful look.
You can choose from a range of colors, like red, yellow, white, or pink, depending on the symbol that you’d like
- Watercolor Sunflower Tattoos
Sunflowers can look very special when tattooed on the skin because of the beautiful contrast between their colors, yellow and black.
They symbolize loyalty, happiness, the beauty of the sun and watercolor sunflower tattoos are a good choice for any area of the body.
The size can vary from small to large.
- Watercolor Orchid Tattoos
Orchids can symbolize love, beauty, elegance, power, and fertility and because of their beautiful colors, they’re often represented in tattoos.
You can choose any color that you’d like if you go for watercolor orchid tattoos, but light purple remains the most popular one.
Orchid tattoos are often chosen by women, because of their feminine beauty.
- Watercolor Hibiscus Tattoos
Youth, beauty, glory, these are only some of the many meanings that the ancient plant of hibiscus can have.
Watercolor hibiscus tattoos can perfectly capture the beautiful red, purple nuances of the plant, which will look amazing, especially combined with the fading or gradient techniques.
Both men and women choose hibiscus tattoos, not only for their design but also for their symbolism.
- Watercolor Peony Tattoos
With their exquisite beauty, peonies represent honor, prosperity, and happiness in marriage.
This flower is given in many cultures as a wedding gift or used in the ceremonies of weddings.
Watercolor peony tattoos can beautifully represent the fragility of the flower, using colors like yellow, white, pink, or red.
- Watercolor Plumeria Tattoos
Plumeria, or frangipani, are small, fragile flowers, but with a very beautiful aspect.
Colored in yellow and white, they represent love, positivity, birth, and new chapters in life.
Plumeria is also symbolic in Hawaii, being worn in women’s hair or near the ears.
Watercolor plumeria tattoos are a good choice for small body areas, like hands or feet.
- Watercolor Daffodil Tattoos
Daffodil flowers represent spring, rebirth, positivism, and resilience.
They are most often colored in yellow and have a very distinct aspect.
Watercolor daffodil tattoos are great for women, because of their strong spring vibes and bold yellow color.
A good choice for hands, feet, limbs, and chest tattoos, daffodil will definitely make you stand out.
- Watercolor Lily Tattoos
Lily tattoos symbolize life, innocence, purity and come in beautiful colors like purple, white, pink, yellow, and orange.
Watercolor lily tattoos can be part of bigger, meaningful tattoos, but also look amazing when tattooed in small sizes on hands, wrists, or feet.
Gradient colors can capture the beautiful colors of lily tattoos, some colored in white and pink.
- Watercolor Lotus Tattoos
Lotus tattoos symbolize beauty, prosperity, purity and it is very often encountered as the main symbol in countries like India or Bangladesh.
Lotuses are colored in white or pink and they are often associated with water.
Watercolor lotus tattoos are amazing when they combine water designs with the flower’s design.
- Watercolor Cherry Blossom Tattoos
Cherry blossom tattoo designs are often encountered in the tattoo world as they symbolize youth, life, and revival.
In Japan, the blossoming of the cherry trees is often celebrated with big festivals and parties among colleagues, family, and friends.
Watercolor cherry blossom tattoos look amazing when colored with white, pink, and brown.
Watercolor Zoomorphic Tattoos
Because of the wispy, soft techniques of this style, it is naturally suited to our animal friends.
Watercolor techniques can easily mimic fur and feathers, making an animal portrait more vivid.
People usually pick animals that have a mystical or whimsical reputation.
The watercolor enhances that feeling of enchantment.
- Watercolor Bear Tattoos
Bears symbolize power, force, but also softness so they are often used in tattoos.
Watercolor bear tattoos look great on any skin color, depending on the colors that you choose to use and they can be part of larger tattoos, but also portrayed in smaller tattoos, on hands or ankles.
- Watercolor Lion Tattoos
Lions represent power, courage, being the ultimate kings of the animal world.
If you want to capture the beauty, royalty, and bravery of the lion, choose a tattoo of the whole animal.
Watercolor lion tattoos have the advantage of capturing details of the lion’s colors in a subtle way.
- Watercolor Hummingbird Tattoos
Hummingbird tattoos represent good luck, joy life, and the beauty of it.
They are symbols of positivity and are often portrayed in multiple colors.
Watercolor hummingbird tattoos look amazing when colored joyfully, and are a great choice for both men and women.
They’re suitable for any area of the body, from small to large-scale tattoo pieces.
- Watercolor Tiger Tattoos
Tiger tattoos are the symbol of strength, valor, fearlessness and they often represent the power to overcome fear and fight no matter what.
Their beautiful colors include orange, black, or brown.
Watercolor tiger tattoos are a good fit for both men and women but are specially chosen by men to represent masculinity and power.
- Watercolor Elephant Tattoos
Elephants are animals that symbolize wisdom, kindness, and patience.
The elephant is also said to bring good luck in some cultures that is why it’s often portrayed in the tattoo world.
Watercolor elephant tattoos can be colored in any way you like and are suitable for small body areas, but also for larger ones, like the chest or back.
- Watercolor Eagle Tattoos
Eagle tattoos represent victory, pride, and loyalty and it is often used to represent countries or cultures.
A very special bird, the eagle has powerful meanings, that dates back to ancient times and is often encountered in tattoos.
Watercolor eagle tattoos can be done in any color, but most often they feature the natural colors of the eagle.
- Watercolor Panther Tattoos
Panthers stand for determination, protection, and valor.
They are often used as a symbol for protection, either it is from enemies or protection offered to loved ones.
Watercolor panther tattoos can portray the panther in multiple colors, even if its original color is black.
- Watercolor Koi Fish Tattoos
Perseverance, strength, and courage are some of the few meanings of the Koi Fish tattoo, a small, but popular fish in many cultures.
They are also associated with good luck and prosperity.
Watercolor Koi fish tattoos include small tattoo designs, that are often used on body areas like hands, neck, feet, or wrists.
- Watercolor Butterfly Tattoos
Watercolor butterfly tattoos are beautiful pieces that can hold a lot of meaning for the individual who gets them.
Delicate and detailed, watercolor butterfly tattoos incorporate the beauty of the butterfly with one-of-a-kind watercolor tattoo designs to create a unique tattoo piece, ideal for any placement.
The butterfly tattoo stands for change, the beauty of new beginnings, and the power to gracefully overcome obstacles.
Watercolor butterfly tattoos symbolize freedom, change, and development for many.
Butterflies are beautiful, fragile, and yet very rarely afraid of humans.
Watercolor butterfly tattoos can be colorized in any way, mixing and combining any colors that you wish.
They are a good fit for both men and women.
The main themes in these tattoos are symbolic in nature, often speaking for a meaningful time in someone’s life, or representing a significant person.
A watercolor butterfly with a watercolor flower tattoo may symbolize feminine beauty and individuality.
Watercolor black butterfly tattoos represent grief and loss, often memorializing a loved one’s passing.
There are plenty of places you can choose to get a watercolor butterfly tattoo.
Depending on its personal meaning to you, you may want to reference your tattoo often or keep it relatively hidden for you to reflect on when you choose.
Getting your watercolor butterfly tattoo on your wrist serves as a constant reminder of the tattoo’s personal meaning.
Some get foot tattoos to symbolize an important person walking “with them” at all times, serving as a reminder that they are never truly alone.
There is a variety of watercolor butterfly tattoo designs you can choose to get for your next tattoo.
Each is a picture-perfect representation of beauty, grace, and the delicacy of life.
Consider the individual meanings and designs of each type of tattoo to decide which is best for you.
- Watercolor Fox Tattoos
Foxes are clever, wise, and know how to adapt to the natural wilderness and unpredictability that is why they are often portrayed in tattoos.
Watercolor fox tattoos can capture the beauty of foxes in any color that you dream of, that is why you can choose this technique for portraying the beautiful animal.
- Watercolor Owl Tattoos
Owl tattoos symbolize wisdom, mystery, and a connection with the power of nature.
Watercolor owls tattoos are portrayed in beautiful colors like purple, blue, green, or silver and can be done on any body area, no matter how small or large.
They are suitable for both men and women.
- Watercolor Sea Turtle Tattoos
Sea Turtles represent wisdom, patience, and resilience and they are one of the most beautiful and special creatures of the sea.
Watercolor Sea Turtle tattoos portray the animals in colors like blue, green, olive, and black and are definitely a tattoo that won’t go unnoticed, especially if you choose a visible body area.
- Watercolor Dragonfly Tattoos
Dragonflies symbolize fragility, good luck, and the beauty of life.
Watercolor Dragonfly tattoos can capture the fragility of the insect in any color that you’d like, from purple to green.
Dragonflies tattoos can be done on any body area, even on fingers, because the designs are suitable for very small surfaces.
Watercolor Pet Tattoos
Pets are loved by everyone because they symbolize true love, loyalty, innocence, and a deep connection.
Watercolor pet tattoos can be done with your most loved and cherished pet in mind and they can be a forever love declaration for it.
You can choose any colors that you dream of and depict them exactly how you imagined.
- Watercolor Cat Tattoos
Cats are independent, tenacious, delicate, yet loving, and cute beings.
That is why lots of people love them and choose to have them around.
Watercolor cat tattoos can be done in the memory of your most loving cat or as a sign to show the love you carry for these purring beings.
Depending on the design you can choose from a variety, from the cat’s silhouette to the cat’s eyes.
- Watercolor Paw Tattoos
Paws symbolize a deep love for animals, especially pets, and are often portrayed in the tattoo world as a symbol for always remembering your most loved pets.
Watercolor paw tattoos can feature colors ranging from blue, green, and silver to yellow or red and can be done on very small body areas.
Travel Inspired Tattoos
Are you a dreamer with a heavy case of wanderlust?
Watercolor tattoos add a feeling of dreaminess to travel tattoos.
They capture that special feeling of discovering a new place.
Here are a few travel-inspired ideas for your watercolor tattoo:
- Hot Air Balloon
- A Map
- A Boat
Science Inspired Tattoos
Are you an inventor and innovator?
You could pay homage to your favorite scientific accomplishments with this imaginative technique.
Some scientific items you may see in the world of watercolor:
- Galaxies & Celestial Bodies
- The Human Eye
Watercolor Galaxy Tattoos
Watercolor galaxy tattoos can be done in all the colors that you have ever dreamt of.
You can portray galaxies that exist or that you have imagined, symbolizing the greatness and beauty of the world.
Galaxy tattoos look best on larger body areas and are often chosen by both men and women for their deep, yet obvious meanings.
Fantasy Inspired Tattoos
With traditional tattoos, it can be hard to capture a fantastical character.
There’s something about a watercolor tattoo that looks magical and elegant.
And people have begun to utilize that for their favorite fictional beings.
A few mystical beings you might consider:
Watercolor Fairy Tattoos
Fairy tattoos are a symbol of magic, beauty, wishes, and dreams.
If you choose to portray a fairy in your tattoos you are attracted to the beautiful, magical side of life, to the idealization of childhood and the symbols of innocence.
Watercolor fairy tattoos are great for small body areas, like ankles, feet, forearms, or hands.
Watercolor Pixie Tattoos
Pixie tattoos are similar to fairy tattoos and they represent the magical side, the fantasy world, and a deep connection with nature.
Watercolor pixie tattoos can be done in colors like green, brown, red, or yellow, and they can feature other elements connected with nature, like trees or forests.
Watercolor Dryad Tattoos
Dryads are goddesses of nature, having the ability to control nature, plants, and trees.
In the Greek culture, dryads live in the forests and have the power to transform into beautiful young women.
Watercolor Dryad tattoos can be done on any body area, from fingers to legs or arms.
Watercolor Wyvern Tattoos
Wyvern is a mystical creature, similar in appearance to the dragon, that symbolizes power, strength, and stamina.
They are often portrayed in tattoos because of their symbols, being representative of those who never cease fighting.
Watercolor Wyvern tattoos are frequently chosen by men, because of their association with battles.
Watercolor Nautical Tattoos
Nautical symbols, including boats, veils, or anchors symbolize the freedom and power of the water, and the mystery and beauty that surrounds it.
Watercolor nautical tattoos can range from small colorful symbols of anchors to larger tattoos of boats, lakes, and the surroundings of the sea.
Most often they feature shades of blue and gradient tones.
- Watercolor Lighthouse Tattoos
Lighthouses symbolize strength, individuality, and power.
They are often used as a symbol in well-known poems, novels, and movies, for example, the iconic novel written by Virginia Woolf.
Watercolor lighthouse tattoos can include other elements, like the sea, the shore, or beautiful lights.
They are chosen by both men and women, because of their deep meaning.
- Watercolor Compass Tattoos
Compass tattoos are associated with finding the right way, aligning your values, not getting lost, or surviving.
Compasses are a symbol often encountered in literature, paintings, movies, and art in general.
Watercolor compass tattoos can be done in vivid colors, like blue, yellow, purple, red, or turquoise, depending on the ideas of the creator.
- Watercolor Mermaid Tattoos
Mermaids symbolize the unknown magic world of the oceans and seas, they symbolize beauty, duality, and mystery.
A legend that everyone has heard of, that has been used for movies, books, and even in cartoons, the mermaid is something that makes us think about magic, childhood, and the unknown.
Watercolor mermaid tattoos can depict the beautiful creatures alongside other elements of the sea, like corals, fish, or sand.
- Watercolor Octopus Tattoos
Octopus tattoos symbolize wisdom, creativity, and spirituality, being frequently portrayed in tattoo art.
Octopuses are known for their being intelligent creatures, despite having a boneless body.
Watercolor octopus tattoos are suitable for any placement and are most often chosen for small body areas, like hands, neck, wrists, or feet.
- Watercolor Jellyfish Tattoos
Balance, trust, acceptance, and love, that is what the jellyfish tattoos symbolize.
In real life, most people avoid these sea creatures, because they are poisonous and dangerous, yet they do not symbolize fear.
Watercolor jellyfish tattoos are a great choice for gradient and fading techniques and can be colored in beautiful blue, pink, or green nuances.
- Watercolor Marlin Tattoos
The Marlin, a great symbol from the book “The Old man and the Sea” represents devotion, courage, perseverance, and dreaming.
Watercolor marlin tattoos can be done on any body area, from small ones, like neck, hands, or wrists, to larger ones, like back, chest, or legs. You can combine the colors exactly how you’d like.
Watercolor Greek Mythology Tattoos
Greek Mythology is known for its great symbols that are still used in many aspects of our day-to-day life, from advertising to movies, books, or politics.
Watercolor Greek Mythology tattoos can mix great designs with amazing colors, with the color fading technique being the cherry on the top.
- Watercolor Medusa Tattoos
Medusa is a very well-known symbol in Greek Mythology that is still widely used nowadays.
She is the symbol of philosophy, a dangerous creature, that is said to have had the power to turn everyone that looked her in the eyes into stone.
Watercolor Medusa tattoos have incredible designs that make them impossible to go unnoticed, especially when combined with vivid colors.
- Watercolor Phoenix Tattoos
Phoenix is the mythical bird that had the power to rise from the ashes and be born again.
A symbol of rebirth, transformation, strength, and power, the Phoenix is often portrayed in tattoos because of its deep meanings.
Watercolor Phoenix tattoos can feature colors like black and orange and are a good choice for men and women too.
Watercolor Poseidon Tattoos
Poseidon, the god of the sea, is often portrayed with its famous trident.
A powerful Olympian god, he was said to be the protector of the sea.
Watercolor Poseidon tattoos often feature green and blue tones combined with other elements, like Poseidon’s trident or dolphins, mermaids, or other sea creatures.
- Watercolor Athena Tattoos
Athena is known as the goddess of wisdom and war.
Her symbols were the owl, the olive tree, and the spear.
Watercolor Athena Tattoos can have designs that include the goddess’s symbols, the color white or even other elements that the artist considers relevant.
Athena tattoos are a great choice for larger body areas.
Decorative Watercolor Tattoos
Decorative watercolor tattoos include tattoos that don’t necessarily have deep meanings, even though every symbol and design can be given a meaning by the one who creates it, the artist.
They often use vivid, eye-catching colors, great designs, and very creative ideas to make the skin paintings stand out.
- Watercolor Arrow Tattoos
Arrows can have multiple meanings, from purpose to love, depending on the design.
Watercolor arrow tattoos are a great choice for small body areas tattoos, because they can be done on fingers, on the face, or anywhere on the body, and still be easily covered.
Colors can be used depending on the desire of the one who chooses them.
- Watercolor Lettering Tattoos
Lettering tattoos have different meanings for everyone that chose them.
People choose tattoos with letters that are connected to their loved ones, family, pets, favorite things in life, favorite artists, and ever connected to their beliefs.
Watercolor lettering tattoos are chosen by both men and women and can be done in one single color or multiple colors.
- Watercolor Ouroboros Tattoos
Ouroboros is a symbol from the ancient Egyptian mythology, representing a snake that eats his own tail, forming a perfect cycle.
He represents the infinity, the cyclicity of life and love and can be easily portrayed in tattoos.
Watercolor Ouroboros tattoos are a great choice for body areas like hands, arms, or back.
- Watercolor Feather Tattoos
Feathers represent freedom, honor, and power and they are also used to symbolize fragility and the beauty that lays in the small details.
Watercolor feather tattoos are great for hands, ankle, wrists, and fingers and they can be colored in purple, red, yellow, blue, green, and any other color of your choice.
- Watercolor Eye Tattoos
Eyes symbolize beauty, wisdom, knowledge and the power of one of the most important senses.
Many tattoos feature the eyes of the ones we love, admire, and cherish, in an attempt to never forget their gaze.
Watercolor Eye Tattoos can feature beautiful green, blue, hazel, and black nuances.
- Watercolor Hourglass Tattoos
An hourglass tattoo symbolizes the passing of time, the cyclicity of time, and the meaning of life.
Hourglasses are often featured in larger tattoos that involve stories, but can also be done as a stand-alone tattoo.
Watercolor hourglass tattoos can be done using any color of your wish and are suitable for any body area.
- Watercolor Hamsa Tattoos
Hamsa is very known in the Middle East as a protective symbol, which brings peace, health, happiness, and prosperity.
Watercolor Hamsa Tattoos are an amazing choice, because of the variety of colors that the symbol has.
You can use many nuances of blue, silver, or green for the design of the hand and eye.
Watercolor Nature Tattoos
Nature tattoos symbolize a connection with the world, beauty, freshness, and purity.
Watercolor nature tattoos include tree tattoos, forests, flower tattoos, animal tattoos, water, and skies.
They can be tattooed in any color that you can think of, including blue, green, red, brown, yellow, or orange.
- Watercolor Sunset Tattoos
Sunset tattoos symbolize the power of change, the beauty that can exist at any end, and the hope the endings bring new, more beautiful beginnings.
Watercolor sunset tattoos look amazing when faded technique is used and they can feature colors like orange, red, yellow, and blue.
- Watercolor Cow Skull Tattoos
Cow skull can represent the humbleness of the being, the simple life, and nature.
Cow skulls are often chosen in the tattoo world because of the uniqueness of the designs.
Watercolor cow skull tattoos can feature colors like white, bronze, brown, or blue, depending on what you and the tattoo artist have imagined.
Watercolor Quetzalcoatl Tattoos
Quetzalcoatl is a mystical creature from the ancient Mexican culture, that was said to control the rains and winds.
It has supernatural powers, like the ability to fly, great strength, and nowadays he is related to literature, learning, and arts.
Watercolor Quetzalcoatl Tattoos can feature colors like green, red, or yellow.
- Watercolor Dream-catcher Tattoos
The Dream-catcher is well-known in the Indian and Native American cultures as a talisman that protects people from nightmares.
The talisman features beautiful colors, feathers, pearls, wood, and many other ornaments.
Watercolor Dream-Catcher Tattoos include numerous vivid nuances like magenta, tangerine orange, turquoise, or Marsala red.
Watercolor Horror Tattoos
Horror Tattoos are often used to portray characters from popular movies or books of the genre.
People portray their favorite characters from horror movies, heroes or anti-heroes, depending on the meaning and impact they had on them.
Watercolor horror tattoos have the advantage of using the fading technique to uniquely portray the characters.
- Watercolor Skull Tattoos
Skull Tattoos represent life, the cyclicity of life, and its simplicity.
Watercolor skull tattoos can be colored in nuanced like grey, blue, silver, yellow, or anything that you like.
They are mostly chosen by men, but not necessarily all the time.
- Watercolor Bird Skull Tattoos
Bird Skull Tattoos represent freedom and destiny.
They are often chosen because of the unique designs of the bird’s peaks, which make them definitely the stand-out tattoo.
Watercolor Bird Skull Tattoos can add amazing colors to the uniqueness of the designs, making them impossible to not be remarked.
- Watercolor Plague Doctor Tattoos
Plague Doctor tattoos are depicting the Plague Doctor symbol, that features the mask with a peak worn by doctors during the times of the plague.
The peaked masked had been used to protect the doctors from the air-transmitted disease and was often filled with beautiful smelling herbs, that also had medical uses.
Watercolor plague doctor tattoos can be colored in any color of your choice, depending on your imagination.
- Watercolor Valak Tattoos
Valak is a creature that is known in mythology for its ability to find treasure.
Although it’s often portrayed with negative meaning, some choose it for the capability of finding what others cannot.
Watercolor Valak Tattoos are often chosen by men, and they can be done in any color, featuring the fading or gradient technique.
- Watercolor Wendigo Tattoos
Wendigo is a well-known monster of the woods, that has a connection to the negative qualities of greed and weakness.
Watercolor wendigo tattoos can be portrayed similar to deer tattoos and can feature elements of the woods, like trees, grass, or the moon.
Any color can be used, especially green, earthy tones.
Proper Watercolor Tattoo Care
If you go through the trouble of getting a tattoo, it’s worth protecting.
Here are some things to keep in mind before, during, and after your watercolor tattoo:
Do your research!
Take the time to find an artist who is going to do it right.
You may end up paying more, but a tattoo is on your body forever.
You are paying for this artist’s years of practice, something you will benefit directly from.
Take your time, save your pennies, and get a piece you’re excited to show off.
During the healing process, you are always told to avoid sunlight.
Even after the fact, it’s important to find an SPF for your daily routine.
The sun can fade the pigment, so either cover up or lotion up.
It’s a small step that makes a big difference.
Be Good to Your Skin!
After your tattoo is healed, moisturize your skin regularly.
Avoid creams with a lot of dyes and scents- they can be abrasive.
Keep yourself soft and supple, and those colors are guaranteed to pop.
Watercolor Tattoo Ideas
New tattoo techniques are great because they open the doors to design possibilities.
Don’t let the haters get you down!
There are plenty of amazing tattoo artists who would love to give you a stunning watercolor tattoo.
Still not convinced? Take a look at our watercolor tattoo gallery for some artistic inspiration!
Abstract Watercolor Tattoos
Watercolor abstract tattoos don’t necessarily have an obvious meaning, but of course, they can represent something for the one who chose it.
Abstract watercolor tattoos are often chosen because of the beauty and uniqueness of the designs, making them easy to stand out in the crowd.
Black & Grey Watercolor Tattoos
Black and Grey Watercolor Tattoos can be as special as the colorful ones, depending on the design and techniques you choose.
Fading and gradient colors range from back to grey and look amazing, especially on medium, dark skin.
Designs that go in black and grey include geometric, abstract, and portraits.
Watercolor Portrait Tattoos
Watercolor Portrait Tattoos can be done in a variety of ways, but some have more impact.
For example, choosing a black and grey portrait with colored eyes and lips can become a real piece of art when executed by a talented tattoo artist.
Watercolor Portrait Tattoos are a good choice for arms, chest, and back.
Contemporary Watercolor Tattoos
Contemporary Watercolor Tattoos include vivid colors, especially blue, green, pink, or red, and symbols of nature, animals, geometric tattoo designs, and even portraits.
Every idea you have can be transformed into a contemporary tattoo with the help of talented professionals.
You can create your tattoo design with their help and decide together on the colors you choose.
Watercolor Tattoo Artists
Watercolor tattoo artists can do anything a watercolor artist can do in ink form.
They can even make ink look thinned out by the water, or make ink look like it is thick paint on a canvas.
The tattoo artists below will show you the many different ways that watercolor artists can design and tattoo their works.
- Amanda Wachob, Los Angeles
Amanda Wachob’s best work lies in the abstract.
Her abstract work involves tattoo pieces that look like a more simple composition of plant matter as well as colorful swirls that are striking.
She also has a knack for body placement, tattooing flowers on the body’s curves in unusual but pleasing formations.
Her watercolor work can go from delicate flowers to bold swirls of color, showing that she is a dynamic artist.
- Renato Vivoli, Germany
Renato plays with complementary colors, often orange and blue, and uses the watercolor style.
His watercolor phoenix tattoos show long orange feathers that transform into blue and sometimes are paired with a blue face of a woman.
He often creates what looks like large strokes of paint with objects on the surface and isn’t afraid to use dark subject matter.
- June Jung, Los Angeles
June Jung uses a lot of flowers in her work, but they are not all delicate pastels.
Some use bold colors that seem to come from a mystical land or even paradise.
Her watercolor bird tattoos accent the bird with flowers and stems.
Her watercolor sunflower tattoos along with many of her flower tattoos look very natural and could fit in well sketched into an old-fashioned storybook.
- Baris Yesilbas, NYC
Mixing black ink designs with watercolor enchantments, Baris uses a combination of styles to create masterpieces.
For example, he has used black ink to gently sketch out half of a cat’s face which is surrounded by punches of watercolor billowing out from the subject.
He does this with many animals, images of space, and other images.
- Georgia Grey, NYC
Georgia’s watercolor works mix black lines with light strokes of color to create delicate pieces.
Her subject matter includes flowers, donuts, even words with an explosion of color behind them.
The way she tattoos objects truly looks as though they were painted and are composed of such detailed shading that the client is like a real-life canvas.
- Yeliz Ozcan, Turkey
Yeliz Ozcan makes tattoos that on the surface seem delicate but tend to carry something about them that is bold and hard to keep your eyes off of.
She often designs animals and flowers which are executed completely in the watercolor style.
Other times, she uses black lines to create large figures such as Frida Kahlo and fills in the body and decorations with strokes of color.
- Simona Blanar, Czech Republic
Simona Blanar is known for her large works such as sleeves and thigh pieces.
In these large tattoos, color takes the lead.
The composition is well-balanced and light color, like a fog in the sky, is used to separate figures and objects.
The tattoos often feel magical and wondrous.
- Ewa Sroka, Poland
Ewa Sroka’s tattoos are bold and vibrant, appearing perhaps to be inspired by graffiti.
Sroka uses thick black lines in highly saturated colors reminiscent of large murals seen on the walls of buildings.
Their subjects include rabbits, sunflowers, pugs, and tropical scenes.
Sroka’s work is so rich in color that it has the power to attract a lot of attention.
- Koray Karagozler, Germany
Koray may just be one of the most skilled watercolor artists out there.
Karagozler, however, does not just use the watercolor style.
She uses seems as if to use oil paint in her work!
That’s because her tattoo work looks so real and thick almost like oil paint.
The rest of her work is true to the watercolor style, existing among geometric forms.
- Jules Boho, Austria
Jules Boho likes to pair black inked objects and animals with fantastic displays of watercolor style color.
Not only is her use of color on the mark, but her composition holds each work together even when a lot is going on in the subject matter.
She has the ability to transform a flower into a geometric shape and make famous paintings into tattoos.
- Julia Rehme, Germany
Julia Rehme’s work is full of interesting abstractions.
She tattoos formations of curved watercolor style lines, some appearing like rock striations or a thin piece of a galaxy far away.
Also designing tattoos of flower abstractions, she makes messy lines look beautiful.
These watercolor flower tattoos are done in black with a loose and natural composition.
- Marco Pepe, Italy
Marco Pepe is clearly inspired by graffiti in what he calls a hard-painting watercolor style.
He transforms faces and animals by incorporating a pop of color that sometimes goes outside the lines.
He even experiments with abstractions, creating compositions to be in awe of or even ones that make you think.
- Pablo Ortiz, Spain
Pablo can tattoo landscapes on someone’s arm and make it look like he was actually using watercolor paint.
He also does abstractions, animals, and mythological creatures.
Many of his tattoos appear magical, but most of them just look like they were truly painted on a canvas.
- Adrian Bascur, NYC
The work of Adrian Bascur is very delicate yet complex.
He puts a lot of detail into his tattoos with hard lines but almost always incorporates some watercolor style ink in his work.
His subjects in the tattoos are commonly animals and birds, especially watercolor hummingbird tattoos.
He also has done watercolor butterfly tattoos, such as a dandelion surrounded by two butterflies with a painterly blue and pink background.
- Diana López Coello, Spain
Diana’s watercolor tattoos can be of practically any subject.
Usually, she tattoos detailed black-lined subjects filled in with watercolor-like strokes with a colorful background that adds also to the tattoo’s composition.
She is especially adept at watercolor rose tattoos, in which she has many variations.
One example uses only the color red and shows a full rose with its stem, seeming as though the water from the paint has started to bleed in some areas.
- Andrea Kroki, Italy
Much like Jackson Pollock, Andrea Kroki makes the backgrounds of his tattoos appear as if the paint was splashed on them.
This traveling tattoo artist based in Sicily also is not afraid to use bold colors.
He also specializes in abstraction, watercolor floral tattoos, and large back pieces.
Sometimes in these tattoos, the element of abstraction is just as important in the work as the object itself.
- Jamaica Corridori, Italy
Jamaica Corridori is a self-named kawaii and Disney fanatic– and it shows.
Apart from flower tattoos, her tattoos tend to feature a character.
To each character, she adds a spray paint-looking background that appears to stretch outward like a thin fog.
She succeeds in filling in the characters with light ink that in fact appears like it was watercolor.
Her work is exuberant, fun, and playful.
- Maggie Paletta, Germany
Maggie Paletta does large back pieces and sleeves with some gorgeous watercolor tattoos.
She is famous for her bouquets: she composes arrangements of flowers painted in the watercolor style and with excellent composition.
Paletta tattoos these flowers, as well as other scenes, in a realistic way.
However, she does offer her own style of abstraction, which involves almost sketched black ink and light and airy color overlaid.
- Kirian, Germany
Kirian uses the watercolor style to lightly tattoo in color flowers, people, and other objects, along with abstract backgrounds.
His tattoos tend to stretch vertically with the background of strokes or color or what is meant to appear as dots of paint following suit.
- Chen Jie, Beijing
Chen Jie‘s tattoo style is unusual in the fact that she uses black and grey mostly as her watercolor color palette.
This technique is extremely successful, especially when a little bit of red is added to add even more intrigue.
Her tattoos are clearly inspired by ancient Chinese paintings– and they look like them, too.
- Jay Freestyle, Amsterdam
Typically doing large works, Jay is known for large faces, typically of women, adorned with flowers or abstract decorations.
His watercolor works border on being watercolor pinups (a very modern form).
But that’s not all he does.
He has tattooed skulls, leopards, and cougars, all elaborately adorned with decorations and seeming to have been ‘painted’.
- Ondrash, Czech Republic
Ondrash is obsessed with the abstract.
As if he has paint on the tip of his machine gun, he devises new and interesting ways to make colors move together around the body.
His colors are highly saturated and often blend into each other.
When he tattoos objects or animals, he always makes sure there’s an element of colors moving together like a magical wind.
- Paulo Victor Skaz, Brazil
Paula Victor Skaz is a painter himself and seems to often use painting to further develop his tattoo style.
His faces look like they melting as if the paint is dripping down, and his abstract work is as though many brush strokes were layered together.
Many of his tattoos appear as if loosely sketched together with highly unique compositions.
- Mukyeon, South Korea
Mukyeon is famous for flowers with black stems and large blue or red petals.
The stems are so light they can look almost transparent as if they used watercolor paint mixed with a lot of water.
Sometimes, the stems and leaves move in all different directions creating an abstract flower.
He’s also tattooing completely abstract works that look like combined brush strokes in asymmetrical compositions.
- Diane, Moscow
Diane is a Russian tattoo artist who specializes in brightly colored palettes of flowers accented with animals such as birds and snake tattoos.
Each flower is dramatic and elaborate appearing as if she used painterly strokes.
The flower arrangements are large and placed on the thigh or arm.
Her watercolor rose tattoos are made in a similar fashion: they have wide petals and decorative arrangements of buds and stemmed flowers.
- Dara Morgan, Moscow
Dara often uses dark colors like black, teal, mauve, and the various colors one would see on deadfall leaves.
Her watercolor floral tattoos are light and airy, accented with large rosebuds.
In fact, much of her work is inspired by nature tattoo designs.
There is a sort of tropical essence to her work, yet it is moody and at times dark.
- Marta Pari, Italy
Marta uses many characters from popular culture.
She also likes to tattoo flowers that are bold and colorful.
She uses dabs of color as a light background to the followers, which are filled in completely with color which often splashes over the lines.
- Tim Mueller, Los Angeles
Tim Mueller is known for his extreme abstraction, combining imagery of brush strokes in scribbles and lines with shading.
His other work of subjects such as animals and city landscapes are also abstract in the way that they are simply outlined with black ink or only parts such as the dogs’ ears in black.
The images are then filled in loosly with what looks like choppy strokes of color.
Why Do People Like Watercolor Tattoos?
This concept has become incredibly popular over the years.
You can see the influence on the tattoo world, even in work from other genres.
Many tattoo artists are a little more playful with their technique these days.
Of course, it’s no surprise the watercolor tattoo trend took off.
There are so many reasons to love a watercolor tattoo:
- It’s Not Your Grandpa’s Tattoo
Some people call it classic, others call it cliché.
Certain images are just expected in the tattoo world.
Bold outlines and saturated color fills.
Medieval-looking script in smokey grey tones. Hearts with banners.
There’s nothing wrong with sticking to what works.
But every generation wants to make their mark on the world.
Watercolor tattoos are innovative and unprecedented.
It makes sense that they’d be desirable for a new crop of tattooed people.
- It Lets More People In
Tattoos started as a religious rite.
They were very different from the tattoos we see on Instagram today.
But, as world travelers stumbled upon the art form, they became increasingly intrigued.
This paved the way for modern tattoo designs.
When tattoos first became a form of self-expression, they were popular with the fringes of society.
Tattoos used to be limited to pirates, sailors, and circus-folk.
They were seen as the ultimate act of rebellion.
But we have to let go of the tough guy act.
As a whole, people have become a lot more accepting of tattoos.
They’re fairly normal in most mainstream circles these days.
That means we need different styles to accommodate different people.
There are mothers getting tattoos with their daughters, breast cancer survivors getting tattoos to cover their scars, and even the tamest person may have a small reminder of their favorite pet.
A watercolor tattoo can be an appealing choice for someone who wants a little skin ink but isn’t drawn to the “death before dishonor” designs from yesteryear.
- It Expands the Possibilities
There are certain effects a traditional tattoo just can’t achieve.
For a more classic tattoo design, artists can utilize watercolor techniques.
It adds texture and movement and can bring certain elements to life.
A watercolor approach can make the fabric look touchable and water look wet.
In the large landscapes of sleeve tattoos and back pieces, it can add an eye-catching element to the aesthetic.
Who Started The Watercolor Tattoo Trend?
There’s no way to know who started this trend, exactly.
The techniques had always existed, they just weren’t used the same way they are now.
And of course, artists in the scene are likely to be influenced by each other.
Sometimes without even realizing it.
That said, there are a few infamous artists people credit as the OGs of watercolor ink.
- Amanda Wachob
In the story of watercolor tattoos, Amanda is credited as a pioneer.
A visual artist beyond the tattoo world, she has done projects with some of the world’s most prestigious art galleries.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Rubin Museum of Art, and The Whitney have all collaborated with her.
She’s no stranger to unconventional mediums and has created pieces on fruit and fabric.
Originally an odd-ball in the tattoo scene, Wachob was never going to hold herself back with the limitations of traditional designs.
During her apprenticeship, she noticed herself wanting to go beyond the black outline.
If a client wanted something more realistic, she thought, it just wouldn’t look as natural with a thick black line around it.
As she learned, she started thinking of a concept: abstract art as tattoos.
When she finally took the idea and ran with it, it was a major success.
People responded enthusiastically to the tattoos.
People would often say they’d never seen anything like them.
This started around 2008 and snowballed from there.
Wachob doesn’t work in watercolor with her canvases.
But, as more and more people used the term to describe her tattoos, it stuck.
She began to explore the aesthetic more deeply and would do the technique more purposefully.
Other tattoo artists took notice of Wachob, and the reactions were mixed.
Some admired the watercolor tattoo pieces, others were confused by them.
- June Jung
June Jung combines single-line work, pointillism, and watercolor techniques.
Her tattoos are instantly recognizable.
She has a specific aesthetic that’s often copied but rarely rivaled.
She typically works with natural themes.
This Los Angeles based tattoo artist is a bit of a hippy- she favors flowers, insects, and animals.
The organic subjects of her designs suit the watercolor tattoo medium so well.
Jung owns her own tattoo shop- June Jung Art in LA.
She was raised in South Korea and followed her artistic heart to NYC.
It was there that she attended FIT for art.
Jung started her journey as a tattoo artist around 2010, when the watercolor craze hit.
She comes up a lot in conversations about watercolor tattoos because it’s something she does so expertly.
Perhaps because she entered an already changing landscape, Jung was able to dive right into these unconventional tattoo aesthetics.
She did not seem to feel intimidated by the people or tattoo designs that came before.
Maybe it was her newness to tattooing, mixed with her background in fine art, that led to her innovative techniques.
- Thea Duskin
Like her contemporaries, Duskin is intrigued by the line between fine art and tattooing.
She has said in interviews that she always wanted to bridge that gap.
She co-owns Ghostprint Gallery, an art gallery in Richmond Virginia.
At Ghostprint, Duskin’s ideas about art are built into the exhibitions.
They showcase traditional ‘fine art’ alongside unconventional pieces on the cutting edge.
The tension between one art form and another is interesting.
It sort of echoes the tension in the tattoo world as new techniques come into the scene.
Tattoo art has been pushed to the side for so long and isn’t always recognized as a ‘proper’ art form.
Now, as fine art techniques enter the world of tattoos, they aren’t considered ‘proper’ for that arena.
It’s fascinating to consider where the borders are.
What makes one thing more artistic than another?
What makes one thing more appropriate for a tattoo than another?
These are the questions Duskin’s work seems to ask.
Duskin’s tattoos are a sight to see.
Like June Jung, she seems to favor organic material, especially living things.
Many of Duskin’s tattoos are of winged creatures, and the level of detail is astonishing.
Duskin says it often takes multiple sessions to get her tattoos just how she likes them.
- Gene Coffey
Gene Coffey puts the “water” in watercolor.
His work is full of drippy, beautiful messes, and expressive explosions of ink.
When he first started, he was a “made to order” style artist.
He needed to adapt to whatever style his small clientele asked for.
This is typical for an apprentice.
That grounding in more traditional styles is important.
It helped Coffey develop his skills.
His work outside of tattooing is experimental pop art.
He never thought of his canvas work and tattoo work as intersecting.
They’re still very different, but he learned over time, those lines can blur.
Coffey tells a tale of his early days as an artist.
Once, while looking through his sketchbook, a client asked for an unconventional piece.
It was an abstract blob of ink, and not something anyone would have considered a proper tattoo at the time.
Coffey caused a stir at the tattoo shop with his strange piece, but the client seemed to like it.
He didn’t love the messy blob tattoo, but Coffey sort of discovered his voice through that experiment.
The willingness to try new things and go there.
He started to get a little more playful with his designs, adding a drip here or a splatter there.
Eventually, Coffey became part of a growing movement toward watercolor tattoos with fine art elements.
He currently works out of Long Island, New York.
His pieces are a mix of shadowy and soft, darkness and light.
His work is just as pretty as designs from the above artists, but there’s a dark element to them.
His work appeals to someone who lives in harmony with the discord of life.
It may be time to develop more subgenres of the art of watercolor tattoos, or perhaps a new tattoo style completely.
So many of these tattoo artists have a new perspective, compared to what watercolor meant to people in the past.
One thing they do all have in common is they make ink on skin look like paint on a canvas, and they do this incredibly.
If you’ve ever stopped and admired a watercolor painting in a gallery or museum, then you already have a good idea of what a watercolor tattoo looks like. Instead of following the tried and true formula of black ink and bold outlines, these painterly tattoos rely on subtle gradients of color to mimic the style seen on canvas.
While there isn’t any difference between the type of ink used, watercolor tattoos feature far less black ink and more pastel colors. Some watercolor tattoos do away with outlines altogether, but those that have them will often incorporate techniques like color running and splattering outside of the lines.
The short answer is no. Despite their detailed designs, watercolor tattoos are actually likely to hurt less. They don’t require as much ink as regular tattoos, which means the tattoo artist won’t have to puncture your skin as much.
Watercolor tattoos require a lot of skill, so you may be surprised to learn that they normally take less time than regular tattoos. This is because it’s a freehand style of tattooing; the tattoo artist doesn’t rely on a stencil and won’t need to be as precise with their outlines.
Not all tattoo artists can give you a great-looking watercolor tattoo, so be sure to do your research and choose someone with a lot of experience working in this style. The shading and coloring techniques are difficult to master, which is why you should ask to see samples before getting one done.
Black and grey are easily the longest-lasting colors when it comes to tattooing. In fact, the darker a color is, the more fade-resistant it will be. If you choose to go for lighter colors such as yellow, pink, and blue, you may find that your tattoo fades quicker.
Yes, the downside to getting a watercolor tattoo is that it will fade faster than a regular tattoo. As we mentioned, black and grey ink tends to last longer, so multicolored tattoos with subtle shading won’t stand the test of time quite as well.
Watercolor tattoos are more expensive than regular tattoos due to the complexity involved in creating a realistic painterly effect. Don’t be swayed by tattoo artists offering a cheap price, this is a difficult tattoo style and we recommend paying top dollar for an expert.
Every tattoo ages a bit over time, but watercolor tattoos are just as permanent as regular ones. They may fade quicker, but as long as you look after them properly you shouldn’t notice any fading within the first few years. If you want to remove your watercolor tattoo, you can do so with multiple laser removal sessions.
Depending on how well you care for your watercolor tattoo, it can be anywhere between five to ten years before you will need to get it touched up. Avoiding excess sunlight and friction can help your tattoo stay sharp and vibrant for longer.
Yes, it’s a total myth that dark skin is harder to tattoo than light skin. While colors may show up in slightly different ways depending on skin tone, it’s absolutely possible for a person with dark skin to get a watercolor tattoo.