Black and grey tattoos have been said to have their origins in prison. It is said it was the Chicano prison population that really developed the style and turned it into what it is today. Inmates only had access to black ink and no color so they had to work with what they had. By diluting the ink in distilled water, lighter shades were created and they were able to make simple designs that made their allegiances that much more clear to other inmates.
For many years, “Jailhouse Tattooing” was not available commercially. This very fine line method of tattooing was only known for being inked on those that were locked up. This popularized the style, but for a long time people outside of jail would avoid these types of tattoos because they worried they’d be seen as ex-cons. Jailhouse tattooing was extremely popular, though most gangs stuck to one or two designs to separate themselves from other gang members.
As soon as people started to understand the intricacy and beauty of this style of tattooing, it really blossomed into what we are seeing today. Nowadays some people prefer to get black and grey tattoos because they prefer the way the tattoo looks over its colored counterpart. It’s actually not uncommon at all to see a tattoo enthusiast get dozens of tattoos using just black ink.
Since those early days when black and grey tattoos first hit the mainstream, it has become one of the most popular styles of tattooing out there. Some designs, such as the Japanese irezumi style, are always done in black and grey, while others can be done in either style. What’s great is that just about any tattoo design that you can think of can be done in black and grey ink since tattoo artists are good enough to make both styles look great on the skin.
Sometimes people choose to get a black and grey tattoo because the design they want pops a bit more with black ink over colored ink. For example, any image showing an old scene, such as a war scene, can look great in black and grey because it adds to the aura of the tattoo. Also, that “pop” effect can fade a bit in colored tattoos while the black and grey look can stay consistent as the years pass by.
Another reason why black and grey tattoos are so popular these days is because tattoo artists have become far better at shading these types of tats. Even though many colored tattoos are shaded, black and grey tattoos seem to “come off the skin” more when they are shaded. It has that old-time pencil effect that people seem to love and, as we mentioned above, the shading can look just as great years later as the day the tattoo was created.
Speaking of shading, it is also well known within the industry that it takes a lot of skill to make a great black and grey tattoo. This makes these types of tats more intriguing to both the artists and those who are looking for a great new design. The artists know that their skills will be tested when they have to do intricate shading, and the people getting the tattoos know that they are going to be getting tattoos that will get plenty of compliments.
A very popular type of black and grey tattoos comes in the form of portrait tats. For example, someone who wants to get an Audrey Hepburn tattoo or a Marilyn Monroe tattoo might choose to get a black and grey version sine those colors add to the “classic” feel to the tat. While these types of tattoos can be done in color, more people seem to like the black and grey versions these days since none of the quality is lost when using these simple colors.
If you’re having trouble deciding on who the right black and grey artist to work with is, let us know. Our crew will help find a fit for you and keep it close to where you’d like to get it done.
Here are some of our favorite black & grey tattoos: