Everything You Need to Know About UV Tattoo Ink

Blue ink is extremely common in tattooing - but is it safe? And can an all-blue tattoo really stand the test of time like black ink? 

Though blue has been used in tattooing for decades, there has recently been controversy about whether it should be considered safe for use in tattooing.

In this article, we’ll break down:

  • What blue ink is made out of and why certain pigments have been banned in Europe
  • Whether dark blue tattoos can hold up well long-term
  • Our favorite all-blue tattoo designs

What Exactly are Black Light Tattoos?

Ultraviolet (UV) tattoos, or black light tattoos, are done using ink that is only visible in UV light.

UV tattoo inks are made with a fluorescent dye that is mostly invisible under normal lighting conditions like plain daylight, LED, or a lightbulb. Remember: black light tattoos don’t glow in the dark, they glow only under black light. 

Black light tattoos are usually done with regular tattoo ink and then details or embellishments are added in UV ink to make the tattoo glow. Some black light tattoos might be done entirely with UV ink so that they are almost entirely invisible unless they are under black light.

Is UV Tattoo Ink Safe?

Tattoo ink, even regular ink, is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and UV ink is only approved for use in agriculture and fishing. 

There hasn’t been a lot of reliable research about the potential health risks of tattooing with UV ink, and we don’t know a lot about the long-term effects of getting a black light tattoo. 

That said, UV ink has been linked to negative side effects more often than traditional tattoo ink. Some of the side effects include:

  • Burning sensation
  • Pain at the tattoo site
  • Blistering
  • Rashes on the skin

The biggest concern with black light tattoos is that the ink might contain phosphorus, which helps with the glow effect but could be carcinogenic. Other UV tattoo inks contain nontoxic materials that are still UV reactive, but without regulation, it’s hard to guarantee that UV inks are safe to use in tattooing. 

Pro Tip:

Until there’s more data about UV ink, we don’t recommend using it. Very few reputable studios do UV tattoos.

What is it Like to Tattoo with UV Ink?

UV ink can be difficult to work with. The UV ink can’t mix with other colors because that can damage the glowing effect. 

UV ink is often thinner than regular tattoo ink, which means that it can be harder to get into the skin without overworking it and causing scarring. 

Additionally, it’s mostly invisible under regular light. This means that you as the tattoo artist will need to frequently check on the tattoo under black light as you are tattooing.

Getting the Best Results with UV Tattoos

UV tattoos can completely transform a regular tattoo when it is placed under a blacklight. It’s really important, however, to make sure that you understand how UV ink behaves and how to get the best results.

A temptation with UV tattoos is to oversaturate the tattoo with UV ink to make it look really cool when it is exposed to black light. But just like with white ink, a good practice is to be sparing with your UV ink. 

Adding UV ink in small dots and lines as cool details can make the tattoo really pop when it’s under black light without being too overwhelming or ruining the effect. 

Healing UV Light Tattoos

For the most part, the aftercare process for black light tattoos is the same as with tattoos that do not use UV ink. Like most tattoos, they’ll fade over time and might require touch-ups. Clients can take the same steps they normally would for other tattoos, like using sunscreen.

Can Black Light Tattoos Be Removed or Covered Up?

If someone ever wants to get laser tattoo removal or have their UV tattoo covered up, the process is the same as with a regular tattoo.

Black light tattoos can be removed through laser removal, just like regular tattoos. It’s possible that covering up a UV tattoo can be a little bit more difficult than usual because of the way the ink behaves, so the client should make sure to create a plan with their cover-up artist to get the best results. 

Design Ideas for Black Light Tattoos

Note:

The long-term effects of UV ink in tattoos have not been heavily researched. There are more reports of skin irritation and other negative side effects of UV ink than regular tattoo ink. If you’re going to use UV tattoo ink in your tattoos, make sure you and your client are aware of these potential concerns.

Hiding Parts of the Design

UV tattoos are generally invisible under regular lighting conditions. This means that you can use regular ink to do part of a tattoo that will be visible at all times and use UV ink to finish the tattoo so that parts of it are only visible under black light, revealing a different design.

Completely Hidden Designs 

Because you can’t see UV ink unless it’s under a black light, there are a lot of possibilities for really cool designs that are invisible most of the time. For example, you could tattoo bones onto someone in UV ink so that they look like a glowing skeleton under black light.  

Constellations and Space

UV ink is also used in constellation designs. When the tattoo is healed, only the dots will be visible in regular light. Once the black light comes on, the tattoo will light up like a constellation.

Dots and Details

One of the best ways to use UV ink is to add small details to a regular tattoo that make it glow and pop when it’s under black light. Adding little dots and lines here and there in UV ink, like with white ink, can make the tattoo really stand out under black light without oversaturating it in glowing ink.

UV tattoos, or black light tattoos, are done using ink made with a fluorescent dye that is invisible in regular light and light up under UV or black light. The design options for UV ink are limitless, transforming regular tattoos into something entirely different under black light.

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

Learning the differences between tattoo styles is an important step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

However, finding the straight-forward information you need to progress is difficult. And with so much out there online, it’s hard to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.

This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to start tattooing full time faster…

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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