The 6 Steps of a White Out Technique Tattoo

White out tattoos have become a popular option for customers who already have blackout coverup tattoos. By tattooing with white ink over a solid plane of black ink, a tattoo artist can create an entirely new design without the customer having to laser off an old tattoo. 

However, because white ink is so light compared to black, you have to use the right technique to get it to stand out. In this article, we’ll go through the 6-step process you need to know to create beautiful white out tattoos. 

In this article, we’re breaking down:

  • How to use white ink over black ink
  • How skin breaks can enhance a white out tattoo
  • Which brands of white ink work best, tattoo aging, and other FAQs.
Note

White out tattoos are an advanced style. If you’re new to tattooing and want more practice, check out these tattoo designs to build up your skills.

Dark Tattoo Ink Overpowers White Ink

Before we get into the actual process of tattooing white over black, it’s important to understand what’s actually going on with the ink.

Tattoo ink is translucent. This means that the darker color always “wins.” For example, black ink on skin completely overpowers most skin tones. However, skin tone or any other color of ink will overpower white ink. This is why a fresh tattoo with white ink will look super vibrant, but a few months later, the white ink is nearly invisible.

black and white tattoo ink on different skin tones and tattoo ink colors

In a white out tattoo, the goal is to make white stand out against a black tattoo. While it’s nearly impossible to put in white ink on top of black without it looking at least a little bit grey, you can still make the white lines bolder by:

  • Using ink with a thicker pigment
  • Going over the white design multiple times

White Ink Tattoos as an Alternative to Laser Tattoo Removal

cover up tattoo over an existing tattoo
cover up tattoo of an existing tattoo

Some clients might start with the idea of a white out tattoo, but most of the time, customers will want a white out tattoo over black as a cover up to avoid the painful process of laser tattoo removal.

Because of this, we’ll be going through the process of a white out tattoo by considering it to be a cover up design. 

The Cover Up Process: Old Tattoo to White Out Design

Step One: Decide on a Design

darker colored tattoos over an old tattoo
cover up of an old tattoo in Japanese style

Before you even go to cover up an old tattoo, you need to help your client decide what the new design will be. Ideally, it should take up the whole space that is going to be blacked out. 

It’s important at this stage to decide how the blacked out section is going to end. A few options include:

  • Fading the edges out
  • Leaving a defined “end” to the sleeve
  • Turning the edges into part of the design

Step Two: First Tattoo Session - Blackout Tattoo

black out sleeve done by a tattoo artist

It’s likely that you’ll be covering an old design with an all-black tattoo to begin with. Depending on the size of the area, you’ll probably want to use a large mag to pack the black ink. 

You won’t need to tattoo with white ink for this session. The goal is to cover the existing tattoo with black. Your packing should be solid and the old tattoo should be impossible to see.

Step Three: Let the Blackout Tattoo Heal

A white out tattoo can be very time consuming because you’ll need to do several different sessions. However, it’s important to make sure the “base” of the tattoo is fully healed before you start with the white ink.

Step Four: Second Tattoo Session - Lining with White Ink

tattoo artist doing a cover up of an old tattoo

Just like with any tattoo design, you’ll want to do all your lining first. If the tattoo is very small, you can do shading, too. But for larger designs (like any sleeve or back piece), the first session will probably be devoted to lining.

Note:

It’s highly likely that you’ll have to go back over these lines exactly for several sessions to make sure they stay bold in the skin. You’ll need to be confident in your lining before attempting a white out tattoo.

Step Five: Let the White Out Tattoo Heal

You should wait 2-3 weeks at minimum before moving into another session. Because white ink fades more than any other color, you’ll need to go over the white areas of the tattoo several more times.

The skin needs to be fully healed before you go over it again to avoid scarring (or additional pain for the client).

Step Six: Third Tattoo Session - Lining Touch-Ups and Shading

white on black cover up flower design
white on black cover up mandala design
cover up design of a koi fish

If any of the ink fell out of the tattoo from the previous session, you’ll want to touch up those lines before continuing. Then you can add in any shading

It’s very likely you’ll need to do several more sessions tattooing the areas of white ink to make sure that it really stands out against the black.

Another Approach: Using Skin Breaks in a White Out Tattoo

black tattoos
white on black tattoo

You know that most white out tattoos are cover up tattoos. However, if someone doesn’t have tattoos but loves the style, you have the option to use skin breaks. 

In this case, you’ll pack black ink anywhere the white will not be, and then fill in those skin breaks with white ink. This way, when the white ink fades, the client will still have a very clear design visible. 

White Out FAQ’s

Which white tattoo ink should I use?

fusion white tattoo ink
eternal white tattoo ink for cover up tattoo
tattoo artist ink

Because you’re tattooing white ink over a dark tattoo, you’ll want to use something with a thicker pigment like Fusion White, Eternal SuperWhite, or Solid White Ink.

Are blackout tattoos dangerous?

Tattoo ink is generally safe, but most white out tattoos start with half-sleeves or even full sleeves of black ink. Some black inks do contain materials that are considered to be carcinogenic. To help protect your client, avoid cheap ink and make sure to only buy from a reputable tattoo supply company. 

Additionally, if your client has a skin condition, birthmark, scars, etc., they need to get cleared by their doctor before you cover it up. If there’s ink over that skin, it’ll be much more difficult to monitor and could put the client’s health at risk. 

Note

You never want to cover up moles with ink. Your client and their doctor will need to monitor them for skin cancer.

How will a white-on-black tattoo age?

This depends on the person...and how many times you go over the white ink.

While you can’t control how another person’s skin holds the ink, you can go over the areas of white ink multiple times, as long as you give the tattoo time to heal in between.

Theoretically, you could continue touching up the white ink over and over again. However, this is time consuming for you as the tattoo artist, and it could end up being pretty expensive for the client. 

Learn More About Tattooing

White out tattoos are an advanced technique, but they rely on the basics of solid packing and lining. Without a strong foundation in these skills, it’s hard to pull off doing good tattoos. 

However, finding clear and simple tattooing instructions is nearly impossible. The only way to know you’re getting learning correctly is to learn from professional tattoo artists working in the industry. But taking on an unpaid tattoo apprenticeship to do so is impossible for people already working long hours with no flexibility. 

That’s why the Artist Accelerator Program was created to give aspiring tattoo artists the flexibility they need to learn at their own pace. 

Inside the Artist Accelerator Program, you’ll get all the information you’d get in a traditional apprenticeship in an easy-to-follow 9-step roadmap that takes all the way from basic shop knowledge to advanced tattooing techniques. And even though you’re learning from home… you’re not alone. In the program’s online Mastermind community, you’ll connect with other students, get personalized feedback and advice from professional tattoo artists, and get all your questions answered. 

The Artist Accelerator teaches you all the tools you need to start tattooing fast so you can finally be your own boss and turn your art into a job you’re passionate about. 

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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