What You Need to Know Before Buying Tattoo Inks

The ink you use as a tattoo artist is important. Of course, the quality of your ink affects how your tattoos look. More importantly, making sure you have high-quality ink can protect your clients from major health risks.

There’s a lot of fake tattoo inks out there, and knowing you have the real deal can be the difference between a great tattoo and a major skin infection.

In this article, we’ll be breaking down:

  • Where to buy tattoo ink
  • How high-quality inks can improve your tattooing.
  • How to tell if you have a knock-off of a popular ink brand

Where to Buy Tattoo Ink

There's a ton of different ink brands out there; Eternal, Solid, Fusion, Intenze, and Dynamic are all reputable brands that our artists like to use. 

When you buy directly from one of these manufacturers, you can expect great ink and no health risks. (The only risk with high-quality ink occurs after buying it. For example, if the ink is contaminated after opening or the client has an allergic reaction.)

Beginners Can Find it More Difficult to Get Name Brand Ink

The problem is that new artists can have a hard time buying these inks because many brands will only sell to you if you have a tattoo license or a studio. They won’t care if you’re being responsible and only working on fake skins. 

Because of this, most beginners end up going to eBay or Amazon to get ink. 99% of the time, inks on these sites will be clones or fakes. Sellers on these sites just grab a picture from the brand’s website and post it as the image for their fake product.

By the time the ink actually arrives, the bottle and caps are shaped differently, and the bottles have a different seal from the actual brand. At that point, you just have to throw the ink away because there’s no way to know what’s actually in that ink. 


Buying high-quality tattoo ink online has gotten easier in the last few years. Most ink brands have made it possible to purchase ink without a license or shop affiliation. Additionally, some tattoo retailers like PainfulPleasures make it easier to buy reputable brands online.

Fake Inks Make it Harder to Learn Tattooing

Keeping it poses a huge health risk to your clients, as well as problems with healing and infections. These are things you don’t want to have to deal with when you are trying to focus on learning to tattoo.

Additionally, even if you’re only working on practice skins, the fake inks are going to be completely different from the real thing. This usually causes one of the following problems:
  • The consistency might be wrong: either too runny or so thick it’s impossible to tattoo with.
  • The ink is different each time: it’s so inconsistent that the colors turn out different each time, so it’s harder for you to know how a tattoo will turn out when it’s healed. This makes the learning process more difficult.

How to Tell if Your Ink is Fake

Companies trying to sell fake ink put a lot of time and effort into copying the designs of reputable brands. This can make it nearly impossible to tell the difference between a fake and the real thing.

Luckily, there’s a few things you can do to see if you’re ink is safe to use:


Check the Expiration Date

No matter where you get your ink, you’ll want to look at the batch number and expiration date. 

If there is not a batch number and expiration date, you can be pretty sure it’s a fake and that you should throw it away.

If the numbers are listed, you’ll want to make sure the expiration date has not passed. If it has, you’ll need to throw the bottle away.


Check the Ink Brand’s Website

If you think your ink is fake, the best thing you could do is go on the actual website of the makers of your ink. 

Most of the time, they’ll have a section on their website about the fakes that are out there, and they’ll show you how to tell the difference. For example, if a brand uses a white seal and they know that the fakes out there use a silver seal, they’ll make a note of that.

A lot of brands will also change their seals, bottles, caps, etc. overtime so it’s more obvious what is fake and what is not. 


Compare the Price

Fakes will seem very, very cheap compared to the price listed on the brand’s actual site. If you see the same product listed on Amazon for a fraction of the price, you can bet that it’s a fake. 


Ink is expensive, and it’s tempting to buy something for a cheaper price. However, using fake ink will cost you in the long run. It can cause health problems for your clients and ruin your reputation as a tattoo artist.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly brand, we recommend using Dynamic. 

Pro Tip:

Artists used to make “homemade” tattoo ink from different materials. This is not sterile. Never use homemade inks or online recipes. 

Learn to Tattoo Without an Apprenticeship

In the past, learning in the shop through an apprenticeship was the only way aspiring artists could get the equipment and knowledge they needed to become tattoo artists. Today, however, artists are skipping the apprenticeship to learn on their own time at home with the Artist Accelerator Program.

The world’s oldest and largest online tattoo course, the Artist Accelerator Program’s easy-to-follow, 9-step framework lets anyone go from complete beginner to professional tattoo artist without the year of grunt work or hazing. 

Inside the program, you’ll be taught everything you’d learn in a traditional apprenticeship by professional tattoo artists and receive feedback on your art and tattoos in the program’s private online Mastermind community.

Over 2500 students have used the Artist Accelerator Program’s 9-step framework to break into the tattoo industry, with many opening their own studios or working in shops around the world. 

If you’d like to see the framework they used, 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
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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