A white ink tattoo is a tattoo which has been done entirely in white ink. Depending on the skill of the tattoo artist and the complexion of the customer, this type of tattoo can look quite distinctive. Most white ink tattoos look like scars, and they are sometimes mistaken for brandings; many people who get these tattoos get them for this very reason. If you are considering a white ink tattoo, you need to do your research very carefully, because it is easy for these tattoos to go very, very wrong.
When someone is tattooed, an artist uses a very sharp needle to push ink into the skin, below the layers of the skin which are routinely sloughed off. After a period of healing, during which the tattoo may look puffy or distorted, a pattern is left behind. In the case of a white ink tattoo, the pattern shows up as slightly lighter than the skin, looking like a scar or brand. When well cared for, the tattoo can last a lifetime, although it may need to be touched up.
Many tattoo artists who do these tattoos say that they look best on people with pale skin, and that it is a good idea to place them on an area of the body which is not frequently exposed to sunlight. Excessive sun exposure can fade the tattoo, causing it to disappear entirely or creating a strange tint of brown or yellow, depending on the ink used. For clients with darker skin, there may be some options; it is best to talk to a tattoo artist personally about your individual situation.
The advantage of a white ink tattoo is that it is extremely subtle, allowing people to conceal it much more easily than a black or colorwork tattoo. For people who are interested in the look of branding or cutting, this kind of tattoo can be used to create much more detail, and the healing tends to be more dependable. The disadvantage of such a tattoo is that it is prone to fading and discoloration, both of which can be disappointing.
When researching tattoo artists, it is a good idea to discuss the tattoo carefully, and to ask for a portfolio of previous work. If possible, find pictures of the artist's tattoos when they are fresh and in progressive stages of healing to see how they turn out. You should also be very careful about the stencil which the artist applies to your skin, as the inks in some stencils will transfer onto the needle, discoloring the resulting tattoo.
When a white ink tattoo is first applied, it looks puffy and distorted, much like a burn, and it may have a strange yellowish color due to lymph which floods to the site of the wound. If aftercare directions are followed, the tattoo should start to settle down within a few weeks. In the event you get this kind of tattoo and are dissatisfied, try to go back to the original artist to address the situation.