Tattoo Removal

A Real Look at Color Tattoos Over Time

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Published: 01.09.2024

Are you considering a color tattoo? Popular tattoo styles like Watercolor, New School, and Neo-traditional leverage bright splashes of jewel tones and neons to put a unique twist on the traditional practice of black and gray tattooing. But how do vibrant color inks stand up over time?

Improvements to ink formulations have increased the longevity of color tattoos, but lighter ink shades are still susceptible to fading. Each color behaves differently, and knowing what to expect before scheduling your next tattoo appointment is important. But there are several ways to extend the vibrancy of your color tattoo without sacrificing the design or style you want! Read on to learn how to care for your color tattoo and what to do if you notice fading or aging. 

Tattoo Ink Colors and Their Behavior Over Time

Every tattoo ink color has unique characteristics that influence the look of a color tattoo over time. Pastel tones and neon shades are most likely to fade, while dark black, blue, and green hues last the longest.  

Check out this list of standard tattoo ink colors and what to expect over time.

Black Tattoo Ink

Black ink lasts the longest and is least likely to blur, making it the best choice of ink color for long-lasting tattoos. Black ink is so reliable it is usually used to help hold in color molecules. Artists will create a border around color details with black linework to prevent ink migration and color blurring. While factors like excessive sun exposure and natural skin aging can impact the overall look of a black ink tattoo, this traditional styling is still the leading choice for tattoo longevity.   

Tattoo removal before and after Knife Angel

Red Tattoo Ink

Red tattoo ink has decent longevity compared to lighter colors like yellow or white. However, it is common for red tones to lose their vibrancy and take on a dull, flat appearance. In addition, red ink tends to fade to pink. However, red tattoos can look great for years when applied deep in the skin and in heavily saturated layers!

Red tattoo

Blue Tattoo Ink

Darker shades of blue last longer than bright tones of soft pastels. However, blue tattoo ink carries a high risk of color shifting. Over time blue ink can take on a green hue. Touching up the color will help maintain its original vibrancy.

Blue dragon tattoo

Green Tattoo Ink

The shade of green highly affects how fast it will fade. Lighter and neon tones are more susceptible to signs of aging. The dark undertones used to mix green shades can affect the appearance of ink and may even cause green details to darken over time. 

tattoo removal before and after Green Gecko Tattoo on Foot

Yellow Tattoo Ink

Light colors like yellow do not age as well as jewel tones like blue, red, and green. Dark outlines will help keep the color in place, but fading is inevitable with yellow ink. 

Yellow tattoo

White Tattoo Ink

White tattoo ink is the most susceptible to fading. In fact, most white ink tattoos become illegible within 5-7 years. Many tattoo artists use dark ink colors next to white to help fence this tricky pigment. White tattoos have recently gained popularity as part of the minimalist art trend. While these inked pieces look mysterious and unique, they become indistinguishable and are not ideal for people hoping to show off their tattoos for decades. 

White tattoo

Factors Affecting Color Tattoo Fading

Color tattoos are more susceptible to fading, and these risk factors increase the chances of damage. 

Skin Type

Skin type highly affects color tattoo longevity. Lighter skin tones hold color ink better than darker skin tones. As a result, color tattoos on dark skin will require more touch-ups and a heavier saturation of ink.

In addition, sensitive skin may reject color tattoos. There are more allergies associated with bright ink than black ink. If you are allergic to color ink, the body will attack the ink molecules. 

Tattoo Placement

Friction fades tattoos! Ink placed on the hands, neck, and face will lose vibrancy quickly, especially if artwork features colored tones like pink, yellow, and red. If you love the look of color ink, consider getting your tattoo in a place with less friction. For example, the arms, legs, and back are excellent choices for color tattoos. 

Tattoo Ink Quality

All tattoo ink is not created equally! There are varying qualities of ink, and low-grade options fade quickly, shift in color, and will look blurry as the tattoo ages. Diligent tattoo artist research extends past a portfolio review. Assess the professionalism of the tattooist by checking out the cleanliness of the studio and the quality of products used.

Tattoo Artist Skill

A tattoo’s longevity is affected by several factors. However, an artist’s skill is the most important! New or inexperienced tattoo artists may not apply ink properly, causing colors to fade quicker than expected. Tattoo ink needs to be deeply embedded for a long-lasting effect. However, learning the proper depth, pressure, and saturation level to apply ink is a skill acquired over time. For the best color tattoo results, book an appointment with a professional tattoo artist with an extensive portfolio.  

UV Exposure

The sun is every tattoo’s greatest enemy! UV rays cause damage to the skin that also extends to permanent ink. Sun exposure will cause all tattoo ink colors to fade. The best way to avoid UV tattoo fading is to cover tattoos when in the sun. If this is not possible, apply a high-SPF sunscreen.

How Color Tattoos Change Over Time

Color Shifting – As your skin ages, color tattoo ink can shift in tone. The most common changes are blue to green and red to pink. Factors like extreme UV exposure and skin conditions can accelerate a color ink change.  

Detail Loss – The most common issue with color tattoos is detail loss. Faded coloring isn’t ideal, but it still displays a distinct design. However, as the skin ages, color ink may completely degrade in areas of fine detailing. Tattoo styles frequently suffer detail loss, are color script, intricate patterning, and watercolor.

Blurring – Skin stretches, creases, and wrinkles over time. This natural factor of aging can cause ink migration. As ink molecules move, it is common for linework to become blurry. The phenomenon of tattoo blurring is similar to an enlarged photo becoming pixelated. As a result, the artwork may become indistinguishable, proportions may become warped, and the overall size of the tattoo can expand. 

Tips for Maintaining Color Tattoos

There are several ways to extend the life of a colored tattoo. Follow these simple aftercare tips and product recommendations to give your color tattoo the best chance at vibrancy for years to come!


  • Sunscreen – UV exposure causes the most damage to tattoos. If you are planning on being in the sun, always protect ink with a high SPF sunscreen. Select a lotion with a minimal SPF rating of 50 and continue to reapply while in the sun.
  • Moisturizer – Dry skin can cause cracking and itchiness. Over time, skin can become permanently damaged. Moisturizing skin and tattooed areas daily will improve the skin’s overall elasticity and can help extend the vibrancy of color tattoos. Regular use of moisturizer can make a significant difference in how your tattoo looks in the future and can combat common issues associated with tattoos on older skin
  • Proper Aftercare – Tattoos are at the highest risk of damage during the healing process. Following proper aftercare protocols will help your colored tattoo heal faster and keep colors vibrant. Keep freshly tattooed areas clean with antibacterial soaps and apply fragrance-free moisturizers or tattoo ointments multiple times a day. 

Dealing with an Aged Tattoo: Options and Considerations

Touch-Up and Restoration

Has your color tattoo lost its vibrancy? Consider scheduling a touch-up appointment with an experienced artist. The tattooist will ink over the faded ink to restore brilliant color to the aged art piece. If the tattoo severely fades, the artist may add additional outlines and details to restore the image. A touch-up and restoration appointment is an excellent way to breathe new life into an old color tattoo. In many cases, layers of new ink can revitalize a tattoo to look the same or better than the original!

Tattoo Cover Up

Colored ink tattoos that suffer from severe color shifting or blurring are beyond restoration. However, if you still love the subject of the tattoo, consider covering it up with a new rendition. Cover-up tattoo artists use color theory and creative art designs to completely disguise an old tattoo with a new beautiful art piece. 

Laser Tattoo Removal

Laser removal is an excellent option if you want to say goodbye to a faded color tattoo! Professional studios like Removery use high-tech lasers that emit fast pulses of light in varying wavelengths to obliterate ink molecules in the skin. The tiny particles are naturally flushed through the body’s immune system, leaving clear, unblemished skin behind! Laser tattoo removal is the only way to safely and effectively erase old ink. 

Aged Color Tattoo? Get in Touch!

Do you have a color tattoo that’s lost its vibrancy? Removery can help you turn unwanted ink into a faraway memory. Their revolutionary lasers are powerful enough to blast through every color ink molecule. Schedule a free consultation at a local Removery tattoo removal studio to learn about your options. Their teams of knowledgeable staff will walk you through what to expect during the treatment process, explain payment plan options, and let you know how long it will take to complete your color tattoo removal. Each treatment takes less than fifteen minutes, and most people see results in just a handful of sessions. So don’t wait! Start your journey of color tattoo removal with a call to Removery today.

Carmen VanderHeiden Brodie Carmen Brodie VP Clinical Operations

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