One of the latest fashions in tattooing is the blackout tattoo. This involves large areas of skin inked completely black and should be considered by anyone who believes in the words of Mic Jagger: “I want to see the sun blotted out in the sky.”
There are some among us who were simply born nocturnal.
We don’t understand society’s fixation on the purity of white, the sterilized white cubes of offices and museums, or the joy people feel in the morning. We keep the shades drawn and wait until at least 5:00 pm to set foot outdoors. To suit our behaviors, we prefer blackout tattoos.
Many get blackout tattoos to cover up the drunken mistakes they made in college, but many more just love the look. The style is credited to Singapore tattoo artist Chester Lee, a guy who made news in 2015 for getting the first known eye tattoo.
“Tattoos can sometimes be irrational decisions,” Lee says, “and people end up regretting them. Blackout tattoos are a convenient way to cover them up.”
Traditional tattoos have remained stagnant for decades. The blackout tattoo, however, makes use of negative space to add a completely new dimension to body art. Get a blackout tattoo and join the movement.
1. Negative Space Blackout Tattoo Sleeves
Blackout sleeves are dramatic. This bold approach that uses large swaths of black ink is inherently limited by the monochromatic nature of the work. That being said, there is one clever way to create more interesting designs in blackout sleeves: negative space.
By leaving untouched skin exposed and applying densely packed black around it, these artists are able to produce a variety of different patterns and designs in these stark, full sleeve tattoos. The high level of contrast in these dramatic tattoos demonstrates how effectively negative space can be used in blackout sleeves.
2. Simple Blackout Tattoo Sleeves
For many, these blackout sleeves are almost anti-tattoos: the people who get these pieces are rebelling against the subtle shading and vivid colors that appeal to so many others in the tattoo world. Instead, they choose dense black and a lack of designs to express their style and attitudes. Despite this sentiment the incorporation of a limited number of patterns and designs can effectively break up the monotony of blackout sleeves, and these pieces are great examples of how this can be done.
3. Mosaic Blackout Tattoo Sleeves
We are all familiar with the vibrant mosaics of Rome, depicting heroes and Gods like Alexander the Great and Bacchus, the god of wine, however these blackout sleeves are not your typical mosaics. Eschewing the bright colors depicting portraits and landscapes in favor of abstract geometric designs, the fully saturated black and negative space used to create negative space provides artists with a tool to create stunning designs. These blackout sleeves use more complex patterns to create the unique designs that set these pieces apart from other, similar tattoos.
4. Tribal Blackout Tattoo Sleeves
Tribal designs continue to gain popularity in the tattoo world, and these blackout sleeves offer an interesting take on these ancient tattoo traditions. The intricate and alternating patterns that characterize the Polynesian and Samoan tribal designs are perfectly suited to incorporate into blackout sleeves thanks to the way they can create contrast. Large swaths of black ink, when viewed in close proximity to intricate tribal patterns, help the designs to stand out even more.
5. Geometric Blackout Sleeve Tattoos
The geometric patterns that have gained popularity in the last ten years are also perfectly suited for these blackout sleeves. Once again we can see the way that these large, stark areas of fully saturated black ink increase contrast and help these complex geometric designs to look even more intricate. These pieces are great examples of how these seemingly opposing styles can be successfully blended to create dynamic tattoos.
6. Innovative Blackout Tattoo Sleeves
A good artist is always pushing themselves to create better, more imaginative designs and these blackout sleeves are one of the latest developments in the endless innovation of tattoos. By blending different styles and approaches—from intricate patterns to elements of hyper-realism—these stunning tattoos demonstrate that just because these designs feature large swaths of black ink doesn’t mean that they can’t be exciting and groundbreaking.
7. Negative Space/White Ink Line Blackout Tattoos
As we have seen, when it comes to blackout sleeves, one of the few ways to add details and contrast is through the use of untouched skin known as negative space. Another way that artists can increase this contrast and produce more interesting designs is by incorporating white ink into their approach. These artists use negative space to create the patterns and designs in these sleeves and then come back with white ink to increase contrast and make the patterns more visible and appealing.
8. Blackout Tattoo Sleeve Cover Ups
When we think of blackout sleeves, the first thing that usually comes to mind is cover ups. As we have seen this isn’t necessarily the most common motivation behind these striking tattoos, but we would be remiss to argue that none of them are cover ups. These pieces demonstrate just how fully and successfully blackout sleeves can be used to cover existing ink.
Blackout Sleeve Tattoo FAQs
How much do blackout tattoos cost?
Money makes the world go round, and unfortunately this rule applies to tattoos as much as anything else. In a perfect world the only things to consider when getting a tattoo would be designs and placement, but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and tattoos cost money…but how much?
A good starting point when thinking about tattoo prices is the national average. In the United States, the national average that artists charge is $250 an hour. While this will vary from shop to shop depending on location, popularity and the experience of the artists that work there, it is a good baseline.
When it comes to these black out sleeves, since the designs are fairly uncomplicated, the biggest determining factor is time. Despite the fact that these sleeves are mostly black ink, the density with which the ink has to be packed to create such fully saturated black means that an artist will have to make several passes over each area, extending the timeframe.
For one of these full sleeves expect to pay at least $1000 USD, although again, this will vary from shop to shop.
Is a blackout tattoo a cost effective alternative to laser removal?
One reason that many people choose to apply blackout sleeves is to cover up existing tattoos: maybe they are gang related, or memorialize a failed relationship. Whatever the reasons, sometimes people would rather cover their ink than look at it for one more day. But why not use a laser removal treatment?
The reality is that one is not equal to the other, and it depends on the person and the tattoo. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense to black out an entire arm to cover a medium size tattoo and it is a safe bet that walking around with a “murdered out” arm is not to everyone’s tastes. That being said, many people find this dark aesthetic appealing and it does fall in line with their sensibilities.
For those that love tattoos enjoy the idea of blackout sleeves and simply want to forget their older ink by covering it up, this is a great choice. For people who have a smaller tattoo that they regret, laser removal is a better alternative.