The entire universe of ink art has been revolutionized by negative space tattoos. These richly creative presentations employ optical illusions that allow the human eye to fill in the image.
To take an entirely different approach to tattoos, a lot of today’s men are pursuing negative space ink jobs.
These portraits usually rely strictly on black ink, so they are astonishingly affordable when compared to other options. Basically, the absent areas form a silhouette of any desired image you may have in mind.
For a truly inspiring piece, the male population has started pursuing dual image tattoos by using the empty space to imply another picture within the original aesthetics. This effect can be pulled off for fascinating variations of complex geometry too.
Comprehensive patterns are a common theme with empty space tattoos, and the approach ingeniously allows for concentric circles alongside tribal prints.
To get a full understanding of these debonair tattoos, you simply need to see them with your own eyes. When done properly, empty space tattoos are too suave for words.
Once you get a glimpse of the possibilities that are compiled here, you will have no choice except to head straight towards the nearest tattoo parlor!
1. Geometric Negative Space Tattoos
Geometric designs really lend themselves to negative space tattooing. Negative space can be utilized through sharp linework that focuses space into patterns and optical illusions, like in the first and second examples. Negative space can also be brought out in the delineations, inking in the filler space inside the geometric figures and using the negative space as the outlines.
Whether done in a minimalist style or through intricate layering reminiscent of Escher, this technique takes advantage of negative space through the most natural and mathematical means. Check out the labyrinthian vibes in the fifth picture! Negative space through geometric designs can also be used to create optical illusions, guaranteeing a double-take wherever you go.
2. Blackout negative space tattoos
The most common places for a full blackout are the arms, legs, or back. Negative space is often used as ornamentation or to highlight a particular image against solid black ink. I’m personally a big fan of the crescent moon waxing against the darkened fingers. As you can see in various examples above, the saturation of black makes the unblemished spaces really pop! Black work is also a useful way to cover up a previous tattoo while maintaining the negative space in creating a new image. Originally done with charcoal, this style is bold and strong, often using a thicker needle and obsidian ink. Blackout tattoos can also be tattooed over, with the negative space dark skin emerging against a layered outline, such as the jet black skull over the tattooed skin. These tattoos need more upkeep and require consistent moisturizing in order to preserve the ink from fading.
3. Fade out negative space tattoos
Negative space can be incorporated to naturally fade the tattoo into the surrounding skin instead of designating a sharp outline to the piece/artwork/creation. A common technique uses dotwork with thinner needles to wane against the skin, like the second example picture. I especially love how the precise points continues to frame the empty space as it tapers off. This way as the tattoo naturally fades its image will maintain clarity without losing its essence to time. Another method is to create an inked symmetry reflecting back against the negative space. Using the fade out of negative space can also be a great way to meld together a blackout tattoo with the rest of the body, or to incorporate a smaller piece into a full sleeve.
4. Small negative space tattoos
With negative space tattoos it doesn’t have to be go big or go home. Think of how just a few pen strokes can give the semblance of a rose. Even in small spaces black ink can be used to outline or fill in a design that comes to life through the exposed skin, like the key tattoos peeping through. For intricate designs or pointillism it’s recommended to use a thinner needle in order to prevent the ink from running and blurring into itself over time. For designs that rely more on blackout a thicker needle may be used to deliver a bold smoothness that doesn’t fade or lighten. Take note of the steady curve of the pattern in the black diamond, or the geometric lines in the filled in circle; with only a slight reveal the piece takes on a surreal feel.
5. Image-based negative space tattoo
The gaps of negative space can be used to provoke a particular image, taking advantage of the space as natural additions rather than a mere empty canvas. This is a great option for cheaper tattoos since they require less varieties of ink in order to depict a specific concept, relying more on simple linework or dotwork. Negative space can implement 3D effects, like the skull tattoo above, fading out the ink into empty space in order to create shading, and bringing the tattoo to life regardless of its size. For a more stark contrast, take a page from film negatives by creating a design through the inversion of dark and light.
6. Color negative space tattoo
Negative space doesn’t have to be done solely in black ink. While black is more commonly used, any ink color can be deployed to distinguish the space around it. Because a negative space tattoo relies on the unblemished space rather than the inked area, there are no hard and set rules in regards to what style or color ink is chosen. Often black ink is preferred for being a cheaper option, especially when it comes to larger and more intricate pieces. But color can be introduced through a fade-in with the black ink, a splash application, or the entire piece may be done in color. However, because one of the qualities of negative space tattoos is to depend on the contrast between the unblemished and tattooed skin, the use of color ink over black may diminish the concept.
7. Lettering negative space tattoo
Negative space doesn’t have to be used solely for visual purposes. Inking in outlines can bring out negative space that is aesthetic as well as linguistic. This can be done in combination with various styles mentioned above, through simple linework to outline letters and symbols, or by inking in shadows that bring the letters to light. It is important to make sure that the outlining ink is steady; to prevent the ink spreading out under the skin afterwards and blurring the outline, often referred to as tattoo blowout. Negative space is also a great option for lettering since it opens up the options for future cover ups (you know, just in case…)
Negative space FAQs
What does negative space refer to in the tattoo industry?
Negative space refers to a piece where the majority of the linework and inking is done in order to bring out the empty space to reveal an image, similar to a stencil. This technique is popular for being cost-effective in its comparatively minimal use of ink, as well as its stylistic versatility.
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