If you are tired of the regular approach to body art, then maybe it’s time for you to experiment with the primal superiority of watercolor ink. Turn your skin into canvas for a magisterial metamorphosis.
For an astonishingly decadent piece of body art, there are few creations that can compare with the marvelously ornate nature of a watercolor piece.
These tattoos are not cheap, but they are worth every penny; in fact, they elevate the entire medium to museum quality perfection and are part of the list of 50+ best tattoo ideas. They are abundantly rich and stylistically unique.
Of course, you can start with the greats like Georgia O’Keeffe and Albrecht Durer; however, daring connoisseurs take an all-or-nothing approach by concocting their own in-depth prints. Watercolor tattoos are an excellent avenue of self-promotion for up-and-coming artists.
This realm of skin art takes the whole field to a new height of refinement, and these finished pieces can be very complex. In fact, some people cover their entire body with a single idea; meanwhile, others combine several smaller presentations into one large ensemble.
No matter what, watercolor tattoos are bound to attract infinite admiration. As proof, here are quite a few for you to admire at this very moment.
Watercolor Tattoo Ideas
A beautiful, lightly depicted Koi symbolizing good luck and fortune in Japanese culture but also linked to strength of character, spirit, and courage. This fish augments a simple black outline and scales with cleverly inked scales fashioned to shimmer. The surrounding water is also excellent in deftly flowing around the fish’s outline.
An interesting tattoo using the number 37 in large blocks and surrounded by abstract patterns and watercolor splashes. The piece leans towards a Jackson Pollock vibe by using the bright color palette in contrast to the number and gray scale shading.
A fantastic watercolor take on trash polka tattooing. It’s bold, weird, and interesting with various black and gray calligraphy shades mixing with abstract shapes and vivid red ink splotches.
This 3D abstract watercolor octopus is a sensational piece of stylized body art. The key to appreciating it lies not in the technical enjoyment of crisp lines and life like detail, but in the audacity of color scheme variation and flowing, interconnected patterns. This type of art is more likely to be painted on canvas and hung in a person’s foyer than tagged onto the skin of a man’s chest.
An enjoyable abstract full sleeve watercolor tattoo. The painting style is clean and fresh, balancing black ink with stretching, splashing color highlights. It’s a permanent reminder that small children can attack with paint at any time, so best be on your guard!
This tattoo is a spectacular mix of styles, linked together by clever watercolor fill. The artist has skillfully thrown together a bunch of techniques – line work realism (pocket watch), traditional black and gray (rose), dotwork bio mechanical (gears and cogs) – but they’re all tied up enjoyably by a cool color palette.
This watercolor piece mixes 3D imagery with fine line drawing and the color scheme of trash polka (albeit applying a lot more focused use of red ink) The juxtaposition of line work in black and negative space support with the more colorful woman gives this tattoo an elegant yet still hectic point of view. I love it!
It’s always a good idea to have another go, and watercolor tattoos are no exception. The original piece was weak and faded badly, so the subject doubled down by going hard at covering it up with new art in the same style. The upgraded tattoo is like swapping a 20 year old computer for a new laptop – it’s clean, sleek and performs better in every area. Love the color mash up working with avant garde geometrical applications to fashion a mad vision of colored ink on skin.
The Dark Knight in watercolor. This is bad ass. The matte finish style of Batman’s suit can be a difficult texture to pull off in tattoo, but this watercolor effect captures it strongly and then adds the correct planes and angles in detailing the DC hero’s mask. The bottom image bleed of ink looks fantastic contrasting the clarity of pointy ears and shadow, while the negative space eye technique is cleverly etched to show a glimpse of Bruce’s duality.
This is a fine tattoo using watercolor ink to provide space, scale and balance to a heavily negative space chest tattoo. The artist smartly opted to outline the hands in black line, adding strength to the stylized heart and making it the focal point for the entire piece. The depth of shade detail in both red and black halves of the fill color fashions tremendous depth.
Now, this is unique. The artist has crafted a strongly etched light bulb person then applied a rainbow’s worth of vivid watercolor as a contrasting fill to the crumpled suit and tie. They’ve also made a good fist of filling the tattoo out along the calf with cool paint elements such as smudging, spill lines and ink splashes. This allows the placement to become a strength of the art instead of just a spot to color in.
Watercolor fill in this realistic heart completely changes the tattoo and transitions the piece away from a tried and tested blackwork or gray scale shade tattoo. The red color is vivid and breathtakingly effective – it really pops against the dark heart image. Also applaud the choice to avoid supplementary shading or border and go with the heart outline alone.
This watercolor wave tattoo is actually too busy. The painter style mix of layered color takes away from the rolling wave image and leaves it a bit of a mess, and muddles the shadowy cloud dragon. Some black line needlework to give the piece structure would help, as would more clearly defined color patterns.
An epic mix of watercolor and deft abstract black line tattooing to fashion this sensational lion body art. This chest piece is beautifully etched by a highly skilled artist – they’ve understood perfectly how to maximise space, filling the lines with alternating summer and winter colors designed to accentuate clarity in Simba’s facial features.
A coolly drawn small mountain tattoo. The flowing sunset sky is brilliantly balanced by the shaded gray outcrop, with the line of the peak forming a natural barrier between light and dark. The use of the circular image creates an excellent shape for the main image to work within.
This Edwardian inspired tattoo of Heaven’s gates is not strictly speaking watercolor, but it’s a killer piece of art. The magical blue shade is an outstanding, unique ink that works cleanly against the black line fill elements and precise negative space. Love the touch of foreboding threaded into the piece with lounging vulture and ugly blackened winter trees surrounding the entrance.
A simple but effective alternative black and gray crown tattoo supported by watercolor in a neat shade of blue. The whole art work isn’t in the image but seems that the piece is given interesting highlights along the edges and across the top.
There’s not a huge call for watercolor tattoo in black. Most black art is done with traditional etching or thicker paintbrush style calligraphy. The bird in this small back tattoo is depicted with innovation. The watercolor choice is an excellent technical decision allowing for cool shading effects throughout the bird’s wings. Also, the dripping ink at the tattoo’s bottom and flourish of thrown ink dots help create an element of contrast you wouldn’t usually find in a one color one image piece of body art.
Animal realism, watercolor and a hint of the geometric combine for an outstanding inner forearm tattoo. The bear is great art, carrying that hint of danger but friendly looking for the most part and peppered with awesome hybrid shading. The circle and triangle are straight out of a kid’s algebra text, but provide an interesting alt fill for the main image to work against. This effect is well backed by the lovely powder blue watercolor that helps enliven the image with depth and shape for the piece’s position on the arm.
Another watercolor devoted to fattening up and brightening a classic abstract black line tattoo. The lively mess of alternating watercolor is the most cohesive aspect of the work, and combines well with the manic blackwork mix of bird and shape. It broadens and lengthens the art while fashioning an almost transparent filler. The deliberately messy shading is a colorful take on the big, fuzzy shading you find in traditional black and gray
Watercolor Tattoo FAQs
Do watercolor tattoos fade easily?
The quality of tattoo ink degrades over time – it’s unavoidable. Watercolor tattoo is no different to other kinds of tattoo methodology in terms of longevity. Watercolor is generally etched by experienced professionals who understand the value of using fine quality ink and premier equipment, plus correct aftercare procedures. These are the most important factors in making sure your body art lasts. Cheap and nasty tattoos tend to break down no matter the style, however a poor choice of artist and ink can see a watercolor piece fade more quickly, and may require a fresh ‘coat of paint’ if fading occurs.
Do watercolor tattoos hurt more?
Generally speaking, watercolor style tattoos are less painful than other ink, primarily because less ink is used to cover the same areas than say, a heavy blackwork tattoo in fine needle. By their very nature watercolor tattoos are more delicate pieces of art requiring less manhandling and heavy shade or line work.
It should be noted that pain thresholds for each subject are markedly different, as are the areas in which tattoos are placed. The exact same flash tattoo and the pain levels can vary drastically between individuals.
Are watercolor tattoos more expensive?
Watercolor tattoos are on the expensive end of the pricing spectrum. You don’t want such a difficult, technically precise tattoo left in the hands of an apprentice or less skilled artist. The per hour price for watercolor tattooing starts at approximately $200 and averages around $300 per hour. In demand artists can charge up to $500 per hour for watercolor, but with that pricing comes the implicit acknowledgement your ink will be of the highest quality.
For a tattoo of this kind it’s best to check out your potential artist’s prior watercolor pieces to ensure you’re comfortable before proceeding with a booking and deposit. You can check their gallery of work online, via social media, or through an in-studio visit to see a folder of their best ink. The booking manager or artist themselves can handle any questions you may have relating to the process.