Blackwork-style tattoos | 10 Masters

Blackwork and blackout tattoos

A single colour for an infinite tattoos

03 January 2023


It is classic, it is elegant, it is refined, and it goes well with everything. The color black never fails!!

As its name suggests, the Blackwork style is about tattoos made only with black ink to do everything: contrasts, contours and even effects.

Within its logic, in Blackwork, well-defined lines are prioritised without seeking to stick to a single style in particular.

This is why it is a highly demanded style and widely adopted by many artists in the world of tattooing.

But the black ink tattoo is not new. If we stop to think, they have always been present in history, only that they have been perfecting and mutating until they can be defined with specific characteristics.

Let's explain this in more in-depth.

History of Blackwork

As we mentioned, tattoos made with black inks have not emerged recently.

On the contrary, they have been part of the tattoo world since its inception.

Tattoos of this style were a tradition mainly in the tribes. There are historical mentions that affirm that this style originated in the Maori tribes, from the islands of New Zealand, and in the Polynesian tribes.

The tattoos were loaded with symbolism and represented a weight in the social hierarchies of each tribe, as well as for religious reasons.

But in 1769, the English explorer James Cook took a trip to the island of Tahiti, and it was at this time he first encountered such tattoos and was fascinated.

So much so that he later made this type of work known to the European working class, and it was a usual practice among sailors and coal miners.

But we must consider that, although the origin of Blackwork is thought to be in tribes and tribal designs, these are not defined solely by that. Nowadays, the style has varied dramatically when offering a vast range of possibilities.

Do you want to know how? Stay with us to learn more.

How is Blackwork different from other styles?

When we talk about Blackwork-style tattoos, curiously, it is very common to be confused with others whose names are similar.

For example, perhaps you have heard of Black and Gray or Blackout to refer to it.

But this is a mistake, since not all the styles that use black inks will be able to be classified similarly.

Although they may have some similarities, in a more detailed analysis, we can discover that each style is unique.

In Blackwork, the lines are exact. In addition, the gradients are applied with textures, dots or patterns, and the use of pure black ink is usually prioritised over others.

Blackwork or Blackout?

Confusion can arise from the fact that both names sound similar, but each has an abyss of differences.

What matters in Blackout is covering large surfaces in a solid black color without variations, while designs are prioritised in Blackwork.

In addition, the techniques and needles used for this type of work are much more harmful to the skin than those used in Blackwork.

Even its uses, since one of the main particularities of Blackout is that they are generally tattooed as a cover-up.

On the contrary, Blackwork tattoos are often used as unique designs, although it is common to see blastovers of this style.

Are Blackwork and Black and Gray the same thing?

Some say that Black and Gray derivates from Blackwork, but this is not entirely true, so it is vital since they are incredibly diverse.

The first uses grey wash to dilute the black inks and achieve other effects for shadows and generating depths and details. In addition, it usually combines watercolor techniques and is mainly distinguished by its use in realistic tattoos.

In Blackwork, the critical thing is to keep the blacks pure as much as possible and to maintain precision in the strokes, trying not to make several passes on the same surface as in Black and Grey.

On the other hand, in Black and Grey, in addition to expanding the range of blacks with thinners, it is allowed to use white inks to achieve lights and white highlights some details, but in Blackwork, this is avoided to prioritise only the black color.

What to take into account when tattooing Blackwork?

Mastering the machines and all their elements seems obvious. In this style, it is essential to know how far to puncture and how to make the strokes to prevent blowouts and superficial tattooing.

As they are pure black inks, it is necessary to be precise when puncturing, and the strokes must have the same depth. And this is something that takes work to achieve.

On the other hand, when exclusively black inks are used, we can find other styles such as Dotwork, Ornamental, Traditional and Tribal, for which it would also be logical to know how to handle each technique.

When they are done in black, these tattoo currents usually keep one of the main characteristics of Blackwork, which is that the black pigment is not diluted. That is why we include them in this style.

In short, a single ink for everything

Nothing could better sum up what the Blackwork tattoo is. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most adopted styles in the world by tattoo artists of all kinds. Black has been a faithful ally of needles since time immemorial, and they have known how to mutate in extraordinary ways.

The types of tattoos that can be done are endless. Thousands of designs and many varied techniques can be found within this style. As we mentioned at the beginning, black is a classic color that seems to never go out of style.

They offer many possibilities, and it would be a matter of practice to define which designs are more suited to the type of tattoo you make.

For every artist, the black ink tattoo works as a wild card and is always present in some way or another, it is the Ace up the sleeve, and it never fails. But you should know that tattooing them can involve even greater precision than other styles.

If you have come this far, please share your opinion. What do you think of the article? Do you know this style? Drop us a comment!


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