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Tattoo Ideas: Blackwork Tattoos

Updated on September 24, 2007

Blackwork tattoos, although commonly grouped together with tribal tattoos, are not to be confused with the markings that were originally worn by Native Americans to indicate one's belonging to a particular Indian tribe. Standard colorless tattoos normally employ the use of black but it is typically combined with different shades of gray. Most tattoos (including lettering or name tattoos) are comprised of black ink, usually for the purpose of outlining the image or doing shading within it, but blackwork tattoos, as the name suggests, are solely solid black and nothing else. Most tribal tattoos happen to be completely black, and certainly some blackwork tattoos are tribal, but tribal tats are not the essence of blackwork images. Any type of tattoo can fall into the category of blackwork--letters and numbers, shapes of animals, people, or symbols--but the most common types of blackwork tattoos are designs. Whether highly intricate or very simple, designs consisting of an array of different lines, shapes and dimensions of varying length and width comprise the bulk of blackwork tattoos.

Some blackwork tattoos resemble ancient Inca or Aztec designs, such as the masks they wore or replicas of the drawings found engraved on their pottery. Another popular choice among black work tattoos is the use of Maori designs. The Maori were indigenous Polynesian people native to New Zealand. In addition to being highly skilled artists, carving their intricate designs into weapons, boats and even their homes, the Maori used tattoos themselves to distinguish people of high rank from the average man. Ta moko was the term used to describe the permanent face and body markings the Maori adorned themselves with. Different from tattoos, ta moko actually used chisels to carve the skin rather than puncturing it with pigment and a needle. This work required the precise skill of an expert craftsman, as each line, curve and swirl had a different name to signify a different ideal.

Blackwork tattoos use a carbon-based pigment typically made of Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, known as ABS plastic, which produces bright, vibrant ink that is not likely to blur or fade over time. Be careful not to confused blackwork tattoos with the newly invented and recently popular blacklight tattoos. Blacklight tattoos are done by using a blacklight-reactive ink called BIOMETRIX System-1000, or "Chameleon Tattoo Ink". The perfect solution for those who wish their tattoos to remain hidden, and practically invisible to the naked eye, blacklight-reactive tattoos can be seen perfectly as they glow brightly when held up against a UV black light.


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    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 5 years ago from USA

      I think these types are more stylish or artistic.

    • profile image

      tribal tattoos 10 years ago

      black and white tats are definitely the best!

    • Allyssa2008Dawn profile image

      Allyssa2008Dawn 10 years ago from Edinburgh, Indiana

      none of my tattoos have color. i think it makes them look fake.