What are Blackwork Tattoos?
A blackwork tattoo is a bold work of body art created using solid swathes of black ink. These tattoos usually consist of abstract shapes and geometric forms, although some feature figurative silhouettes and identifiable scenes and subjects.
All-black body art dates back centuries, and was originally used by ancient tribes in Polynesia, as a method of communicating their social standing, lineage, religious ideas and warfare principles. The style was introduced into Western culture by British explorer James Cook, who landed on Tahiti in 1769.
Various categories of blackwork tattoos exist, and our style guide presents a partial range we offer, including:
Black and Grey Tattoos
Black and grey tattoos are done with black ink and water, and they have more clearly defined lines than traditional tattoos. This style is believed to have originated in prisons during the 1970s and 1980s, where prisoners with limited access to materials used cigarette ashes or pen ink. Another possible birthplace of this tattoo tradition dates it back to a segment of population living in Los Angeles which also had connections to prison life.
The technique used to create black and grey tattoos typically uses a single needle. Black and grey tattoos are achieved by diluting the ink with various quantities of distilled water. Alternatively, the artist can mix black ink with white, which results in a thicker medium that requires a slower application process. Both of these methods give the artist lighter shades to use, and the best tattoo artists have a high level of skill in working with these subtle materials.
Black and grey tattoos are heavier in shading and have more clearly defined lines. The method is often linked with Realism, the style used to create realistic portraits. Adding colours to any blackwork tattoos takes away the black and grey style definition, but we believe it’s less about the tattoo style than it’s about the love of tattoos. For some examples of stunning black and grey tattoos, check out our artist Anita’s profile.
These tattoos use mathematical lines and shapes to form larger shapes and are believed to represent spiritual concepts like the beauty of creation and the existence of the universe. Geometric tattoos are a form of blackwork that is currently increasing in popularity, since the development of “smart” hand-held devices that can deliver exceptional designs.
Our tattoo artist Mikhail specializes in creating geometric tattoos in unique and beautiful forms that work well with your body’s shapes and curves. Many of the designs are based on sacred geometry ranging from organic shapes in nature to ancient religious symbols.
The Flower of Life, for example, is a geometric shape made from equal-sized overlapping circles, which is traceable back to various cultures in history. The design is believed to embody the sacred patterns of life and existence.
Geometric tattoos have existed for some time, but technology now enables us to create stunning designs with straight and circular lines in minutes that would previously have taken days to deliver by hand. Producing these tattoos nevertheless require an expert hand, which can transpose a perfect line onto skin. We are proud to have Mikhail on our team. He is one of the best Toronto tattoo artists in blackwork, and he can create incredible geometric tattoos with a precision and passion that leaves us frequently in awe of his skill.
You might wonder why we decided to bundle realism under blackwork. It is quite true that realism can be done in blackwork or in color. Color realism may arguably be a harder method of tattooing (see following link depicting an amazing artist’s color realism tattoos), our focus for this mini write-up is on blackwork given our own artist, Mikhail, who is an all things blackwork, really loves doing realism in this style.
Realism tattooing, being a form of art, can be traced back to the realism art movement. The movement “simply” shifted focus towards depicting objects and people with accuracy (ie. realistically). A section of realism is portraits. To write that a tattoo artist has to be extremely talented to accurately convey someone’s likeness onto skin is an understatement. As a style that is arguably the least forgiving (not something you can correct; coving-up realism, while possible, is challenging), ensure you’re cautious and very selective with whom you entrust to do portraits or realism for you.
Check out the various types of blackwork tattoos we offer and remember it’s completely acceptable to combine different styles to come up with a tattoo design uniquely your own. At Painted People Tattoos, we never compromise on quality, regardless of the style of tattoo you choose.